Brookwood Lye Road Consultation

Sometimes bureaucracy drives me round the bend. I’ve got used to aspects of silliness since becoming Councillor for Heathlands, but this week takes the biscuit.

Planning is an overly bureaucratic nightmare, I swear designed to make life as awkward for everyone as possible with absolutely no common sense filter applied.

Law dictates that there has to be a statutory consultation period, designed to ensure that a minimum amount of time passes to allow interested parties an opportunity to respond to a planning application. This period is 21 days. All well and good and I support that. WBC officers have always allowed for representations to be made right up to the decision point for delegated applications, or the day the report is published for applications due to come to the Planning Committee. In theory this can provide several months to respond even though the notifications will state an end date of the statutory period. This always leads to confusion as residents believe they have to respond by that date.

This scenario has manifest itself here, with the statutory end date for one application being Boxing Day and the other New Years’ Day. I’ve no idea who will be responding to these applications in this time frame as I certainly won’t. I wish the statutory dates could be modified to something that actually makes sense. Having had a meeting with planning officers yesterday, it genuinely is a ‘computer says no’ situation.

What I have done, is seek agreement from the project team that there will be a road show in Brookwood where the project team will be on hand to answer questions and explain the proposals. This is an excellent opportunity as the proposals are not fixed until the application is granted. The date is not fixed yet, but is likely to be in the first week of February in a 16:00 to 20:00 time slot.

This application isn’t going to be determined before the end of March I suspect as it is a major application. That being the case, we can expect representations to be received until at least the end of February, plenty of time after the road show. Ignore the statutory dates and the planning portal which follow the bureaucratic processes.

I will keep you posted.



Brookwood Lye Road Planning Applications

The planning applications for the Brookwood Lye Road have been validated and the statutory consultation period has begun. The statutory consultation period is a legally binding period set out in law to ensure people have an opportunity to have their say.

It’s unfortunate to say the least (and believe me, this has wound me up enormously), that the statutory consultation period ends over the Christmas / New Year period with the planning officer requesting comments by Boxing Day. Seems ridiculous as I suspect the officer will be eating left over goose, not reading representations from Brookwood residents on that day. It’s a ‘computer says no’ type situation as far as I’m concerned.

The Planning Department has always been good at receiving and considering representations right up until the report is written which is typically a week before an application will be presented at the Planning Committee. These applications will go before the Planning Committee, probably sometime in the Spring.

Right now, I’m trying to arrange for a road show to visit a venue in Brookwood once or twice in January to enable residents to meet the team behind the proposals and allow an opportunity to ask questions. I expect to have news on this towards the end of the week.

In the mean time, the planning references are PLAN/2017/1306 and PLAN/2017/1307. The huge amount of documentation can be viewed here. You will need to search on the above references. I’ve already submitted brief comments in support caveating it that I will be writing a more detailed response soon (probably on Boxing Day)!

I will also be further setting out my thoughts in the coming days on this blog as promised. I intend on focusing on traffic next.



Brookwood Lye Road Speed Limit

As you are no doubt aware, there was a fatal accident on Brookwood Lye Road in November. I’m not a fan of lowering speed limits generally, but in this case I think it needs to be reviewed. Add in what is known about the proposed development on Brookwood Lye Road and the case for a review is cast iron. In my view it will be totally unacceptable for people exiting Brookwood Lye Road developments onto a 60mph limit road. With this in mind I asked the following written public question at last night’s SCC/WBC Joint Committee. The tabled answer is also included.

Q: ‘The A324, Brookwood Lye Road, sadly had another fatal accident in early November. The speed limit at this point is 60mph. The road also suffers from heavy congestion due to the configuration of Brookwood Crossroads which is unable to cope with the volume of queuing traffic and is often backed up round the sharp bend.

A recent planning application has been submitted which will reconfigure the Traveller site, and build over 100 dwellings on the derelict garden centre site. There will be two exits on to the Brookwood Lye Road for traffic from these sites.

