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Petition Fails to Alter Woking Plans to Use Green Belt For Housing

Published on: 11 Dec, 2020
Updated on: 14 Dec, 2020

By Julie Armstrong

local democracy reporter

Woking council has refused a petition signed by more than 2,760 residents to save the green belt and its wildlife by redesignating land destined for housebuilding.

The council had been asked to withdraw their site allocations development plan (SADPD) and submit a new one.

In a debate which echoes those held in Guildford, petitioner Fiona Syrett told last week’s council meeting that Byfleet and West Byfleet being expected to sacrifice such a large proportion of their green space was unfair.

“It is very clear how much Woking residents value their green belt,” she said. “Senior Woking councillors repeatedly promised to save the local green belt and said the buildings in the centre of Woking are needed to protect it.

“Yet West Byfleet and Byfleet will lose large areas of theirs.”

She was told it was too late to change the SADPD, which specifies how land across the borough should be used, for example, residential, commercial or industrial.

The plan was submitted to a national planning inspector for consideration in July, in the last stage of a nine-year-long process.

The council’s head of legal, Peter Bryant, said withdrawing the plan could potentially cause the council to lose control of its ability to manage development.

Cllr Graham Chrystie (Lib Dem, Pyrford), agreed that scrapping it “at the 11th hour” would “leave us at the mercy of developers”.

Mrs Syrett said: “We’re not asking for a new plan, we’re asking for it to be modified.”

But she was told amendment was not possible it because everyone who signed it had done so in its present form.

Land surrounding West Hall on Parvis Road, West Byfleet, is among the sites recommended to be taken out of the protected green belt land, to deliver 555 dwellings and 15 traveller pitches between 2022 and 2027.

Parvis Road Byfleet. It is land to the right, as viewed, behind the construction hoarding, that is scheduled for development under Woking’s Local Plan – Photo Google Maps

And planning consent has already been sought for 177 homes, a 75-unit assisted living accommodation and an 80-bed care home at Broadoaks, Parvis Road.

Cllr Graham Cundy (Con, St Johns), said gardens would come only from a green belt location, not from the town centre.

He said 62% of Woking borough is green belt at present, and if the recommended proposals were accepted that would be 60%.

Mrs Syrett said: “It may only be 2% of the Woking green belt, but it’s almost 80% of our green belt in the Byfleets. So why is it that we have to lose so much? It just doesn’t seem fair.”

She argued the plan would “destroy the wooded areas, threaten the deer and other wildlife, remove areas vital for reducing the threat of flooding, worsen traffic pollution, and increase the strain on the overstretched local health and school facilities, plus vital wastewater and sewer services.

Cllr John Bond

Cllr John Bond (Ind, Byfleet and West Byfleet), said: “We are in a bad situation in the east of the borough. The facilities are basically hopeless with the current population.

“Even without this development we are still talking about more than 500 new dwellings in a very small area, with Sheer House and Broadoaks, and that will further exacerbate the problem.

“Adding another 555 on top of that to West Hall would make it impossible.”

Cllr Kevin Davis

Cllr Kevin Davis (Con, Heathlands), said: “I grew up in Byfleet. The reason I moved out of Byfleet was because there was nowhere for me to move to.

 

“So I think, what about the kids who live there and want to stay there? Does this not give them an opportunity?”

In June this year, a neighbourhood forum in West Yorkshire won their case against Leeds City Council in the High Court over the council’s release of green belt for housebuilding.

Mrs Syrett said residents were planning a fundraising campaign to take legal advice, adding: “It’s not just in our particular area; we don’t see the need for building on the green belt in Woking at all.”

She cited ONS projections that predict addition of 440 households between 2018 and 2028, based on demographic trends in population growth, and said Woking was on target to deliver in excess of that without destroying any green belt.

Cllr Bond said the inspector had pointed out the Leeds case should be looked at, and it was possible the High Court would agree on similarities to Woking.

Cllr Ann-Marie Barker (Lib Dem, Goldsworth Park), said she had sympathy and recognised there was high demand for the GP practice and the schools in the east of the borough.

But, she added: “It’s incredibly difficult to change the site allocations DPD at this stage. It’s been nine years to get to this.”

She recommended Woking and Surrey councils set up a joint study on the infrastructure the east of Woking requires now and in the future, which was voted through by Woking Borough Council (WBC) on December 3.

The planning inspector requested WBC consults residents on the main modifications he considered necessary to make the SADPD legally compliant.

His amendments can be viewed here and representations can be made here until 5pm on Monday, December 14.

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test One Response to Petition Fails to Alter Woking Plans to Use Green Belt For Housing

  1. Keith Francis Reply

    December 14, 2020 at 10:23 pm

    Woking Borough Council doesn’t have a very good track record as some years ago it allowed housing on common land at Westfield.

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