THE first shots have been fired in a possible short but intense general election campaign in Woking with the selection of Will Forster, the former Mayor, as the Liberal Democrat prospective candidate to be MP.

He is the first prospective parliamentary candidate to be announced for Woking with the possibility of an early election being called.

Former mayor of Woking Cllr Will Forster has been selected as the Lib Dem candidate for MP

Mr Forster told the News & Mail that he was hopeful that the Green Party would stand aside to maximise the anti-Brexit vote and said that discussions about election tactics and pacts were taking place between parties at national level.

Mr Forster said that the Lib Dems were the “clear alternative to the Conservatives” saying the party won the European elections in Woking earlier this year.

Mr Forster was Mayor of Woking until mid-May this year and is a longstanding borough and county councillor, representing Hoe Valley and Woking South respectively. 

He said: “It is a huge honour to have been chosen as the Lib Dems’ candidate to be Woking’s MP.  I want to be Woking’s strong and local voice in parliament that people can trust. 

“The plans for Brexit, especially a no-deal Brexit, will be disastrous for Woking and for the country and I intend to do my utmost to stop them. I know so many people, including lifelong Conservatives, who are unhappy with Woking’s current MP for backing a Hard Brexit agenda, despite the majority of Woking voting to Remain.”

Jonathan Lord secured the Woking seat two years ago with 29,903 votes, a 16,724 majority over Labour’s Fiona Colley with Mr Forster third for the Lib Dems. The Greens polled 1,092 votes.

Mr Lord told the News & Mail that he intends to stand as the Conservative candidate at the next election, whenever that will be.

See the full story in the 5 September edition of the News & Mail

A BYFLEET woman who is raising money to run floristry workshops for survivors of human trafficking has been shortlisted for a “change maker of the year” award.

Jess Visser, a former corporate head-hunter who retrained as a florist, founded Strength & Stem as a social enterprise florist to empower survivors of human trafficking. She is using the social platform JustGiving to raise money for the workshops and has already raised more than half her target of £6,000.

Floristry hero Jess Visser putting together an arrangement of flowers

She is planning to run four full-day workshops over four weeks to teach 10 women a range of floristry skills, including hand-tied bouquets, buttonholes, flower crowns, wreaths and table arrangements. The first will be held next month (September) and will be taught by the founders and florists at Wolves Lane Flower Company, in Hornsey, London.

“I have always been concerned about the plight of the victims of trafficking and I recently did some volunteering with a charity that works to prevent potential victims being trafficked and that further opened my eyes to the problems,” Jess said.

“It is an honour to be a finalist for the 2019 JustGiving Change Maker of the Year Award. I hope that by creating greater awareness of Strength & Stem and the horrific problems that victims of human trafficking face on our doorsteps, we can help tackle the issue at its core and empower survivors on their journey of rehabilitation and healing.”

To vote for Jess to win JustGiving Change Maker of the Year Award visit www.justgiving.com/awards/2019/vote. Voting closes at midnight on Sunday 15 September.

To donate to Jess’s JustGiving page please visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/strengthandstem.

For the full story get the 29 August edition of the News & Mail

ALONG with 15 other walkers, Surrey residents Tabitha Richardson, 28, and Erin Grieve, 29, will be attempting the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge next month to raise money for mental health charity Woking Mind.

GOOD CAUSE – Erin, left, and Tabitha, who will be tackling the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge next month to honour the memory of Katherine

The walk is dedicated to the memory of Katherine Hannah who, at 27, died in a car crash in Australia last year.

Woking Mind supports adults in the local community living with mental health difficulties, providing a programme of activities that aim to build purpose, routine, personal and social development.

Occupational therapist and fundraiser Katherine Hannah, who died last year in a car crash in Australia

“Katherine spoke regularly about her concerns regarding the current state of our mental health service and desperately wanted to increase awareness in our local area and in the UK as a whole,” said Katherine’s friend and fundraiser, Tabitha.

