Go-ahead given for five more tower blocks in town centre

WOKING’S skyline will creep higher after planning permission was granted for five more tower blocks, including one of 37 storeys, in the town centre.

A Planning Inspectorate public inquiry allowed an appeal by Goldsworth Road Development LLP the vehicle by which developers EcoWorld London delivered the plans – against the decision of Woking Borough Council to turn down the initial application in January of last year. It was recommended for approval by council officers but refused by the council’s planning committee.

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

The plans cover land on both sides of Goldsworth Road near its junction with Victoria Way.

All existing buildings on the site will be demolished, including the former KFC UK headquarters, the former Job Centre building, Woking Railway Athletic Club and premises used by York Road Project, which works with homeless people. The project and the social club will have new facilities in the complex.

The planning application sought permission, among other developments, for 929 residential units, comprising 148 studios, 402 one-bed apartments, 355 two-bed apartments and 24 three-bed apartments, and five tower blocks varying in height between nine and 37 storeys.

Homes would be accommodated in four of the blocks, with a fifth, over nine storeys, a replacement shelter for York Road Project.

The appeal decision was made by the inspector, John Braithwaite, rather than Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, as the case was not called in by his department.

The tallest block, closest to Victoria Way, would reach 37 storeys, three higher than the tallest of the Victoria Square towers. However, in his decision report, Mr Braithwaite considered the height of the proposed tower “inconsequential”.

He noted: “The difference in height between the existing and proposed towers is slight, would not be readily noticeable, and is, in itself, inconsequential… it would be quite appropriate for there to be towers of similar height on both sides to mark entry into the town centre.”

Ann-Marie Barker, leader of the Woking Liberal Democrats, disagreed, saying: “We are massively disappointed that the planning inspector has overturned local determination and imposed more tower blocks on Woking.

“There is no issue with using this brownfield land for homes but this application adds more tower blocks to Woking. It is primarily one-bedroom flats, which are less likely to be in demand after COVID, and building so many more flats aimed at commuters does not make much sense. The height, bulk and density of the development is not what the local area needs.”

Conor McGahon, managing director of EcoWorld London, said: “We at EcoWorld London are committed to creating positive change for Woking and are very pleased to be granted planning permission to progress with our exciting plans for the town centre.

“Working in partnerships is part of our DNA and we look forward to working closely with the council and community as we create 929 much-needed homes, biodiverse green spaces and retail all set within extensive pedestrian-friendly public space for everyone to enjoy.

“We are also very happy to be able to provide the amazing York Road Project with a brand-new centre that will enable them to continue their important work for vulnerable people.”

For more on this story, see the 13 January edition of the Woking News & Mail, in shops now

Recommended For You

About the Author: Editorial Team