On 17th July this email was sent to our Councillors, Woking Borough Council, and to date we have had no response from Woking Borough Council
From: wade pollard
To: Ashley Bowes ; Cllr Graham Chrystie ; Richard Wilson ; Jonathan Lord
Cc: ; Cllr Colin Kemp ;
Sent: Tuesday, July 17, 2018 1:06 PM
Subject: West Byfleet Recreation Ground
I am writing to apologise for my email on 5th July seeking your support.
I met with David Bittleston last Thursday. He informed me that no-one has any influence over the disposal process for the land forming part of the recreation ground that his Executive has put in place. Therefore there is no way for you to influence it. He was very clear that his Executive has acted and that it is now solely a matter for the Planning Committee as and when Marston’s submit their application.
To stop the process would undermine any future commercial relationship that WBC gets into as they would not be trusted.
I presume Marston’s could not have been be informed that the decision to offer the land was made at a secret meeting nor that none of the local residents were informed about it beforehand. If so what kind of trust is that building with a commercial partner, who must now be very surprised by the reaction of local residents. If their planning application is unsuccessful does this give them grounds to seek compensation from WBC? Is this the reason WBC cannot change course on this issue?
David pointed out that the office building which the World Wildlife Fund occupy was very unpopular before it was built but is now popular. He did not back this up with any statistics. I would like to know how many objections to the planning application for it there were so that I can compare it to the number of objections to any planning application, assuming they submit one, for a pub on our recreation ground. I will ask the Planning Department.for the number.
I think his point was that West Byfleet residents do not know what is good for them, whereas he does. They will prefer to have a pub and a smaller recreation ground if it happens because the smaller area will have better facilities. He told me that no matter how many residents sign petitions the sale process will not stop. Even a Borough wide Referendum would not persuade him to stop. Indeed he totally rejected any suggestion of a Referendum.
Breaching Council policies (only put in place by employees, not his Executive!) to protect and even increase green spaces does not matter either because WBC has increased them elsewhere in the Borough for which the residents of West Byfleet should be grateful.
The almost unanimous feedback I get from our residents is that they enjoy the quietness and open aspect that our recreation ground provides. They also feel having a pub is not a price worth paying for improvements to it. They have plenty of places to get a drink and a meal out.
They feel even more aggrieved because the land was given to the community with an endowment to help maintain it. It is owned by a charity of which WBC is the sole trustee.
I still find it incredible that WBC had a secret meeting to start this process and none of our six local councillors were able to discuss it with us until the developer turned up at our only family event in the recreation ground to inform us of it. By this time the sale process was “unstoppable”.
It undermines trust in local democracy. The lack of openness and transparency is an abuse of their elected office.
We have belatedly just been offered a consultation over the siting, size and content of our Playground but we were never allowed a consultation over the much bigger issue of the sale of part of our Recreation Ground. David has told us that this consultation must not include our opinion of having a pub in the recreation ground or suggest a playground large enough to prevent a pub being built.
I thank David for outlining the WBC position. I still think he could;-
1. Appeal to the better nature of Marston’s as a good corporate citizen to listen to the local outcry and withdraw their proposals. He told me there would be no other developer if they do. Surely WBC could come up with an alternative site within the Borough that is not so contentious. A pub will be needed in the redeveloped Sheerwater village. David told me there could be up to 1200 new homes there.
2. Apologise and inform Marston’s that local opposition is so great that a planning application is not likely to be successful. He could point out that since the agreement between them the Recreation Ground has been strongly protected as “Local Green Space”.
Perhaps David is of the opinion that his Executive policies will trump Local Planning Authority policies. He was kind enough to point out that WBC as a Planning Authority is independent of WBC as a Local Authority. I am sure this has been proved many times. Surely the Local Authority should talk to the Planning Department now for guidance on “Local Green Space” protection. Who would be responsible for doing that?
I will copy David in to this email to ensure my recollection of our meeting is correct.