Woking Town Centre

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This Local Plan summary for Woking Town Centre is one of a series of guides covering Woking Borough. It aims to provide a general user friendly overview of how the Woking Borough Local Plan 1999 will manage future development in this area. The Local Plan sets out the Council's policies for the development and use of land and includes the key considerations for determining planning applications. The Council also produces a number of other key strategies which feature policies that are not covered by the Local Plan.

The Local Plan summaries contain a brief discussion of the development issues within each area and how policies will affect them. They also contain details of any specific proposals for the area, together with an extract of the Local Plan Proposals Map. As well as policies on specific development issues, the Local Plan also includes general policies on related matters such as design, landscaping, parking and the effects of traffic which apply to all developments. Although the summary provides an overview of the policies Woking Town Centre, reference should be made to the Local Plan for the full text of any policies. Relevant Local Plan policies for each issue are shown in brackets.

About Woking town centre

The town centre is the focal point of the Borough with major retail, employment, cultural and entertainment facilities. Originally built in the 19th century, the 1960's saw the start of on-going modernisation.

The Local Plan provides for significant new development, including housing, offices, a hotel and shops, to add to the range of facilities in the town centre. Some of these have already been built, while others may not take place for some years. The Plan also proposes transport improvements and enhancements to the town centre's green space.

It is important that new development not only adds to the range of facilities in the town centre, but also improves the quality of the environment. As a result the Local Plan includes a range of design criteria which new development must meet. The following includes a brief description of some of the main features of the Woking town centre together with more general information and the relevant Local Plan polices.

Shopping

Woking town centre is the largest retail centre in the Borough and the second largest in Surrey. It includes a wide range of shops, restaurants, public houses, banks and estate agents.

The Local Plan describes a Primary Shopping Area which includes The Peacocks, Wolsey Place and the north side of Commercial Way. As this area should continue to provide the main shopping facilities in the town, the Plan strictly limits shop units changing to other uses (SHP8, WTC14).

The other shopping areas in the town centre are described as a Secondary Shopping Area. This includes High Street and parts of Chertsey Road, Chobham Road and Broadway. Now there is less demand for shop premises in these areas, the Local Plan allows changes to other uses such as banks, estate agents, pubs and restaurants to complement the shopping area and improve diversity and vitality (SHP8, WTC15).

Two sites are identified for additional retail development to enhance shopping in the town. These are:

  • Premier House / Post Office / Fire Station. On this site a mix of shops and offices could be built. It will require the relocation of the fire station. No alternative site for this has yet been identified (4/M)
  • Church Street East/ Chertsey Road junction. This site is currently a small parade of shops. A mix of shops, leisure and entertainment and offices could be built here (5/M)

The local shopping parades south of the railway at Guildford Road and Oriental Road provide an important local facility which should remain. However, from time to time shop units fall vacant and can be hard to let. As a result the Local Plan only allows these shop units to change to other uses where it can be demonstrated that there is no demand for retail use (SHP1, SHP6).

Offices

The town centre is the Borough's main employment area with a large number of office buildings. Offices in the town centre represented 40% of employment floorspace in the Borough in 1999. The town centre is the most accessible place in the Borough and is a good location for limited additional office development to further strengthen the Borough's economy. However, it is important that any development does not exceed the capacity of road and rail links and the availability of a local workforce.

The Local Plan proposes major additional office development at:

  • Vale Farm Road (now built) (6/M)
  • 31-49 Goldsworth Road (now built) (7/M)
  • Woking Station - in conjunction with improvements to the station (8/M)

New offices may also be allowed on the eastern part of Goldsworth Road closest to the town centre, to regenerate the area (WTC11).

Some further office development may be allowed in other areas, but only:

  • as part of a mixed use scheme providing housing, shopping or community facilities (WTC9)
  • small increases in floorspace through extensions or redevelopment of existing offices (WTC9)

Hotels

The Council has worked with Stannifer hotels to provide a quality hotel in the town centre. The Local Plan allocates a site between Church Street East and Victoria Way (WTC12, 2/E) and the hotel is now under construction.

The Local Plan encourages further hotel development in the town centre if sites become available.

New Housing

The Local Plan identifies the town centre as a suitable location for new housing. Local plan policies therefore:

  • allow sensitively designed housing development on land at Vale Farm Road and the former Victoria Hospital, to include a range of property types including affordable housing (HSG2, HSG9, HSG10, HSG18). These developments are now completed.
  • allow housing as part of the mixed use redevelopment of Systems House, Guildford Road (Proposal Site 9/M). This site is now under construction for a elderly persons housing scheme.
  • allow the conversion of old office buildings to housing (WTC10)

The Local Plan allows houses to be developed on other town centre sites as they become available and will also allow homes to be built at higher densities on these sites than elsewhere in the Borough.

