Fringe Box



Woking Skycraper Curbs Delayed

Published on: 17 Jul, 2023
Updated on: 18 Jul, 2023

Victoria Square in Woking Google Street View

By Chris Caulfield

local democracy reporter

Woking Borough Council’s debt mountain has claimed another victim after moves to protect the town centre skyline, as well as village green belt, were pushed back until at least 2027.

The town centre masterplan was drafted in February to control the amount of skyscrapers in Woking – with detailed guidance on heights, density, infrastructure and environmental measures.

It was due to come into force within the next two years, but newly imposed austerity measures shut that down, as all new spending on non-statutory services was banned by the section 114 notice issued when the council declared itself effectively bankrupt in June.

Instead, the council will look to adopt the masterplan as part of its 2027 Local Plan.

The delay, councillors were told during the Thursday, July 13 Executive Committee, would mean that the £160,000 already spent developing the strategy would not go to waste –  it would just take a lot longer to see the light of day.

Cllr Liam Lyons

Presenting the masterplan’s future to the committee was Cllr Liam Lyons (Lib Dem, Mount Hermon).

He said: “A development plan would have been the best way forward, but that was some time ago, before we knew what we now know regarding our financial situation.

“That was before Victoria Place had published their accounts so we knew the full extent of the real-term losses there.

“It was before we uncovered certain other aspects of mismanagement,  including the failure to provide sufficient funds to the minimum revenue provision for so many years.

“Building a huge huge deficit and ultimately the declaration of a section 114 notice because of our inability in the current climate to produce a balanced budget.

“One of the implications of that, is that only statutory provision maybe be brought forward.”

Development plans sit alongside Local Plans and set out what building is permitted in an area.

He added: “That leaves us with that as the only option” take the learning and evidence from the draft plan and consultation forward and include it as part of a new Local Plan for the borough.

Cllr Will Forster

The master plan also identified that the town centre was capable of delivering 4,338 new homes, which councillors said was far above targets for the entire borough and would mean villages could be spared from development.

Cllr Forster, Lib Dem (Hoe Valley)  deputy leader of the council, said: “If we can definitely deliver in the town centre, it eases pressure in the green belt”.

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