LAST night (Thursday) Woking Borough Council’s Executive discussed a significant document that identifies green belt and urban sites for potential development.
As part of the Woking Core Strategy for 2012 to 2027, the council have to allocate sites to make provision for 4,964 additional homes; 93,900sq m of retail space; 28,000sq m office space and 20,000sq m of warehousing. It will require the delivery of at least 550 more homes between 2022 and 2027.
A total of 53 urban (including brownfield) and 14 green-belt sites have been identified. If approved, the draft Site Allocations Development Plan Document (DPD) will be published for a formal six-week public consultation, from June 18 until July 31.
Representations will then be considered in preparing the submission of the DPD which is to be published for further consultation, probably in October.
This will subsequently go to the Secretary of State for examination and assessment by an independent Government Inspector, probably in mid 2016, before the council can adopt it.
To allay residents’ fears – and contrary to rumours and the consultants’ recommendations – the following sites are in fact to remain in the green belt. These include land adjacent to the M25, north of Parvis Road, West Byfleet; land east of Sopwith Drive and north of Parvis Road, Byfleet; land north east of Pyrford Common Road, Pyrford; Woking College, St John the Baptist School, Coniston Road allotments, Hoebridge School, land to the south of White Rose Lane, the Hockering Estate/Old Woking; St John’s Lye; land at Horsell Common and to the south of Littlewick Road; and Horsell Common’s Wheatsheaf Recreation Ground to the Six Crossroads Roundabout.
An exception is to release West Byfleet Junior and Infant School Playing Fields from the green belt to enable a defensible boundary, and to designate the land as Open Space to safeguard its future. The DPD, which has been compiled by officers and approved by the Local Development Framework Working Group, highlights key recommendations and how they have been assessed, taking into account various regulations and implications such as sustainability, natural habitats, protection areas and environment.
Deputy Chief Executive Douglas Spinks explained: “We have completed comprehensive assessments of all sites, including traffic and sustainability. The vast amount will be in urban areas, and parts of the green belt will be used in different stages. The later ones are to be reviewed at a later date.
“Of the 63.27 per cent of existing green belt, this would mean it would only be reduced to 61.08 per cent. This must be done. People cannot just object to the sites; they will have to come up with justifiable alternatives.”
Portfolio Holder for Planning Policy, Councillor Graham Cundy said: “To do nothing is not an option. The majority of affordable family housing will need to be on green belt land, while in the town centre will be apartments.”
Chief Executive Ray Morgan (right) added: “People need to balance their view. Future generations need somewhere to live and work. Many young people can’t afford to live here. The plan is more than just dwellings – it is our duty to allow for future generations and get the balance right.
“We need ordinary homes for ordinary people. We don’t want our young to leave Woking. People will have to get used to living in busy urban areas.”
Mr Spinks explained: “Every response will be considered and we will weigh up if there is positive evidence to merit a review.”
Planning Policy Manager, Ernest Amoako, said: “Hopefully the second consultation will be in October so there will still be scope for comments before the DPD goes to the Secretary of State.
“During consultation we will be holding events for the public and residents’ associations. We will be delivering literature to 2,500 people and organisations and anyone who has requested it. It will also be in libraries.”
Council Leader John Kingsbury said: “This is an important stepping stone towards identifying future development in the borough until 2027. It is a formal legal process the council is committed to delivering as part of its Core Strategy. The DPD potentially identifies both urban and green belt sites for future. We are, however, acutely aware of concerns about the much cherished part of our natural environment. Any decision will ensure that the integrity of the green belt is not undermined.
“Any green belt to be removed for housing is unlikely to be released before 2022.”
Cllr Cundy added: “We are committed to giving all residents and businesses the opportunity to comment on the DPD. I would encourage them to engage with us during this process and have their say on the future of our borough.”
Mr Morgan urged the public to respond as early as possible.
A member of the Pyrford Neighbourhood Forum and ward Councillor, Graham Chrystie, has expressed concerns that, as the document ‘is critically important to thousands of people in the borough, the process by which it has arrived is a major issue’.
He told the News & Mail: “This should be a wake-up call to review and update the rules,” adding that since the independent planning experts, Peter Brett Associates, produced a green belt review in October 2013, key points about inaccuracies in the report have just been ignored.
As a result, he said the forum has major concerns about whether the foundation of the document is in fact flawed. Cllr Chrystie said: “I’m not saying it is wrong and I’m not questioning the sites – I wouldn’t know – but transparency needs to be better served. We should have had the opportunity to comment before the meeting (today).”
The DPD also states officers were satisfied sufficient land had been identified for SANGs to mitigate the impact of development on Thames Basin Heath’s Special Protection Area until 2027.