Goldsworth Road tower blocks application rejected by councillors

RESIDENTS who campaigned long and hard against a redevelopment in Woking town centre that would include five tower blocks and more than 900 homes are relieved that plans for the complex have been turned down.

The application, for both sides of Goldsworth Road near its junction with Victoria Way, was refused by the borough council’s planning committee on Tuesday last week, against a recommendation from offices to approve.

An artist’s impression of the refused tower blocks redevelopment, looking along Goldsworth Road to the town centre, with the Victoria Square construction site in the background

People living nearby formed the Oaks and Vale Farm Residents Group, which distributed thousands of leaflets, prompted hundreds of objections, staged protest demonstrations and crowdfunded a professional consultant’s report on the application.

Their spokesman, Bernadette Fischler, put their case to the committee during its meeting via Zoom, saying the density of housing, at more than 800 homes per hectare, might be acceptable in London, but it was not in Woking.

The housing relied too much on attracting commuters to live in the town, but the units were too small, too cramped and too dark. High rise buildings have a negative impact on people’s health and wellbeing and the development would not be fit for the post-COVID world, she told councillors.

Developers EcoWorld London were represented at the committee meeting by Matt Turner, who said the development would increase spending in Woking by more than £14½million. It would transform and improve the area and help the borough meet its housing requirements in a sustainable way.

An artist’s impression of how the development would have looked

The application includes a tower block that is three floors higher than the 34-storey hotel being built in the town centre Victoria Square development. The height was reduced from 41 floors in response to residents’ concerns.

It involves the demolition of several disused buildings, including the former KFC UK headquarters, the former Job Centre building, Mojos bar, Woking Railway Athletic Club and premises used by York Road Project, which works with homeless people.

The project and the social club would be provided with new facilities in the complex, including a shelter for homeless people.

At the committee meeting, a motion to reject permission on grounds including a loss of light, insufficient parking spaces and overbearing mass was proposed by the council’s Labour leader, Tahir Aziz, seconded by Liberal Democrat Louise Morales.

They were supported by Independent Amanda Boote and Conservatives Saj Hussain and Melanie Whitehand. The committee chairman, Lib Dem Graham Chrystie, voted to approve, along with Conservatives Graham Cundy and Chitra Rana.

Lib Dem Liam Lyons abstained, although he had criticised the developer for including barely 5% of affordable homes, just 48, when the council policy was 40% – which would amount to 371. “I’m frustrated that we keep giving developers get out of jail cards,” he said.

A spokesman for EcoWorld London told the News & Mail that the company currently had no comment to make on the planning committee decision.

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