Brookwood Lye Development

I recently caught up with the project manager in Thameswey responsible for the development at Brookwood Lye. To recap, Thameswey is WBC’s housing delivery company and currently owns most of the site and will select a builder to build out the site once planning has been approved.

I’m wary of giving dates, because so far all dates I’ve provided have been woefully optimistic and as far as I’m concerned we’re about one year behind where I wanted to be.

A previous application was submitted in October 2017 and a number of issues were raised by me, the Environment Agency, WBC’s drainage engineer and the Local Planning Authority. It is the concerns raised at this time that have caused the delay. My primary issue was one of the blocks of flats that was close to the Brookwood Lye Road. It was too close and was out of character for the street scene. This has been changed, as has, the large block of flats abutting the railway line which has now been split into three buildings.

The total number of dwellings has stayed the same at 126, and I’ve received no indication that the mix will change, i.e. 50 sell at market value, 50 affordable rent and 26 sell at an affordable level. All the affordable dwellings will have a local first policy for a short period before being opened up to the rest of the borough residents.

I will have a stab at timescales. The new planning application was due to be submitted before May. If that runs through the process smoothly, we can expect it to be at Committee in September. It is unlikely to be presented to Committee unless the chances of it being granted are high, so assuming it is granted permission in September, the current view is that clearing the site will begin over the winter period and building would start in the spring 2020. Take this paragraph with a pinch of salt because I’ve been wrong every time so far!

I think the cross road improvements will come along during the development although I’m not currently up to speed on the latest proposals. They are still making their way through the SCC/WBC Joint Committee.

As ever, happy to answer any questions on this if you have any, and once I have more information, I will publish it here.

Cheers.

Kevin

Voter ID

In the forthcoming election on 2nd May, Woking Borough Council is once again taking part in the Voter ID trial. Like last time, I support this initiative and personally believe it strange that one can vote without showing ID in something as important as local and national elections that drive the lives of millions of people, yet need to provide ID to do very basic tasks elsewhere in life.

Nobody is disenfranchised by this as WBC will accept a wide variety of IDs, and if someone does not have any acceptable ID, they can apply for a Local Elector’s Card. WBC will even assist with the required photograph if necessary.

Please see the following website for details: https://www.woking.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/voter-id

Cheers.

Kevin

Brookwood Cemetery

I’ve not had much to write about recently, but have planned a couple of posts on Brookwood Cemetery and the Brookwood Lye Development. I’m still waiting for some info regarding the Lye, but will cover the Cemetery now.

WBC acquired Brookwood Cemetery a few years ago with the goal of saving our heritage and then improving the cemetery and returning it to its Victorian roots as a Victorian park area. Since then, an enormous amount of work has gone on and last year won an award for the best large cemetery in the country. I asked the person responsible for the cemetery for an update.

Brookwood Cemetery are  part way through the rebuilding of some 350m (10%) of boundary wall which was identified as being structurally unsound. This has necessitated the use of peak hour traffic lights on the A322 and temporary lights on Cemetery Pales. The wall is being rebuilt to modern design standards with special coping bricks purpose made to match the existing. Unfortunately emergency works by UKPN meant the agreed programme of works with Surrey Highways on the A322 were delayed and as no works are allowed on the road during December the decision was taken to stop work entirely and recommence in the Spring when hopefully there will be less risk of adverse weather.

A contract for entirely cemetery new signage has recently been let and this will start to appear in the cemetery around Easter time. This is intended to create a single unified image and do away with the plethora of different signs. New notice boards, signposting and interpretation panels are all included as part of this project. Additional brown highways signs are being put up for those travelling from the Aldershot direction to better signpost drivers to the appropriate cemetery.

A contract for the restoration of the Colquhoun chapel within the cemetery has also been let to a specialist restoration company and will start in April.

Staff facilities have been improved and upgraded.

New digital cctv has been installed and is being commissioned.

