Former Magistrates’ Court in Dorking to be decided by council

A decision on a planning application on the former magistrates’ court on London Road in Dorking will be decided by Mole Valley District Council on April 1 2015.

Specialist retirement developers, Renaissance Retirement, has submitted proposals for 33 luxury retirement apartments along with a tea room and a retirement club for the public.

If planning is granted, it is anticipated that the build would start later in the year, with a show home available to view in 2016.

Support for the scheme has been positive. Renaissance Retirement collected a number of feedback forms from local people who have backed its plans at its public consultation meeting in November 2014.

Renaissance Retirement Managing Director, Robert Taylor, said, “This is a wonderful site for retirement living and we pledge to build a development the town is proud of.

“The sensitivity of the site requires our proposal to respond positively to the established townscape of London Road and it must also preserve and enhance the setting of Grade II Listed Pippbrook House (NB and must comply with Policy DT10 see over beneath). We feel we have accomplished this with our modified designs, having taken on board comments and feedback from the pre-application process with the council. We were also supported in this by ex-English Heritage consultant James Webb.”

Robert added: “The scheme is of a high quality design that seeks to protect the setting of the adjacent listed building. Careful consideration has been made to the architectural detailing, such as the fenestration and brick detailing. Considerable changes were made following advice from officers, to ensure the new development does not compete with, but respects and preserves the character and appearance of the listed building Pippbrook House, and the surrounding area.

“In our view and many people we have spoken to in Dorking, the Magistrates' Court is an eye sore and has been vacant for over two years. Consequently no civic or community function has been operating for an extremely long time.

“Our proposal includes a cafe and retirement club for Dorking over 60s which we would run that would be open to the community in line with Policy DC10. This truly seeks to deliver a real community asset fostering community spirit and creating a meeting place. This is also encouraged in national and local planning policy.”

The new retirement home scheme would also deliver a significant amount of much needed housing on previously developed land.

Robert  continued: “This reduces the need to build on Green Belt and makes a good contribution to housing supply, where the District has under the required five year supply.

“The need for retirement homes is increasing in Dorking, where the elderly population is greater than other parts of the District. People downsizing are likely to free up family housing stock, which is also needed in the district.”

Renaissance claims its scheme is sustainable. There will be reduction in need to travel by private car with its special chauffeur service for its owners and proximity to numerous transport services. In addition, there will be a 10 per cent reduction in carbon emissions will be sought through solar panels on the roof, improved insulation and other measures.

Robert Taylor added: “We know the council want to buy the Magistrates’ Court to use the building for archive storage, Veolia street cleaning parking, and telecare services which would cost considerable sums to convert the building for this use.

“Our application has been recommended for refusal. The council officers are objecting to a legitimate planning application with significant community benefits  – over the council’s own proposed uses which provide no demonstrative community gains or benefits what so ever.

“I think the people of Dorking should be aware of what’s going on as I’m sure they’ll be as outraged as we are and will ask questions. It seems to us the council is basically looking to block our plans for the site so they can get the building on the cheap and hope we won’t appeal.  On the other hand, we have received a good deal of interest in our proposed scheme and its benefits from local residents. Our research reinforces that there is a strong demand for independent retirement apartments in Dorking.

“We will now be relying firmly on the democratic nature and process of the planning system to make the right decision based on policy and planning regulations.”

Policy DT 10

The policy states the following:

Reigate Road Area of Civic , Entertainment, Cultural, Recreational and Community Facilities.

The Reigate Road area shown on the Proposals Map is identified for civic, entertainment, cultural, recreational and community purposes. Development of any part of the site for other uses will not normally be permitted, unless there is no reasonable prospect of that part of the site being used for the purposes specified in this policy.

38 The Magistrates Court has closed. Proposals for an alternative use of the site will be required to be accompanied by evidence that the facility is no longer required for the uses covered by the policy. This will require the building's owner to demonstrate that they have consulted with an appropriate range of service providers and the local community.

39 The Council intends to maintain an administrative headquarters on the Pippbrook campus. It is looking at how this can be best achieved having regard to the cost of maintaining two buildings on the site, the ability to continue the delivery of services in the future and the provisions of Policy DT10. The Council is planning to reach a conclusion on these issues by the end of 2012 after a fully costed review of the options for the future of the Pippbrook Offices and Pippbrook House.

40 If, in the light of the review, it is clearly demonstrated that it is not viable to maintain both buildings for uses specified in the policy, an alternative form of development may be acceptable to enable the retention and maintenance of Pippbrook House which is a Listed Building and the provision of an administrative headquarters for the Council on the site. Any such development would be required to accord with the strategy of the Area Action Plan, maintain the setting, architectural and historic integrity of Pippbrook House, retain the amount of land on the site currently in open space or recreational use and relate satisfactorily to adjacent land uses. Sufficient car parking should be provided within the policy area to meet the requirements of all the existing uses within it and any new development that may come forward in the light of this policy.

Background information for editors

Nick Watkins, development director at Renaissance Retirement said:  “Research estimates over £400 billion of housing wealth is tied up in properties where owners desperately wish to scale down. Renaissance’s proposed retirement development in Dorking offers an ideal opportunity for those people approaching their later years who aspire to downsize.

“The spacious one and two bedroom apartments will be impeccably finished with contemporary interiors, whilst owners will also have access to a sumptuous lounge and guest suite, which will be available to visiting friends and relatives.”

Renaissance’s heritage dates back to the first retirement apartments at HRH Prince of Wales’ flagship Poundbury development in Dorchester. The apartments, if planning is approved by the council, would provide luxurious living spaces ideally suited for downsizers looking to maintain a quality standard of independent living.

Noticing a demand for luxury retirement housing, Renaissance Retirement design, build and manage retirement developments, with communal areas meticulously cleaned and maintained to ensure a level of comfort that one would expect in a 4 star hotel.

For further information and support the scheme, visit: or call 0800 625 0026 for more information.