24th September 2016
PLAN/2016/1030 is an application to convert the large offices in the grounds of Brookwood Cemetery to flats. Clock Tower, Cemetery Pales, GU24 0BL will be converted to 29 flats. The land was sold off decades ago by one of the previous owners of the cemetery and isn't in the ownership of WBC sadly.
The Brookwood and Bridley Neighbourhood Forum delivered a petition to WBC last week demanding that WBC takes any action necessary to bring Five Acres back to what has been authorised in planning. Through inaction, WBC have allowed the site to increase in size by over four times the permitted number of pitches. Many people have now left the site, and with the weight of the petition behind it, I hope the Planning Committee will, next Tuesday (27 September) give officers permission to enforce the law and bring the site back to 15 pitches.
I will be at the BBNF AGM this coming Tuesday outlining the issues that exist with the station car park and taking people's views. My intention is to then pass this on to Jonathan Lord who will then take up the baton.
That sign post which was plonked into the pathway near the station and Brookwood Club is causing quite a stir. It has been there for over three weeks and it would be useful if it actually had a sign on it so we knew why it was there. I have already taken this up with SCC who confirm it meets the guidelines for its position. I will contact the engineer this weekend and find out when they intend on actually putting a sign on it and what that sign will be.
1st September 2016
Following my post a couple of days ago, I can confirm that WBC officers consider the car park has special rights and a formal investigation into light pollution isn't possible. Personally, I think this is ridiculous. I can accept that light pollution from signalling equipment or platform lighting should be exempt, but a car park? No, that's well wrong.
I've had a conversation with Jonathan Lord and we are going back to WBC to ask them to provide a view of the possible pollution if the car park wasn't exempt. This will assist us in the longer term.
30th August 2016
There have been no planning applications received in the previous month worthy of my highlighting.
The station car park saga, development wise is almost at an end. Now comes the 'having to live with it' issues. Most impact will be environmental, excessive noise, and excessive lighting. Fighting these issues requires extensive evidence and can't be fought by thinking someone else will do the donkey work. If you are affected by these issues, you must contact WBC Environmental Health, preferably by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lighting is the main issue currently, with some residents reporting a degree of lighting in their back gardens and having to put up black out blinds in back bedrooms facing the railway. Please open a call as per above, and start the process off. I have spoken with Environmental Health to understand how this works, and assuming the car park isn't given special rights that prevent it being considered a lighting nuisance, there is a path that can be followed. Essentially, it will require diary sheets and then if that shows a nuisance, then officers may make visit to ascertain if it is a statutory nuisance.
From there, it will will either yield an informal or formal solution as per any other nuisance issue. The preference is clearly informal.
I'm currently collating feedback from as many people that wish to provide it so I can fully brief Jonathan Lord prior to us determining how to proceed with those issues. Several people have emailed me, or spoken to me when they've seem me. I'm likely to ask the BBNF if we can have a slot at their AGM on the 27 September for me to go through the issues I'm aware of, seek a view from residents and then see Jonathan shortly after.
I've claimed no expenses during August, but have received my usual allowances.
19th August 2016
Surrey Highways were more involved in the reversal of the station access than I believed. I've had a lengthy email from one of their engineers.
New signs have been ordered and an island will be built in the middle of the bell mouth to make it safer for pedestrians to cross.
Part of this work and signage will hopefully put a stop to the practice of driving along the pavement outside Brookwood Club right by the bus stop.
I understand there will be some works taking place this weekend although I'm not entirely sure what.
This is all good news.
13th August 2016
As far as I can understand, last night was the first night the lighting on top of the station car park was lit. They look like LED style lights which at least don't have a floodlight effect. I know it will be a nuisance to those immediately next to the car park, but I'd be keen to know exactly what impact it has from bedrooms once curtains are closed. If you are affected, please let me know.
Our MP Jonathan Lord and I worked closely on this back in March and he did write to South West Trains expressing concerns. I intend on having a wash up session with him in September once it has finished bringing him up to speed on the whole development. This will include the development process and the impact that the development is now having on its immediate neighbours. Please let me know your concerns.
As I walked down from the station yesterday, it was my first look at the new access arrangements. I then spent the next couple of hours sitting outside Brookwood Club 'researching'. The chaos I witnessed was to be expected considering a) it was the first day of the changes and b) there is nothing notifying traffic of the changes.
I expect this lack of notice is because this work has been done without any input from Surrey Highways. When I spoke with Highways over a year ago about this, they had some concerns that haven't been addressed by Network Rail. I suspect it will be news to Highways when they read their emails from me on Monday.
