Headlines

ST JOHN the Baptist School in Woking continues to go from strength to strength after its head was named in the Queen’s 2017 birthday honours list last Friday, by Andy Fitzsimons.

Ani Magill, 60, who is a national leader of education (NLE) and executive headteacher at the Catholic comprehensive school, has been recognised for her services to education.

HONOURED: Ani Magill, Executive Headteacher of SJB School.  Picture by Andy Fitzsimons

Magill was made a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) and joins more than 130 people across the UK honoured for making an outstanding contribution to education, children’s services or advancing equality and diversity.

Speaking to the News & Mail on Tuesday (20 June ’17), the Woking headteacher was unsurprisingly delighted to be nominated by her peers and named in this year’s honours list, which marks the official 91st birthday of the Queen.

“I am of course very grateful to be recognised for a national honour; however, it’s all thanks to the students and the great people that I work with on a daily basis,” she said.

“I’ve been at St John the Baptist School now for 22 years, and even after all those years I still genuinely love coming to work.

“For me, it’s all about people. One person doesn’t make a great school. It’s about the variety of people it employs and the students who pass through it who achieve the best outcomes.

“I am proud of the team I have around me – and what our students have achieved and continue to achieve.

“We strive to be the best school in England, which is why we’ve developed a strong set of morals and values to help everyone succeed.

“From the young people I meet and speak to on a daily basis, I wholeheartedly believe this country is in safe hands, which inspires me.  This is something to celebrate,” added Magill.

The investiture, which ceremonially honours those who have been recognised for a gong, will take place at Buckingham Palace in September (2017).

Magill will be joined by others honoured from the world of sport, politics, business, charity and entertainment, which include the likes of Beatles’ frontman Sir Paul McCartney, novelist JK Rowling, actress Julie Walters and singer Ed Sheeran.

WOKING is to have an annual HG Wells Day which will be marked on the anniversary of the author’s birth on 21 September.

After the success of last year’s Wells in Woking celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of his birth, the Wells in Woking association decided to keep the legacy alive. Each  year a different aspect of the author’s many-faceted life will be  the theme  for  the day.

This year’s event will highlight his contribution to science. The focus will be on young people, specifically students of physics and maths.

HG Wells Day, which will be chaired by Lorraine Ansell, was launched recently at The Lightbox, which was attendedby Paul Allen,  Chairman of the HG Wells Society.

Wells in Woking founder member Tony Kremer said: “Our objective is to make sure that Wells does not slip back into oblivion here in Woking. Last year was a year of fun, talking and walking and generally a cultural year.

“This year we are turning our attention to his more serious contribution to scientific thinking and education, indeed to communicating effectively to ordinary people – the Brian Cox of his time.”

Tony pointed out that notion of time travel barely existed before Wells’ short story The Chronic Argonauts, followed soon after his novel The Time Machine.

The first HG Wells Day will include time as a dimension, which will be explored by  Woking College students, led by Chris Bore of Kingston University and  Matt Klein, joint head of physics at Woking College.

The Woking Community Play Association will perform street theatre around the Martian statue. There will also be talks and discussions with the sculptors of The Martian and that of Wells that is at The Lightbox.

Tony said that the association would like to make Woking the natural home of science fiction in the UK.

The centrepiece events in September will take place at the WWF’s Living Planet Centre on Brewery Road. There will be a lunchtime session aimed at A-level physics and maths students at Woking College, led by Dr Bore and their teacher Matt Klein. In mid-afternoon it will be the turn of students from Woking High School, led by  Sheila Kanani from the Royal Astronomic Society.

In the evening there will be a chat show featuring people who transform wildly challenging sci-fi ideas into tangible form – sculptors and radio producers

There will be sci-fi films that week at The Ambassadors cinemas in the town centre,  Wells-related walks and a Game Jam.

Diabetes UK will benefit from the event. The forerunner of the charity was set up by Wells, who had diabetes.

For further information about getting involved, email Lorraine Ansell at info@lorrainevoiceart.com.

