west byfleet

ST JOHN’S CHURCH in West Byfleet was packed out for a different sort of service when 260 people piled into the pews to discuss proposals for a major transformation in the village.

Byfleet, West Byfleet and Pyrford Residents’ Association called the meeting to discuss plans to remodel Sheer House and the adjoining retail centre in Station Approach.

Owners Cube Real Estate have lodged an outline application to build a total of 53 flats in one, two and four-storey towers.

Plans rule out an increase in parking but include the demolition of the area’s public toilets and cladding to all facades.

The leases of the business occupants run out next year, but the plans state that office floorspace, retail units and the public library would be retained.

On the panel were Woking MP Jonathan Lord, planning chairman Ashley Bowes, councillors Richard Wilson and Gary Elson, and John Bond and Martin Doyle from the residents’ association. Also present were Cllrs Anne Roberts, Graham Christie and Saj Hussain.

Association planning advisor Richard Thomas stated that any changes would be much more welcomed if the development was aesthetically pleasing.
He said: “We don’t object to development but it needs to look attractive and not be oversubscribed.”

Currently under consultation, Cllr Bowes (right) explained that the applicants have gone through the process legally and stressed that the application is still at a very early stage.

Cllr Wilson, who has lived in the village since 1971, suggested West Byfleet would be better off if the entire building was stripped down.

He said: “The building has been there since the 1960s and needs demolishing.

“They plan to get rid of the toilets and are suggesting children use facilities in the NHS centre or at Waitrose.

“There will be no affordable housing, they are not addressing parking and there will be infrastructure problems.

“Already we have pressure on numbers.”

And Mr Lord seemed to agree that the proposal could have been managed in a more encompassing manner.

He said: “This is a very important application for the future of villagers.

“It should have been considered as a whole project along with the wider issues.”

When one resident asked how it would fit in with the Local Plan, Cllr Bowes replied: “The 1968 building was not designed to be here this long but public money is a major consideration. I’d be confident in advising a refusal if the development did not have a robust reason to justify it.”

But resident Peter Quinn failed to hide his frustrations and said: “I am appalled – the extra storeys are totally inappropriate. The best thing would be to take down the building and start again. It needs to be
compatible.”

Association chairman Godfrey Chapples tried to reassure residents by explaining that the project would likely be a phased development.

Residents have until March 26 to comment on PLAN/2013/0026 on the council website or visit www.the-residents.org

TRAGIC Coronation Street star Sophiya Haque spent “a few precious nights” on the houseboat she had designed with her partner in West Byfleet before dying suddenly of cancer last week at the age of 41.

David White said Sophiya, who played barmaid Poppy Morales in the ITV1 soap, had been “extremely fit and healthy” during the 12 months the couple had spent building their dream home.

The 51-year-old West End musical director had been living with Sophiya in Knaphill when she began complaining of tremendous backache and abdominal pain last month.

Mr White, who had been with the actress for six years, said Sophiya took painkillers and kept performing until December 22 before seeing her GP on January 2.

She was admitted to hospital the same day. He said: “She had that ‘show must go on’ mentality. We hit this awful situation around Christmas and new year when everything was closed, so we didn’t get a doctor’s appointment until January 2, and we were told to go straight to hospital.”

He added: “We managed to spend a few precious nights on the boat together before she went to hospital. She was having huge trouble breathing while she was in hospital.

“Apparently a blood clot could have been thrown up into her lung. Her heart was beating very fast to try and get oxygen into her system.

“It became harder for her to breathe and she blacked out. A few minutes later her heart stopped. It was not something I expected that day.

“It was a terrible shock.” Sophiya died in hospital last Thursday (January 17) just a few weeks after our Entertainments Editor Barry Rutter interviewed her about her West End role in the Peter Nichols farce Privates on Parade.

The actress, born down in Portsmouth, Hampshire, had urged Woking’s theatre-goers to take advantage of a ticket promotion to see the Michael Grandage production at the Noel Coward theatre in London.