Essentially, Network Rail can't put signs up on the Highways and so until drivers get used to it, there will be an element of confusion.
I have driven the route now and I can honestly say it is far safer leaving the station. I noticed the buses and taxi drivers have taken to it pretty quickly.
I do have a couple of concerns around the direction people park on the new in route and whether the first two spaces will cause problems for buses pulling in. Time will tell, but overall, I'm pleased the arrangements have been altered as it is something I've been campaigning for now for three years.
8th August 2016
Coblands has been sold to a London developer who is currently making the site safe. This will see some sturdy fencing being erected to keep people out and also clearing all the vegetation. The work will take about two weeks.
As many of you know, the station car park is coming to an end. A dishonest development from start to finish in my opinion, and if I could avoid using the services of Network Rail and South West Trains, I certainly would. The lamps have been erected over the weekend, and time will tell if they are likely to limit light pollution. I have my doubts, but will track it ready to lobby the appropriate people at the appropriate time. I will be catching up with Jonathan Lord MP during August to fully debrief him on the development and how the residents of Brookwood have been treated.
Reports have come through to me of continued drug use up on Sheet's Heath Recreational ground. I have reported this to our neighbourhood officer and the local inspector and asked the Police to up their patrols.
I've not claimed any expenses but have received my usual allowances during July.
11th July 2016
I apologise for not updating this blog recently, simply too busy.
From now on, I shall be continuing to list planning applications that I feel residents within the Brookwood & Bridley Neighbourhood Area would wish to hear about and planning applications of significant note from the wider Heathlands ward. The reason for this is because I will be overrun with planning applications and I have limited time as it is if I start listing applications across the wider Heathlands ward.
The following planning applications are from the previous month:
PLAN/2016/0727 - 29 Connaught Road, Brookwood - Proposed single storey rear extension.
PLAN/2016/0654 - Heath House, Heath House Road - Proposed rear first and ground floor extension following demolition of conservatory.
PLAN/2016/0628 - 54 Heath Drive, Brookwood - Two storey rear extension / loft conversion.
PLAN/2016/0644 - 52 Connaught Road, Brookwood - Proposed loft conversion including rear dormer.
PLAN/2016/0677 - 185 Connaught Road, Brookwood - Proposed first floor and part two storey rear extension.
As many of you know that use the path across the new Country Park, which is absolutely useless if you want to ride a bike or use a pushchair, Cala Homes built the path without following the conditions attached to the granted planning application. My understanding is that Cala are unlikely to correct the problems until they are actually obliged to under the planning application as granted. I am keeping on top of it. Even my dog dislikes the path and walks to the side.
Nothing has changed at Five Acres apart from further planning breaches which officers are ignoring. I continue to push for a sensible approach to Five Acres, but I'm beginning to believe officers have no intention of trying to resolve this having now let the genie out of the bottle. I'm significantly unimpressed.
I've claimed no expenses during May or June, although I have received my Councillor allowance, the O&S Chair allowance and the allowance towards IT / Comms.
25th May 2016
A couple of people have alerted me to the fact that works at the station are beginning before eight o'clock. This is contrary to what Network Rail stated would be the case.
I have asked Environmental Health to look into this and they have issued diary sheets which is the standard process to follow for all noise complaints.
I've also used the station yesterday and today and can confirm works are starting before eight o'clock. This morning I had a word with the supervisor who had been told to start at 07:30. I've asked for his boss to call me so we can sort this out. The supervisor is happy to start at eight o'clock and I hope we'll get this corrected fairly shortly.
I'm also aware that part of the Surrey Wildlife Trust land has been annexed in to Five Acres, including removing trees that were subject to TPOs. This is an absolute disgrace and I have made the strongest representations to Council officers about this. I don't know how this will proceed, but I'm afraid I have no confidence that the Council will sort this out as it should but will continue to gloss over the clear planning breaches that occur at Five Acres. I'm still struggling to get the report written over two months ago that outlined the breaches.
7th May 2016
I've been extremely proud and honoured to have served and been the final Brookwood ward councillor.
New boundaries have been drawn to reflect the changing demographic of the area and the new ward to which I was successfully elected to on Thursday is called Heathlands. Fitting considering we are very lucky to have Sheets Heath, Brookwood Heath, Smarts Heath and finally Prey Heath in the ward. I am extremely grateful to all those who had the confidence in me to put their cross against my name.
