Cllr David Bittleston has retired as Leader of Woking Borough Council with immediate effect. The announcement was made during last night’s (Thursday 15 October 2020) Full Council meeting.
Announcing his retirement, Cllr Bittleston said: “As everyone knows I had planned to retire from the Council in April and I had planned an exciting year of travel. Unfortunately, the pandemic postponed my plans and indeed everyone else’s plans. The Council agreed that I should stay on as Leader to help coordinate the Council’s response.
“Although it has been very hard work, it has also been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had with the Council. The ongoing response by our officers is truly exceptional and our residents have demonstrated what a caring community we have here in Woking.
“After much careful thought, I have decided that now is the right moment for me to hand over the leadership of the Council. The Council needs to recruit a new Chief Executive and a new Leader needs to put together their vision for the future of the Council.
“I was first elected to the Council in 1998 and have been involved in many wonderful projects that this Council has achieved over the last 20 years. My particular passion has been around two specific areas. Firstly housing, including Kingsmoor Park, Thameswey Housing and in particular the Earn Your Deposit Scheme and, of course, the Sheerwater Regeneration Project. My second passion has been leisure. I have managed to get the Council to invest more in leisure facilities than probably any other Council in the South of England. The list of new facilities is amazing.
“Finally I wish to extend my thanks and gratitude to fellow elected members, the Council’s exceptional and hardworking staff and, of course, our residents. Together we have achieved much. Ahead of us, this Borough has an exciting future.”
First elected as Ward Councillor for Mount Hermon East in 1998, Cllr Bittleston took the Council’s most senior role in 2017. Before becoming leader, he served as Vice Chairman of the Executive for eight years and Chair of Woking Joint Committee, as well as Portfolio Holder for many key services.
Under Cllr Bittleston’s leadership, a wide range of projects and initiatives have and are transforming the Borough, including:
- Sheerwater Regeneration Project: creating a contemporary and sustainable 'Garden Suburb' that, when complete, will provide hundreds of high quality homes, improved open green spaces and new leisure and community facilities.
- Kingsmoor Park: delivered 223 social family homes, including eight specifically built for wheelchair users, for local residents in housing need.
- Earn Your Deposit Scheme: an innovative scheme assisting ThamesWey tenants to become homeowners through a deposit scheme.
- Victoria Square development: a multi-million pound transformation of Woking Town Centre featuring 429 built-to-rent residential apartments, 189 room flagship Hilton Hotel, 125,000 sq ft commercial space anchored by Marks & Spencer, new multi-storey car park, medical centre and two public plazas.
- Leisure facilities investment – an extensive multi-million pound programme of renovation and improvement works at Pool in the Park and new leisure facilities under construction in Sheerwater.
Cllr Bittleston will remain in his role as Ward Councillor for Mount Hermon until his retirement in May 2021.
Following the announcement, Cllr Ayesha Azad was elected the new Leader of Woking Borough Council.