THE new leader of Woking Borough Council will focus on financial responsibility, delivering a masterplan for the town centre and ensuring the borough tackles climate change by becoming carbon neutral.

Councillor Ann-Marie Barker detailed her priorities after she was formally elected leader on Monday as the new majority Liberal Democrat administration took office.

The Lib Dems gained control of the council, with a total of 16 of the 30 seats, at the local elections this month.

“We have ambitious plans for the borough,” Cllr Barker said. “We will push for change that benefits local residents and transforms Woking for the good.”

Cllr Barker also spoke, in her leader’s statement, of improved governance of council companies, an open and transparent approach, a fresh look at parking charges and a local economy fit for the future.

She also confirmed a commitment to review the Victoria Arch widening scheme, a push for the completion of Victoria Place, notably the opening of the Hilton hotel, and to provide as much affordable housing as possible.

“Woking council is very dependent on car parking income, which was severely hit during the pandemic,” Cllr Barker said.

“The only answer seems to have been ever-increasing prices. Talking to people before the election I found that high parking charges are a barrier to coming into Woking town centre.

“We will look at more informed approaches, such as offering a hybrid worker season ticket if you need to park in the town centre for two or three weekdays, or have a working week covering a mix of weekdays and weekends.

“Local town centres are no longer driven by retail alone. A successful town must encourage wider participation through restaurants, expanded leisure facilities and cultural amenities. 

“We must end developers reaching for the sky and will secure a design-led masterplan valuing open space, connectivity and heritage.

“The overall number of homes set out in the masterplan will not be led by the previous administration’s commitment to the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) and the replacement of the Victoria Arch.”

The responsibility for key projects, including Victoria Arch and the Sheerwater redevelopment, will fall to Cllr Will Forster, the deputy leader of the council.

* FOR Cllr Barker’s statement in full and confirmation of the council portfolio holders, visit the latest news section of