The town is a lovely place in so many aspects but a space, a focal point near its centre, would give it a real heart and vibrancy from which all of its inhabitants, not to mention the visitors thus encouraged to come, would see such varied and enormous benefit.

The hotchpotch of roads, roofs, angles and alleyways creates a charm which captures the hearts of 'Five clawd'uns' - those born in the town - and visitors alike but with a 'centre' which straggles from Waitrose to Wimpey with no 'Wow factor' to woo them, it's not surprising that not enough feel that this is a really special place.

That 'wow' factor can be created, comparatively simply in terms of physical effort, if it's realised how beneficial it could be. One only needs to walk down into St Martin's Walk precinct from the High St and to look left up to the Church spire soaring high. Then imagine how wonderful it would be to open out the area to create a town square like those which are of such benefit to continental, and some of our own, towns. What potential we have here. Perhaps this may assist the imagination:

This imaginary view looks north-east, so has the High St just off to the right with the alleyway down from Barclays across the right foreground reaching the iron railings to enter the churchyard.

Trees figure importantly of course, being an essential part of urban landscape (the loss in many cases creating 'arid deserts' and contributing significantly to social problems). Hence the need to retain as many as possible and make additions where appropriate.

The existing two small retail outlets are missing and would need to be given equivalent space in the immediate vicinity. How good it would be for the ambience of the redesigned area if there was a cafe once more on the south side of the Piazza, opposite the M&S entrance.

There will be cries of horror from some that this is partly a graveyard with which we're dealing. Surely, whether or not those who were buried here have current connections, the situation can and should be dealt with, with the utmost sensitivity. There are of course innumerable precedents. It would also be an opportunity, as is usual in such inner urban developments, for archaeologists to find out what they can.

Back to modern times and needs. The fall in height from the churchyard to St Martins Piazza can be accommodated, as suggested in the picture, by steps and terracing which will add to the character and special quality of the area. A performance area is 'a must' as just one indication of the benefits. The St Martin's concerts, lunchtime and at all times would more easily attract audiences. Quiet areas would be retained on the west and north sides of the church.

It would also be advantageous for at least a portion of the Friday (and other) Market stalls to be located here. They struggle in their current location and far more people in these more stringent times will be able to benefit from the general market's more obvious presence, significantly nearer to the High Street. Quite apart from it becoming once more a visible part of the town's 'market' status with all that comes from that in terms of its wider appeal as a shopping centre.

Rather than part of St Martin's Walk being constantly talked of as being a dead area for shops, owing to so many 'start-ups' and failures, opening up a 'proper town square' couldn't help but regenerate things. There would of course be a need to ensure that the owners, 'Thornfield', often castigated for the high rents and charges creating the situation, were enforced to do their bit if their collective conscience was not up to it.

Dorking can 'have a heart' and set itself up for the rest of the century if it's capable of taking a comparatively simple, forward looking decision.


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