Council plants new roots

WOKING Borough Council’s Chief Executive Officer has outlined Woking’s ‘green plan’ as the town centre redevelopment shows no sign of slowing.

The News & Mail caught up with chief Ray Morgan at last week’s highly successful TEDx-Woking event to discuss the environmental challenges facing the town during a period of ambitious growth.

HEARTS AND MINDS - Woking Borough Council Chief Executive Officer, Ray Morgan
HEARTS AND MINDS – Woking Borough Council Chief Executive Officer, Ray Morgan

With the business forum being staged at one of the borough’s true sustainability success stories, the award-winning WWF-UK Living Planet Centre, the day offered the perfect backdrop to place Woking’s eco issues squarely on the council’s planning agenda.

“To me, long-term sustainability is about people getting it into their hearts and minds,” said Mr Morgan, who hopes to allay residents’ concerns after admitting that some sections of the public have been critical of the upcoming building works regarding the Sheerwater regeneration project and the town centre Victoria Square development.

Commenting on the town centre specifically, Mr Morgan’s message to miffed residents is that despite the dramatic alterations to the landscape in recent years, including the newly completed 21-storey New Central towers on Guildford Road, he and his council planners hold legacy at the heart of their Local Development Framework, known as Woking 2027.

“Our housing strategy, of what we need to supply by 2027, will be supplied in the town centre; that’s 2,500 extra homes,” says Mr Morgan, who admits that the town’s grand commercial and housing plans have met resistance from sections of the public; fears of a spike in the local population and subsequent strain on infrastructure being just two of the objections raised.

“The idea is high-rise, high quality,” explained Mr Morgan, again keen to stress that any residential or commercial growth must not be at the expense of residents’ quality of life. Mr Morgan says the council are constantly taking inspiration from local eco-success stories, explaining that they hope to install the same kind of ground source heating – pipes which extract heat from underground – found at the WWF-UK building, to provide all Victoria Square’s heating needs.

A total of 392 new dwellings set over three towers, topping out at 34 storeys, will be incorporated in the development alongside 125,000 sq ft of retail floor space.

Mr Morgan says that, should it go to plan, Victoria Square can be the ‘launch pad’ for sustainable development, making Woking the blueprint for success for UK local authorities.

“We give a signal to the private sector, that Woking is ready for you to come and invest here,” is Mr Morgan’s invitation to industry bosses.

“What I would like to see in the next two or three years is for the private sector to come in and share in that success, bringing more inward investment, but bringing it in a sustained way that will contribute to the quality in the long-term of Woking as a borough.”

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