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Council seeks compulsory purchase powers to support Woking Town Centre’s growth

Date: 

Friday, 24 July, 2020

Woking Borough Council is seeking Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) powers to buy properties located within the Triangle site and other small pockets of land to support the growth and revitalisation of Woking Town Centre.

The application, to be considered by Full Council at its meeting on Thursday 30 July, seeks to secure the remaining properties and pieces of land required to deliver the Victoria Arch scheme – a multi-million pound integrated highways enhancement project funded by the Government's Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF).

The acquisition of the full Triangle site is critical to the scheme’s delivery and, ultimately, unlocking the town’s economic future and new housing developments.

The carefully modelled Victoria Arch enhancement scheme identified the Triangle site (the land surrounded by the existing one-way road gyratory system incorporating Guildford Road, Victoria Road and Station Approach) as the only viable option to widen the outdated Victoria Arch railway bridge and reconfigure the highway along this part of A320. For many years this part of the town centre’s highway has created a pinch-point for traffic causing significant congestion and provided substandard travel options for pedestrians and cyclists.

In preparation for scheme’s commencement, the Council has undertaken detailed research with independent specialist agencies to ensure the viability and best options for the scheme. As part of these works, significant engagement has been conducted with the site’s existing business and property owners to seek voluntary land and property purchases.

To date, around 87% of the Triangle site has either been acquired or terms have been agreed, and formal negotiations with the remainder of the site are in progress. As part of these voluntary negotiations, the Council offered all existing businesses support to relocate to other premises within their chosen part of the town or borough. A few businesses have opted to permanently close and accept financial compensation.

Cllr David Bittleston, Leader of Woking Borough Council, said: “The Victoria Arch scheme is the single most important scheme which will transform town centre travel options, deliver vital rail enhancements for the whole of Network Rail’s Wessex route and unlock the town centre’s growth potential. Its importance to the region’s economic vitality is also recognised by the Government, which has provided the large capital grant of £95 million to deliver the scheme.

“As I have stated before, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which will enable us to rectify long-term town centre congestion problems and create fit-for-purpose travel solutions to match modern-day use and demand. The finished scheme will offer more capacity, improved travel environments and enhanced traffic movements for all users, including drivers, rail commuters, cyclists and pedestrians. Looking to the future, it also provides the necessary infrastructure to support town centre growth and provide much needed new housing.

“Pursuit of a Compulsory Purchase Order is always the last resort and we acknowledge those whose properties which fall within the boundary of the proposed development. Where possible, I would encourage the remaining land and property owners to engage with council officers to seek a voluntary settlement.”

The multi-million pound scheme led by Woking Borough Council, is a partnership project with the county’s highways authority, Surrey County Council, and Network Rail.

Speaking about the importance of the scheme, Cllr Colin Kemp, Deputy Leader of Surrey County Council and Member of the Woking Joint Committee, said: “This project is vital for Woking to continue being a place where people want to live, work, shop and socialise, and is more important than ever as our high streets start the recovery from the economic shock of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“There are also environmental benefits to this work. Encouraging more walking, cycling and use of public transport, as well as reducing congestion, supports our shared ambitions to tackle climate change and improve air quality.

“I’m grateful to the borough council for working with businesses and giving them options for their next steps. I echo the call for the remaining owners located within the Triangle to engage positively with this process so we can find solutions and avoid the need for compulsory purchase.”

The CPO application will be considered by Full Council at its meeting on 30 July, starting at 7pm. Members of the public can watch the virtual meeting live or on demand via the Council’s webcasting facility at www.woking.gov.uk/webcasts

The associated report and supporting documents to support this application can be viewed online.

View council papers

For more information about the Victoria Arch scheme, including how to sign up to the enews updates, visit www.woking.gov.uk/victoriaarchscheme