St John's and Hook Heath

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This Local Plan summary for St John's and Hook Heath 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

View the map of St John's and Hook Heath here.

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 for St John's and Hook Heath, 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 St. John's and Hook Heath

Both St John's and the Basingstoke Canal were built in the mid 18th Century, boosting trade for local brick manufacturers. During the 19th Century, the canal was instrumental in the development of nurseries around St. John's. Many fine settlements from Jackmans Nursery are in evidence on St. John's Hill Road. Building began at Hook Heath at the start of the 20th Century following the construction of the golf course. The houses were individually designed, many by renowned architects in 'Arts and Crafts' style, and built on large plots of land. As a result, the area still retains considerable character.

The area includes the built-up areas east of St John's village centre, Hook Heath and the open areas to the south west.

The focus of the Local Plan for this area is on protecting the environment and ensuring that any new development is in keeping with the existing character. As a result, development of a modest scale appropriate to the site concerned, will be permitted in the built-up area, while important open spaces, nature conservation sites and historic buildings will be protected. Only very limited types of building will be permitted in the Green Belt areas to the south of St. John's.

The following includes a brief description of some of the features of St. John's and the relevant Local Plan polices.

The Basingstoke Canal

The Basingstoke Canal is a fully navigable waterway through the Borough and an important feature in St. John's. It has been designated as a Conservation Area to protect its historic character. The Canal and its towpath are used for recreation such as canoeing and bike riding and should be protected and enhanced. The Local Plan aims to:

  • protect the important area designated as Urban Open Space along the Canal because of its contribution to the character and appearance of the area (BE7)
  • ensure that development preserves the historic character of the Conservation Area (BE9) and its landscape value as a Canal Corridor (NE6)
  • enhance the recreational potential of the Basingstoke Canal (REC15)

Local centres

St John's village centre has a mix of shops and businesses to help meet the needs of the local community including a chemist, small supermarket and specialist stores, restaurants and offices. There is also a range of leisure and community facilities. The centre has a distinctive character thanks to its locality next to St Johns Lye and the Basingstoke Canal and buildings dating from the late Victorian/Edwardian period. Much of the centre of the village is within a Conservation Area.

The Local Plan aims to enhance St. John's to ensure its continued vitality and viability without fundamentally altering its character. To achieve this, the Local Plan:

  • seeks improvements to the both the environment and access to the village centre. These will be in keeping with the Council's own programme of improvements which have included repaving, new signs and improvements to the Lye entrance (VCN3, VCN4)
  • allows changes of use of shops to other uses appropriate to the area (financial services and restaurants/takeaways) which maintain the economic health of the centre, provided an adequate range of shops remain (SHP1, SHP3, SHP4, SHP8).
  • encourages small office, shop, leisure and community developments (SHP3, EMP2, REC5, CUS1, VCN2)

Wych Hill has a small parade of shops.

In Wych Hill, the Local Plan:

  • allows the change of use of shops to other uses appropriate to the area (financial services and restaurants/takeaways) where it has been clearly demonstrated that there is no demand for the shop in its current use (SHP1, SHP6)

Residential areas

The area is mainly residential with mostly detached or semi-detached housing in both built-up and open areas. There are fewer houses in Hook Heath and these have larger gardens. These areas have a special character which the Council has designated as an Urban Area of Special Residential Character (UASRC). The UASRC includes individually designed houses, many in the 'Arts and Crafts' style, set in generous gardens with mature landscape. Parts of the UASRC have also been designated as Conservation Areas.

Opportunities to build more housing within the built-up area are limited, particularly in areas with fewer houses where any new development could be harmful to their special character. However, housebuilders may want to redevelop sites to provide more houses. In these cases, the Local Plan aims to:

  • allow the construction of new housing in the built up area, provided the development reflects the character of the area (HSG18)
  • ensure that any new housing within Urban Area of Special Residential Character does not detract from the very special character of the area which has low density, high quality housing (HSG20)
  • allow house extensions which reflect the style of the building and do not harm the character of the area (HSG23)

Natural environment and landscape

The south western part of the area is more open in character and contains sites of ecological, environment and landscape importance. These include the pond at Hook Heath golf course which is a water habitat of regional importance, designated as a Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI) and the Hook Heath Escarpment.

St. John's Lye is important for its wildlife, landscape and for outdoor leisure. It contains regionally important scrub and woodland habitats which have been designated as a Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI). The Local Plan seeks to:

  • protect the regionally important SNCI at the pond on Hook Heath Golf Course and St. John's Lye from development which harms their nature conservation value (NE2)
  • resists the loss of formal and informal recreational open space (REC3, REC4)
  • protect the Hook Heath Escarpment and adjacent rising ground from development which harms the quality of the landscape (NE7)

Built heritage and conservation

There are four Listed Buildings in St. John's and Hook Heath which are nationally recognised for their architectural or historic interest. The Listed Buildings are Fishers Hill House, Hook Heath Road (designed by Lutyens for Lord Balfour); Fishers Hill Cottage, Saunders Lane; Gorse Hill Training Centre, Hook Heath Road and Cripplegate Cottage, St. John's Road. There are other buildings in the area which are Locally Listed. As well as the Basingstoke Canal Conservation Area, the Council has also designated three other Conservation Areas in St. John's to protect the character of the area. These are St. John's village and Pond Road and Fishers Hill in Hook Heath. The Local Plan seeks to:

  • ensure that any development preserves the historic character of the St John's, Pond Road and Fishers Hill Conservation Areas (BE9)
  • ensure that development does not harm the character or setting of Listed and Locally Listed buildings in the area (BE10 - BE14)

Green Belt

The area to the south of St. Johns is more open in character and designated as Green Belt. It is used for recreation (Woking Golf Course), agriculture and has isolated housing. Local Plan policies:

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

Community facilities

There is a range of community facilities serving the local area including St. John's Memorial Hall, St. John the Baptist's Church and a village club. 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)

Recreation and open space

Local residents use the area to the south of St. Johns for walking and horse-riding and Woking Golf Course. To protect the open space around St. John's, Local Plan policies:

  • resist the loss of formal and informal recreational open space, such as St. John's Lye (REC3, REC4)
  • ensure that improvements to the recreational facilities in the area do not have an adverse impact on the environment and respects the quality of the landscape (REC5, REC7)

Industrial and office development

There are few industrial and commercial businesses in the area. The Local Plan:

  • will not permit the loss of any existing employment sites unless the business activity adversely affects local residents. In such cases, a less harmful employment activity or housing will be permitted (EMP7)

Major Roads

No major routes pass through the area although the A324 (Lockfield Drive/Hermitage Road) passes to the north. However, a number of other local roads 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.

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 moderate compared to other areas of the Borough and less accessible further away from St. John's village centre and Woking town centre. 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).

Useful Contacts

For any other information, please contact the Council on 01483 768746, email