Please will the Highways Officers look at lowering the speed limit on this road to improve safety?

A: The re-configuration and re-development of the Traveller and garden centre sites should alter the character of Brookwood Lye Road which should, in turn, affect driver behaviour. Such situations present a good opportunity to review speed limits and it is our intention to do this for the current national (60mph) limit on Brookwood Lye Road.

The first stage of a speed limit review would be to survey existing vehicle speeds to see if a lower limit would be appropriate based on our speed limit policy. Although funding for a reduction of the speed limit has yet to be identified, the cost of the speed survey will be relatively low and it is hoped that this can be carried out early in the next financial year’.

So, all well and good, I’m happy with the response. I hope the decision is reached to lower the speed limit before many people start living there. It would be wrong to conclude it doesn’t need lowering when we know there will be many people living there and exiting on to the road in the near future.

Infrastructure first where possible, then development.



Brookwood Lye Road Traveller Site

On the 20th November I received notification that the planning application for Brookwood Lye Road had been submitted. It still hasn’t been validated and until it is, there isn’t a plan number and no one has the opportunity to comment on it. For an application of this size, it can take quite a while for the application to be validated.

Even so, I said I’d set out my thoughts on the development, including advantages, disadvantages, hard limits and benefits.

To recap, many people have made representations to me about many things, but three things stand out which this development goes someway to resolving. They were the risk of Five Acres expanding, congestion at Brookwood Crossroads and the lack of local, affordable housing. I firmly believe that what is presented in this planning application makes significant steps to all three of those.

This post looks at the Traveller Site in more detail.

When I was elected in 2012, there were 13 permanent pitches at Five Acres. A further two temporary pitches were granted with my support, bringing the total up to 15. Government guidelines at the time suggested a Traveller Site should have no more than 15 pitches for a reasonably harmonious life for all residents. In addition, one of the pitches was substantial, and the pitch owner had his three adult children also living within the boundary of the pitch. These additional three dwellings were legal in planning terms bringing the number of families living there to 18. My goal was to bring the site up to the maximum levels and then effectively close it to further expansion. It was a sound plan at the time and I had the support of residents in Brookwood that I had surveyed.

In August 2015, the Government removed its guidelines on the maximum number of pitches. Officers had already decided months before to significantly expand the site by making the dubious claim that as it was in the ownership of two individuals, it was in fact two sites. This theory allowed them to almost double the numbers by recommending a further eight pitches and a handful of Transit pitches. This would have brought the site up to 29 as far as I could calculate and I considered that grossly unfair, totally unacceptable and frankly outrageous. Unfair in that Brookwood was taking over half the borough’s pitches, unacceptable on the Travellers themselves to be forced into living in cramped conditions and utterly outrageous that such a dodgy decision had been taken to declare it two sites when all the evidence going back a decade, including the borough’s own Traveller Accommodation Assessment document from 2013 considered it one site. On top of that no one had actually asked the Travellers themselves if they were happy for that level of expansion.

Having explored the size of Traveller Sites in the Overview and Scrutiny Committee last year where a recommendation by our speakers was made that sites should be no more that 20 pitches, with a preference that they should be three to five pitches, I have convinced WBC officers that smaller sites are the best way to allow the occupants of Traveller Sites to integrate with their local surroundings. Further work will be done on this within the next round of the Site Allocations Development Plan Document due in the New Year.

Essentially, what has happened at Five Acres is that much of the existing land has been bought by Thameswey for fixed housing. The Traveller Site has shrunk down well over 50% in its land area and now primarily sits behind the bungalow. With a very well designed site, which has been done in conjunction with the owners of the site, the site will now have 19 permanent pitches and one transit pitch to allow some flexibility for visitors.

The planning application to regularise all this has not been verified or authorised yet. However as far as I’m aware, nothing that is currently being developed contravenes what is in the application. Strictly speaking, work shouldn’t be happening, so the modifications currently ongoing there are technically at risk of changes to the eventual approved plans. This is especially the case when the drainage is taken into account. The flooding of Brookwood Lye Road is complex and part of the solution lies in the Traveller Site.

