Woking FC stadium redevelopment rejected by planning committee

PLANS to redevelop the Woking FC stadium and build five blocks of more than 1,000 adjacent flats  have been overwhelmingly rejected by the borough council planning committee.

The proposals were voted down by eight councillors from across the political parties and groups with one abstention.

The proposed redevelopment of Woking FC Stadium has been soundly rejected at a meeting of the Borough Council’s planning committee

Council officials had recommended that the plans to transform the five-hectare site in Kingfield be approved as the benefits of the extra housing and other aspects outweighed the drawbacks.

However, several councillors and other speakers at the committee meeting held via the Zoom conferencing app on Tuesday 23 June, spoke passionately about how the plans for the Cardinal Court housing development were out of character with the local area.

Several other councillors said they faced a dilemma about the conflicting arguments in the plans, which would have given the Cards a 9,000-seat stadium of National League standards as well as providing 1,048 flats, including 468 affordable homes. The housing would have effectively paid for the club’s new home. There were also plans for a new medical centre.

But the size of the proposed blocks of flats, which would have ranged from two to 11 storeys, the large number and density of the housing and the effect on local roads were among the reasons given to reject the project. Councillors said light would have been blocked to surrounding bungalows and houses, which would have been overlooked by the new flats.

They also said the planned development was out of line with several local and national planning policies.

The vote to reject the plans meant that a second, linked, plan to move the David Lloyd Health Club from Kingfield to Egley Road and the building of 36 houses was also rejected. Officials had originally recommended approval but redrafted their conclusions after the Kingfield plan was turned down to take into account the adverse effect on the Green Belt land and residents of Mayford.

Katie Bowes, from South Woking Action Group (SWAG), told the nine councillors that the Kingfield plans were a “hugely speculative, overbearing, unprecedented, tall development in a low-rise, out-of-town centre area.”

Proponents of the plans argued that the addition of a new medical centre as part of the re-development would be a boon to the local community

“This proposal does not secure the football club’s future but will permanently change the appearance and character of a community of 7,000 residents.”

Hoe Valley councillors Deborah Hughes and Will Forster, who are not on the planning committee, also made submissions against the plans.

Cllr Hughes said the council’s Local Plan indicated that the site was suitable for a maximum of 136 homes.

Cllr Forster said approving the plans would “set an awful precedent.”

Ian Nicholson, the Woking FC chaplain and communications director, told the committee that the plans would give the club a long-awaited new facility and also addressed the crises of affordable housing, healthcare provision and the environment.

“We will not be measured by our attitude to short-term issues but these decisions which demonstrate we are deadly serious about the generations to come, even long after we have gone,” he said.

Spencer Leslie, co-founder of Dukelease Properties, one of the applicants, indicated to the committee that the decision to reject the plans is likely to go to appeal.

“I am keeping 100% faith in the scheme we put forward, largely because of the exceptional amount of public benefit to local families in need of housing and organisations in the community,” Mr Leslie said.

“We fully expect Her Majesty’s Inspector will agree with your officers’ original recommendation [that the plans be approved].”

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