|Ian Matthews||Kingston Smith (Chair)|
|Andy Brown||Brown’s Traditional|
|Colin Smith||Guest Speaker – Planning Consultant|
|Mark Brunt||Guest Speaker – Leader of Reigate and Banstead Council|
|Cath Rose||Guest Speaker – Head of Corporate Policy at Council|
|Simon Pither||Property and Tenant Manager|
|Diane Dunkley||Reigate and Banstead Council|
|Ian Green||Ultimate Database|
|Paula Edwards||Generation Redhill Twitter account|
|Simon Bland||Reigate and Banstead Council|
|Ian Orrick||Harlequin Theatre|
Our guest, from Colin Smith Planning introduced himself. He has lived in the area several decades and worked in the local planning department for seven years. For the last eight years he has been operating as a Sole Trader Planning Consultant. We were fortunate to also have Mark Brunt the Leader of the Council with us, and the two of them fielded a lot of questions about development in the area which, for brevity, I have merged below into one continuous account. The key points raised were:
The Council are about to embark on a new plan. While there is an urgent need for lots of new houses, the Council also has to think about and support services and infrastructure in order to prevent Redhill becoming a domiciliary town.
Regarding the Marketfield Development, permission was actually granted some time ago but revisions are still being submitted. Work is unlikely to start until clarity has been reached on that.
There is lots of pressure in the area for development. One very visible consequence of this is the increase in number of taller buildings to prevent encroaching onto Green Belt. However, there are plans to develop into GB when all available brownfield sites are used up. It is anticipated this will be in about 3 years. This will only be into ‘low grade’ green belt sites that have already been identified and have specific boundaries. It is much more complicated legally to build on Common Land, and therefore very unlikely any will be affected. Government policy is to encourage new build in areas like Redhill that have good road and rail links and about 460 homes a year are built in the Borough. Government allows offices to be changed into housing in order to streamline creating new housing, and two such developments have begun in Redhill. Councils in general do not like this as some such developments have provided substandard housing, but also because it can completely disrupt their own plans for residential and commercial developments in an area. Our own Council has been buying offices to try and prevent this, which is part of an overall plan for the Council to become landlords, and therefore more self-financing.
The beginning of development on the Marketfield site is currently waiting for finalisation of costs but it is hoped demolition of existing buildings will start later this year – November time. This is a Council project that they are committed to bringing into being as they are aware that Redhill has very low commercial use during the evening and they want to correct that. But it will take time: a two years build time is expected. The Market will continue to function during this time and storage has been made available for them in the Gloucester Road car park.
Councillor Brunt and some of his fellow councillors spent some time discussing the Draft Corporate Plan setting out the Council’s priorities for the next 5 years. It is available for review here: http://www.reigate-banstead.gov.uk/download/downloads/id/5682/reigate_and_banstead_2025_draft_plan_for_consultation.pdf
Everything the Council does has to fit in to the CP and a big part of that is how we continue to make the area a good place to do business. As this is currently a Draft document the Council is currently seeking active engagement from business people; what they want to see in it and what they want from it: transport, housing, etc. The Council wants to invest money in the town and is currently working with Surrey CC to do so. If towns are to continue to be successful they need people living and working in them, but also infrastructure. Redhill area feels quite prosperous but there has been a net reduction over the last five years and big businesses are giving ways smaller business. The Council is looking at what needs doing to support and respond to change, part of which has been an increase in a mobile workforce using temporary office space.
There is an online questionnaire about the project, the closing dates for which is 16th September, so do act quickly to read the document and respond. But the Council are keen for feedback to keep coming and emails sent after the closing date will be read and can be responded to.
Our Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is called Coast to Capital, it is is a government funded body looking to drive economic growth in the area. The country is split into 38 areas and C2C covers Brighton to Croydon and Midhurst to East Grinstead. LEP is looking for business leaders to share experiences and insights, and the LEP has funding available but currently needs Projects to be applying for it. Redhill has been identified as a key area in the Capital to Coast area.
The issue of establishing Redhill as a Business Improvement District (BID) was discussed. A BID is a business-led and business funded body formed to improve a defined commercial area is a pre-determined way. It was noted that Redhill would be a good area for this as it has a good rateable value but there are currently no plans to begin. This and the LEP remain exciting possibilities for the town.
Andy Nash pointed out the significant loss of income to the Belfry when Sainsbury’s opened, adding that most of it was office workers who found it easier to shop there. The town needs new office space in order to support High Street businesses. Business rates are also an issue as many retailers are paying more in rates than in rent. He also said that there are still trees available until the end of September via the Redhill 175 scheme.
Car parking is still a problem in town but new developments at both the Liquid and Envy site and Marketfield will have space for vehicles in a Car Club scheme.
Ian Orrick from the Harlequin told the group how they are making steps to improve and extend the use of the venue, and are about to hold their first Craft Fair. Have given free pants tickets to Refuge residents. The refurbished Cinema is due to open in October and is being called The Studio rather than just Cinema, which will make it suitable for other, smaller concerts and events, for not just films. A full list of what is upcoming at the Harlequin is available here: http://www.harlequintheatre.co.uk/assets/Uploads/Whats-On-Guide-March-September-2019.pdf
There was a lot of discussion about the lack of night life in town and Paula, who runs the Guilds social media accounts, pointed out that we should Email or contact through other social media routes the restaurant chains we want to come here so they know we are here.
The issue of homelessness was raised. By then we had run out of time to discuss this as fully as we were hoping, but Councillors assured Members that every possible route was being explored to keep people off of the streets but the chief problem is that the homeless want to stay homeless or have unrealistic expectations of what accommodation they will accept. The Council is also working with police about the issue of professional beggars in town. The rest of the discussion will have to wait until our next meeting which will be in November.
Our next meeting, being the last before Christmas, will be followed by drinks at The Junction.
The issue of moving venues was discussed but Members felt Three Central suited our purposes best being central, disruption free and cost effective.
On the 13th September there is the monthly breakfast meeting of the Federation of Small Businesses. This will be at, and will include a tour around, the Canon site in Reigate.
The upcoming Ultra Low Emission zone was mentioned but will be discussed more fully at the next meeting.
Summary of Key Points:
- Check out the Draft Plan and respond via online questionnaire by 16th September
- Check out events at Harlequin theatre on line
- Contact your favourite food outlets to extol the virtues of Redhill and mention all the new housing
- Consider projects that might be eligible LEP funding
- Book the date of the next meeting in your diary