woking borough council

THE Liberal Democrats have turned down an offer from Woking’s ruling Conservatives to have seats on the borough council’s executive.

Council leader David Bittleston invited two opposition councillors to join the committee after winning a confidence vote at a special meeting last week.

Council Leader Cllr David Bittleston

But Lib Dem councillors Ken Howard and Ian Johnson have declined to sit with the Tories on the council’s main decision-making body.

Cllr Bittleston faced the confidence vote – proposed by his party – at a meeting of councillors described by the Lib Dem group leader as an “absolute joke”.

The leader of a minority administration, he made his offer of executive places after 13 Conservatives voted in support of his leadership, with two Independents voting against and 13 Lib Dem and Labour councillors abstaining.

Lib-Dem group leader Cllr Ann-Marie Barker called the most recent confidence vote “an absolute joke”

Cllr Howard, who was offered a climate change responsibility on the executive, said this week: “It could be quite difficult being an opposition member of a Tory executive when it takes decisions I don’t agree with. There doesn’t seem to be any advantage in it.

“I would like Woking to be taking a lead on climate change, but I can continue to pursue this as chairman of the climate change working group,” added the St John’s representative, who has been a councillor since 2000.

A meeting of the executive scheduled for last Thursday was cancelled in favour of a special debate prompted by Cllr Bittleston losing a Labour no-confidence motion in July. Lib Dem leader Ann-Marie Barker had followed up the lost vote by telling Cllr Bittleston he should have his status as leader of the council confirmed by the Conservative group.

However, it was ruled by council chief executive Ray Morgan that only the full council can confirm the leader.

For the full story get the 19 September edition of the News & Mail

A RESOUNDING all-party “no” was the verdict at last Thursday’s Woking Borough Council meeting in response to a recommendation by the executive committee to support RHS Wisley’s application for a grant of £100,000.

There was an impressive display of unity from councillors across the political spectrum in their unequivocal rejection of the proposal.

RHS Wisley requested a grant of £100,000

Only council leader David Bittleston supported the motion to approve the grant, with 24 voting against the motion and four abstentions.

First to speak in the debate was Liberal Democrat Will Forster.

“The Lib Dems and I do not support this application for a grant to RHS Wisley,” he said.

Cllr Forster said that, last year, Citizens Advice, Woking, got £38,000 less than the year before, and the local credit union asked for £18,000 in grants but got £12,000.

Cllr David Bittleston argued strongly in favour of approving the grant

“When the Meadow Sports Group in my ward, which supports young people getting physically active and having a healthy lifestyle, sought £15,000 funding, they secured just £4,000,” he said.

“When another organisation outside our borough, the Surrey Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, sought £25,000 for work they do in our area in a building inside our area, not outside, they didn’t get anything – not a penny,” added Cllr Forster.

Cllr Bittleston was vigorous in his support for the application. He said the RHS Wisley grant would not affect other revenue account grants, as it would come from the capital account.

“We already give significantly more – 10 times more in some cases – to local community groups than many other boroughs and districts,” he said.

“We are an exemplar and the RHS Wisley request would not be a revenue account spend.”

He added that the benefit of giving the money to RHS Wisley “would be enormous for the residents of the borough”.

For the full story get the 1 August edition of the News & Mail

Public consultations over plans to redevelop Woking Football Club’s stadium have heard a litany of concerns from residents at the impact of such a large-scale building project.

The proposal aims to build a 10,000-seat facility, along with more than 1,000 flats and 10,000 sq ft of retail space to create a new neighbourhood at Kingfield called Cardinal Court. This has given rise to fears of overcrowding, lack of adequate infrastructure and the impact on the quality of life for nearby residents.

A CGI rendering of the proposed Cardinal Court

“Our roads are already congested, parking is a challenge, and our schools and health services are oversubscribed. We recognise that investment in the club and area is welcome, but it must be a considered and balanced approach, with heavy investment in local infrastructure to support it. This is not reflected in the Cardinal Court proposal. Local residents are outraged and oppose this vehemently,” said a resident of Willow Reach development who didn’t wish to be named.

Social media platforms such as WhatsApp groups and Facebook pages of local neighbourhoods have been busy with residents sharing information about the project, discussing ways to raise awareness and organising themselves to oppose the plans. An online petition at http://chng.it/wGg97n67 is aiming for 1,000 signatories and secured 500 names within three days.

For the full story get the 25 July edition of the News & Mail

THE flumes at Woking Pool in the Park have been replaced by two new ones with a The War of the Worlds theme.

