by admin on 6 March, 2011
I along with the other two Knaphill Councillors was asked a list of questions by the Knaphill Residents Association (KRA) following an article in the local press about the Council meeting where the proposals for the land at Brookwood Farm were discussed. It is my understanding that the Knaphill Residents Association will be using the answers given by all three Councillors to produce an article on this. As I am sure a process of editing will be required to make the article a manageable size, I thought it would be useful to post the questions asked and my responses below. The details of the consultation with residents are still being refined, but I look forward to championing the concerns of residents throughout this process to make sure that any development meets the needs of the local community.
Questions from the KRA along with my answers
* Please can you explain the issue simply for residents to understand.
Woking Borough Council purchased the land at Brookwood Farm in 1986 as a strategic asset.
If Woking Borough Council does not develop this land it will very likely miss housing targets. If this happens all of the greenbelt land in Woking is threatened as developers will be able to develop it, essentially because Woking missed housing targets.
Woking Borough Council equally needed to develop the land at Brookwood Farm to help pay for the Hoe Valley development. At the time of the agreement within the council to complete the Hoe Valley development, it was clear that assets owned by the council would need to be developed to pay for this and that these assets would include the land at Brookwood Farm.
As ward councillors the most effective influence we can have is to ensure that any development coming forward is the best development for local residents – specifically in terms of the type, design, density and access for the properties being developed.
At a council meeting on 21st October 2010 a proposal was put forward to allow council officers to move forward developing the land at Brookwood Farm, a suggestion that was strongly resisted by all Knaphill and Brookwood councillors, to ensure that local residents and Councillors would retain influence over the development. For this reason the decision regarding the land at Brookwood Farm was put back until 17th February 2011, while further discussion on how this land could be developed without objection from councillors, allowing councillors to ensure that residents and councillors retained the ability to shape the development of the land. This greater level of influence was obtained, within the proposals as part of discussions, prior to the decision at the council meeting on 17th February.
Cala Homes is unable to develop the land it owns without the land in the ownership of the council and for this reason it is in the interest of Cala Homes to work with Woking Borough Council to develop Brookwood Farm.
* What are your views as an individual Knaphill Councillor on this matter?
My view is that while I, like most residents, do not want to see development of the land at Brookwood Farm, the proposals put forward at the Council meeting on Thursday 17th February most likely represent the best possible proposals for development of Brookwood farm that I could ever expect to be passed by the council and for this reason represent the best proposals for residents, given that development at Brookwood Farm is now inevitable for financial reasons and to protect the greenbelt.
* How did each of you vote?
I abstained in the vote, like all Knaphill and Brookwood councillors present at the meeting, for the reasons outlined above. I do not wish to see this development take place, but feel that it is unfortunately inevitable that it will happen and for this reason do not wish to oppose a plan that will give the best possible opportunity to residents and councillors to retain control over the composition of the development. I was equally mindful of the financial position of the council and the greenbelt implications of the development not taking place. I take great steer from Cllr Richard Sharp regarding development at Brookwood Farm given that he lives in very close proximity to it. I am aware that he worked hard with council officers to ensure that the final paper to council ensures significant consultation with residents and councillors. One of the main reasons to abstain from the vote, is that going forward it will be possible for Knaphill and Brookwood councillors to work together to stress that they did not vote for this development and that their views must be taken into account, rather than the opposite, where the prevailing view could be that councillors have already given their consent and therefore do not need to be consulted. This would reduce the ability of councillors to represent the views of local residents.
At the Council meeting on Thursday 17th February, both Cllr Whitehand and Cllr Preshaw spoke well, covering the concerns of residents regarding development at Brookwood Farm. They covered the points I wished to make, for this reason I did not speak at the meeting.
* Do you believe the sale to Cala Homes Ltd is in the best interests of local residents?
Yes, as mentioned above, it is better to work with Cala Homes, who already own land adjoining the land owned by the council, to retain resident and local councillor influence over the whole development, beyond the influence afforded through the planning process.
* How / Will local people be able to influence the extent and nature of the development once the land moves to CALA HOMES ownership?
It is my understanding that the agreement at council is such that unless the Council and Cala Homes are able to come to agreement, the land will not be transferred to Cala Homes, but will be put out to market tender. Significant consultation plans are currently being discussed to ensure that the views of all residents are heard and taken into account when bringing detailed plans together for approval.Leave a comment