Concerns over £150m Victoria Square development

A FORMER senior planning officer for Woking Borough Council has cast doubts over the viability of the proposed £150 million Victoria Square development.

Robert Beck, of Larchwood Road, says the council’s assessment for the effects of wind on the development are outdated.

TALL ORDER – Victoria Square is to include 28 and 34-storey towers of 392 apartments

TALL ORDER – Victoria Square is to include 28 and 34-storey towers of 392 apartments

“I need to draw to public attention the fact that the wind assessment for the proposed redevelopment is based on 30-year-old standards that ignore the sort of extreme weather events becoming ever more common in the UK since,” he explained.

“Most worryingly, it seems that no government since has provided any guidance regarding the scientifically predicted increase in extreme weather conditions that need to be bourne in mind in assessing the dangers of tall buildings.”

The bid’s supporting application states that the assessment was based on the construction of a physical model of the proposed development. This was subsequently tested in a wind tunnel by the Building Research Establishment.

Their findings went on to say: “Apart from one balcony test location the wind tunnel testing shows that in both winter and summer, the wind conditions at all the test locations around the Victoria Square Development are suitable for any intended pedestrian activity, including the most wind-sensitive activities of long-term sitting and entrance doors.

“Therefore the wind conditions in and around Victoria Square and beneath the new covered public space are suitable for their intended usage.”

The supporting application confirms that at this time there is no national planning policy relating directly to wind microclimate around buildings.

Notwithstanding this fact, for more than 30 years the Lawson Wind Comfort Criteria – a 12-point scale to represent equal increments of annoyance or reaction to the wind – have been used to quantify conditions on building developments in the UK.

Although not a ‘standard’, these criteria are recognised by local authorities as a suitable benchmark for wind assessment. However, Mr Beck fears there is a lack of appreciation for changing weather patterns and questions the design’s tolerance.

He explained: “I am a bit concerned about the wind funneling effects of such high buildings in this position close to a busy pedestrian crossing on a main road.

“This should be something that the planners have considered, but possibly not adequately in the context of the probability of extreme weather events growing in frequency and severity.

“I hope that a model of the town, including the proposed buildings and all other high buildings, has been tested in a wind tunnel with winds to scale of at least 100mph, and preferably more.”

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