Changes to skyline ‘will take years’

THE landscape and skyline of Woking are changing – but not as quickly as many people imagine, council leader David Bittleston has told the Woking News & Mail.

Cllr Bittleston was responding to concerns by some residents that a host of tower blocks will go up in the town centre over the next few years, with constant disruption caused by the construction.

He said that several of the mooted new buildings hadn’t yet been considered for approval because it took developers some time to raise the necessary funds and put together agreements with construction companies.

RISING HIGH – Tower blocks in Victoria Square

Cllr Bittleston said the three-tower Victoria Square development was due to be completed in about two years from now. The next most likely building to go up is 34-storey apartments towner and next-door five-storey office block on the site of Concord House on the corner of Church Street East and Christchurch Way. The plans have not yet been approved and many objections have been sent to the council by local residents. Of the buildings do receive planning permission, Cllr Bittleston said, construction would be unlikely to start before 2021/22.

“Three towers in Goldsworoth Road were given planning permission three years ago but nothing has happened,” he said. “If you look at Victoria Square, that took us 10 years to get started.”

Cllr Bittleston said the roadworks in the town centre added to the impression of disruption caused by construction, but the council had taken the opportunity, with funds from central government, to improve the road infrastructure at the same time as changes to road layout during the construction of Victoria Square.

He said that another misconception was that the shops and flats on Guildford Road were to be demolished soon. The plans were part of a £75 million Housing Infrastructure (Hif) bid to the government which would involve the widening of Victoria Arch and Guildford Road.

Cllr Bittleston said the work on the arch could also include work on the railway line, which would increase rail capacity.

“It’s way into distance,” he said. “We are in final stage of the bid process. Even if we get the Hif money, the work would be three to four years from starting.”

Cllr Bittleston said that the council was required to replace flats, offices and shops that it demolished for developments.

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