The aim is to raise £10,000 between the 17 walkers attempting the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge on Saturday 21 September. The walk is 24.5 miles with the highest peak at 2,414 feet. The walk involves more than 5,000 feet of climbing and the walkers are hoping to complete the challenge in around 10 hours.

To find out more about the challenge and to donate to Tabitha’s fundraising page please visit: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/TabithaRichardson

For more information on Woking Mind, please visit: www.wokingmind.org.uk

For the full story get the 29 August edition of the News & Mail

ASTOUNDING and gruesome crimes committed by inmates of Woking’s Victorian jail are being revealed by a website created by two young history buffs.

Daniel Shepherd and Gem Minter have formed The Institutional History Society, which is dedicated to exploring England’s institutional systems in the 19th century.

Daniel Shepherd (left) and Gem Minter, who have founded The Institutional History Society

One of the first to be depicted on its website is Woking Invalid Convict Prison, which was opened on the border of Knaphill and St John’s in 1859 to house disabled male prisoners.

“Our key driving force was a desire to put Woking on the map,” said Daniel, who lives in the town. “When people think of Woking, they often think of history spanning a few hundred years and even then, not particularly exciting but it’s, frankly, not true.

“The invalid convict prison was the first of its kind nationally. It was a purpose-built, permanent structure for invalided prisoners not fit for the normal prison system. Not only was it the first of its kind, but many of the inmates which came through its gates were unique.

“Irish terrorists were housed there. There was a banker whose crimes inspired the Little Dorrit novel by Charles Dickens, along with bloodthirsty murderers and zoophiles. You name it, they were there.”

A young inmate, photographed for his prison record

The Institutional History Society was set-up in June to showcase the “lurid, the scandalous, and often unfair lives, treatments and crimes of people from times gone by”.

Its website will house archival documents, useful resources, be a forum for genealogists and feature investigative research to be revealed in podcasts, biographies and blogs.

“In a much broader sense, we aim to bring to the fore things which affect modern and historic societies alike, particularly as regards to its institutions,” added Daniel, who studied archaeology and history at university.

“How should we treat the mentally ill? How should we view prisoners? What are the paths that lead to crimes and have things change? We feel you can judge a society on how its institutions treated its most vulnerable members.”

“If you’re interested in historic true crime, want to find out if one of your ancestors was a felon or if you’re interested in volunteering, visit our website at www.institutionalhistory.com,” said Daniel.

For the full story get the 29 August edition of the News & Mail

WOKING & Sam Beare Hospices have received £1,774.75 thanks to unwanted items dropped off at community recycling centres being sold to the public.

The Revive charity scheme, which operates at Martyrs Lane, Woodham, donates a portion of the money raised from its five shops across Surrey to local charities nominated by customers.

CASH FROM TRASH – Councillor Colin Kemp and Louise Morton, right, communications manager at Suez, present Woking & Sam Beare Hospices CEO Marian Imrie with a donation from the Revive scheme

Woking & Sam Beare Hospices were the chosen charity at Woodham Revive during the first quarter this year.

The Revive reuse shops, operated by Suez recycling and recovery UK on behalf of Surrey County Council, reclaim unwanted but usable items to sell. More than £18,000 was donated to Surrey charities last year through the scheme.

Accepting the donation on behalf of the Woking & Sam Beare Hospices, CEO Marian Imrie said: “We are delighted that the local public have kindly taken the time to vote for Woking & Sam Beare Hospices.

Revive shops are based at Woodham, Redhill, Leatherhead, Witley and Shepperton community recycling centres.

For more information on Woking & Sam Beare Hospices please visit: www.wsbhospices.co.uk

For the full story get the 29 August edition of the News & Mail

SURREY’S firefighters say their brigade is “on its knees” through staff shortages which make several fire engines unavailable every day across the county.

They are urging people to complain to their county and borough councillors about the dire state of Surrey Fire and Rescue Service.

