Brookwood Crossroads and Parking Review

At the SCC / WBC Joint Committee on Wednesday two subjects were on the agenda which potentially will affect Brookwood. One was a bit of a shock to me as it went further than I had expected, however, it needs to be stressed that both items are for consultation at this stage, with the primary, most contentious item not starting before June. I have informed the BBNF of the proposals as it will need to form a view. I’ll deal with the easy one first.

The decision to go out to consultation on the parking proposals was agreed as listed in my previous blog post here: Brookwood Parking Review Maps. This consultation will begin soon, although at this stage I’m not entirely sure who will be directly consulted, but as soon as I have details of the consultation web site, I shall post the details here. Depending on the timing I will try and get this in the Brookwood News. There are some proposals here which will almost certainly upset a handful of residents.

The other item calls for major improvements to Brookwood Crossroads, but for once, only considering the flow of local traffic. This I have pushed hard for ever since I decided to stand for election back in 2011. However, proposals that I thought were primarily dead have been raised for consultation. This is actually a very good idea as it gives residents a clear option of what the village is prepared to sacrifice to make a gain. I’ll deal with both Brookwood Lye Road and Connaught Road.

My post from last week outlined proposals for the Coblands site with future development. As part of that a significant improvement to the flow of traffic down Brookwood Lye Road to the crossroads was considered essential. I’m clear in my view that the housing can’t happen without the crossroad improvements. It’s now clearer as to what is being proposed. Essentially, there will be three westerly lanes running up to the crossroads which will enable a minimum of an extra 11 cars to pass through the crossroads each light cycle. Anyone using it knows, that the maximum currently that can get through is about 15 cars, which plummets if a lorry or a vehicle is slow to get off the lights. An increase of this nature is a significant improvement. This will be achieved by the acquisition of the four properties leading up to the lights and the front gardens being used to widen the road. Some of these acquisitions have already taken place. I support this.

The Connaught Road side is more of a challenge and I thought had been dropped although on reflection I welcome the fact it is going out to consultation as it allows the village to express a view. Unusually, I intend on sitting on the fence at this stage, as being a politician, that’s what we do. I also have a potential conflict of interest living so close and I’m not sure what I actually want to happen here.

The options for improvements are more limited on this side because of the nature of the road, the housing and the proximity of West Hill Close. Essentially the proposal is to knock down West Hill Cottages and widen the road, significantly improving throughput. West Hill Cottages are the properties behind the hedge as you enter Brookwood. This will allow a minimum of an extra seven cars to stack prior to the lights changing increasing the throughput but by not as much as the other side of the crossroads, however it will make a difference.

Secondly, and very importantly, all the properties immediately at this point are special, very old ‘Surrey style’ which pre-date even the Victorian properties in the village. They are rare in Woking.

So, we’ll have a choice, lose some real character and improve the ability for Brookwood residents to leave the village or resign ourselves to no improvements on the Connaught Road side to keep those character properties. As I live in West Hill Close, I am a bit close in my opinion with a potential conflict of interest so I will need to check with the WBC Monitoring Officer where I stand.

The crossroads proposals are part of proposals for a package of work to improve the A322 corridor which I, together with the Knaphill Councillors have been calling for since before the Brookwood Farm development was granted permission. One of the improvements I wanted to see and residents completing BBNF questionnaires supported was the re-routing of the A324 down Cemetery Pales and improvements to the Cemetery Pales junction. I can state very clearly that this has been rejected for several reasons; the Cemetery is Grade I listed and having a major road running through it is undesirable, it would require the demolishing and rebuilding of the walls, and crucially it would mean having to move graves. In ruling this out, recognition is made that there must be improvements to the Brookwood side of Pirbright Tunnel although with no clear way of knowing how to fund those.

There are some good changes proposed for junctions in Knaphill, all of them I support, but locally will be resisted in a couple of cases and there is going to be an exhibition at The Vyne sometime in the future. I will be requesting that exhibition, together with an exhibition on the Coblands proposals, visits Brookwood village around the same time.




Basingstoke Canal

The works to the Basingstoke Canal are coming to an end. The canal was emptied a few weeks ago to enable thorough investigations into the state of the banks and for infrastructure improvements to be identified and dealt with. I’ve dealt with some of this previously on this blog.

Works have taken place to deal with bank erosion and pointing work has been done at various locks to fix masonry problems as these two pictures show. The bank works in the picture below clearly are not completed yet.

My sources tell me the canal will begin to be refilled starting tomorrow and will take up to two weeks to get back to a point where it is navigable. As the canal has no natural source of water, except the rain, it means that there needs to be a steady flow to refill it otherwise pounds further upstream will be emptied.



Coblands Site

You’ll have noticed changes to the Coblands site in the past couple of months, and even most recently last week. I’m not always aware of exactly what is going on at a detailed level, but I am aware of what strategically is being aimed for.

