What can we do with the Hole in the High Street?

I am fed up with the Hole in the High Street. I am also reasonably sure I’m not alone in this.

What hole? You know the one: that large, muddy wasteland behind metal fences that’s beginning to look like the aftermath of a nuclear disaster? The one where shops used to be? Opposite Sainsbury’s? That hole.

Supposedly meant for ‘Surbiton Plaza Phase 2’, some posh new shops and a medical centre, it’s been sitting there for nearly two years doing nothing but collecting muddy water and making Surbiton residents cringe and look away in loathing upon passing.

There are several theories about the ‘delay’ in progression with this site, some more believable than others , but whatever the reason I have become so irked with this blot on our otherwise perfect suburban landscape that I have decided to take matters into my own hands.

So in an effort to get things moving, I have come up with 20 perfectly feasible suggestions as to the usage of this large open space:

  1. A castle.
  2. A beautiful, leafy park for adults to laze in and children to frolic.
  3. An open air swimming pool for splashy summer days, which cunningly transforms into an ice rink in the winter, providing a fun and healthy sporting outlet.
  4. Allotments for all Surbiton’s vegetabling needs, annual summer fetes featuring a Biggest Marrow competition and almost incessant Morris dancing.
  5. A ‘Charity Estate Agent Hairdressing Coffee Mega Park’: a space where all the charity shops, estate agents, hairdressers and coffee shops can be kept together in a contained area to make space in the high street for other outlets which aren’t charity shops, estate agents, hairdressers or coffee shops.
  6. A permanent funfair with a roller coaster that reaches all the way up the high street, culminating in a 360 degree loop outside the YMCA.
  7. An open air theatre for dramatic Surbitonians to show off their thespian skills.
  8. An ostensibly innocuous bit of parkland housing a secret underground laboratory involved in important research and scientific testing (animal friendly; products tested mainly on traffic wardens).
  9. An open air crèche – just throw your child into a giant pen while you go and do your shopping, and collect it afterwards (any child left for more than 3 days will be deemed redundant and sent to work in the mines).
  10. A wind farm supplying all Surbiton’s energy, helping us to become the greenest town in the world and providing a talking point for awkward lulls in conversations.
  11. A ‘Talking Plaza’: a plain, wide open piece of tarmac for those people who wish to stop suddenly in the middle of the pavement to talk to someone; instead, they move quickly into the Talking Plaza, leaving other pedestrians to continue their journey uninterrupted, thus promoting peace and stress-free strolling.
  12. An outdoor gym, Muscle Beach style, for hunky Surbitonians to pump some iron at whim.
  13. A small zoo, with penguin enclosure, lion cage and large menagerie housing some of the most exotic creatures known to mankind, as well as a gift shop selling animal-related accoutrements at competitive prices.
  14. A water park with full wave pool, sandy beach, ice cream stalls and water skiing (possibility of having to channel an estuary from the site to the river to allow for boat trips—planning permission required).
  15. A scale replica of Blackpool Tower with a circus at its base and lift rides to the top.
  16. An outdoor adventure playground with climbing walls, slides, ball pits, rope bridges that hang across Victoria Road to the roof of Sainsbury’s car park, and a well-organised locker system.
  17. ‘Surbiton Towers’ – a 5 star hotel offering the finest in suburban hospitality, with indoor pool, health spa, triple Michelin starred restaurant, king size suites and 90% discounts for Surbiton residents.
  18. Surbiton’s first botanical gardens – ‘Why go to Wisley?’
  19. A constant outdoor disco for Surbitonians to release energy and aggression, and express themselves through the medium of dance (daily dance-offs and famous DJs).
  20. A huge bakery, supplied by Surbiton residents who bring daily offerings of cakey goodness, set out like an enormous living room, complete with cosy chairs, soft rugs, unlimited tea and coffee, and complementary slippers.

Thus we have an imaginative, comprehensive, but above all practical collection of suggestions as to the usage of this space.

I am very open to any more ideas; the more the merrier. Together we can rid Surbiton of this architectural abscess and create a thing of beauty that our children, and our children’s children will gaze upon in wonderment.


I am not quite sure why the developer thought that redeveloping the shops would be a good idea anyway. Surbiton is not immune to the downturn and this is evidenced by the growing numbers of empty shops, including those in the Plaza phase 1.

The only interesting openings lately have been the pie shop on Brighton Road and the possible Pizza Express by the station. Apart from that it is just charity shops and the 99p store, and I doubt that they will be paying the type of rent that this company is looking for.

Perhaps another car cleaning and refurbishing centre would be handy.

All of these unfinished developments are getting beyond a joke now.

The worst one is on Maple Road where 3 large detached houses were knocked down in preparation for a 20+ flat block that the developer cannot afford to build due to the downturn in the market. Those houses would have been snapped up for £1m each even given their poor condition, so the developer would have had to pay at least £3m for this site.