The closed-down Robin Hood pub at Knaphill was destroyed by fire in May. Woking Fire Station, which covers the area, often has just one of its engines available due to staff shortages

Fire crews and their union also say councillors must oppose a proposed reorganisation which will take wholetime fire engines out of service during the night shift and at weekends.

The anger of firefighters comes at a time when up to 12 fire engines at wholetime stations are unavailable at the start of each watch, or shift, due to staff shortages.

Stations which are regularly shut due to shortages include Painshill, Walton, Esher and Banstead. The new station at Ashford, Fordbridge – an amalgamation of the now defunct Sunbury and Staines stations – is also suffering staff shortages.

The reasoning behind the proposed reduction in appliances overnight, set out in the Making Surrey Safer plan, is a fall in the number of fires attended by the UK fire service in recent years. Surrey Fire and Rescue Service wants to move more resources into fire prevention duties.

But the FBU says that most deaths in fires occur between 6pm and 9am and is opposing the night-time reduction in cover.

A Woking firefighter commented: “For a few months we have warned of a storm on the horizon. That storm grows ever closer. This was completely foreseeable, but management chose to ignore it.”

“Now is the time for the public to fight for your fire service and oppose these cuts and complain, to your local councillor. The battle is looming, and together as a community we can, and we will win.”

Surrey County Council’s cabinet is due to receive a report on the Making Surrey Safer recommendations following the public consultation. The reorganisation is planned to be implemented in 2020.

For the full story get today’s (29 August) edition of the News & Mail

RECYCLED waste plastic waste from bottles, bags and packaging has been used in pavements for the first time in Surrey.

The trial has seen waste plastic that would otherwise have gone to incineration or landfill used in asphalt to resurface pavements in Horsell Rise, Woking, and Brighton Road, Burgh Heath, before extending the trial into Kent.

Trials begin on Surrey’s first waste plastic pavement

The joint project is being led by electricity distributor, UK Power Networks which carries out roadworks to install, maintain and upgrade the cables delivering power to 8.3 million homes and businesses, with reinstatement contractor Stanmore Quality Surfacing (SQS), in partnership with Surrey and Kent county councils.

“This is the first time waste plastic has been used on Surrey’s street works and if tests prove successful, this could pave the way for wider use by other utilities,” said Mark Baker, senior groundworks manager at UK Power Networks.

In the trial across Surrey and Kent, UK Power Networks and SQS will use 17 tonnes of asphalt containing the equivalent of 14,571 single use carrier bags or 5,100 plastic bottles.

For the full story get the 22 August edition of the News & Mail

PEOPLE living on the edge of the Sheerwater regeneration area were shocked to find that an 8ft high hoarding has been put up to create a narrow alleyway in front of their homes.

Residents of Murray Green now fear fire and ambulance crews could find it difficult to get to their homes in an emergency.

Richard Albury in the alleyway that has been created by hoarding in a section of the Sheerwater regeneration area

They are also perplexed over why a grassed patch that could be used as a temporary car park for householders has been fenced off as a tree protection zone.

The black-painted fence was put up on the edge of the footpath along the front of the homes in Murray Green, which is between Albert Drive and Bunyard Drive.

The fence surrounds a block of houses whose residents have been moved out for “phase purple” of the £372m regeneration project and an area which will be used as a construction yard. The empty homes will be demolished, and new housing built at a higher density in a scheme which will increase the number of homes on the estate by more than 400.

“No-one consulted us about the line of the fence,” said Richard Albury, who has lived in Murray Green for 20 years. “If they had spoken to us, we would have asked for the fence to be set back at least two feet from the edge of the path.

The leader of Woking Borough Council, Cllr David Bittleston, commented: “Site hoardings are put in place to protect residents and tree protection areas are put in place to protect not just what you can see above ground, but also the root systems below ground.”

For the full story get the 22 August edition of the News & Mail

A NEW McDonald’s restaurant and drive-through takeaway next to the Morrisons supermarket off Goldsworth Road in Woking has been officially opened, creating 130 jobs.

