A WOKING church have revealed revised proposals for a £4 million development on the edge of the town centre, and have again been met with resistance from concerned residents and councillors.
Having withdrawn previous controversial plans for an ambitious development in April, the Coign Church and Bouygues Development went back to the drawing board.
They said they invited councillors and the public to view the new, reduced proposals to a one-day-only display on Thursday. The previous project comprised two high-rise towers – a 21 and a 17-storey – of 175 homes and a 1,000-seat church ‘auditorium’ in the basement of one.
Residents and councillors said no provision had been made for the already congested surrounding roads. There was not nearly enough parking, and no affordable housing or infrastructure measures were in place.
Just when a 176-signature petition was gathering pace, it is thought the applicants were warned that such plans in a restricted area would not be recommended by the council.
Residents suggested they be consulted so that they could work together on an amicable and practical development that would fit in with the surroundings, to include a bigger church. Their offer wasn’t taken up.
The revised project includes one 12-storey residential block with a church auditorium of 850 seats, plus two ‘three to four-storey’ buildings housing a total of 85 apartments. They said the plans include an underground car park. Although residents totally concur that the area badly needs regenerating, they said the proposals are still ‘ill-conceived’ .
In a statement, Bouygues’ Managing Director, Nicolas Guérin, said: “Following comments regarding the original proposals, our team have been working hard to respond positively and form a design without compromising the quality of the new church. We are pleased to be sharing these plans and look forward to progressing the scheme.”
Malcolm Kayes, Senior Pastor of the church, added: “We are very pleased with the revised design, and hope it is also well received by both local planners and residents. We have been really encouraged by many supportive comments regarding the Coign Church and its community provision and activities, and we hope this new facility will help us maintain our presence within Woking town centre.”
Residents said they were given relatively short notice to see the one-day-only exhibition, where a model of the project was on display. Fred Griffin, 71, who has lived in nearby Vale Farm Road with his wife Aileen for 12 years and in Woking for 33, told the News & Mail: “The developers were rumbled that the model was not to scale, which they admitted.
“It was misleading because in fact it was half the size it should have been and it was made in Perspex, giving a false impression of a light and airy, unobtrusive construction. Again, the project is ill-conceived; the practicalities have not been addressed.
“There is no provision for rubbish, sewage or trees and insufficient parking. The parking is in fact at street level on the ground floor, not ‘underground’, on the same level as the auditorium. The tower is on sort of stilts, with 80 spaces serving 85 apartments. However, 50 of those are to be reserved for the church. It is still a tower block, which we don’t want, and they couldn’t say if the flats would be for sale or rent. We were left with far more questions than answers.”
Councillor Hilary Addison, who was ‘delighted’ when the previous application was withdrawn, said: “I am right behind the residents and I support them. It [the development] is still too big. I don’t think the infrastructure will cope. The area does need reviving but it needs something more in keeping with the surroundings. If they had included residents’ input in the plans, they could have come up with something that suits everyone.”
Another Vale Farm Road resident, Martine Cooper, said: “My main remit is the infrastructure, access and parking. There is also a confirmed issue with surface water flooding. In the computer-generated pictures at the exhibition of the proposed buildings were created facing Woking, with the other areas not taken into account. We as residents would much prefer the buildings on Oaks Road and Vale Farm Road to be renovated. By nature they are desirable houses close to the amenities with gardens. There is little green space in the new designs.”
“If this were to go ahead, site vehicles would have to approach from the already congested Goldsworth Road. And, with the Victoria Square development plus works on the new fire station, the impact would be horrendous.”
Nick Hooper who lives on Oaks Road said the model for the original design was also not to scale. He said: “They were sneaky. And there was no clear policy or understanding. We didn’t seem to get any true and honest answers of what is really going on. We are happy for the church to move forward but they won’t engage with residents. If it were to go ahead, roads and parking would be my prime concern.”