The £1 million features, built by the pool operator Freedom Leisure in partnership with Woking Borough Council, open on Saturday 27 July with an official launch, including a competition for a family to win free swimming for the summer holidays.

New flumes The Martian and The Time Traveller are set to officially open tomorrow

The original flumes were installed in the early 1990s and have been replaced by The Martian, designed for younger children and The Time Traveller, which has brightly coloured stripes and is a faster, more exciting ride.

Steve May, Freedom Leisure contract manager, said: “We are very aware of how loved these flumes are by local children and are therefore delighted to be not only bringing them back into full working order, but also in time for the school holidays. 

“They look great and the Time Traveller is particularly thrilling. Both start inside but take riders outside the pool hall building but end back in the building.”

For the full story get the 25 July edition of the News & Mail

THE team behind the Woking Community Stadium project is targeting final approval for its plans by January 2020.

Speaking at a Woking FC fans’ forum at The Laithwaite Community Stadium last Thursday, club chairman Rosemary Johnson described the planned new stadium as “in everyone’s best interests” and “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.

An aerial night-time CGI showing the planned Woking Community Stadium and the wider Cardinal Court proposals.

The final proposal – to include an Environmental Impact Assessment – will be submitted to Woking Borough Council in September.

Under the terms of the project, the council would be the landlord of the 10,000-capacity stadium, a multi-use facility incorporating retail and commercial spaces.

Proposing to build nearly 1,000 flats and 10,000 sq ft of retail space to create a new neighbourhood at Kingfield, to be called Cardinal Court, as part of the development has led to some local concerns regarding housing density and the pressure on infrastructure around the area.

The plans, along with images of the expanded stadium and Cardinal Court, have been available to view at three public consultations held at the football ground. Another chance to see them is at the Mayford Village Hall tonight (18 July) from 4pm to 8pm. Members of the project team will be on hand, and residents can take the opportunity to ask questions and give their views.

For the full story, get the 18 July edition of the News & Mail

THE Ambassadors Cinema in Woking will close at the end of September for a major overhaul, which won’t see the venue reopen until the summer of 2020.

The town’s cinema since the Ambassadors complex was built in 1992, the venue has been running for 364 days a year since opening 27 years ago. With this comes a fair amount of wear and tear, on everything from the seats to the carpets.

Now with the chance for reinvention, with investment from Woking Borough Council and Ambassador Theatre Group, management say the project marks a significant collaboration as part of the town-wide regeneration.

“It’s going to be more than just a refurbishment. We’re going to strip the whole of the existing building out and start again,” said cinema project director Simon Thomsett.

The cinema will be closed from Saturday 28 September.

THE TOWN centre’s new luxury hotel is now almost 100 metres – 328 feet – off the ground “a significant milestone” in Woking’s £540m transformation recognised in a sky-high celebration last week.

The topping-off of the 23rd storey sees the new 189-room Hilton building on track to form a key focal point in the Victoria Square transformation project. The occasion brought together local councillors, representatives from Hilton Worldwide, construction leaders and investors.

Hilton’s Stephen Cassidy with Woking Borough Council chief executive Ray Morgan

The building project, which is part of a joint venture between Woking Borough Council and shopping centre owner and investor Moyallen Group, is being spearheaded by Sir Robert McAlpine. Due to be completed in late 2020, it is strategically located at the junction of Victoria Way and Church Street West.

Set to become one of the best-connected hotels in Surrey and the South East of England, it will complement the existing DoubleTree by Hilton Woking which opened in 2016 with 177 guest rooms and 12 suites.

The development of Victoria Square “represents a real game-changer for Woking” says Cllr David Bittleston

Patrick Fitzgibbon, Hilton’s senior vice-president for development, Europe, Middle East and Asia, Hilton, said: “The town is undergoing a major transformation and its ambitious regeneration – together with the town’s fantastic connectivity to central London and its main airports – makes it a prestigious location in which to introduce our flagship brand.”

Victoria Square will also incorporate 429 apartments across two new residential towers and will include a multi-storey car park, a medical centre and two public plazas. It also offers a further 75,000 square feet of innovative retail space.

At 34 and 32 storeys high, the site’s tallest residential tower will be 118 metres – 387 feet – high. These are earmarked for phased completion from late 2020, with a complete fit-out for apartments and occupation by 2021.

For the full story get the 4 July edition of the News & Mail

A PLAYGROUND in West Byfleet has been extended and improved after parents successfully campaigned for £25,000 in county council funding.