The fast-food outlet includes table service as well as “click and collect” via the McDonald’s app.

Staff members Bilal, Anna and Hajni

A spokesman for the chain said that table service was becoming more popular with diners and would spread across the restaurants this year.

The new restaurant is owned and operated by Renato Raho, who is also the franchisee for the two other McDonald’s branches in the town.

Renato Raho shows Cllr Hussain the kitchens

It was declared open on Wednesday last week by the Deputy mayor of Woking, Cllr Saj Hussain, who cut a yellow ribbon at the entrance.

The Goldsworth Road outlet is open on Monday to Saturday from 6am to 11pm and on Sunday from 8am to 10pm, with seating for 180 people. The company applied to be open 24 hours a day, but this plan was curbed by Woking Borough Council.

There will be a grand public opening on Saturday 31 August, with activities such as face-painting and balloon modelling. Work is still available at the Goldsworth Road outlet – visit https://people.mcdonalds.co.uk/job-search.

For the full story get the 22 August edition of the News & Mail

THE WAITING was finally over for Year 11 students today as they received their GCSE results – the first to come through under a new numerical grading system as part of the new set of exams, widely described as being tougher.

Among local schools, all facing the new system launched in English schools alone, early reports were reflecting a slight increase in the national GCSE pass rate.

88% of students at Gordon’s School achieved a ‘gold standard’ five or more GCSE grades

Students at Fullbrook in New Haw, a specialist maths, science and technology academy, could take particular pride in grades in those subjects. In maths, 85% of students achieved grade 4 or higher.

In sciences, 72% of students achieved grade 4 or higher in at least two science subjects with biology students achieving particularly highly with 87% achieving a grade 5 or more. Across the board 84% of Fullbrook students achieved a grade 4 or higher in English and 91% in drama.

Mrs Katie Moore, Principal at Fullbrook School, said “I am proud of all our students’ successes. Everyone has worked so hard to ensure that Fullbrook students make great progress so that they achieve well and have the skills and qualifications they need to be able to take the next steps in their careers with confidence.

A delighted student shows a friend his grades

“We look forward to welcoming students to Fullbrook in September to begin their A level studies. Our warmest congratulations go to all our students and their families on their excellent achievements showing they really can be ‘better than they ever thought they could be’!”

Students and teachers at Sir William Perkins’s School in Chertsey, were “over the moon” as this year’s GCSE results were equal third highest in the history of the school.

Based on the coveted grade 9-8 bands, 25% of grades were at grade 9; 52% of grades were at grades 9-8, and 5% of students got nine or more straight grade 9s. Of the year group, 33% of students got all 9-7 grades, and overall the grades exceeded expectations.

Mr Chris Muller, Sir William Perkins’s Head, said: “As this is the first year based entirely on the new numerical grades, we weren’t entirely sure what to expect, so we are over the moon with these results – they certainly stand out in the history of the school. So, our congratulations go to this year group, as well as to their parents and our marvellous staff for all the support and hard work that has gone into producing these amazing statistics.”

GCSE results at Sir William Perkins were the joint third highest they have ever been

There were celebrations at Gordon’s School where two thirds of students achieved a ‘strong pass’ of grade 5 or better in both English and maths with 88 per cent succeeding with the historic ‘gold standard’ of five or more (standard, 4) GCSE grades, including English language and maths.

Three of the students at the non-selective co-educational school in West End, notched up nine grade 9s and one grade 8 each. It reported 40.9% were Grades 9 – 7, 81 % of the students got grades 9 – 5 and 93.1% achieved grades 9 – 4.

This comes hot on the heels of last week’s A Level results that saw a 100% pass rate by Gordon’s students, in which 93% of entries were graded A* to C.

Head Teacher Andrew Moss said: “Many congratulations to all our students and staff for their hard work and commitment over the last five years.”

For the full report get the 22 August edition of the News & Mail.