AMBITIOUS proposals to completely overhaul the heart of West Byfleet have received a mixed reception from local stakeholders and residents.
Developers Altitude produced three different plans for the District Centre during a public consultation (attended by 350 people) on Friday evening – eight months after they acquired Station Approach in a £10.5 million deal.
The future of the 63,000sq ft site – which includes Sheer House – has since been the subject of much debate, with the current owners keen to breathe new life into the dated 1960s development, which they describe as ‘impractical, unattractive and lacking heart’.
All three proposals incorporate residential, retail and leisure space, alongside commercial and community amenities.
The first option presented to visitors featured a ‘general building height’ of five to seven storeys, a 10-storey ‘marker building’, and a basement car park with ‘maximum’ retail facilities and a public realm.
The second outlined a six to seven storey general height, a 10-storey marker, and ‘podium’ car parking, but with reduced space for retail. The final design, meanwhile, offered six to seven storey general height, a grander 12-storey marker, and a multi-storey car park, again with reduced retail options and a smaller public realm than the first proposal.
Regency Drive resident Barry Hatcher was far from happy with the prospect of the village’s familiar stores leaving the area.
He said: “Two of the redevelopment options will mean less retail outlets, while it will take two years to complete this wanton destruction of West Byfleet village.
“We will lose every retail outlet; the Post Office, two chemists, Costa Coffee, Apples & Pears, two banks, a baker’s, estate agency, dry cleaner’s, restaurant, hairdresser’s, boutique, and two charity shops.
“Do we really expect to see the two banks re-open, and will we be sure the same will apply to the Post Office?”
Reacting to the early perspective, Altitude admitted that ‘the usual’ concerns surrounding all developments had been aired by visitors to the consultation.
A spokesman told the News & Mail: “There was a very positive response to the scheme with the great majority supporting the development [a total of 130 surveys were completed with 100 giving positive feedback].
“Where concerns were raised they related to height, parking, traffic and the impact on existing shops.
“There was almost unanimous support for a new public square and the demolition of Sheer House. Attendees favoured option one, which included basement parking.
Independent Byfleet Councillor John Bond told the News & Mail that he wants specific information on the designs to be more readily available.
He said: “I would like to know a lot more of the details before expressing my views on the development. At the moment the designs do not have any dimensions, which means we could be left with five buildings the size of Sheer House – don’t forget this is a village centre.
“More details on the options will help all concerned parties make an informed decision on the build.”
Friday’s consultation follows a series of workshop sessions held in February, when attendees were invited to provide written feedback via comment forms and post-it notes.
Approximately 150 people attended the sessions, including Jonathan Lord MP, local councillors, representatives of the Business and Neighbourhood Forums, council officers, representatives of Surrey Police, and residents.