Beryl Hunwicks, the Mayor of Woking, centre with children and parents at the improved West Byfleet Play Area in Camphill Road

Woking Borough Council added £35,000 for the work, which took just over three months. The project included an extension of the existing play area, new equipment, a wooden activity trail, junior multi-play climbing frame, rope tunnel and multi see-saw.

The opening of the refurbished play area was attended by Beryl Hunwicks, the Mayor of Woking.

The campaign to get the grant was led by parents Rebecca Bradshaw and Emma Slaymaker.

Rebecca said the resulting playground was a brilliant facility and the campaign included other parents and West Byfleet residents.

“There is now equipment for older junior school children. The park is also very much a community facility,” Rebecca said.

For the full story get the 4 July edition of the News & Mail

DETAILS of ambitious plans to transform Woking FC’s ground to English Football League standards and build an estimated 1,000 flats on nearby ground in a £10 million project are to be revealed to local residents in a series of public consultations.

The outline proposals were revealed in April last year when Woking Borough Council reached an agreement with property developer GolDev Limited.

Woking FC’s current stadium at Kingfield

In plans that have been discussed and developed behind the scenes since 2002, Laithwaite Community Stadium would become a 10,000-seat facility that would allow the club to aim for promotion at least up to League One.

The ground currently holds a maximum of 6,000 fans, with 2,500 of those seated. There are a number of other improvements, such as greater accessibility and media facilities that would be necessary to qualify the ground to host games in the upper tiers of the game.

The estimated £10 million cost would be financed by building nearly 1,000 flats and 10,000 sq ft of retail space creating a new neighbourhood at Kingfield, to be called Cardinal Court.

The plans, along with images of the expanded stadium and Cardinal Court will be shown to the public for the first time at a consultation held at the Laithwaite Community Stadium next Friday (12 July) from 2pm to 8pm.

There will be two more consultations at the ground next Saturday from 10am to noon and on Tuesday 16 July from 2pm to 6pm. A fourth consultation will take place on Thursday 18 July from 4pm to 8pm at Mayford Village Hall.

Woking FC chairman Rosemary Johnson

Members of the project team will be at the sessions where residents will have the opportunity to ask questions and give their views.

GolDev is due to give a briefing to councillors next Wednesday, followed by a presentation of Woking FC fans the following day.

Rosemary Johnson, chairman of Woking Football Club, said: “We are looking forward to presenting the Woking Community Stadium proposals to the community. We want this project to work for our club, our supporters, and the community to which we belong, and we look forward to hearing your views on the proposals.”

Once the consultations have been held, the plans could then be altered and go through a series of planning applications through the council.

For the full story get the 4 July News & Mail

THE couple who founded the Ambassador Theatre Group joined a veteran fireman who has worked as a volunteer for the Red Cross for half a century in being given the Freedom of the Borough by Woking council.

Beryl Hunwicks, the Mayor of Woking, presents Sir Howard Panter and Dame Rosemary Squire with velum scrolls marking them being given Freedom of the Borough

Sir Howard Panter and Dame Rosemary Squire, who live in West Byfleet, built ATG into the world’s number one live-theatre company with almost 50 venues in Britain, the US and Europe.

They topped The Stage 100 most influential people in UK theatre every year between 2010 and 2016 and were first in the Evening Standard “Power 1,000” in theatre in 2013.

In 2005, Dame Rosemary became only the second female president of the Society of London Theatre in its 100 year history.

She said: “To be bestowed the Honorary Freedom of the Borough by Woking Borough Council is a true honour. Woking Borough is not only our home but also the home to our businesses having spent more than two decades running Ambassador Theatre Group here.”

Mick Bullen, who has volunteered with the Red Cross for more than 50 years

The honour was also given to Mick Bullen who joined the Fire Brigade in 1961, serving at Woking, Chertsey and Painshill in senior positions and working as an instructor at Reigate. Mick retired from the fire service in 1989.

His work with the Red Cross began in 1965 driving ambulances and in 2016 he became county vice- president.

“When I first volunteered for the Red Cross all those years ago, who’d have thought I’d be still going over 50 years later. It is moments like this that make you proud to be part of this community,” he said.

Beryl Hunwicks, the Mayor of Woking, presented all three with the Freeman’s Badge, ceremonial velum scroll and certificate marking the occasion. Their names will be inscribed on the Roll of Freemen of the Borough, which hangs in the council chamber.

For the full story get the 20 June edition of the News & Mail