Rewind to 2012 when I was initially elected and some youngish people I met on the doorstep had all but given up any hope of achieving a foot on the property ladder unless the bank of mum and dad bailed them out or an inheritance conveniently landed. My own adult children fall into that category. My research at the time showed that in the old Brookwood ward less than 7% of the housing stock was one or two bedroom ‘starter homes’. Since then I’ve worked hard to try and create opportunities for 20 and 30 somethings that have a connection to Brookwood to remain in Brookwood or come back to Brookwood if that is what they wished to do.

The primary vehicle in achieving something was the Brookwood and Bridley Neighbourhood Forum (BBNF) as once fully operational with a Neighbourhood Plan gives an opportunity to alter the Neighbourhood Area in a way that more suits area residents and workers. See for much more information on this.

The WBC SADPD from 2015 suggested an increase in the size of Five Acres and to develop housing on the Coblands site. Rightly, there was much opposition to the expansion of Five Acres and encouragement to develop Coblands if it ensured that it prevented an extension of Five Acres.

Early work done by the BBNF through consultation with residents of Brookwood and Bridley raised a number of concerns, of which these three, amongst others were key:

  • Improve traffic flow through Brookwood Crossroads that benefited Brookwood rather than regional through traffic
  • Restrict expansion at Five Acres
  • If development occurs, try to maximise the availability of starter homes

Fast forward to now, and I’ve been working with the Council for the last couple of years, and its affordable housing delivery company, Thamesway to achieve the aim of increasing the number of starter homes and at the same time investigate the opportunities to meet other identified strategic aims.

When the Brookwood Farm development was granted permission, Cala Homes provided WBC with just under £7 million and asked WBC to provide 75 affordable homes at other locations in the Borough. I’ve done my best to present the case that that money should be spent in Brookwood as it could be used to deliver our strategic aims.

Thameswey has been quietly negotiating with the various owners of the land at Five Acres, Coblands and the houses immediately nearby to acquire their interests. Thameswey is now almost in a position to bring proposals forward and I have been given the opportunity to provide significant input into this.

I don’t know all the exact details, but I do expect a planning application to be submitted sometime in the next two to three months which aims to achieve the key strategic concerns listed above.

Positively engaging has enabled me to make it clear that I’m not going to support proposals unless it can be demonstrated that there can be an improvement to traffic flow at the crossroads, that Five Acres is physically limited in the size it can grow to and that, crucially, any affordable housing for rent and as many houses to buy as possible are initially ring-fenced for the youngish people that live and work in the Neighbourhood Area. In addition, some of the properties to buy should be marketed at a level which is around 20% below market value and will stay at that level. It’s this latter requirement which is challenging to deliver, however it has been achieved in other areas of the country and efforts are currently being made to work out how this can be achieved.

In the past week, some residents have commented to me that the access road to Five Acres has had concrete blocks dropped at the entrance. It’s taken me a few days to get to the bottom of it, but it appears that last week, there was a possible Traveller encroachment on to Coblands by Travellers totally unconnected to the residents at Five Acres. Travellers situated on the site at Coblands is as undesirable to the residents of Five Acres as it is to Brookwood and it is they who closed the access road and now all movements into Five Acres occur through the bungalow entrance.

With regards to movements on Five Acres, the primary event driving that is the enforcement action taken last year when the number of illegal pitches increased to intolerable levels. In readiness for a planning application, movements are also occurring shifting park homes around.

Finally my experience as a Councillor has shown me that one of the biggest risks is misinformation and the spreading of rumours which are not based on known facts. If you have any concerns or questions, please contact me first as the chances are I will either know what is going on or I will know who to ask to find out what is going on.



Action Surrey Energy Efficiency Measures and Offers

Woking Borough Council’s energy efficiency advice service, Action Surrey, has been helping residents of Surrey for many years now, and currently has a number of initiatives focussed on Woking. Action Surrey reports to the Climate Change Working Group, of which I am a member. Whether you believe climate change is happening or not, anything that reduces power use and lowers costs for residents and businesses has got to be a good idea. With that in mind, I’d encourage you to look at what is going on below and see if you can benefit.

A project called Business EnergySMART is being launched, offering fully funded energy audits for Woking based SMEs. It provides a free, thorough assessment of a business’ energy use with recommendations and support to lower their future costs, including access to financial options, funding where available, and access to quality contractors. More information here:

For residents that have money to invest, there is an opportunity to install more desirable low carbon technologies which in many cases more than pay for themselves over time. Technologies such as air/ground source heat pumps and solar PV can still generate an income post installation, and help to reduce a household’s exposure to energy bills that are expected to rise heavily in the next few years. Often people who fall into this category aren’t aware of what’s available and or are not particularly concerned. I know this, because I fell into this category before I became a Councillor. My energy usage is over a third less than it was five years ago thanks to working with Action Surrey.

A fuel poverty fund has been launched to help potentially vulnerable residents in Woking’s most inefficient properties. Grants of up to £7,000 per resident to make energy efficiency improvements such as boiler upgrades, insulation or window replacement are available. The money is likely to be allocated very quickly, but if you know of any residents that may qualify then please make them aware, or if they are someone unlikely to be online, ask them to contact me and I’ll assist.

Further information can be found here: Surrey