This site has been a Traveller Site now for well over a decade. Finally getting the site to a well designed mobile home park will help the residents living there and also provide comfort to the village that further expansion won’t occur. I think it will be renamed away from Five Acres although I do not know to what at this stage.

Overall, this is positive, the site is at capacity, it’s well designed, the owner lives on and manages the site, and has chosen to make home in Brookwood for his family.

I think this is the best outcome Brookwood could have expected when considering the history here.



Separate Food Waste Collections

Just in case you missed the fairly good awareness campaign, the new waste contractor, Joint Waste Solutions has started collecting food waste separately from either the recycling or black bag waste from this week. Our first separate collection will be this Thursday. Primarily, this will mean that the food waste is likely to be collected at a different time to the main bin. The change is a good thing and will save the Council Tax payer money as the individual vans will unload when they are full, rather than the current setup that frequently sees a half load of recyclables or black bags being unloaded simply because the food waste on the van was at capacity.

Don’t forget, you can now put out textiles and small electrical items, including batteries, weekly. Just make sure stuff is appropriately bagged. Please see the above link for further details, guides and if you need to report anything issues.



Brookwood Lye Road Development

I was told today that the planning application for Brookwood Lye has gone in. I had hoped to be able mention the application reference, but I think it hasn’t been validated yet and so there isn’t a reference I can publish. As soon as I have that application reference, and I know it is on the portal, I will publish it here.

The application has had some minor tweaks over what was originally proposed, but substantially it is still the same. The Traveller site is compressed significantly in size and the number of pitches increased by one to 19. There will also be a manager’s building and possibly a single transit pitch. The bungalow will form part of the site and will probably be rebuilt as a house although I’m not sure if that application will be part of this.

The housing on the rest of the site will be predominantly one or two bedrooms made up of both flats and houses. A few three and four bedroom  houses will be built nearer the crossroads. The flats will be three storeys high and mainly up by the railway line. I do have some concerns about the block nearer the road which I think will be over bearing, however I intend on pushing for a good level of screening at that point. In total, there will be 126 dwellings.

Each dwelling will have at least one parking space with many having two although they won’t be allocated parking. There will also be a number of motorcycle bays and cycle storage for each dwelling. The parking arrangements adhere to the new borough parking standards which is currently in draft form after the last round of consultation that I contributed to.

60% of the dwellings will be affordable, with the rest sold at market value. Selling at market value subsidises the affordable, and provides capital to fund the improvements to Brookwood Crossroads. As you know, Brookwood Crossroads was one of the three junctions from the September consultation to be accepted and detailed plans are being worked up taking into consideration comments received. I don’t know when those proposals will come forward.

There will be a local first policy on the affordable which will give nearby residents a shot at the dwellings first. There is still a lot of detail to still be developed on this policy and I’m working with the Leader of the Council, and the Portfolio holder for housing to develop this. I view this as one of the three key priorities for the site.

Once the application is live on the portal, I shall write further posts on my thinking in more detail. I particularly want to cover off what I see as the benefits of the development and also address the perceived and real negative aspects.

Finally, this eyesore is going to be sorted. The village of Brookwood will benefit from it primarily by having a well designed Traveller site which has no room for further expansion, improvements to the local traffic flow at Brookwood Crossroads, and a local first policy giving people in the village local housing options.



Drugs and Anti-social Behaviour

Sorry for not posting much recently, there’s been little going on worth posting.

I was talking to some residents yesterday and the subjects of anti-social scooter riding, speeding down Connaught Road and drugs all came up.

I met with our new Woking Neighbourhood Commander, Inspector Mark Offord at the end of September and I outlined the key issues which did include speeding and scooters. I’d witnessed some particularly dangerous riding by a couple of scooter riders in the preceding weeks.

Yesterday the scooters were linked to drug dealing at the far end of the Brookwood Station car park, and I have contacted Inspector Offord asking him to proactively patrol this area.