Monthly Archives: January 2011

Sainsbury’s, again

Readers of this blog will be familiar with the ongoing dispute between the large Sainsbury’s store next to the A3 in Cobham and neighbouring residents, particularly those living in Riverview Gardens.

Sainsbury’s were given permission to extend their store in November 2008. The work was carried out in the early part of 2009 and there was after that a dispute about whether they should be entitled to instal 4 foot high “sky lettering” above their building. This was turned down.

The extension required the removal of a row of evergreen trees which provided a barrier between the store car park and the residents of Riverview Gardens. These trees prevented light pollution from the lighting in the car park from interfering with the residents’ enjoyment of their properties. Sainsbury’s were required to agree the landscaping of the site with Elmbridge BC as a condition of being granted planning permission for the extension.

Having built their extension, Sainsbury’s replaced the evergreen trees with a row of deciduous trees. The residents objected, pointing out that deciduous tress would provide no protection from light pollution between November and March. Sainsbury’s, who had contended that the cost of replacing their newly planted trees was excessive, were required to think again.

They have now come back with a plan to insert evergreen trees between the new deciduous ones. Obviously, this is better than having no evergreen trees but the residents maintain that the gaps in their protective screen which will appear come the autumn represent a serious reduction in the light protection which they enjoyed before the store was extended. This time the planning officer at Elmbridge has approved their scheme, but I have promoted the application to the local planning committee, because I believe that elected representatives should have the final say.

The meeting is on 31st January 2011 at 7.45pm in the Civic Centre in Esher. I do not sit on that committee and therefore have some freedom to comment. The thing that strikes me is that Sainsbury’s seem to place the attraction of saving what to them is a very small amount of money ahead of maintaining friendly relations with local residents and being a good neighbour. I find this profoundly disappointing.

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Car parking

Happy New Year everyone.

The Surrey Advertiser ran an article in its edition last Friday covering the proposal by Surrey CC to impose parking restrictions on streets in the Borough. For Cobham, this would mean Monday to Saturday and the proposed charge is £1 for 1 hour and 50p for 30 minutes (the figures given in the article do not correlate with figures sent to me).

There is no doubt that there is a problem with car parking in Cobham. The Waitrose car park, which is free, is almost always full or close to full. Waitrose do not regulate their car park at all, so far as I can see. The same goes for Sainsburys, but their car park is too far from the town centre to attract town centre shoppers. The Elmbridge car parks on Cedar Road and Hollyhedge Road are busy, and the free car park off the High Street is always full with a queue to get in.

The sides of the High Street are always full Monday to Friday and it is clear that some cars are there all day, probably owned by those who work in the shops. A significant discount is available from Elmbridge BC for a season ticket for its car parks, but clearly some car owners / businesses prefer not to pay. Access into and out of the town centre is slow, especially on Saturdays. This has become worse in recent months, particularly since Carluccio’s opened, attracting more “stayers” into the town centre.

So something needs to be done and I do not criticise Surrey CC for proposing some form of on-street parking control. But the Chamber of Commerce are not happy, I am told, with the current proposal, and I have a great deal of sympathy for their point of view. We need a regime which prevents people from parking all day but which does not deter the short-term shopper. If the short-term shopper cannot park cheaply in the town centre, he or she will go off to Brooklands, or Sainsbury’s, where parking is free. 

One option is a short period of free parking. There are parking machines now which require the car owner to enter the registration number of his vehicle, and this would make enforcement work. Alternatively there could be a short period charged at, say, 20p. I fully understand that enforcement has to be paid for by a combination of ticket prices and fines and therefore having a longer period of free parking probably would not work. On the other hand Surrey CC should not regard the streets of Cobham as a cash cow to be milked in order to plug any gaps in its own finances brought about by the recent funding cuts. If they charge too much, shoppers will vote with their wheels,and local businesses will suffer and in the long run this attractive town centre will be killed off.

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