At tonight’s meeting of Full Council I asked what officers were doing to keep tidy the public area in front of the old Blockbuster video store on the junction between Guildford Road and Station Approach. This abandoned shop front is now an eyesore, with cars often parked inconsiderately across the pavement and rubbish left strewn outside the premises.
In response to my request, the council has said that it has been in touch with Curchod & Co, the estate agents who are marketing the premises, and asked that an effective management regime is put in place. There is some confidence that the store will be occupied again soon, which should resolve the issue more permanently. The council has also instructed Serco to assist with litter picking in the interim. I was also told that any vehicles parked across the public highway will receive enforcement action as part of the council’s normal parking patrols.
I can report that, thanks to the Conservative administration on the council, Woking Park is to benefit from greater CCTV coverage. There have been a number of distressing incidents in the park, most recently at the end of last year when a teenage girl was assaulted. While many people in south Woking use the park as cut through to get to and from the town centre or train station, the route can be intimidating and feel unsafe in the evening or late at night.
My colleague Cllr John Lawrence, the Conservative councillor for Old Woking, raised this at the meeting of Full Council last night. The council has agreed that CCTV coverage in the borough should be expanded. Starting from Easter, the area from Quarant Court on Guildford Road through to the Leisure Centre, including the car park, play area and skate facilities, will be monitored. The council has also said that, subject to a funding application, other parts of Mount Hermon could benefit from CCTV in the future, such as the concourse in front of Tesco and the New Central development where people have reported aggressive begging and other types of anti-social behaviour.
The new CCTV coverage should help people feel safer, while proposals are also being examined to improving lighting and visibility on the footpaths through the park. I think it’s encouraging that, on this point, the council has acted to address residents’ concerns.
I’ve received notification from Surrey County Council that they are to carry out roadworks to install drop kerbs at the junction with Guildford road and Constitution Hill for three days on the week of the 1st February. The work will be carried out from 7:30am until 5pm, but may be extended in the event of bad weather.
The work is part of the County Council’s Better Roads scheme and will be carried out by their contractors, Keir. I will monitor the situation carefully but if residents have any complaints then please do get in touch, or alternatively you can contact the highways authority directly on 0300 200 1003. More information can also be found on their website here.
Woking Borough Council has published the responses it received to its consultation on the Development Plan Document (DPD). The DPD is perhaps the most important consultation exercise that the council has carried out in the last decade. It sets out the key sites where the council believes it can meet the future housing requirements of the borough and where development is likely to take place over the next 20 years.
The consultation has been contentious due to its proposal for a modest adjustment to the green belt in order to deliver more housing in areas such as Hook Heath, Pyrford and Mayford. However, the DPD has a wider significance beyond the debate about the green belt. It is essentially a manifesto for how the council would like to see Woking develop and what we want our community to look like between now and 2027. Sites for residential and commercial development have been identified in every ward in the borough and you can read the full set of proposals here. Inclusion within the DPD does not indicate that a planning application is likely to come forward in the near future, but rather gives an indication about what is likely to be proposed and what kind of development the council thinks is most appropriate for that site.
The consultation identifies several locations for housing development within Mount Hermon. Some of these are relatively straightforward, such as the flats and shops along Guildford Road and opposite New Central. Other locations, such as the Aggregates Yard and the old St Dunstan’s site, will cause debate and there will need to be some consideration about what housing is likely to be acceptable. There are also proposals contained within the DPD to which I have strongly objected, such as the suggestion that the White Rose Lane post office or the Oriental Road car park could host high rise residential developments.
You can browse the responses that the council has received to the consultation here, and you can read my own submission here. The next step will be for council officers to review the representations that have been made and then submit a revised document for discussion. There will then be the opportunity for further comment on the revised version before the DPD is submitted to the Secretary of State later in the summer.
At last week’s meeting of Full Council, I asked a question about homelessness in Woking. The question was prompted by a number of representations from residents who have highlighted the increase in rough sleepers underneath the canopy on Albion Square and in the tunnel underneath the railway station. Some of the people camped out have been begging aggressively around the station and along Guildford Road, creating a nuisance and intimidating atmosphere for residents and commuters.
In my question, a copy of which can be found here, I asked whether vulnerable people in Woking were slipping through the cracks and not getting the help and support they needed to avoid being made homeless.
I received an answer from Cllr Colin Kemp, the Portfolio Holder for Housing, who explained that the council was working closely with the York Road Project, which receives funding to support those facing or experiencing homelessness in the borough. Cllr Kemp explained that the York Road Project engages in active outreach to ascertain the reasons why people are sleeping on the streets, so it can get them the assistance they require. He also confirmed that rough sleepers able to sustain a tenancy are eligible to go on the housing register and can receive financial help through a bond scheme to help them find a place to stay. Those who are not sleeping rough but are concerned they could become homeless as a result of personal circumstances can go to the council for short term support and if necessary can be placed in emergency accommodation.
As a supplementary question I asked how the council was dealing with the issue of aggressive begging. Cllr Kemp noted that the police will speak to those responsible when complaints are received. However, he said that the council had received intelligence that those responsible were often from outside the borough, with the fact Woking is quite prosperous meaning the town is seen as a magnet for professional beggars from London and elsewhere.
I am pleased that the Executive is taking this issue seriously and that those facing homelessness are not being left to slip through the cracks.