Masterplan will shape town centre’s future

A MASTERPLAN is to shape the future of Woking town centre – the first document of its kind to provide comprehensive guidance for councillors, developers and investors.

The borough council’s executive committee agreed that such a plan should be created, with residents asked their views from the start.

The tower blocks as seen from Horsell

As part of a new spirit of consultation – with public criticism of the current town centre redevelopment continuing – up to £100,000 is to be spent on forming a strategy that will last up to 2027 and beyond.

The aim of the masterplan is to remove uncertainty on how the urban centre of the borough will develop. It builds on the council’s agreed core strategy for using the town as the primary focus for sustainable economic growth and a transport hub.

One of the key objectives is to “bring uses and buildings together to create a unique sense of place for people to live, work and visit whilst enhancing the ecological value of the area and the wellbeing of people who live within it”.

Tower blocks under construction in Woking town centre

Following organised public opposition from groups including Woking Against Skyscrapers and disagreements among councillors at planning committee meetings over tower block heights, there will also be guidance on the height of future tall buildings.

The justification for a masterplan had been previously agreed by the council’s executive committee, which has gained broad support from across all political parties.

Apart from the new commitment to public consultation, one of the driving forces is the plan to build a total of more than 4,500 homes in the town centre. Of those, 3,304 are required as a condition of the £95million Government grant given towards the widening of Victoria Arch.

The formation of the masterplan was commended to the full council last week by Cllr Gary Elson, the portfolio holder for planning policy. “We are strongly committed to consultation and to including residents in the consultation,” he said.

Cllr Colin Kemp commented: “The masterplan proposal is a great document and it’s a great journey we are going on, clearing away the uncertainty of the past.”

The recently established Woking Community Forum will be used for consulting people in the borough on how they want the town centre to develop, including seeking views on the skyline and height of buildings. Specialist consultants will be hired where required.

Council officers are making creation of the masterplan a priority. They will start this month by asking the public how detailed the plan should be – from merely a skyline strategy, an integrated plan for all types of development or a “holistic vision” for all economic, social and environmental aspects.

Depending on how detailed the plan becomes, it will take between six months and three years to complete the document.

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