Bankrupt Woking Borough Council has threatened to take itself to court for refusing its own planning application.

Plans to tear down the buildings in Goldsworth Industrial Estate and replace them with modern warehousing along the Basingstoke Canal were thrown out this week.

The council had applied to replace the site due to “major issues with the existing buildings, including poor energy efficiency, dated facilities and mechanical and electrical systems which need upgrading”.

It argued this made it “difficult to let” out and would need “substantial capital expenditures in the near future to comply with the Government’s Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards, which will come into effect in 2026”, according to planning documents.

Councillors, however, refused the application for 12 new industrial units for the brownfield site, across more than 3,000 square metres after learning the designs would impact nearby residential roads and lead to job losses.

Councillors were told there was a risk Woking Borough Council would seek to overturn the decision leading Councillor Steve Dorsett to highlight the “nonsense” of the borough taking itself to appeal in an effort to overturn what was effectively its own decision to refuse its own application.

Cllr Dorsett questioned why they were being told “to be careful because the applicant, and we all know who the applicant is, might appeal.

“I’ve been on planning committee for three years now and it’s never been about whether they are going to appeal, it is about doing what’s right.

“If the applicant wants to appeal against itself, which is what the situation would be, well that’s an interesting road for the applicant to take.

“I think this is a nonsense.”

Refused plans for Goldsworth Road, Woking, industrial site
Refused plans for Goldsworth Road, Woking, industrial site (WBC)

The Tuesday, September 5, meeting began with a public speaker highlighting the “strength of feeling against the proposals due to the risk of noise and lack of mitigation to prevent it”, particularly on Mable Street, which would serve as an access road for part of the site.

Ward member Councillor Rob Leach added: “We all spot roads that we identify have a sense of place, have a sense of community, and to me Mable Street is one of those roads.

“Residents in the objection group are not NIMBYs, indeed like me, many are very happy with the principle of the modernisation of the industrial estate.

“Now, more than ever, council needs to foster commercial growth.

“New units conforming to the modern standards can only help.

“However, points made about proliferation of traffic in Mable Street are true and born of my own experience.”

He said the street has “endured the building of Goldsworth school with all the pickups and drop offs and associated spot parking".

Discussions during the meeting focused on the relocation of the existing buildings.

Councillor Stephen Oades said: “Currently there are a couple of auto businesses that are affording local employment and in future they won’t be able to do so those business may have to close.

“I couldn’t find anywhere in the universe where that actually made sense.

“Furthermore, one of these businesses, Fields (Car Centre) – my understanding was that they were actually promised use of one of these units and subsequently, the council has reneged on that promise which is hardly a good look.

"Access on Goldsworth Road was perfectly fine, he said, but in Mable Street cars park on both sides, it’s extremely congested and used by children.

“It makes no sense at all.”

He added that he was also “puzzled by the timing of this” because “we all know there is no way Woking is going to be in a position to put any investment at all in the next three years, but three years is the duration of the planning approval.

“I struggle with the content of the plan but also the timing of the plan.”

He was told that the land’s ownership was not a planning matter but if permission was granted and the land was then sold – the permission would be carried over, potentially increasing its value – or having greater say on what goes on the site.

The council’s planning officer told the meeting he felt neither reason put forward for refusal, noise and traffic, would be sustainable.

Cllr Dorsett added that it was “clearly a bad application” and was only being “pushed because of who the applicant was”.

During the meeting, the public sitting in the gallery had to be warned on several occasions to stay quiet and were twice threatened by the committee chair they would be kicked out if they carried on making noise.

The application was refused due to the loss of jobs, as it was decided noise and traffic would be more vulnerable to a legal challenge.