WOKING College hosted a lively Question Time Debate with students asking five of the six candidates hoping to become the town’s MP next week about their views on immigration, tuition fees, the EU, austerity and the youth vote.

The event, in the heat of last Friday afternoon, drew a sizeable audience of 16-19 year-olds from the student body of 1,300, almost half of whom are eligible to vote.

Reducing the voting age to 16 or 17 was one of the question topics and Jonathan Lord, the Conservative candidate, and Troy de Leon, of UKIP, both said they were comfortable with the current voting age of 18, while the Independent candidate Hassan Akberali, Labour’s Fiona Colley and William Forster of the Liberal Democrats all agreed that the voting age should be lower.

One student said he was turning 18 on polling day and each candidate took it in turns to wish him a happy birthday in advance, accompanied by laughter from the audience and the politicians.

The atmosphere became a little more tense when Brexit and austerity came up.

Woking College Hustlings

The college principal and event chairman, Brett Freeman, had asked that the tone be positive and for the candidates not to attack each other’s views.

This truce was broken when Ms Colley referred to the Conservatives “appearing to be delusional” over a post-Brexit Britain.

Mr Lord responded later by saying that when the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition came to power in 2010, they inherited a huge budget deficit left behind by Gordon Brown and his Labour Government.

The Green Party candidate, James Brierley, was not able to attend the debate as he is a full-time teacher and none of his campaign team was available for similar reasons.

UKIP will be represented by Mark Webber, the party’s candidate in South West Surrey, as Mr de Leon will be visiting his wife who is receiving medical treatment in Thailand, where she was born.

FORMER Woking FC manager Garry Hill has allegedly breached a gagging clause following comments he made to a dedicated non-league football publication last Sunday, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Former Cards’ boss Garry Hill.  Picture by Andy Fitzsimons

The long-service Cards’ boss, whose contract was not renewed at the end of last season, gave a feature interview, where he spoke candidly about his six-and-a-half years at Woking.

And whilst Hill spoke passionately about the fans, along with many of the backroom staff and players he has worked with, members of the Woking board were left seething over derogatory remarks made about two serving directors, who were not given the right to reply.

Despite signing a confidentiality (severance) agreement earlier this month, Hill went public to talk about the alleged treatment he had been subjected to from chairlady and former Mayoress of Woking, Rosemary Johnson, coupled with fellow director and head of communications, David Taylor.

Hill, 57, claims that, while he and his assistant Steve Thompson were helping to preserve the club’s National League status, which concluded in the 1-1 draw against Dagenham & Redbridge on the final day of the season, the writing was already on the wall for the management duo several weeks beforehand.

HAPPIER TIMES: Former boss Garry Hill and Woking chairlady Rosemary Johnson. Picture by: David Holmes

Yet for some of the Cards’ faithful, Hill’s comments come as a big disappointment and have only served to cast a cloud over what he achieved during what was a successful tenure at The Laithwaite Community Stadium.

After guiding the Kingfield-based club to promotion in his first season in charge, Hill helped the club register four consecutive top-half finishes with limited resources available, which many feel should be his parting legacy.

However, in choosing to break his silence, Hill has defied his confidentially agreement, which precludes him (and Steve Thompson) from discussing any matters relating to his time at Woking Football Club, and leaves no room for ambiguity.

In response to Hill’s public comments, the board of directors at Woking FC issued the following statement on Monday to the News & Mail: “A clear confidentiality clause is a place between Garry [Hill] and the club; both agreeing to maintain full confidentiality of all matters concerning his time at Woking FC.

“While Garry has chosen to break that [confidentiality] agreement, the club will not.  All we will say; as we have always have said, is that we thank Garry and Steve [Thompson] for the incredible success they brought to the club; for securing promotion back to the Football Conference (premier); and ensuring our survival in the National League for this coming season.

“For the record, we wish Garry and Steve the very best in what ever they do next, and in the future.”

FAREWELL: Cards’ fans thank Garry Hill for preserving the Club’s National League status in April 2017.  Picture by: David Holmes

At the time of going print, it is not known whether the club is seeking legal counsel regarding a breach of the confidentially agreement and defamatory remarks made against both Johnson and Taylor.

