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Push for Residents to Have Say on Plans for 4,500 Woking Town Centre Homes

Published on: 3 Aug, 2021
Updated on: 3 Aug, 2021

View from Victoria Arch, Woking. Image Google Street View

By Julia Armstrong

local democracy reporter

Residents will be asked for their views on thousands of new homes planned for Woking town centre – a year after work got under way on the infrastructure scheme enabling the housing.

Woking Borough Council (WBC) plans to widen Victoria Arch, which carries the railway over Guildford Road, to allow more traffic to flow through one of the town’s main arteries.

Much of the money for the £115 million project is coming from the government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF), with the project having been approved in February 2020 on the understanding that improving the pinch point will enable more than 4,500 new homes to be built in the town centre.

Cllr Tahir Aziz

Labour councillor Tahir Aziz, who represents the Canalside ward, said getting the input of Woking people on such a major development was “paramount” and put forward a motion to the council to that effect.

His motion also suggested the housing market should be reassessed post-Covid.

These proposals, as well as stopping “any further promises on HIF to any bodies” until after the consultation, were all narrowly voted through by WBC last week, 13 against 12.

All Tories voted against his motion, instead preferring to include the housing issue in a wider consultation on an upcoming town centre masterplan, but there were just enough other councillors in support to carry his ideas through.

The borough council is working with Surrey County Council and Network Rail to deliver the scheme with £95m of Homes England funding.

WBC’s director of planning told the Executive in June that about £29m had already been drawn down, and this would need to be repaid if they withdrew from the project.

Executive councillors are keen to accept the housing numbers already agreed with the government.

They said they had not consulted in detail before on building the homes because when the council made its bid to government they “did not know it would succeed”.

Lib Dem Hoe Valley councillor Deborah Hughes argued there needed to be communication earlier, as “the masterplan process can take up to three years,” though the council leader said it would take half that time.

It’s costing around £32.5 million for Woking council to buy and demolish the Triangle site. Image LDR

Cllr Hughes said: “The Triangle is going down now, things are happening, people are seeing it.

“There are many people in this borough who have no idea what’s going on; I’m getting constant questions for this.”

The plan to widen Guildford Road on either side of the railway bridge, and replace the one-way system around the Triangle with a dual carriageway, means shops have been forced to close on the site sandwiched between Guildford Road and Station Approach, and demolition has already begun.

Cllr Aziz said: “We have done DPD (Development Plan Document) for 2,180 houses, a massive consultation carried out across the borough. But at the same time the [almost] 5,000 properties that we’re putting in the middle of town – more than double – hardly any consultation on them.”

“It hasn’t had any consultation for the number of 5,000 homes being squashed into an area… a fraction of the size of Goldsworth Park,” said Lib Dem Hoe Valley councillor Louise Morales.

“Not only did the public not have the chance to be consulted on this, most of the councillors didn’t have a chance to look at the papers in detail,” she added, saying they received them only about 24 hours ahead of the meeting.

“We do need to have a masterplan,” she said. “But that doesn’t need to be confused with trying to explain away how some councillors in this council pushed through a decision that they had only found out about 24 hours beforehand for 5,000 homes, without mentioning it to anybody because it was a ‘part 2’ decision [where press and public are excluded].”

Some information on the Victoria Arch scheme is available on the council’s website.

It says work on widening Guildford Road and the bridge is expected to start this winter and be complete by 2024.

More than 1,200 homes are proposed for the Victoria Way end of Goldsworth Road. Other development sites identified are: Church Street West, Poole Road, between York Road and the railway line, the former magistrates court, across the road from the coroner’s court, in front of the train station, between Oriental Road and the railway line, the Royal Mail sorting office, the former Rat and Parrot pub on Chertsey Road, the former BHS building on Commercial Way, Concord House on Church Street East and Griffin House on West Street.

Cllr Ayesha Azad

Council leader Ayesha Azad said trying to improve Victoria Arch had been a 50-year council policy.

“With the building of Victoria Place you can see that that situation in terms of traffic flow could be aggravated quite considerably, if we do not fix the infrastructure issues that have been historical,” she said.

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Responses to Push for Residents to Have Say on Plans for 4,500 Woking Town Centre Homes

  1. John Cooke Reply

    August 3, 2021 at 8:50 pm

    This whole article is irritating nonsense:

    It’s about Woking, not Guildford. In fairness, I moved from Woking to Farnham to escape this mess but our towns are closely linked

    It’s lifted from Surrey Online which is a clickbait trap and I’m disappointed The Dragon has started to associate itself with this awful newsfeed.

    The development in Woking is almost impossible to stop because each piece of the jigsaw is interdependent. The widening of the railway arch is needed for the work already completed but can’t be completed without the development of ‘the triangle’ about which they are consulting. The building of Modor is unstoppable.

    One day we will all look at this financial and aesthetic disaster, created by Ray Morgan and his gang, and wonder how anybody ever let it happen.

    Editor comment: This story was written by the BBC’s local democracy reporter. The Guildford Dragon NEWS has been a partner in the scheme for several years and regularly publishes LDR stories, sourced directly (ie not from other publications). This particular story was selected because although it is about a neighbouring town, Woking, many of the planning issues are shared by Guildford.

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