A planning consultancy have been appointed and are producing a masterplan for the cemetery which should be complete by late Summer. This will help the cemetery in attracting further funding from groups such as the heritage lottery fund.

Cheers.

Kevin

Council Tax Survey

The Police and Crime Commissioner is seeking views from residents regarding a potential increase in his element of the Council Tax to directly fund additional police officers.

I have responded, and I would encourage everyone to fill in the survey. It took me three minutes and that included filling in text box with additional information.

The survey can be found here: http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/CouncilTax201920/

The survey closes in two weeks’ time on 28 January.

Cheers.

Kevin

Brookwood Railway Station Update

Since my last post, there have been a couple of meetings in the background to understand what is being proposed.

Firstly, I’d like to say that what I write here is what I know about the proposals. It was disheartening to hear people state that access would be permanently blocked to the cemetery and then saying that the information had come from my blog. I had to go back and check what I’d written to make sure it was accurate. It was. The rumour mill had kicked it, Chinese whispers had distorted the truth and upset people needlessly.

At the end of October, senior representatives from WBC, the Cemetery, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), the American Battlements Monuments Commission (ABMC) and Southwestern Railway (SWR) met up to understand more.

SWR presented their data for determining the proposals and we argued that the data was flawed and that other possible options hadn’t been considered. It was agreed to meet at the station to look at it in more detail. That meeting happened on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, we had an opportunity to examine my preferred option which is to put a gate line (ticket barriers) at Platform Two and a gate line at Platform One. The principal idea was to open up the redundant rooms on Platform Two and use the space. SWR argued this wasn’t possible because of regulations concerning evacuating platforms in emergency situations and regulations concerning the number of people that could pass through the gate line and be funnelled down the stairs. They also argued that if this was to occur, the design on Platform One wouldn’t work currently and that also had issues with alternative proposals. Personally, I think the proposals can be accommodated if the will is there and that it’s 100% down to money as a second gate line will instantly add about £250k before any enabling works are done. The will isn’t there.

The discussions also covered the access proposals to the cemetery and the disabled access to Platform One to fully understand what is being proposed. The proposal is for magnetically locked doors that will be opened by an intercom / buzzer. Crucially, in an emergency or when there is no one operating the gate line, the doors will be open.

The existing foldaway gate at the cemetery entrance will stay in place and continue to operate as it does now.

I thought that even exposing the issue around the gate line not preventing people bunking the trains with people claiming to be going to the cemetery and then boarding a train would carry weight. It did not. We are dealing with a project team that has to implement a solution as per the agreement with the Department for Transport (DfT) when being awarded the franchise. It’s a box ticking exercise and whether it actually improves revenue collection is a secondary matter as far as I can see.

So, where are we then? Well, the reality is that access to the cemetery isn’t being blocked. Access to the cemetery is being controlled when the station is manned and is uncontrolled when the station isn’t manned.

There are no further meetings planned to discuss this. The other thing to note is that the timescales have slipped and it is now summertime next year when SWR are looking to do the work. They have promised to keep me in the loop.

Cheers.

Kevin

Brookwood Railway Station

A few people have asked me about the potential ticket barriers that may be installed at Brookwood Railway station and I’ve been gathering some facts before doing anything else.

South Western Railways rightly want to protect their income from the people that bunk the trains. I wholeheartedly agree with SWR doing that. They’ve also made a commitment to the government as part of the franchise that they will improve their performance at collecting fares. This has led them to figuring out where they are most losing money and putting in infrastructure to resolve this. Brookwood station is one of the stations they have identified that they know has a high level of evasion.

Their proposals have pros and cons. I’ll outline the proposal first.

A bank of barriers will be installed diagonally inside the current ticket hall. The existing double entry doors into the hall will be permanently locked. A mechanism will be installed at the cemetery entrance and the ramp entrance on platform one to prevent access with an intercom system in place to allow access. A new entrance will be opened up next to the outside telephone box.

SWR are obliged to man the station from 06:00 to 22:00 where there are barriers. I do not know if this includes Sunday.

