Fury at theft of protest placards

EVENTS in Mayford took an alarming turn this weekend when a second batch of posterboards disappeared overnight from outside residents’ homes and they realised the culprits weren’t just vandals.

SIGN OF THE TIMES – Jackie Curry with her placard on Egley Road
SIGN OF THE TIMES – Jackie Curry with her placard on Egley Road

The placards, which read, ‘Say No! to losing the Green Belt’, had been swiped from all over the village, including Egley Road and Saunders Lane.

Angry resident Jackie Curry, who has lived there for 25 years, said: “The signs must have been removed late on Friday night or in the early hours of Saturday.

“Ours and the one on the opposite side of Egley Road were the only two left, as far as we could tell, but we think that’s because there are CCTV cameras nearby.

“We can’t think who could have done this – it’s intimidation.”

Mayford Village Society, which has been going for 25 years, provided the double-sided A3 posterboards at the request of residents.

Its secretary, Ron Dawes, who has lived in Woodpecker Way for 34 years, said: “The aim was to improve awareness of Woking Council’s proposals to remove land from the green belt to the west of Egley Road and to the north of Saunders Lane, and our rejection of them.

“Laminated posters were put up on Smarts Heath Road, Saunders Lane, Saunders Copse, Egley Road, Mayford Green, Westfield Road and Guildford Road. Each of the 75 signposts cost £16.75 – a total of £1,256.25.

Ron said: “We put the first spate of thefts down to vandals and decided not to waste police time, so we just replaced them. However, this time we realised it must be part of a bigger campaign to take them down, so on Saturday we reported it to the police.

“They expressed concern and registered it as a crime, and although they are unable to increase patrols, they said they will do what they can.

“We are shocked that our freedom of expression has been interfered with. All our boards were on private land at the owners’ request. The society is appalled that someone can actually do this; we have been working hard on this campaign and have proceeded well – more than 400 letters and e-mails of  objection have gone to the council.”

Residents say it’s the magnitude of the plans they find alarming. A general fear is that the identity of Mayford and their green belt looks set to be destroyed and that it will eventually merge into Woking.

As an example, there are currently only 120 homes north of Saunders Lane, yet a further 550 homes are proposed for it.

Ron added: “Although they say it is not due to happen for 25 years, once the area has lost green belt status protection, who would be able to stop them if they change their minds?

“We agree a new school is needed – one with its own sports facilities, like most. But the independent leisure complex that is proposed [between Railway Road and Egley Road] is grossly out of proportion.”

Owners of the sites identified for development have already agreed to let their land go. Ten Acre Farm in Smarts Heath Road has been lined up to address the needs of travellers, although it will keep its green belt tag, while development of land north east and north west of Saunders Lane, as well as the Woking Garden Centre site in Egley Road, is also under consideration.

An application already submitted includes a permanent three-storey home for the Hoe Valley Free Secondary School, which will open in September at Woking Park, alongside the leisure centre, where it will remain temporarily for two years.

The proposed sports facility – to include an eight-lane running track, two grass football pitches, three five-a-side pitches, two multi-use games areas and a car park with a coach drop-off area – would be run by Freedom Leisure and is a suggested replacement for Sheerwater’s athletics centre, earmarked for removal as part of the area’s regeneration.

Mayford residents are concerned about traffic density and pollution, and the lack of infrastructure. They have questioned why the existing leisure centre nearby cannot provide the athletics track, or why a facility can’t be built closer to Sheerwater.

ANYONE with any information relating to the disappearance of the signs  is asked to call Surrey Police on 101 quoting ref 451 500 67354 or report online at my.surrey.police.uk/splonlinereportingweb. Or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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