Woking Rail Hub and Airtrack

Improvements will be provided on both sides of the station (including its immediate surroundings) in conjunction with the office development on land south of the railway line (8/M). The Local Plan promotes improvements to both the rail and bus stations to provide a public transport hub (WTC19, WTC20) and a direct rail link between Woking and Heathrow (and beyond), to improve public transport accessibility to the airport particularly from the south west. With a journey time of 23 minutes from Woking to Heathrow, and with exciting possibilities of the train continuing north of Heathrow to destinations such as Manchester, Birmingham and the east of London via Paddington and the City, the Airtrack services will open up a further range of key destinations directly accessible from Woking by train.

Recreation and leisure

The town centre includes several important leisure facilities used by both local residents and visitors from further afield. These include the Ambassadors theatre and cinema complex and The Big Apple entertainment centre. The Local Plan:

  • allows recreation and leisure developments in the town centre provided they do not harm the character of the area (REC5)

Community facilities

There is a range of community facilities used by people from across the Borough and beyond including churches, halls, library, health centres and a community hospital. Local Plan policies will:

  • resist the loss of community facilities unless there is no longer a need for the facility or where adequate alternative provision is made (CUS2)

Basingstoke Canal

The navigable section of the Basingstoke Canal runs through the town centre and is a pleasant place to walk, cycle or relax. The Canal and land alongside it is designated as a Conservation Area to preserve its historic interest.

The Local Plan requires any new development adjacent to the canal enhance its role as a green corridor, as well as improving canal side facilities.

Proposals include:

  • a landscaped open space and canal related facilities, such as a pub or restaurant, on part of the existing Brewery Road car park. The remainder of the site should accommodate the existing car parking, in an underground or multi-storey car park (1/M)
  • canal side landscaping (including seating) within the Vale Farm Road development (completed) (6/M)

Protecting the environment

As well as promoting the continued development of the town centre, the Local Plan includes a range of policies to protect its environment. These include:

Landscape and Conservation

Although the town centre is built-up, there are a number of sites of conservation, landscape and environmental importance.

The Basingstoke Canal and part of High Street/The Broadway have been designated Conservation Areas to protect the historic character of the area, while Christ Church and the signal box at Woking station are of national importance and have been Listed for their historic and architectural importance. There are other buildings in the area which are Locally Listed. The Local Plan seeks to:

  • ensure that any development preserves the landscape value of the Basingstoke Canal as a Canal Corridor (NE6)
  • ensure that any development preserves the historic character of the Basingstoke Canal and Woking town centre Conservation Areas (BE9)
  • ensure that development does not harm the character or setting of Listed and Locally Listed Buildings in the area (BE10 - BE14)
  • protects the important area designated as Urban Open Space along the Basingstoke Canal because of its contribution to the character and appearance of the area (BE7)

Green Belt

Boundary Common, which is between the Brook House roundabout, Victoria Way and the Basingstoke Canal, is within the Green Belt. The Local Plan:

  • protects the Green Belt from new building for purposes other than outdoor recreation in order to protect its open character (GRB1)

Transport

The Borough's main bus and rail stations are located in the town centre which also sees the highest number of car journeys. The Local Plan includes policies to improve all transport accessibility such as by public transport, cycling and walking.

Public Transport, Walking and Cycling

Local Plan policies aim to support initiatives which reduce the demands on the road network by ensuring that alternatives such as public transport, walking and cycling are safe, convenient and accessible. Public transport accessibility in the area is currently much better than other parts of the Borough. Local Plan policies:

  • support proposals which lead to improvements in pedestrian and/or cycle facilities (MV17, MV18)
  • support infrastructure developments and priority measures which lead to improvements in bus services together with increased links with other types of public transport (MV20, MV21)

Detailed proposals for maintenance and improvement of roads, cycle and pedestrian routes and public transport are not part of the Local Plan. These are set out in the Surrey Local Transport Plan (Woking Area Implementation Programme).

Major Roads

Several major routes pass through the area including the A320 (Victoria Way/Guildford Road) and A324 (Lockfield Drive), providing good road connections with other areas of the Borough and beyond. These are important through routes which suffer from heavy traffic, particularly at peak times. As well as being inconvenient for road users, this can damage the quality of the environment in the area. To address this, the Local Plan:

  • supports the implementation of a route management study for the A320 by Surrey County Council, which will establish and examine the needs of all road users whilst taking account of environmental considerations (MV26)
  • reserves land for improvements to the A320 at Victoria Arch (including the provision of pedestrian tunnels) and Guildford Road. There is currently no indication regarding when these road improvements will be completed. The roadworks at the junction of Chobham Road and Victoria Way by the Victoria Waterside development (former Victoria Hospital) (WTC18) are due for completion in May 2001. These include improved pedestrian and cycling facilities/prioritises.

Useful Contacts

For any other information, please contact the Council on 01483 755855, email wokbc@woking.gov.uk.