THE borough’s first Neighbourhood Plan has been submitted to the council by Woking’s premier Neighbourhood Forum, the Hook Heath Neighbourhood Forum, who have spent the past two years developing policies which are designed to help shape the future of the area through to 2027.
The plan contains six policies covering the built environment, open spaces, and local infrastructure. All the policies are based on evidence gathered from surveys and feedback from residents and businesses within the forum’s catchment.
Forum Chairman Peter Hill said: “The Forum steering group have worked extremely hard over the past year to bring the plan and the supporting documents to the point where we could make the formal submission to the council. It has been both a challenging and stimulating exercise but well worth the effort.”
He explained that the aim of the forum’s plan was to maintain and enhance the distinctive and special residential character of the area, and to provide a safe, pleasant and sustainable environment for the community.
Development in the period to 2027, he continued, would bring more residents to the area but, as has happened over the last century, Hook Heath should retain its character and remain an attractive part of the borough.
The forum was the first to receive formal approval from Woking Borough Council in October last year. Since then four other forums have been designated: West Byfleet, Byfleet Village, Pyrford and Brookwood & Bridley.
Neighbourhood Forums and Plans were introduced through the Localism Act which came into force in November 2011. Their purpose is to give local communities the right to help shape development at local level.
The Hook Heath forum’s membership has grown steadily over the period since it was established and currently more than 335 people have registered their interest in and support for the organisation.
Specifically, the plan seeks to ensure that new developments, extensions and modifications complement or enhance the existing character and appearance of Hook Heath.
The forum also seeks to retain, and where possible enhance, the amenity value of the open spaces within the defined neighbourhood area.
They have emphasised the importance of maintaining the several elements of benefit arising from the separation of Hook Heath and Mayford, and of Woking as a whole and Guildford.
It is expected that the council will initiate a six-week public consultation on the plan early in 2015 before it is subjected to independent scrutiny by an experienced planning inspector to ensure that it is consistent with national and local planning guidelines.
Ultimately, residents will be invited to cast their votes in support of the plan in a local referendum.