The problem is that when these sites were purchased in 2006/7, property prices were still increasing by 10%+ a year. Most of these developers appear to have assumed that this would continue and overpaid for the sites. Instead of being 20% higher than 2007, the prices are probably about 10% lower, leaving a £1m+ hole in the revenue for sites like the one on Maple Road.

I think it will be a while before these sites are developed, unless the developers go bankrupt and are sold on.

Yes, the Brighton Road development had notices posted on it by the receiver some time ago. And Barnard Marcus, I think, had the houses there for sale or rent but that was some time ago as well. Who is he - this developer who is swanning around Surbiton?

Unfortunately a situation repeated up and down the country since property prices crashed and finance dried up - many sites have been abandoned, gone into limbo or awaiting new owners. We will probably have to wait a few years before we see these sites completed - but higher than average prices in Surbiton should ensure these sites will be developed sooner rather than later as the economic climate changes - not that that's any comfort when you have an eyesore in the meantime.

And surely the MD of CNM deserves some credit for triggering the development of the old sorting office - a site that looked like it would remain a redundant blot on the landscape for as long as Kingston's old Post Office or Tolworth's Tesco sites have? Yes, many units in Surbiton Plaza remain unsold - but had there not been an economic downturn and all his projects seen to completion - he may have been viewed in a more favourable light, despite his bad taste in bricks.

Yes, the MD of CNM Estates is still swanning around Surbiton in his fleet of Bentley's & Mercedes', however I've heard that they are in liquidation - could this be true - this could be the reason for nothing being done for months on end and also all the CNM Estates advertising boards being taken off the unfinished Surbiton Place development ! The hole in the High Street is an eyesore and also a security risk for the properties in Cottage Grove which back on to the urban wasteland

Yes, what a contrast between the building of Surbiton Plaza by this developer which caused hardly any disruption to the high street and added a new dimension to the town - and the situation 2 years later following an economic downturn. Some fantastic suggestions for using the vacant site but let's keep our fingers crossed that it isn't used for another hand car wash in the meantime.

Fully agree about the totally inappropriate bricks used for the Brighton Road development - a result of planning officers who accept/overlook any rubbish as long as developers provide more affordable housing, planning gain or "S106" money - and Councillors who don't bother to question the devil in the detail because they are too concerned playing to an audience instead.

I thought it was the latest "art installation" so beloved by our wasteful councillors.

Once a week there could be an 'Alamo' game of paintball. The gallant Texans could be played by out local ward councillors and MP. The Mexicans played by the people of Surbiton. Cost £1 for 20 paintball ammo with profits going to local charities. Paintball colours ranging from Red=Labour, Blue=Tory, Orange=Lib Dems, Green= er...Greens and a lovely mixture of other colours for the undecided. The occupants of the Alamo to stay there for a least 1 hour. Of course should anyone else wish to join the Alamo massacre then they would of course pay for the honour!

Just going to ask Matron for increased medication......

Get Banksy to do a whacking great picture on the side wall and create a Japanese rock garden on the site.

Poor work by the developers.....and incredibly poor planners. Why were they allowed to demolish the Victorian buildings that were there? Either in or close to a Conservation Area. Their development on Brighton Road is incomplete and has used a wholly inappropriate type of brick (no doubt approved by the planners), it looks like an institutional type building. Then there is their 'development' of the Red Lion site on Ewell Road, which because they have misread the market is another empty site which they have now turned into a hand car wash - have they got consent for this? The local residents must wonder what the planners were thinking. So there you have it, one Developer and three of their sites.

First, love the suggestions for use of the site. CNM have been ordered to pay Bewley Housing more than half a million pounds to do with the Surbiton Plaza site relating to snagging and I think the bank now owns the site. CNM have also lost the Brighton Road site to the bank. They own a site on the Kingston Road for a hotel. Despite local opposition Grayswood (still CNM) were given another 3 years on their Ellerton Road site and the Red Lion site (development fought for 3 years) is now unauthorised use. CNM does not care for residents, only money. It goes to committee on 15th Dec. If they reject the car sales/wash then planning enforcement notice will be issued but even that looks like they would get 2 months to leave (even though it only took them 24 hours to set up) All this is appalling for residents, what can be done? CNM bought all these sites at the height of the boom and greed took over. They have got away with horrendous plans and over development because they gave £2million to bale out Kingston and the Rose Theatre. Its about time planners looked into a developers finances more thoroughly before granting planning permission. I hope the sites are sold then we can have a say in any future plans. I doubt Mr CNM is short of money in his off shore accounts!

I think some guerilla gardening is the best solution - now that winter is apon us, time to dig it over, ready for planting... (best get some bulbs in the ground asap though!)


Given that the Developers are completely incompetent and are in deep financial poop I Expect it to remain a hole for the foreseeable. They couldn't even afford Wooden Fencing!

Their Development on Brighton road has sat unfinished for 2 years and it's a complete joke. And the arrogant company MD swans about GB's and Bosco drinking bottles of Krug talking crap about his business.

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