Heathlands ward is also the largest geographically in the borough and stretches from Brookwood through to Sutton Green, and also includes the areas of Barnsbury, Bridley, Hook Heath and Mayford. I am extremely humble and honoured to have been elected to serve a four year term and look forward to doing my best for all residents along with Cllr Azad and Cllr Kingsbury who were also elected to serve Heathlands ward.
27th April 2016
I spoke with the engineers on-site at the station car park yesterday morning and they advised me the method being used to create the foundations was by vibro piling. Certainly I've never heard of it and so I set about trying to find something out whilst also asking the WBC arboriculturist his view. I'm not an engineer so won't try and set out my understanding, but leave you to look it up youselves. I do know it is a very noisy technique and so I'm sure it will drive people round the bend.
The arboriculturist's view, and I quote "Piling is a lot better than a traditional foundation construction, so I would suggest that this is probably the best way forward as it is likely to have the least impact on roots".
Now, I'm also aware that people are still concerned about the laurels and so am I. However, it has to be borne in mind that WBC has absolutely no power over this development unless it breaches planning rules. If the laurels are destroyed, there is nothing WBC can do about the laurels as they are not a species that can be protected. I need to understand from WBC officers what can be done to ensure that adequate screening is in place if the worst comes to the worst. I will endeavour to find out early this week. I do know that SWT / NR is acutely aware of the sensitivity to this development, and are building in screening at the top, so I have full confidence that sufficent screening will be in place.
The best approach we can take right now is 'wait and see' and try not to let what is going on stress us out. Easy for me to say, I know.
21st April 2016
A few people have contacted me regarding the timing of the lights at Brookwood Crossroads. Having contacted SCC Highways, I can confirm there is a fault with one of the sensors which will be fixed as soon as possible. Hopefully soon, as it's well annoying watching only three cars get through.
I represent WBC on the SCC Countryside Partnerships Board (mainly because of the Heathlands in our area) and they have secured funding to recruit a further apprentice.
The apprenticeship is a practical conservation opportunity for 15 months based principally with the Downlands and Lower Mole Partnerships, working across NE/North Surrey and in to Croydon and Sutton.
The apprentice will also attend Merrist Wood College in Guildford on day release once a week to complete an Intermediate Environmental Conservation Apprenticeship qualification.
The applicant for the role must be over 18 years of age with a full clean driving licence. There is no longer an upper age limit for apprenticeships, but it is designed and funded for individuals who are living and entitled to work in England that do not have degrees and are not in full-time education.
Full details of the role and instructions on how to apply can be found at: http://www.surreycc.gov.uk/jobs/stepupsurrey/apprenticeship. The closing date is 29 May.
16th April 2016
I met up with the WBC arboriculturist and a concerned resident on Thursday at the station and we looked at the laurels. He again spoke of the hardiness and resilience of the laurel. His opinion, quite clearly was that the extreme shaving of the laurels would have a positive effect on the screening properties over time.
Allowing the laurels to grow a further metre is possible and that in about 18 month's time would probably be good screening and residents would likely be unaware generally that the structure behind it was there.
However, he also made it clear that much of this was dependent on how the foundations were dug for the structure. Without having access to any plans he clearly couldn't provide comment. This kind of thing WBC would normally condition as part of a planning application, in this case that's not possible because of permitted development rights.
I asked him about nesting birds, and his view was that there probably weren't any there as the laurel isn't a great choice for setting up home. He also stated that destruction of nests is a difficult thing to prosecute for because the act has to be witnessed.
Overall, he was positive about the eventual outcome without providing any guarantees.
Jonathan Lord MP and I have been working closely together to try and make things better for the residents of Brookwood regarding the station car park expansion. We received a disappointing letter this week from the Managing Director of South West Trains, that in my view confirms just how much SWT aren't concerned about their neighbours. This is regrettable.
I'll outline the response and you can draw your own conclusion to their neighbourliness.
They are 'engaging' with an arboriculturist and have agreed to share their findings with WBC.
Whatever lighting shielding they decide to install, they will share the approach with WBC.
Er, that's it on the positive front.
Step free access for disabled and push chair customers in Brookwood isn't a priority for SWT. I'm amazed that in this day and age, this outdated view can be justified. Network Rail started a programme called Access for All in 2006 which has just been extended to 2019. The funding has all been allocated to 2019 when the programme ends and Brookwood isn't on the list. So it's not 'access for all' if you are a Brookwood resident. Not entirely sure what can be done here, but I have something up my sleeve which may come to nothing. Time will tell.
A double stacked cycle structure will be built on the platform one side of the station which will enable an additional 100 cycles to be parked at the station. No problem for residents from Bridley or Pirbright, you can simply carry your cycles down a flight of steps, through the tunnel (assuming it isn't flooded), and up a flight of stairs.
