Oriental Road

Temporary road closures on Oriental Road, Heathside Crescent and Station Approach

 

I’ve been informed by Surrey County Council that the area around Oriental Road, Heathside Crescent and Station Approach will be subject to temporary traffic closure on the evening of Monday 2nd May, from 9pm to 6am, to allow BT access to carry out repairs and install new customer connections. As is usually the case, access will be maintained for pedestrians, residents, and emergency services, while advanced warning signs will be displayed ahead of the work being carried out.

 

I hope that this work will not be too disruptive for people living near the station but if residents have any complaints then please do let me now and I will be happy to raise any issues with the utility company.

 

Speeding on Oriental Road

 

At a meeting of the Joint Committee between Woking Borough Council and Surrey County Council last night, officers were asked by local resident Marianne Meinke whether it would be possible to carry out speed monitoring along Oriental Road.

 

There are some specific challenges regarding parking and speeding at Oriental Road, with the street being very congested both at the bottom end near Woking station, and at the top end by the entrance to the Shah Jahan mosque and the Lion Retail Park. Due to the large number of cars which park on the pavement near the mosque, pedestrians often have to walk on the road at this point, while the lack of a crossing or design features means that vehicles can travel quite fast along the middle stretch of road. This is particularly dangerous given how narrow the pavement is, and the fact that this route is used by schoolchildren and those walking into town.

 

Through the Joint Committee my Conservative colleagues and I have been able to deliver traffic calming measures in places like Park Road and Old Woking Road, and I successfully pressed for the County Council to commit to feasibility studies for speed restrictions on Mount Hermon Road, East Hill and Maybury Hill in the next financial year. Oriental Road is already being monitored through the council’s Speed Management Plan, while the Joint Committee’s work programme contains a proposal to try and alleviate problems with speeding traffic.

 

Should I be re-elected in May then I will continue to press both the county and borough authorities to commit resources and do more to tackle problem areas on roads leading into and out of the town centre.

 

Parking at Woking Station

 

There have been several complaints about the parking situtaion at Woking station, both on the town centre side of the railway line where taxis frequently park across or block bus stops, and on the south side, which is frequently gridlocked and poorly designed, with insufficient space meaning that taxis often back out onto Oriental Road or Station Approach. This is confusing for motorists and creates a dangerous environment for pedestrians.

 

I raised this issue at last week’s meeting of Full Council, and asked what steps the council is taking to ensure the current parking restrictions are adhered to, and what consideration is being given to long term changes at Woking station so that the parking, taxi and public transport infrastructure is appropriate. In response, the Leader the Council said that evening patrols take place each week on one side of the station to deter and enforce against illegal parking.

 

Over the longer term, the area around the station is subject to a proposed £13m redevelopment bid, and, if approved, work could start as early as Autumn. As Chairman of the Licensing Committee, I have been active in questioning council officers about how the taxi facilities will operate, particularly given concerns about the overspill onto Oriental Road. There are also detailed, if still unconfirmed plans, to move the tax rank further down High Street towards the bottom end of Chertsey Road, while the aspiration set out in the Development Plan Document is for a complete redesign of Woking station. The council will consult on these plans in due course once they have something specific to take forward, and I will continue to take a close interest and be actively involved in these discussions.

 

Response to Development Plan Document

 

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.

 

Theft of Oriental Road bollards

 

As readers of this blog will know, I have been pressing Surrey County Council to take better care of the grass verges along Oriental Road. Residents have been complaining for some time about the state of the grass, which was dug up during roadworks back in 2013. While the grass was re-planted once the work was complete, it has not been able to grow back due to a small minority of motorists parking illegally and inconsiderately across the verges.

 

In response to these complaints, Surrey County Council planted trees at the top end of Oriental Road at the beginning of the year and also recently agreed to place two bollards on one particularly troublesome patch of grass to prevent it from being used to park vehicles.

 

I have now been told that both bollards were dug up and stolen over the weekend, less than a day after being installed. While I appreciate that some drivers will have become used to leaving their vehicles on the grass and paid little attention to reminders that this is public land which should not be used to park cars, I find it astonishing that someone would go to the trouble of digging up and removing council owned bollards. This shows a serious disregard for other people and public property. It is also a financial loss to the taxpayer as the bollards will need to be replaced and further work carried out to secure them and ensure they can’t be removed.

 

I am liaising with Surrey Highways to see what can be done and in the meantime I would encourage anyone who has information about the removal of the bollards to contact Surrey County Council directly.

 

Oriental Road Car Park

 

I have today written to Woking Borough Council to express my opposition to the inclusion of the Oriental Road car park in the council’s Development Plan Document (DPD). This document, which can be read here, sets out how the council intends to meet its target of building another 4,964 homes in Woking between now and 2027. The council has suggested that the car park could be used to build a high density tower block with aroud 220 new flats to help meet Woking’s housing needs.

 

While I agree that, with the demand we have for new homes in Woking, we need to look at whether we can meet our needs through brownfield land and sites which are already developed, and I accept that the bulk of new houses and flats in the borough will be built in the town centre, I believe Oriental Road is not a suitable location for the kind of high rise flats which we have seen elsewhere on Guildford Road and around the station. The houses along Oriental Road are small and suburban in character and a big flatted development would be totally out of keeping with the surroundings. Should the council decide that the car park is fit for a large scale housing development, it would go against a previous promise that Oriental Road should retain its distinct and peaceful character with one or two storey family homes rather than high density buildings.

