ST JOHN’S CHURCH in West Byfleet was packed out for a different sort of service when 260 people piled into the pews to discuss proposals for a major transformation in the village.

Byfleet, West Byfleet and Pyrford Residents’ Association called the meeting to discuss plans to remodel Sheer House and the adjoining retail centre in Station Approach.

Owners Cube Real Estate have lodged an outline application to build a total of 53 flats in one, two and four-storey towers.

Plans rule out an increase in parking but include the demolition of the area’s public toilets and cladding to all facades.

The leases of the business occupants run out next year, but the plans state that office floorspace, retail units and the public library would be retained.

On the panel were Woking MP Jonathan Lord, planning chairman Ashley Bowes, councillors Richard Wilson and Gary Elson, and John Bond and Martin Doyle from the residents’ association. Also present were Cllrs Anne Roberts, Graham Christie and Saj Hussain.

Association planning advisor Richard Thomas stated that any changes would be much more welcomed if the development was aesthetically pleasing.
He said: “We don’t object to development but it needs to look attractive and not be oversubscribed.”

Currently under consultation, Cllr Bowes (right) explained that the applicants have gone through the process legally and stressed that the application is still at a very early stage.

Cllr Wilson, who has lived in the village since 1971, suggested West Byfleet would be better off if the entire building was stripped down.

He said: “The building has been there since the 1960s and needs demolishing.

“They plan to get rid of the toilets and are suggesting children use facilities in the NHS centre or at Waitrose.

“There will be no affordable housing, they are not addressing parking and there will be infrastructure problems.

“Already we have pressure on numbers.”

And Mr Lord seemed to agree that the proposal could have been managed in a more encompassing manner.

He said: “This is a very important application for the future of villagers.

“It should have been considered as a whole project along with the wider issues.”

When one resident asked how it would fit in with the Local Plan, Cllr Bowes replied: “The 1968 building was not designed to be here this long but public money is a major consideration. I’d be confident in advising a refusal if the development did not have a robust reason to justify it.”

But resident Peter Quinn failed to hide his frustrations and said: “I am appalled – the extra storeys are totally inappropriate. The best thing would be to take down the building and start again. It needs to be

Association chairman Godfrey Chapples tried to reassure residents by explaining that the project would likely be a phased development.

Residents have until March 26 to comment on PLAN/2013/0026 on the council website or visit

A TOP teachers’ union is seeking compensation packages for sacked staff members following the sudden closure of Oakfield School in Pyrford.

The private institution in Coldharbour Road closed its doors on 96 years of history last week citing “financial difficulties” as the reason for the shock announcement.

In a letter addressed to parents school directors Leslie and Mary Tuckersaid: “We have made every effort to find other sources of financial support in order to avoid closing the school, however none of the options has proved successful.

“The staff as well as headteacher Susan Goddard were unaware of this situation.

“This is a very sad outcome for us all, for a school which has been trading for 96 years and has achieved an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted this year.”

Parents now face a desperate struggle to secure their children a place at an alternative school, while distraught staff members have been plunged into unemployment just four weeks before the start of the new term.

But the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, which represents more than 160,000 educators in the UK, has pledged to fight for redundancy packages for four members of staff who were told they would not receive their August salary.

Senior regional official for the south east, Allan Deacon, said: “This huge blow for staff, pupils and parents came without any warning after the end of the summer term.

“One of our members was travelling to the airport to go on holiday when she learned the shock news that the school had closed and she would be jobless in September.

“Staff were told that their July pay cheque was their last and, as well as having no job, they would not get their August salary.

“We are disappointed that the school has not consulted the staff about the closure, as it is legally required to do, or explored any alternatives to closure with them.

“ATL will now do all it can to make sure its members get any pay and redundancy payments to which they are entitled, including taking the school to an employment tribunal if necessary.”

HEROES – fans in Ripley show their support as Team GB manoeuvre their way through the scenic village as Olympic fever grips the nation

HEROES – fans in Ripley show their support as Team GB manoeuvre their way through the scenic village as Olympic fever grips the nation

A NATION swelled with pride as the Olympic Games burst into life over the weekend, and Woking was at the emotional heart of it.

Thousands lined the streets as the men’s and women’s road races thundered through the borough.

West Byfleet LI:VE was teeming with Union flags as Olympic fever took a firm grip on the village.

Red, white and blue clad fans roared on Team GB’s world champion Mark Cavendish and Tour de France hero Bradley Wiggins, only for their  medal hopes to fade on Saturday.

To have something so special come through our tiny community is truly remarkable and something we should all cherish

But they were rewarded on Sunday when Lizzie Armitstead took silver in the women’s race to claim our first medal of the Games.

Robyn Dean, 18, and Jordon Styles, 19, from Georgelands, Ripley, (right) got into the Olympic spirit by painting their faces with Union flags before watching the race in White Rose Lane. Robyn said: “I got a picture of Mark Cavendish, I’m so proud. It’s nice to see the village coming together.”

Woking mayor Michael Smith, who cycled to Saturday’s festivities at West  Byfleet recreation ground, said residents had done the borough proud with their incredible show of support.

He added: “We stood on Parvis Road and it was great to be involved in a once-in-a-lifetime event.

“The fans and crowd responded incredibly to the road race and it was an amazing coming together.

“It’s unfortunate we missed out in the men’s race but it was a huge bonus to get silver in the women’s event.”

There was an overwhelming sense of pride as pictures of our area’s leafy streets were beamed across the world.

James White, 87, of West Byfleet said: “To have something so special come through our tiny community is truly remarkable and something we should all cherish. I won’t see London host the Olympics again in my lifetime so this is something to savour.”

More than a million fans lined the course for the men’s and women’s race which whizzed by Weybridge, whooshed through West Byfleet, powered on past Pyrford and ripped through Ripley en route to the gruelling climbs of Box Hill before returning to London and the finish line on the Mall.

Anita and Ray French, Sue Gibbs and her daughters Jess and Ellie and their pal Natasha Newson had ringside seats outside Hedgecroft Cottages in Newark Lane, Ripley.

Natasha said: “It was exciting and so fast.” Sue added: “You could feel the breeze coming off them.”

Dutchmen Marcel Elzenaar, Meino Meines, Ed Noorman and Gerard Meines, from Assen, all took part in an impromptu Mexican wave with other spectators in Ripley once the athletes had passed.

Gerard said the village and crowds had generated a ‘very nice atmosphere’.

Little Sam Perei, of Wentworth Close, spent two days with a friend making an Olympic banner to spur on Team GB. He watched the race with his mum Lottie, his brother Harry and their pet dog Amber. Sam said: “I worked very hard on the sign.”

Residents at Boltons Close in Pyrford marked the event with a party.

Despite the huge number of people out celebrating in the streets, Surrey Police have reported just two arrests.

Chief superintendent Gavin Stephens said: “There were only two event-related arrests in Surrey over the whole weekend and this is testament to the fantastic spirit of the thousands of people who came out to cheer on the cyclists.”