It has been announced that the Hoe Valley School is to remain in its current temporary location at Woking Park for a year longer than originally planned. Although Woking Borough Council and the Secretary of State have granted approval for a new school on Egley Road, delays in agreeing how the building will be funded has meant that the expected completion date of September 2017 has had to be pushed back, and it will therefore no longer be possible to remove the temporary until the end of 2018.
I apprciate that this will cause some frustration to residents living near the park, particularly in areas like Woodlands, Blackness Lane and Constitution Hill. However, the council is doing everything it can to to expedite the move to Egley Road as quickly as possible. It is also the case that fears about the impact of the school being housed temporarily in the park, such as increased noise disturbance and greater traffic flows, haven’t materialised to the extent that people thought they would. I have been impressed with the good work that is being done at the Hoe Valley School and by the governors’ willingness to proactively reach out to councillors and residents so they can address any problems before they arise.
The new Egley Road site will bring tremendous community benefits once it is complete, including an additional 840 places for pupils in south Woking as well as state of the art leisure facilities, a five-court sports hall and an eight-lane, all weather athletics track. We should all do what we can to press ahead with the project – even if that means keeping the temporary buildings in the park for the time being.
Residents have expressed some concern about a planning application which has been submitted for nine houses on Blackness Road, off the junction at Guildford Road and Claremont Avenue. This comes on top of previous development at the bottom end of Constitution Hill and a recent successful application for four new properties at the old Peartree Lodge site.
I am opposed to this application on a number of grounds. Blackness Lane serves as a pedestrian entrance to Woking Park and is wholly inappropriate for use as an access road to the potential new houses. The junction onto Guildford Road is also a tricky one with a restricted line of sight and multiple attention points and so is not suitable for use as road access for the new development. More generally, I am concerned that this part of Woking, which is quite far south from the town centre where the bulk of the new houses and flats have been built, is not suitable for this kind of in-fill development.
Some fears have been raised by the Woodlands Community Group that additional development at this location could have land slippage impacts, and they have also drawn attention to a covenant which requires the council to keep the area as parkland. These fall outside the scope of material planning considerations and I would encourage anyone who wishes to object to focus their representations on the impact on traffic flows, loss of amenity and concerns about the suitability of the access road.
As I live in Constitution Hill it would not be appropriate for me to make representations or to speak on this application at committee. I have, however, had lengthy discussions with the Residents’ Association and I understand the other Mount Hermon councillors are aware of residents’ objections and are working to ensure that these issues are fully considered before any decision is taken.