 

I am also concerned that removing capacity at Oriental Road car park and replacing it with further housing could exacerbate problems with traffic and parking around the station. Woking station is extremely busy and can be gridlocked in the mornings and afternoons. Removing the car park without first putting in alternative provision would be a recipe for chaos.

 

Although no planning application is expected to come forward for the site within the next 11 to 15 years, and the land is not currently available for residental development, it is important that residents in Oriental Road make their views known if we are to protect the character of the area in the future. I’d encourage everyone, not just in Oriental Road, but all over the borough, to engage with the consultation and have their say.

 

The deadline for responses to the consultation is 5pm on Friday 31 July and residents can view the draft DPD at www.woking2027.info.

 

New planning application at St Dunstan’s church site

 

Residents living near the old St Dunstan’s church off White Rose Lane will have received a letter from the council in the last few days advising them of a new planning application on the site. A plan has been submitted for landscaping and beautification changes to accompany the proposal for a residential development of 91 flats with retail units and amenity space, which was approved by the Planning Committee in 2012.

 

There is a long history of contentious planning applications on the St Dunstan’s site, which remains an under-used brownfield site that would benefit from some form of house building. I have always felt that any development at this location needs to be in keeping with the local area and similar to neighbouring properties on White Rose Lane and around from the post office on the corner of Oriental Road. My colleagues and I successfully defeated a proposal for a 23 storey building in 2010, and were able to negotiate with the developer over the height of the currently approved planning consent, securing a reduction from 17 storeys to a much more acceptable range of between 7 and 11 storeys.

 

The current application does not represent a material change to the plans that were agreed a few years ago and so it will be dealt with under delegated powers rather than going to a full Planning Committee. However, residents are still able to make representations and can have their say through the council’s public access planning portal, or by contacting the planning department by post or email. The deadline for responses is Wednesday 22nd Juy and any comments received will help inform officers’ decision on whether to recommend that the application be granted and on what conditions to attach to the approval if it does go through.

 

Local improvements in Mount Hermon

 

I’ve just been sent a report by Surrey County Council which gives a breakdown of all the funding agreed by the Joint Committee in our respective areas. Each borough in Surrey has an allocated budget for expenditure such as highway maintenance, while county councillors have an allocation which they can use to fund projects or work such as traffic calming measures or vehicle activated road signs in their ward.

 

The report includes some of the improvements that my colleagues and I have delivered for Mount Hermon. It highlights the trees which were planted at my instigation along Oriental Road and across from Heathside Crescent. It also mentions the new traffic calming measures on Pembroke Road and the resurfacing of Onslow Crescent.

 

Over the next few months I intend to raise further items for consideration including the need for new streetlights, for old road signs to be replaced, and for further traffic calming measures where appropriate. If you are aware of any local causes or projects which need financing in Mount Hermon, please do let me know and I would be happy to discuss it with my County Council colleagues or raise it at the Joint Committee.

 

Bus route from Woking to Byfleet through Oriental Road

 

Arriva, the company which runs Surrey’s bus services, will be making some alterations to the route of service 437, which connects Woking town centre with Byfleet.

 

Instead of travelling along Oriental Road and Heathside Road, buses travelling towards Woking Station will be rerouted to run via Monument Road and Maybury Road to Broadway. The return schedule to Byfleet will continue to leave Woking by using the existing Heathside and Oriental Road route. The new route will come into effect from next Monday 15th December.

 

I am told that the change has been made to improve reliability although I fail to see how it will make any significant difference other than to pose an inconvenience to residents at the far end of Oriental Road who use the service to travel into the town centre. I have taken the matter up with the Joint Committee but I am afraid the prospect of securing any change is unlikely in the near term. In the meantime, I would encourage residents with mobility issue wishing to board the service to Woking town centre from Oriental Road to alight the bus on the way to Byfleet, which will then come back to the town centre on its return journey, as inconvenient and time consuming as this might be. Those wishing to complain can make their views known by calling Arriva on 0344 800 4411.

 

Lion Retail Park

 

Last night I spoke at a meeting of Woking Borough Council’s Planning Committee on behalf of residents in Little Riding, Oriental Road and Maybury Hill who asked me to object to the application for increased opening hours by the Asda supermarket.

 

Asda had applied to extend its trading hours from 8am to 7am in the morning, and from 8pm to 11pm in the evening. However, residents are concerned that the location has suffered from traffic, noise, light and air pollution in recent years and believe that the scale of development at the retail park is overtaking the capacity of the local infrastructure to cope with the demand. Some 24 parking spaces have recently been lost owing to the construction of the new Costa Coffee unit.

 

The Lion Retail Park is an unusual site in that it is in a predominantly residential area with houses in very close proximity to the shops. While residents are not against additional trading and longer opening hours as a matter of principle, they understandably want to make sure that the expansion and development of the retail park is being done in a way that is consistent with its location in what is otherwise a quiet and peaceful part of Woking.

 

Following my representations, councillors on the Planning Committee voted to restrict opening hours from 8am to 10pm. During the meeting I also obtained reassurances that the council will not allow 24-opening hours at the retail park. I was pleased to be able to secure another victory for my residents and will continue to exercise vigilance to ensure that the quality of life for everyone living near the retail park is protected.