Packed public meeting discusses stadium plans

THE group leading opposition to the proposed redevelopment of Woking Football Club’s stadium has been rallying residents to make their views on the plan known to the borough council.

Old Woking Community Centre was packed to capacity with around 200 people for a public meeting held by South Woking Action Group on Saturday morning.

Residents who have already objected raise their hands

Several borough councillors were at the meeting, including Liberal Democrats Will Forster and Ann-Marie Barker – who have already voiced objections in public – and Conservatives Saj Hussain, Melanie Whitehand and Kevin Davis were there to hear the views being expressed.

Group leaders explained the plans for a replacement stadium and more than 1,048 homes on the club’s land and the neighbouring David Lloyd health club site.

The residents were urged to send comments to the council’s planning department by the deadline of tomorrow (Friday), with advice given on how to compile an objection.

Katie Bowes holds up the brochure which details the proposed Kingfield redevelopment

SWAG spokesman Katie Bowes said the committee was pleased with the number of people who had already objected to a proposal that was not needed and totally out of keeping with the surrounding area.

“One thing that came out of the meeting was that two local accountants who attended had made a detailed assessment of the proposals,” said group member Katie Bowes. “They concluded that no bank would lend money for the development because of its high risk and the developer’s lack of assets.

“But Woking Council is committed to loaning £250 million to a private developer for the scheme, without any sign of it carrying out a proper viability assessment.

“We asked the residents present to consider the actual cost of building a new football stadium, which was said in 2018 to be £10 million. Now it’s £20 million, and a bigger stadium is proposed, which the developer will ask the council to fund.

“We understand why the council wants to support Woking Football Club, but don’t understand why they don’t just gift the club £10 million and why a new stadium has to be linked with such an overdevelopment of housing.”

“The club’s needs for an improved stadium and the need for homes in the borough are completely different and should not be linked.”

Residents studying the information made available by SWAG

GolDev Ltd has applied to build 1,048 homes in five buildings of varying heights of between three and 11 storeys as part of the Kingfield development. The blocks would also include retail, hospitality and community spaces, next to a new 9,000-seat stadium suitable for both football and rugby.

Objectors point out that only 18% of the homes would be “affordable”, against a borough council requirement of 50% for land which it owns. The density is also far above a limit of 60 homes per hectare for Green Belt in Woking’s local development plan, which is being evaluated by a government inspector.

The Kingfield plan is linked with a development on former farmland next to the new Hoe Valley School in Egley Road, Maybury, where the David Lloyd centre will be relocated. This proposal also includes 36 homes up to three storeys high.

The two applications were validated by borough planning officers at the beginning of December and a tentative deadline of 11 March has been set for a decision. Objections and letters of support received after tomorrow will still be considered, but possibly not in detail.

Lib Dem councillor Louise Morales was also at the public meeting, but was unable to express a view as she is a planning committee member.

“It was good to see that so many people were interested in the redevelopment proposals,” she said. “I encourage anyone who has an opinion, for or against, to make it to the planning committee.”

For the full story get the 9 January edition of the News & Mail

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