At the time of going to press, Mr White was still waiting to find out what type of cancer Sophiya had suffered, which doctors believe might have been growing for months. He said: “They think it may be ovarian because there are often very few symptoms.

The second set of results came back inconclusive the day after she died.

“I still want to know what the cancer was, although I am coming to terms with the fact that nothing is going to bring her back.”

Sophiya’s stint on Coronation Street ran from 2008 to 2009.

She also starred alongside Angelina Jolie in the hit film Wanted, while her West End appearances included Bombay Dreams, The Far Pavilions and Wah! Wah! Girls.

Mr White added: “She was the most amazing person to live with. It was a life full of laughter and joy.”

CHAIRMAN – Pauline Hedges

CHAIRMAN – Pauline Hedges

THE SPIRIT of the Olympics should live on in West Byfleet following the rejuvenation of the village’s business networking group.

West Byfleet Business Association chairman Pauline Hedges admitted the group had been ‘virtually moribund’ last year before news broke that the Olympic cycle races would be passing through the village.

Since then WBBA has been thriving, so much so that it is co-hosting a special Olympics Fair with the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games on the recreation green behind St John’s Church next month.

Pauline said: “The recreation ground is next to the cycle race and we’ll have a funfair, kids’ rides, a crafts and farmers’ market and displays.

“We’ll be screening the races live on a giant screen as well as the film Grease. I’m a John Travolta fan and it’s a family film.

“People can bring a picnic, sing along, get up and dance. It will be something to remember.”

West Byfleet is expecting around 6,000 visitors over the Olympics weekend of July 27/28 and 29.

Pauline said: “They’ll be coming from the railway. It is a fantastic opportunity for retailers to attract customers into their shops with special offers.

“It is a unique opportunity, the rest of the country must be so jealous.”

But Pauline, 66, of Hollies Avenue, admitted the real legacy of the Olympics was the rejuvenation of WBBA.

She said: “It was virtually moribund before we heard about the cycle races – a few people
going to lunches.

“The Olympics has given us a focus – it gave us that kick-start we needed.

“We thought, let’s turn what could have been a negative into a positive, make a downtime into an opportunity.”

Back then, retailers and local business people met up with the Byfleet, West Byfleet and Pyrford Residents’ Association.

Pauline, who had worked for Surrey Chambers and now organises farmers’ markets, volunteered as WBBA’s chairman.

Pauline, a grandmother who has a regular breakfast slot on BBC Surrey, said West Byfleet was home to around 90 businesses.

She said: “It’s a real community. We have breakfast meetings, and tea and coffee at Corker’s wine bar. We have retailers, office workers, solicitors, accountants.

“Our local councillors, Gary Elson and Richard Wilson are very supportive and sometimes bring along council officials to talk to us. It’s really helpful.”

“If you get to talk to other people, you don’t feel so isolated. Although I have lived in West Byfleet for 22 years, I think I’ve got to know more people in the past year than I’ve ever done before.”

To find out more about the West Byfleet Business Association visit http://www.wbba.org.uk

GLOW IN THE DARK – Nicole Sharp, 16, from Knaphill, and her mum Kalie raised £320 for the hospice appeal

GLOW IN THE DARK – Nicole Sharp, 16, from Knaphill, and her mum Kalie raised £320 for the hospice appeal

FLASHING bunny ears lit up the streets of West Byfleet, New Haw and Brooklands as fundraisers marched their way to nearly £90,000 at Woking and Sam Beare Hospices’ annual Midnight Walk.

More than 700 women powered through the eight-mile sponsored walk to raise money for the charity that provides expert palliative care to patients in the borough and the rest of Surrey.

Lindsey Lee, from Pyrford, who was walking with a group of friends in memory of husband Keith, thanked the hospice for their tremendous compassion before after his passing.

