Surrey members block council development company's 17-storey mixed-use tower

Councillors in Surrey have overridden a recommendation from planning officers and turned down an application for a 17-storey mixed-use tower submitted by the council's own housing company.

A visualisation of the mixed-use scheme that was thrown out by Woking councillors
A visualisation of the mixed-use scheme that was thrown out by Woking councillors

Woking Borough Council’s planning committee last week voted by four votes to three to reject a planning application for the scheme, which proposed providing 247 student and co-living rooms, 679 square metres of co-working space and a 2,275 square metre combined heat and power (CHP) plant.

A report by council officers said the proposal, by council-owned Thameswey Group, would be acceptable in national and local policy terms.

Officers had concluded that although the use did not fall within the B use class identified for the site in the council’s local plan, the aim of the relevant policy "is to accommodate the predicted future growth in economic development required for Woking’s economy to grow, ensure sustainable employment development patterns, promote smart growth and business competitiveness, and allow for flexibility to cater for the changing needs of the economy".

Their report also said that the development of a CHP plant was justified by both the council’s core strategy and a supplementary planning document on climate change.

Although the plan conflicted with a policy aimed at ensuring the town centre is the primary location for growth, the plans were acceptable because the site is immediately adjacent to the town centre boundary, officers concluded.

The building would help "raise the standard of design more generally in the area" and would help stimulate the redevelopment of the industrial estate in which it sits, their report said.

But councillors voted to reject the proposals.

Committee member Tahir Aziz said: "If we are going to put 247 rooms above this power station it’s going to be ... hazardous."

He said that the rooms proposed in the development were "very tiny and suffocating".

Councillor Louise Morales told the meeting: "When I saw the plans for this I was absolutely horrified.

She added: "I personally believe we should not be building more power stations. We should be using far more green alternatives."

Planning contacted Thameswey Group for a comment but it had yet to respond at the time of publication.

Woking Council adopted its core strategy in 2012.

At the end of October this year, neighbouring Guildford Borough Council called on a planning inspector to "review and amend" the housing requirement in its emerging local plan, and said that it was "unjustified that our borough should have to accommodate any of Woking's currently stated housing need"

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