The station car park is now down to whether any planning breaches occur. The development still has to proceed within boundaries and due to the sensitivity of this, the WBC enforcement team will be keeping a close eye on things as the works progress. Please contact me with your concerns.
I predict a difficult summer ahead for residents affected by this development. I can only stress that you try not to allow it to become all consuming.
SWT have stated that their people and SCC Highways are looking at the opportunity to reverse the entrance and exit to the station. This at least is positive news. I know this is on the agenda of the SCC\WBC Joint Committee which I am currently a member of, as I have spoken about it on that committee. I'm trying to stay positive and not dwell on the fact that it may result in the loss of a couple of parking spaces which would probably scupper it in SWT's mind who will probably decide that those parking spaces are more important than the safety of Brookwood residents.
A few people have commented about the phasing of the lights at Brookwood Crossroads. I'm not aware of any changes to the phasing, although Cala Homes are conditioned to do some works at some point in the future. I have contacted SCC just in case there is a faulty sensor. When I have news, I'll report it back here.
I don't use this blog for political party purposes and never will, but I thought it worth mentioning the forthcoming election on Thursday 5 May. The Brookwood ward is disappearing and almost the entire ward will be part of the new Heathlands ward. Percheron Drive will become part of Knaphill. The new Heathlands ward extends down through Mayford to Sutton Green and includes Hook Heath and Barnsbury. The real difference is that each ward, of which there will be 10 in Woking, will have three councillors. This means that at the ballot box on 5 May, you will be able to mark your ballot paper with up to three crosses. Three councillors will be elected in the Heathlands ward and there are nine candidates. Your vote is vital.
10th April 2016
In the previous three weeks, the following planning applications have been submitted:
PLAN/2016/0267 - 25 Heath Drive, Brookwood - proposed part two storey single rear extension following demolition of existing rear conservatory.
PLAN/2016/0260 - 299 Connaught Road, Brookwood - erection of first floor side and front extension. Change of use from B8 (storage) to B1(a) (office).
I'm very upfront with the expenses I claim from the tax payer, and claim virtually nothing and in reality I personally heavily subsidise my work as a councillor. I never claim mileage, rarely claim train fares and end up frequently out of pocket on some matters. I have no problem doing this otherwise I wouldn't. However, I am entitled to a Council supplied iPad to access documents and email. I initially took this but gave it back after six weeks as it simply didn't fit my needs. It therefore irritates me that WBC still list one against my name, with the associated costs of over £300 per year despite my twice asking for the information to be corrected.
Obviously the station car park is still taking up much of my time. It's difficult to give people the news they want to hear when it isn't possible. Where are we this week? WBC planning and legal teams have been helping me work out where we go from here. Planning have asked NR/SWT for a copy of the plans. As of Thursday, they still didn't have any. This makes it impossible for WBC to have a solid view on aspects of the plans.
The legal team have been looking at the possibility of injunctions, and it is nigh on impossible at this stage for two reasons. a) WBC don't actually know what is being proposed and b) as NR have permitted development rights, any legal action is almost certain to fail and that would be a waste of scarce tax payer cash.
Enforcement will be keeping a close eye on the car park as it develops and if anything is done that breaches the permitted development rights, they will enforce. This is I believe, the only route available to WBC. Everything else is dependent on NR playing ball, which I hesitate to say, they don't seem particularly keen on which is a shame.
I am seeing the WBC arboriculturist this Thursday at the station for a view on the laurels. If you'd like to be there, please let me know, although my intention here is to simply gather some factual information and so a large group of people would be inappropriate, but there is no harm in one or two people attending.
I would be keen to know if there were any birds nesting in the laurels prior to the cut back job done last weeked. It is illegal to disturb birds nests. This is a double edged sword as if there was, then that would be grounds for stopping the development, however, it would probably mean that when birds aren't nesting, the laurels would be totally removed. All the same, If you knew birds were nesting there, please let me know.
I'm still annoyed at the clear breaches of planning at Five Acres. I know enforcement have attended and are compiling a report, however the fact that it has been over three weeks since they visited and still haven't told me what was found leads me to believe that (as we all know) those breaches are extensive. I am aware of plans that may come forward in the near future, but in the short term, regularising this site must be a high priority.
I claimed no expenses in March, although did receive my councillor allowance and IT / Comms allowance.
3rd April 2016
I'm aware that someone has been hacking down the laurels today at the station. I haven't seen it first hand, but will do so in the morning.
