McLaren New Town Moted for Woking

Get Surrey

The development outside Woking dubbed a potential ‘McLaren New Town’ will be put to public consultation.

The large plot of land in Martyrs Lane, opposite the motoring giant’s headquarters, has been mooted for development between 2027 and 2040.

A number of other green belt sites in Byfleet, Mayford, Hook Heath and Pyrford, which were previously earmarked for development, have been removed from Woking Borough Council’s latest draft site allocations document.

Originally, Woking Borough Council’s portfolio holder for planning policy, Councillor Ashley Bowes, announced that, if agreed by the council, the entire document would go to a further consultation.

After concerns were raised by residents and his own colleagues, the paper in front of councillors at a meeting last Thursday (October 20) was amended by Cllr Bowes to state that the next consultation would be on the Martyrs Lane site alone, with the view that it could replace the smaller plots.

Speaking to Get Surrey this week, Cllr Bowes, who represents Pyrford ward on the borough council, said: “People were concerned to know whether by the council voting to go for consultation on all the sites again, whether the council would in some way be prejudicing itself in sites it submitted for examination.

“In order to make very clear that wasn’t the case, I thought it was easier to just [consult] on this new potential location in isolation.

“I was contacted by some residents that were concerned, including some members of the council.

“They did receive advice from the council’s legal and democratic services that wouldn’t be the case.”

McLaren Technology Centre and McLaren Production Centre (Photo: Handout)

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Woking, Cllr Will Forster – who first dubbed the development as ‘McLaren New Town’ – told the chamber on Thursday that Cllr Bowes tried to “sneak” changes in and predicted development on the site would cause “huge infrastructure and highway problems”, in its position by the A320.

Following strong criticism of the choice of the site, Cllr Bowes said in council officers’ assessments it performed better in environmental terms than other “safeguarded sites” – land earmarked for development but not until after 2027.

He said the consultancy Peter Brett Associates was “less critical” of the land than it was of the sites in Pyrford and Mayford.

“That is enough in my view that there is something to be answered there,” he said.

“I am certainly not saying by the same token it is a site we will end up with.

“It might well go back to the original sites.”

During Thursday’s debate, in which the decision to go to public consultation on the site was agreed, Conservative councillor Colin Kemp said he believed that, as a strategy, to have a large development was “wrong”, while other Tories questioned the merits of the land.

Independent councillor John Bond said a 2012 prediction of a deficit of 550 houses had “disappeared” in latest figures.

“The deficit never existed,” he told the chamber, “Except on paper, the justification for releasing green belt land. It was based on faulty forecasts.”

Labour councillor Mohammad Ali, who represents Canalside, argued that by running a second consultation, the council would be set back a year, wasting taxpayers’ money and time – a suggestion denied by chief executive Ray Morgan, who said the delay would be only three months.

Cllr Ali told Get Surrey: “Everybody knows [the site] is not big enough.

“Martyrs Lane will affect my ward but the problem is Pyrford has got a bigger population.”

Cllr Ali added Canalside had fewer residents and objections would be outnumbered by representations from Pyrford.

What is ‘McLaren New Town’?

During summer of 2015, the borough council conducted an initial consultation on its site allocation proposals, attracting 32,712 responses from 1,692 individuals and organisations, many of which concerned the proposed “safeguarded” sites.

The consultation on the Martyrs Lane site will commence early in 2017 and the outcome will be discussed at a future council meeting before a final decision on the borough’s “safeguarded” sites is made.

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