THE chairman of the residents’ group that helped to defeat plans to build more than 1,000 high-rise flats next to a new 9,000-seat Woking Football Club stadium is to stand for election to the borough council.

Andy Caulfield, who led the South Woking Action Group (SWAG) in its long campaign against the scheme by developer Wayne Gold, will stand as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Hoe Valley in local elections on 5 May.

The seat is currently held by Deborah Hughes, the deputy leader of the Lib Dem group, who has decided not to stand at the next election.

Mr Caulfield and his committee galvanised local opposition to Mr Gold’s plans in the face of support for the development from David Bittleston, the council leader, and Ray Morgan, the chief executive.

Mr Gold’s company GolDev also mounted a strong publicity campaign to win support from local residents and Cards fans.

Despite the scheme being recommended for approval by council officers, the planning committee overwhelmingly refused planning permission in June last year and an appeal by GolDev was dismissed last month after a public inquiry.

Mr Caulfield told the News & Mail: “The more SWAG has become immersed in local politics over the past two years, the clearer it is that residents need a strong voice on the council, as it is harder to have influence from the outside.

“I therefore am delighted to stand as councillor for Hoe Valley to continue holding the council to account, to further push for greater democracy, openness, transparency and modernisation of all council practices and processes putting residents first at every stage.”

He strongly praised Cllr Hughes, describing her as “a shining light as to what the council should do”.  “I will be delighted to carry that torch forward,” he added.

“I could have no better role model for what I aspire to do if elected to Woking council than following in Deb’s footsteps.”

Cllr Hughes chaired the overview and scrutiny committee that strongly criticised the handling of the failed development by council officials and led to a damning independent report.

Mr Morgan retired in March last year and Mr Bittleston stood down from the council. The new leader, Ayesha Azad, has been vocal on the need to improve transparency in council affairs and engagement with local residents.

Mr Caulfield will be seeking to defend Cllr Hughes’s 357-vote margin from her re-election in 2018. “Having stood for two terms I am stepping down at this election,” Cllr Hughes said. “I made a promise to my family at the 2018 election that this would be my last. I have enjoyed working with many councillors, especially in the cross-party O&S committee.”

Mr Caulfield has lived in Woking for 30 years. He qualified as a City lawyer in 1991 and later moved into legal recruitment, setting up his own business in 2003.

He has four sons in their twenties, who went to Goldsworth School, St John the Baptist and local sixth form colleges.

His parents, who are from Leeds, moved to Woking to help look after their grandsons.

Mr Caulfield’s dad, Alan, was a Cards season ticket holder and gave financial support to the club, including sponsoring the match ball.

He died in 2016 and, after a service at Woking Crematorium, his wake was held in the Legend’s Lounge at the Laithwaite Community Stadium.

“As a family, we are immersed in Woking,” Mr Caulfield said.

“About 10 years ago my dad said to me that he could see me one day taking a public role and putting something back; a very wise man.”