Hill was not able to comment further on the article published on Sunday, but he did praise the ongoing work of director and major Woking FC shareholder, Peter Jordan, as well as director of football, Geoff Chapple and company director, Ian Nicholson.

The former Cards’ supremo was also grateful to receive texts of congratulations from Kelvin Reay (director, Woking FC), David Curtis (director, Woking FC), Mike Smith (former chairman, Woking FC) and Darren Caskey (football consultant, York City FC) – among others – for helping to keep Woking in the National League. 

DOMESTIC violence charity YourSanctuary will receive a huge boost to its fundraising efforts and awareness of its work after being chosen by the new Mayor of Woking as his charity for his year in office.

Cllr Graham Cundy made the announcement after he was elected as the 44th Woking Borough Mayor in the town centre council chamber last week.

Cllr Cundy pointed out that this year was the charity’s 40th anniversary and had two refuges, including one in Woking, where 50 families can stay, receiving the help they need to build their lives.

The charity’s founder Fiamma Pather said she was “absolutely thrilled and honoured” to have been chosen by the new mayor.

“It was an unusual and brave choice. My hope for the year is that it will bring the issue of domestic abuse more into the open and will give us the opportunity to take this to people we might not normally reach,” Fiamma said.

As well as the refuges, YourSanctuary also has outreach workers helping victims in their homes.

Attending the official Mayor-Making Ceremony last week was Robert, who helps male victims of abuse.

He said that raising awareness, especially of male victims, was very important, and he hoped that this would help with fundraising.

The immediate past Mayor, Cllr Anne Murray, chose the Woking & Sam Beare Hospices as her charity, which raised its profile and led to an increase in the number of fundraising events held.

Other previous mayor’s charities told the News & Mail of the benefits of that status.

Robert Marsh, of Comabat Stress, which was one of Cllr Tony Branaghan’s charities in 2014-15, said that the organisation had raised £11,000 in that year for its work in helping former servicemen and woman with mental health problems.

“Being one of the Mayor’s chosen charities encouraged other community groups and individuals to raise funds for Combat Stress,” Mr Marsh said. “It is vital that we raise awareness and funds for the charity to ensure we can continue to support every veteran that needs our help.”

LinkAble, which helps people with learning difficulties, was one of Cllr Derek McCrum’s charities in 2015-16. Managing director Stephen Mortimer said the status was “incredibly beneficial, particularly in this current difficult funding landscape.” Mr Mortimer added: “The mayor took the time to come and see what we had to offer for the residents of Woking. Calling on the Mayor to attend events also helped us get others to attend fund-raising activities and ultimately raised awareness of us in the local area.”

Samaritans North West Surrey was another of Cllr McCrum’s charities, which director Gill Rose described as “a godsend”.

Ms Rose added: “As a result, we received over £12,000. This represented roughly half of our annual running costs for that year and was the largest single contribution.

“”The connection came about as a result of Cllr McCrum’s involvement with our charity as a volunteer back in the early 1970s.

“There were also donations from other charities supported by the mayor and with whom we became involved in variety of joint activities.

“It also raised our profile locally. Many people think that we are part funded by the government, but we’re not. While we are a national organisation, individual branches are responsible for raising their own funds”.

DAVID Bittleston became the new Leader of Woking Borough Council after John Kingsbury decided to stand down after nine years in the post.

Cllr Bittleston was elected at the Full Council meeting on Monday this week.

He said he was particularly looking forward to help with the progress of the Sheerwater regeneration and Victoria Square development, which he said would deliver significant benefits for the borough and its residents.