So much for letting them grow higher, and not working on a Sunday.
I've done all I can at the moment which is to email Jonathan Lord and make him aware. I expect I'll speak with him tomorrow at some point, but I will certainly get hold of the WBC arboriculturist in the morning.
27th March 2016
I decided to take a couple of days off, hence not updating this when I initially planned to.
I've had email conversations with numerous people over the past week, including many residents, several officers from WBC and Jonathan Lord.
My view is the same, NR should build the additional layer by the railway line as that is the solution most unlikely to impact residents. I have expressed this view to people I have spoken with. I'm also continuing to take a pragmatic approach and I am making the assumption that with one month to go, convincing NR/SWT to go back to something sensible will be difficult to achieve.
The WBC arboriculturist has given me the run down on Laurel trees. Firstly, it is considered a shrub and so cannot have Tree Preservation Orders applied to it. His initial view on Wednesday was that as the laurel is an extremely hardy type of plant it is unlikely to be affected by the development. However, he intends on coming out to look at the situation on his return from holiday which will be after 4 April as I have specifically asked him to give me a view on the possible damage to the roots and also whether in his view it could withstand an additional metre of growth.
I've contacted the planning officer that initially gave the advice to NR regarding the planning status of the site. I think that as the plans have been radically altered, WBC officers should express a view. I have asked the officers to investigate and look at the plans taking in to consideration the neighbour impact and advise. NR will still have permitted development rights, but it could be that the weight of the planning department will be able to ensure that NR use the best type of screening to prevent particle pollution from exhausts and the probable light pollution from the lighting masts.
I've also had a conversation with the Leader of the Council and WBC Chief Executive Ray Morgan outlining the situation and seeking support.
I have spoken with the Head of Democratic & Legal Services about the situation around potential parking problems during the development phase. I will be submitting a written question to full Council on 14 April asking exactly what WBC intend on doing to prevent irresponsible parking in the village. As you know we have a CPZ in the village, but we also have bylaws which prevent parking on verges. This bylaw is still in force although rarely enforced against. It has been confirmed to me that WBC can enforce this. If you are a resident and currently park on grass verges, please contact me. I intend on ensuring that whatever answer I receive from the Council is widely publicised.
Many people have contacted Jonathan Lord and he asked me last week to brief him. We spent nearly an hour discussing it on the phone before I sent him a lengthy email covering the history, concerns of residents, the likely problems that may be generated and what I would like to see done if this development does go ahead. He has written to the CEO of NR expressing concerns and included my email by way of evidence.
My email to Jonathan expressed a view that the village was an afterthought (if thought of at all) and that it was unacceptable. I've requested that NR work closely with WBC to minimise the long term disruption to the village and especially for those that may end up having a car park six metres above ground at the end of their garden.
I've stated that NR need to better communicate with the village (including me) and that they need to do more to ensure that their customers don't suddenly decide to park in the village causing mayhem. I have been told independently that NR intend on holding another session for residents, and as soon as I get the details I will let everyone know via this blog.
Finally, I pointed out that there were several projects NR should be doing that would help the village (reversing the entrance and exit arrangements and providing step free access to platform two as a minimum) ahead of adding additional parking spaces.
The one area I haven't pursued yet is what I believe will be the long term impact of this additional layer. I believe it will be a magnet for young people and we'll soon have anti-social behaviour there as it will be a covered space that affords protection from the elements.
Finally, I've had an email from South West Trains stating they now want to reverse the entrance and the exit arrangements. So I am at least hopeful that project will go ahead whilst the car park is closed and at no expense to the Council Tax payer. This will at least make it safer for residents, especially those waiting for a bus.
22nd March 2016
Many people have contacted me over the past 48 hours wanting to know about the station car park. Whilst I don't have answers to many questions there are some elements I'm directly working on and I will give an update to those when I have some answers.
This entry is a quick outline of what I'm doing. Please also bear in mind that this is not a Woking Borough Council matter as Network Rail have permitted development rights. That doesn't stop me seeking help from WBC officers, but ultimately, there is nothing I can do.
In light of the proposed changes that NR dropped on us last week, I am currently seeking advice from the planning department, environmental health, the WBC arboriculturist and the parking team.
I expect to ask a question at full Council on 14 April to understand how WBC intend on preventing the village being over run with badly parked cars. I have a plan for ensuring that message gets out there.
I'm also closely in touch with Jonathan Lord MP as he is actually the individual that may be able to make a difference here. I am keeping him abreast of the situation and I know he is in touch with the CEO of NR.
We'll see what pans out.