Enabling works are scheduled to begin in January with the actual ticket barriers being installed around March.

The only positive I can think of is that the station will be manned for 16 hours a day which may prevent some anti-social behaviour and is certain to stop the visiting drug dealers from using Brookwood as a distribution hub.

My obvious concerns are regarding access to the cemetery, access for people with mobility issues and people with push chairs. I’m also concerned that the Victorian nature of the station won’t be taken into account as some carbuncle is bolted on to the front of the station. I suspect the capacity of the barriers will fail to quickly accommodate half a train alighting at Brookwood from Waterloo and that a significant queue will build during peak hours.

WBC are very concerned about access to the cemetery as are the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The cemetery is Grade I listed and recently won the Large Cemetery of the Year award (who knew?) as WBC’s intention is to restore the cemetery to its Victorian roots as a Victorian park land. A jolly fine job is being done of that by the way.

I am in regular contact with the Regional Development Manager at SWR and have  emailed him my extensive concerns. I have also raised my concerns with WBC and to that end, a meeting has been planned between various stakeholders, including representatives of SWR for the 31 October to have a more detailed chat.

That’s everything I know at the moment and I have raised a number of questions regarding the long term viability including a few ‘what happens if’ type questions.

I’ll report back here after the meeting next week.

Cheers.

Kevin

Site Allocations Development Plan Document

WBC published the latest Site Allocations Development Plan Document (SADPD) proposals on Wednesday in preparation for a full Council meeting next Thursday with the principal recommendation that the site allocations as documented are submitted to an inspector for approval. This process is known as Regulation 19.

Previous incarnations have been following the Regulation 18 process which has involved two extensive consultations with the public to occur.

The SADPD provides two time periods which explain the preferred locations for future development to occur both in the urban area and those sites that will be taken out of the Green Belt to allow further development. Those time periods are 2022 – 2027 and 2027 – 2040.

The 2022 – 2027 period in the document are sites that assuming development proposals are forthcoming will be developed, and the 2027 – 2040 proposals are for sites that are to be safeguarded for future development, but may never be built out depending on needs at the time. This is a process the Council is required to do by law. For Brookwood, there are no proposals for the 2027 – 2040 period so we can expect no development other than minor changes to the already built area.

The original SADPD in 2016 was rather devious with its treatment to Five Acres (GB02) in my opinion as officers decided that as Five Acres was owned by two individuals it was actually two separate sites in practice. This allowed officers to consider doubling the number of authorised pitches to around 30. The reality was, and as evidenced by all previous documentation produced by officers, the site was run as one site. I campaigned ferociously against this disgraceful plan and achieved some significant victories.

Even now, Five Acres has 13 authorised permanent pitches, and two temporary pitches, although they are currently not in the location planning permission has been granted for.

The proposals for Traveller accommodation at Five Acres in the SADPD are for an increase from the current 15 pitches to 19 pitches, an increase of four overall. There will likely be an additional transit pitch at Five Acres allowing some flexibility for visitors to legally visit.

I believe that this is the best outcome we could have achieved for Brookwood and is approximately 11 fewer that had previously been suggested. The planning application for these 19 pitches, moving the 15 from the approved location and the additional four,  is currently making its way through the system. I currently ignore the fact that the bulk of the work has already been done, but I’m not ignoring the illegal pitches at the back of the site. Incidentally there were two when I went past on the train earlier in the week. The Planning Department are dragging their heels on this, and now with the publication of the Regulation 19 SADPD, they will struggle to justify doing nothing about it.

The other area to impact Brookwood is GB01, which is the old Coblands site and surrounding land area. Obviously everyone has seen what has been going on here for the past couple of years. GB01 suggests the site will take 93 dwellings at a dph of 35. A planning application is in for this site with the proposal to build 126 dwellings, to include changes to Brookwood Crossroads with an emphasis on improving the throughput for local traffic. I have blogged extensively about this in the past.

As ever, if you have any questions, please contact me.

Cheers.

Kevin