During the meeting, Cllr Bittleston announced his Executive of the Conservative-controlled council and their portfolios. They are:

  • Cllr Colin Kemp – Deputy Leader; Portfolio Holder for Housing; Portfolio Holder for Independent Living
  • Cllr Ayesha Azad – Portfolio Holder for Finance
  • Cllr Beryl Hunwicks – Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services; Portfolio Holder for Health and Wellbeing
  • Cllr Mark Pengelly – Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Cultural Services
  • Cllr Ashley Bowes – Portfolio Holder for Planning
  • Cllr Saj Hussain – Portfolio Holder for Economic Development

Cllr Bittleston praised Cllr Kingsbury for his work as Leader and said “his dedication is an example to us all, whatever your political allegiance.”

WOKING Borough Council has unveiled plans to build a new sports complex on the edge of environmentally sensitive Smarts Heath Common in Mayford.

The scheme provides a new home for Woking Gymnastics Club, with room to expand, a restaurant and parking, plus a pond, reed bed and a picnic area, as well as improved access to the common. There would also be a flood relief scheme built in.

A public consultation on the plans is set to be held locally on 9 June.

The proposals, subject to planning consent, would involve developing Ten Acre Farm, in Smarts Heath Road, for the gymnastics club’s relocation from Kingfield to a new purpose-built facility.

The club, one of the UK’s biggest and the largest single youth organisation in Woking wants to widen its gymnastics classes to cover all abilities and ages and to increase its community work in delivering sessions to schools, disability and disadvantaged groups.

Lionel Smith-Gordon, club chairman, said: “When originally built, some 33 years ago, our facility was state-of-the-art nationally, but unfortunately the building is now cramped and tired. We simply do not have the space to provide gymnastics activities to meet the demand from our members.

“With the increased popularity of the sport, we also want to expand the options and disciplines that we offer including a greater variety of classes and activities. However, over the last few years we have tried to expand our existing facility, but the options have been limited and challenging.

“These proposals offer an exceptional opportunity to secure the club’s long-term future, whilst providing second-to-none facilities within the heart of the local community.”

PROPOSAL – architect’s plan of what the new gym hall and grounds would look like

Designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Smarts Heath Common Smart’s Heath particularly rich in wild flowers, such as southern marsh orchids, yellow rattle, tufted vetch and ox-eye daisy and is regularly grazed by cattle.

Council leader Cllr John Kingsbury, Portfolio Holder for Asset Management, said: “It has been an aspiration of the council to relocate Woking Gymnastics Club to more suitable premises that would allow its continued growth.

“While we have investigated many sites across the Borough, Ten Acre Farm offers an ideal location. It would also enable the council to develop its own plans to improve resident’s health and wellbeing by attracting visitors and walkers to Smarts Heath Common, similar to that achieved at Heather Farm, as well as improving local flood alleviation measures.”

The public consultation is being held between 3pm and 8pm at Emmanuel Church, Saunders Lane, Mayford.

WILL Forster, the Liberal Democrat leader on Woking Borough Council, will fight Jonathan Lord for the parliamentary seat in the general election on 8 June. UKIP is also fielding a candidate, local businessman Troy de Leon.

The Lib Dems announced that Mr Forster was their candidate this week, with Mr Lord reselected last weekend at a special general meeting of the Woking Conservative Association. UKIP named Mr de Leon on Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, the Labour Party announced its candidate as Fiona Colley, the Southwark Council cabinet member for Finance. Ms Colley is a former pension fund manager with a Masters in Economics from the University of Cambridge. A Labour Party spokesperson said that her parents live in Woking.

Mr Forster said: “I am delighted to have been selected as the Lib Dem candidate for Woking.  I have lived in Woking for more than two decades and been a councillor for the last eight years. I know Woking so well and see the problems residents face on a daily basis.  I love this town and this borough, and I want to be its voice in Westminster.”

Europe is likely to feature heavily in the Woking campaign with Mr Forster saying: “I know so many people, including lifelong Conservatives, are very unhappy with the current MP who backed Leave in the recent referendum and is backing the Government’s Hard Brexit agenda, despite Woking voted overwhelming to Remain.

“As Woking’s MP, I will always back local residents and represent their views in Parliament.”

Mr Lord said: “It has been a great privilege to have represented the residents of the Woking  constituency since 2010 and I am honoured that our local Conservative Association has re-selected me as their candidate for the election.

