The £58 million regeneration of Sheerwater will continue after winning the backing of the government, its financial watchdogs and councillors.

Woking Borough Council voted to press on with the housing project that it says will free up 106 council homes as well as allow for the completion of the three major construction projects currently under way.

The meeting last Thursday (October 12) heard that borrowing the money would save £200m in sunk costs – with the alternative being to borrow money to break contracts.

The deputy leader of the council, Cllr Will Forster, had to calm fears its finances had been rushed through and that there had been a lack of scrutiny into the business plans.

Not everybody present was happy the council was looking to take on more debt, given it had declared itself effectively bankrupt earlier this year, is cutting millions from services and has put every member of council staff through redundancy processes.

Some councillors, including voices within the ruling Liberal Democrat group which took control of the council last year, were concerned they were being asked to vote for financing plans they had not seen.

Cllr Stephen Oades (Lib Dem, Goldsworth Park) said: “In the briefing documents, the sums required to complete each phase did not add up to the total sum that the business case was for.

“There was a discrepancy of £9.25m and there was a throwaway statement in the briefing documents that this was land payments and professional costs  – which isn’t adequate.

“I asked for a detailed breakdown of these costs, which was promised, and it arrived less than 45 minutes before the meeting and was circulated only to our own party.

“I really struggle with this because the excuse that is so often given for the poor decisions of the past was inadequate information, incomplete information.”

His views were shared by Cllr Steve Dorsett (Con, Pyrford). 

He told the meeting he agreed with the “broad thrust” of the redevelopment plans but was equally worried over its finances.

He said: “We are making a lot of assumptions about what people are going to do once we’ve made these decisions. 

“It’s not a wing and a prayer but it feels like we’re betting on hope again a little bit.

“The problem I have is we have six lines of text in this paperwork that says a detailed business case for funding for £57.7m has been developed.

“That’s it. No information on how that was put together, no look at this case, no oversight, nothing in public eye. 

“Six lines of text on a piece of paper that we trust that this business case has been sorted and we’re supposed to back.”

According to the council, the extra borrowing will allow it to complete the three phases of construction under way, dubbed red, copper, and yellow, as well as refurbish homes to be made available for people on the housing register. 

The copper phase features 88 houses, of which 13 are affordable and 75 for the open market. 

Red is ten townhouses, seven maisonettes, 68 sheltered one-bedroom apartments and a block of 39, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. 

Yellow is a medium-rise block of 168 apartments made up of 102 affordable units and 66 flats, with retail and community space below.

The council estimates retaining these 106 homes will generate an additional £650,000 a year.  

The cost to refurbish these has been calculated at £2.9m.

Cllr Forster said the plan was sound financially, offered the best value for money and would create a community that Sheerwater deserved.

He said the council had already previously agreed to do the work, with the money being accounted for in its long-term projections, and contracts put out, but because the council went bust, all spending had to stop.

He said: “The business case was put together by officers, commissioners and Avison Young and then approved by the government.

“This has gone through a long process and a very detailed process and a lot of people have worked very hard to do this.

“The finance task group and Sheerwater regeneration group will be monitoring the finances.

“If the scheme isn’t finished the council would need to pay penalties, leaving the council the choice of borrowing to finish Sheerwater or borrow to pay fines.

“We have won the confidence of the commissioners, and we have won the confidence of the government who are allowing us to draw down this money.

“We are doing this on the advice of property experts Avison Young and I am happy with that.”