Fate of plans lies with council

THE £4 million Coign Church and Bouygues proposals could get the go-ahead when they imminently become the focus of a discussion at Woking’s Civic Offices, though not without a battle, say the 123 petitioners who were last week informed of the agenda for the planning meeting.

Resident Fred Griffin, who is in his 70s, has lived in Vale Farm Road with his wife Aileen for 12 years, and in Woking for 33. He told the  News & Mail: “In a way, I’m looking forward to laying out our objections to the public.”

HIGH AGENDA – artist’s impression of the Coign Church development
HIGH AGENDA – artist’s impression of the Coign Church development

The Coign’s applications for a development on the outskirts of Woking town centre have been back and forth to the drawing board since 2006, when the church proposed a 13-storey block of 161 flats, which was rejected outright.

Earlier last year, the Coign Church and Bouygues Development Ltd toyed with even more ambitious plans – for two tower blocks comprising 170 apartments with a 1,000-seat church auditorium in the basement of one block.

Residents and local councillors breathed a huge sigh of relief when the controversial proposals were withdrawn before an application was formally submitted to the council.

The residents of Vale Farm Road and Oaks Road have maintained all along that they have no objections to a bigger church being built and the area being redeveloped as they agree that both are badly needed.

However, among parking and infrastructure issues, a main concern is that the designs have not complied, and still don’t, with the council’s Core Strategy.

Residents complained that the latest revised proposals revealed in June – for a single 12-storey tower and two smaller three to four-storey buildings housing 85 apartments, of which 35 would be one-bed flats and 50 two-bed – are still ‘ill-conceived’.

The plans also include an 850-seat, double-height auditorium and the provision of 82 parking spaces – of which 41 would be allocated to the church and only 32 for the residents (on a permit basis), while the remaining nine would be for visitors.

Residents’ objections included insufficient parking, no provision for infrastructure in what is an already congested area,  and the one-day-only public exhibition had been misleading as it wasn’t to scale.

Despite lack of consultation with residents, who say their comments hadn’t been taken into account, an application for the same plans was formally submitted to the council in September.

Fred explained: “We are happy for the area to be developed but the design must comply with the Core Strategy ‘not to allow tower blocks where there is high density housing outside the town centre’. Any development in the area must be in keeping with the surroundings.”

Fred and his team of petitioners will be making sure all those at Woking Borough Council involved in the decision receive a hand-delivered detailed summary with reasons behind their objections. He added: “We expect a good turnout from both sides – I think there could be a bit of a bun fight.”

THE planning meeting on Tuesday (March 5) kicks off at the Civic Offices at 7.30pm. Go to www.woking.gov.uk/planning to view the application.


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