“Under Conservative leadership both locally and nationally, I think that Woking has gone from strength to strength. There has been a real transformation of our town centre over the past few years and our villages and communities continue to be wonderful places to live and to raise a family.

“Business is good, local employment is at an all-time high, and our young people are doing outstandingly well at our schools and colleges.

“But we must never be complacent. I believe that it is only Theresa May and a Conservative Government, supported by our excellent local Conservative councils, who can help deliver the continued growth and prosperity we need to flourish into the future.”

Mr de Leon has had connections in Woking for about 25 years and has lived in the town for around ten years. He is standing in the county council elections today for the Knaphill and Goldsworth West seat, where his chief opponent is also a Conservative, Cllr Saj Hussain.

Mr Lord had a 20,810 majority over second-placed Labour in 2015. The Lib Dems put up a strong fight in the 2010 general election coming second with a gap of less than 7,000 votes. But in the  nationally disastrous election five years ago, the party finished third in Woking, 174 votes ahead of UKIP.

WOKING residents turned out en-masse in the town centre on St George’s Day to wave flags and cheer as recruits from the Army Training Centre, Pirbright, paraded into Jubilee Square to officially acknowledge their Freedom of Woking Borough.

The award is the highest that any council can bestow and gives the honour and distinction to all ranks of the centre to march through the streets of the Borough on ceremonial occasions, with colours flying, bands playing, drums beating and bayonets fixed.

In a rousing display of military music and parading troops, the Army Training Centre, Pirbright exercised this Freedom for the first time last Sunday.

The troops were welcomed by the Mayor of Woking, Cllr Anne Murray and given a blessing by the Vicar of Christ Church, the Rev Dr Peter Haywood. A prayer was said by the Army Chaplain, Padre Josefa Mairara and the National Anthem was sung before the troops paraded out of Jubilee Square in military formation.

At a later private event, a vellum scroll was presented to the Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Richard Green by the mayor. Woking Borough Council awarded Freedom of the Borough to the Centre on 8 December last year.

Cllr Murray said: “It was a great honour to attend such an historic event. The Freedom of the Borough is not one that is lightly awarded and has only been given to five individuals previously, with the Army Training Centre being the first collective Freedom of the Borough ever bestowed by Woking Borough Council.

“We are very proud of work that the centre does, not just to train up our troops but also to build relationships within the communities in which it thrives. This award recognises the friendly association which has long existed between the Borough and the Army Training Centre, Pirbright and is a mark of respect to all of the recruits and soldiers within it.”

The Freedom of the Borough recognises exceptional contributions, or distinctive service to the Borough by an individual or group of individuals. The Army Training Centre, based at the Alexander Barracks in Pirbright, has a long and a strong relationship with Woking residents.

Established in 1875, The Army Training Centre has more than 5,000 new recruits and reservists each year. The 14-week course prepares all recruits, both male and female, over the age of 17, for service. They will then go on to join a wide range of military corps and regiments.

A LORRY driver had to be cut free by firefighters after his vehicle collided with a garden waste collection truck in Knaphill on Tuesday.

The incident, which also involved a Vauxhall Insignia estate car, happened just after noon on Bagshot Road, between Chobham Road and Stafford Lake.

The lorry driver was taken by air to St George’s Hospital, Tooting, with serious injuries but no-one involved else was badly hurt.

The curtain-sided lorry belongs to Meridian Metal Trading of Henley Business Park, Normandy. Its cab was badly crumpled as it collided with a dustcart-type Green Waste Club vehicle operated by Biffa Municipal.

Firefighters said the lorry driver’s legs were trapped and he suffered head injuries. The crane of a heavy rescue from Painshill Fire Station was used to pull up the mangled cab roof.

The front of the waste truck came to rest up against the traffic lights of a nearby pedestrian crossing. The vehicle’s off-side was damaged and firefighters had to clear up diesel leaking from the fuel tank.

Bagshot Road was closed between Chobham Road and Limecroft Road for several hours while police investigated and the wrecked vehicles were taken away.