We have had many communications around the proposed new development in the town centre and I wanted to put some clarity on the situation and respond to some of the points made.
The government set targets on house building for each borough and district to achieve over a period of time, our current target runs to 2027 and averages out at about 292 homes per year.
Woking has had a good record on housing over the last few years, 1065 have been built to date and 45% of these are affordable of which 223 were new council houses. If we do not meet these targets or have plans in place then a developer can apply to build on any green belt land and even if the planning committee object this will be overturned by the Planning Inspectorate or the Secretary of State. As this has already happened in one borough in Surrey, we need to build homes so we can control where they go.
Many other districts and boroughs have taken the decision to build on green belt and have applications in for anywhere between 1000 and 3000 homes on any one site. We have a choice of where to build them. We can build on green belt adjacent to many of our villages or we can develop our town centre. We have received a very clear message in recent years to avoid large developments on green belt. Building in the town will not take all the housing numbers but it will allow us to have smaller developments in keeping with the local area rather than building whole new large developments, remember this one building is over 50% of one year’s housing numbers.
Thameswey is an arm’s length company of WBC, they have been given a clear set of objectives agreed by full council and one of its roles is to provide housing in Woking. All profits from Thameswey are either rolled back into the council or used to carry out community developments in Woking, such as Horsell Community Hall and the adjoining Scouts Hut, the new building in the allotments, St Johns Memorial Hall and Lakeview Community Hall to name a few.
The first test of any development is planning. I am confident this will get a thorough examination by councillors when it goes to the committee, but any objections must be within planning regulations and not because we don’t like it. I am sure there will be some amendments on its way through the system.
There will be lots of different points of view on this from members of the public. When we suggested opening areas of Pyrford and Woodham up for large developments we had over 20,000 objection for each. I may not agree with large developments in our town centre but it is the lesser of the two evils and I prefer this to large developments on green belt. Even amongst councillors there are different viewpoints and one Lib Dem councillor recently said “I would rather build on green belt” when discussing a different development.
There are always going to be differing views and it’s always easier to be in opposition and object to everything. However, at the end of the day, we are all trying to deliver on targets whilst protecting the identity of our neighbourhoods and surrounding areas. We are taking on board everyone’s comments and will try and react to the majority.