Woking Borough Council has finalised the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) contract, securing a grant of £95 million from central Government. This significant economic boost is the driving force set to deliver enhanced highways, pedestrian and rail links for Woking town centre and, much needed new homes.
On the 13 February, the Council accepted the HIF grant offer from Homes England, the Government agency responsible for administering and monitoring the funds.
Responding to the successful completion of the project’s latest milestone, Cllr David Bittleston, Leader of Woking Borough Council, said: “Confirmation of this significant grant is welcome news during these challenging and unprecedented times. This funding provides a pillar of certainty for Woking’s economic future and vitality.
“The grant paves the way to start this once-in-a-lifetime infrastructure enhancement project which will unlock 13 brownfield town centre sites by providing over 4,500 new homes.
“For many years the stretch of the A320, either side of the Victoria Arch Bridge and around the one-way gyratory system, has been a pinch-point for traffic congestion, and pedestrians and cyclists have endured sub-standard conditions.”
The carefully modelled scheme, focusing on the stretch of the A320 either side of the Victoria Arch Bridge and around the existing one-way gyratory system, will transform travel through this busy part of Woking town centre by creating more capacity and seamless traffic movements. The one-way gyratory will be removed and replaced with two-way vehicle lanes providing more direct access to and from Woking’s busy hub railway station. This will be complemented by improved traffic management solutions and off-road paths for pedestrians and cyclists.
As part of the reconfigured infrastructure works, additional provision will be made for pedestrian crossings points, bus links and landscaping. Where possible, existing vegetation and trees will be maintained and further planting will flank the carriageway and be irrigated by rainwater gardens.
The infrastructure project also aligns with Network Rail’s ambition to rebuild the outdated Victoria Arch railway bridge. A new widen bridge will allow four traffic lanes and pedestrians and cyclists will be diverted off the carriageway on to wider paths, on either side of the bridge.
Highlighting the grant’s importance for the borough, Cllr Bittleston, continued: “Demand for housing in Woking is high, leading to an unmet affordable housing need. Central to the investment’s objective is the opportunity to address this market failure and unlock under utilised developed sites and put in place the required infrastructure to match developer’s criteria for financially feasible projects.
“This scheme is critical to ensuring that Woking Borough Council’s long-term housing, economic growth and infrastructure ambitions can be achieved in a timely and sustainable manner. The funding will enable significant additional housing to be provided which, in turn, will provide increased community facilities such as health and care services and school places.”
Cllr Colin Kemp, Deputy Leader of Surrey County Council, said: “This is a vital project for Woking town centre. I’m pleased that we’re continuing to work with our partners through the Coronavirus lockdown as it will help ensure we have a vibrant local economy for years to come.
“The improved road and rail links will make life easier for residents, while the affordable housing will really help people who want to live in our town.”
Mark Killick, Route Director for Network Rail Wessex, said: "We are pleased to move to the next stage of this project and look forward to working with Woking Borough Council and its partners to deliver a new railway bridge at Victoria Arch.
"We are open to working with third parties on improvements to the railway for passengers, who are at the heart of everything we do. We actively encourage developers and other organisations to come up with schemes such as this that will improve the railway and local infrastructure."
This major project is led by Woking Borough Council in partnership with Surrey County Council and Network Rail.
For more information, including the proposals maps, and/or to subscribe to the project’s enewsletter, please visit www.woking.gov.uk/victoriaarchscheme