She said: “Keith spent the first year of his illness being cared for at home by the community clinical nurse specialist from the hospice, then in January 2012 his health rapidly declined and he was admitted to Woking Hospice where he spent the last four weeks of his life.

“All the staff are absolutely amazing and I will be for ever grateful to them for the dignity and care they provided for my
husband and the support they offered to myself and our two children. No one could have wished for better care.”

Hundreds of tributes were carried on an emotional night.  Sarah Rich, from Byfleet, carried a cherished wedding photograph of mother Caroline Stenning and stepfather Paul who died last year of motor neurone disease, aged 55.

Friends of Deborah Talbot were also out in force to pay their respects to their good friend and support the charity.

Dawn Turner, from Brookwood, was one of 35 people walking in memory of  Deborah and said: “We are taking part to appreciate the wonderful care that Woking Hospice gave to Deborah during her illness and to her family and friends.”

Fundraising events manager Sue Spencer praised a fantastic night.

She said: “The Midnight Walk remains the hospices’ largest fundraising event and once again the women of Surrey have really come out to support them.”

SUITS YOU, SIR - Matt Cobb with his greyhounds sporting Jubilee cravats

SUITS YOU, SIR - Matt Cobb with his greyhounds sporting Jubilee cravats

IT was a weekend none of us will ever experience again. Street ­closures were rejoiced. The weather was not an issue. The Queen was ­celebrating 60 years on the throne and Woking was in the mood to party.

In Chobham a red, white and blue wave of people washed through the high street.

Horsell crowned its ­Jubilee weekend with a collection of hats that Her ­Majesty would have felt at home in.

While hundreds of picnickers ­savoured this historic moment on Byfleet village recreation ground.

A regal parade, fronted by a stirring marching band, hit the right note with revellers at ­Pirbright Green.

In Ripley, hundreds watched on as the Diamond Jubilee beacon was lit on the village green. And Pat Baker, born in the year of The Queen’s coronation, unveiled a commemorative plaque to mark the occasion.

In total, 48 roads were lawfully closed for residents to take their parties to the street.

The Queen is the physical embodiment of all that is great about us and our country

And there were hundreds of impromptu gatherings tucked away in the borough’s streets, as friends, families and neighbours ­enjoyed a right royal knees up.

A sing off and ­Wellington boot ­throwing competition was held at Maitland Close, West ­Byfleet.

Champion ­thrower James Post, 38, said: “Celebrating a ­Jubilee is very unique.

“There will not be a day like this again for a very long time so we should take the time to enjoy it.”

Residents of Lincoln Drive, Pyrford, received the shock of their lives when the Mayor of ­Woking, Michael Smith, arrived with Mayoress Anne Murray and joined in their ­Jubilee bash.

Freda Spickett, 84, of Send, toasted Elizabeth II’s Coronation in 1953 and remembered it being very similar to her Diamond Jubilee. She said: “It was wet and very cold that day, too.”

As The Queen marked her 60th year as head of the monarchy, villagers gathered on the green to celebrate her outstanding achievement.

A rousing marching band led a parade of patriotism, with young and old decked in their finest royal-themed fancy dress, with red, white and blue the order of the day.

Cunningham House retirement home residents decorated two golf buggies to join in the action before everyone tucked into a mouth-watering lamb roast.

Laura McMurniman, 25, who grew up in the village and was married in St Michael & All Angels church last summer, said: “It’s great how so many different generations are involved.

“My whole family being here made my dad so happy – he was actually born in the village.

“I know she was really busy but I’m sure The Queen would have loved seeing everyone enjoying themselves.”

Laura’s husband Sheldon, 30, added: “Pirbright is the quintessential British village.

“The community spirit and ‘tally- ho’ attitude really does epitomise everything we are celebrating this weekend.

“The Queen is the physical embodiment of all that is great about us and our country.

“Even the cricketers were out and about gearing up to try and get some overs in despite the rain.”