A Personal Statement on housing in Woking

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.

5 responses to “A Personal Statement on housing in Woking

  1. As someone living in Pyrford/west Byfleet this is an important and emotional subject. We need an agreed Liberal postion on this subject as it is coming up very shortly with an announcemnet on the Green Belt Review. We cannot have discussion at th last minute and “wing it”. Bob Tilley

  2. Hi Colin, Your argument seems to rest on this sentence, the idea that missing targets means developers have automatic approval to build on green belt: “If we do not meet these targets… 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.”
    What powers and legislation are you referring to? The prime minister recently said specifically “the answer does not lie in tearing up the green belt” and committed to maintaining greenbelt protection.
    The idea of councils losing planning powers has been mooted, but as I understand it, if that happened they would go to an independent adjudicator – the developers would never get automatic approval to build on green belt.

  3. I agree that this is a very difficult problem to solve when housing targets are imposed by central government but I wonder how many of those who objected to developments on Green Belt land realised that the alternative was going to be several massive tower blocks clustered together in the centre, overlooking the whole of the town. I certainly didn’t. One of the things I loved about Woking when I moved here from central London in the 70s was that it didn’t have lots of tall buildings and had a friendly small town atmosphere. It’s difficult for me to see how that won’t be utterly destroyed by these plans.

    • Hi Irene
      I do agree with you, but I also agree with the people who want to protect the green belt and it is a difficult choice. I believe the town centre development is the best of the two evils and if we can protect Woking’s village centres and surrounding open spaces then I believe we should.

      regards

      colin

  4. how come towns like Guildford and Dorking don’t have to build skyscrapers?

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