One of the things I lead on at Woking Borough Council is the Sheerwater regeneration scheme – this is despite me not supporting the original plans.

When the Conservatives ran the council, they agreed to borrow £492 million and get its wholly-owned company Thameswey to radically change the Sheerwater area. 

The regeneration scheme would demolish existing businesses and homes in and around the centre of Sheerwater and 1,142 new homes would be built as a result.

At the time, a lot of councillors like myself and many local residents thought the Sheerwater regeneration scheme went too far. 

Regenerating the Dartmouth Avenue and Devonshire Avenue area of Sheerwater made sense, but the council‘s scheme went far beyond this.

The best example of how far it went was that it would involve knocking down the Woodlands Park estate near the Basingstoke Canal. These homes were only built in the 1980s and there was nothing wrong with them.

However, like many decisions made under the previous leadership at the council, valid concerns and questions were raised, but it ploughed on regardless. It thought it knew best.

The Sheerwater regeneration is a stark example of why the council is in such a mess.  It took a reasonable idea, in this case to regenerate a rundown area, but took it too far and mismanaged the project.  

This has happened with the Victoria Arch scheme, with Victoria Square and others.

The Lib Dems and I have now been able to correct the mistakes made with the Sheerwater regeneration and genuinely listen to local residents about what they want for the future of their area.

The council is ending its development agreement with Thameswey, so they finish the three phases of the regeneration under construction and do no more.  

The council will now implement a plan for what’s next following consulting local people.

Residents of Sheerwater have clearly said they want the houses refurbished, rather than knocked down, and they want the flats demolished and new development spring up in their place.  

And that is what the council will seek to implement, as unlike our predecessors, we will be a listening council that follows what residents want.

The new plan for Sheerwater is to begin an extensive programme of refurbishment financed by capital receipts, land transfers and the sale of pockets of land for redevelopment.

In line with residents’ views, the council thinks it can refurbish more than 100 properties in Woodlands Park, Hennessey Court and Spencer Close, along with the sheltered units at Woodlands House, which will be retained by the council for social housing.  

The council will look to sell the blocks of flats along Dartmouth Avenue, Devonshire Avenue, Forsyth Path, Loder Close and Spencer Close for redevelopment.

The council and I know Sheerwater residents want their community back, and as soon as possible. 

I hope that’s what this new plan will achieve for them, while also showing them we are listening and that our thinking is very much aligned with theirs regarding the future of Sheerwater.