What kind of town? Our kind of town!

Reigate and Banstead Borough Council is writing its plans for how it wants to ‘regenerate’ Redhill Town Centre, through planning policy shaping proposals for retail, leisure, housing, employment and supporting infrastructure.

You can have a sneak peek at the Draft Redhill Town Centre Area Action Plan – consultation will begin this month, and our Green Councillors will do their best to make sure everyone has a chance to have their say.

One local supporter (who asked to remain anonymous) wrote the following:

Yet again, your Borough Council is trying to finalise the Redhill Town Centre Area Action Plan.

They’ve got just this far at least, oh, twice before. A pity the ideas don’t change much: loads more shops and the town will spring to life again – they hope.

Even before the recession, shopping had changed. Lots of things are cheaper and easier to buy on the internet, and at out-of-town superstores. So, supermarkets still “anchor” the town centre plan, which means they’ll need to sort out the traffic snarl-ups with their Tory friends at County Hall. Anyone taking bets on that?

Sensibly, they want more employment to bring cash into town. That’s office jobs, of course. All the grubby jobs go out of town, well away from any “shopping experience”. So shopping will need to be attractive for employees to use their lunch hour for a trip down town.

How do most people reach our town centre? By car. Even if the Borough persuades County Hall to invest in better roads (while County are cutting their budget!), where do they park? In that big new Sainsbury’s, of course! But once parked there, why would they explore the town?

Ignoring the empty units, what’s left of the “High Street experience” in Redhill is mostly supermarket, charity shops and pound stores, cafes and bars.

There is scope for specialist shops and boutiques to win customers in the town centre – for bike shops, clothing specialists, craft and collectors’ shops, even sandwich bars. But they need reasonable rents and rates, and smaller shop units. Redhill has some, but will we get more?

Anything for local residents? More social housing for Redhill families? Er, hardly any. Better facilities like day centres, youth and community centres? No, no mention of anything that doesn’t bring in taxes. What about a better Harlequin, meaning a theatre auditorium large enough to take bigger tours and pay its way? An investment in community facilities – nope!

As well as pubs and bars, the plan includes one new entertainment “anchor”, a cinema. There’s been talk of a 7-screen multiplex but the plan doesn’t say how many screens – maybe because there are already 15 at Crawley and 6 at Sutton. Redhill doesn’t have the student population that makes the 9 screens at Guildford the highest grossing cinema in Surrey.

Do do we want Redhill to be another smaller Crawley or Croydon? Or do we want to develop a community-led approach for local people?

The Borough’s consultation starts this month. We will keep you informed about ways to get involved.

Meanwhile, let us know how you would like the town to develop by posting comments here, or contacting our Green Councillors at www.redhillgreens.org.uk

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