Section 1: Introduction
A Neighbourhood Plan (NP) can be written by a Neighbourhood Forum, such as the Hoe Valley Neighbourhood Forum (HVNF) as defined in the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 as amended by the Localism Act 2011.11 A Neighbourhood Plan provides an opportunity for a community to formulate a framework by which they can influence the future of their area. It is a right provided for through the Localism Act 2011 and the rules by which this should be implemented were published in 2012.
The Hoe Valley Neighbourhood Forum (HVNF) was formed in October 2018 and formally recognised by Woking Borough Council on 25th July 2019, with the support of the local Borough Councillors and existing Residents’ Associations.
The National Planning Policy Framework (ref15) states that Neighbourhood planning gives communities the power to develop a shared vision for their area. Neighbourhood plans can shape, direct and help to deliver sustainable development, by influencing local planning decisions as part of the statutory development plan. Neighbourhood plans should not promote less development than set out in the strategic policies for the area, or undermine those strategic policies. Once a Neighbourhood Plan has been brought into force, the policies it contains take precedence over existing non-strategic policies in a local plan covering the neighbourhood area, where they are in conflict; unless they are superseded by strategic or non-strategic policies that are adopted subsequently.
A Neighbourhood Plan empowers local communities to take responsibility for the development of Planning policies for their areas.
The Plan has a statutory status which allows local residents to influence new development in their area, to ensure that it meets local needs, and is sympathetic to the whole. Once a plan is accepted by the Borough it is required to be taken into consideration in planning decisions that impact on the local area.
The policies included within this document are derived from the outputs of community meetings; surveys; questionnaires; verbal feedback; comments on the Forum’s website. The policies are not in contradiction to WBC policies but go further, defining policies in areas of specific resident concern or wishes for the future locally.
NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN AREA
The ‘Area’ designated by the Neighbourhood Forum and agreed by Woking Borough Council (WBC) is that which will be influenced by this Neighbourhood Plan.
In 2016 a ward boundary review resulted in Old Woking joining with Westfield and Kingfield, and Claremont Avenue and all the roads directly off this road. This new ward became known as Hoe Valley. One of the first resident consultations was on the designation of the ‘Area’ of the Neighbourhood Forum. The outcome of this was overwhelmingly to have the Area co-terminus with the new ward boundary of Hoe Valley.
The area sits to the South East of Woking and adjoins the wards of Pyrford to the East and Heathside ward to the West. The south abuts the boundaries with the green belt. To the south there is a clear green division between Woking and Guildford.
The Hoe stream borders the ward to the east and partly to the north. To the south there is the River Wey and the flood- plain that once formed a historic part of Henry VII’s hunting grounds.
The area has three village centres, Old Woking, Kingfield and Westfield, each with a selection of local shops and businesses, and its own identity. It is primarily a residential area, but has an area of light industry in part of Old Woking. Area as defined by WBC as the Ward of Hoe Valley is illustrated below:
PLAN DEVELOPMENT PROCESS
How the Plan was Prepared
This Neighbourhood Plan was prepared by a core group (committee) of local residents from the Hoe Valley and the surrounding area. This Committee varied during the time of the Plan to date and was supported by cross party Borough and County Councillors. The Committee was also supported by Locality which is an organisation sponsored by the Government to assist Neighbourhood Forums in their development of a Neighbourhood Plan. More specialised elements were contributed to by local experts in their fields.
The Committee worked closely with a designated Officer allocated by WBC. As the sixth Neighbourhood Forum in the Borough this Forum area was not eligible for the grant funding available to the previous five Neighbourhood Forums. The funding was therefore via donations and contributions from the two Surrey County Councillors who represent the Area, Cllr Liz Bowes (SE Woking) and Cllr Will Forster (S Woking).
Communication and engagement with residents was conducted via a wide variety of ways including the following;
- Village Notice Boards
- Flyers hand delivered to every home in the ward
- Social Media.e.g FaceBook. HVNF website.
- Public meetings
- Resident Workshops
- HVNF member emails
- Direct Emails/ letters/visits to stakeholders, such as the businesses and Churches
- Local direct communication with shops
- Resident surveys
- Multiple consultations on the website
- Calling cards
- Promotion via local borough and county councillors, and resident associations.
- Chairpersons newsletter
Consultation and Evidence Gathering
The Forum was initiated in October 2018. Initially flyers were posted into every house in the ‘Area’ inviting residents to an open meeting in the Old Woking Community Centre. Expressions of interest were given by residents to be involved in the committee, to assist and to be a member of the Forum, consent and GDPR were observed.
Regular updates were posted on the HVNF website, and Facebook and a feedback communication mechanism was put in place.
Residents were also asked their views on local issues, the positive and the negative. What did they hope to see as a result of this Forum? From this point ideas for the vision and a ‘wish list’ were derived.
Locality met with the Forum members and facilitated 3 resident workshops. Locality took the Forum through the process step by step and collated a response from these meetings on the residents vision (above) with guidance and recommendations for going forwards.
Views coming from this clearly demonstrated that residents’ concerns were primarily on inappropriate building, particularly that not in keeping with the area and the lack of supportive infrastructure.
Communication also included local faith groups, businesses, shops, and leisure facilities. Businesses where the owners were not resident in the area were also contacted for their views, regarding local employment, travel etc. The approach of the Forum was, and is to be as inclusive as possible.
The Forum ran a large consultation of all residents and businesses in the Hoe Valley Area in January to September 2020.
A residents questionnaire was placed on the HVNF website and publicised through the Forum Facebook site. A leaflet was also sent to every residence in the Hoe Valley Area and posters were placed around the local area. We received 230 responses. This highlighted the following issues as key concerns for local residents:
- Local architecture and design – especially the built environment and the design of new builds, and limiting the heights and density of new developments;
- Preserving our local heritage;
- Parks and green spaces;
- Enhancing the local environment – green spaces, flood prevention, climate change;
- Local facilities: shops, GPs, schools;
- Preserving local jobs; and
- Local road infrastructure – especially traffic congestion and parking, traffic calming measures and repairing local road infrastructure;
- Local pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.
- Good local and internet/mobile access.
It also highlighted that over half of residents had lived in the area for over ten years. Reasons given for moving into the area included the green spaces, bigger homes and local amenities. People liked the feel and character of the area calling it ‘village-y’ and green. Despite this, 16% of respondents intended, at that point in time, of moving out of the area within the next five years. Reasons for moving away mainly include over-development of the Hoe Valley area and of Woking; anti-social behaviour; the cost of housing; needing a bigger property; and no longer needing to live near the station. It is important to note that at the time of the questionnaire, the planning inquiry into the development of Woking Football Club was ongoing.
Later in summer 2021, the Committee used publicly held information to compile a list of businesses operating in the Hoe Valley Area.
A time-line of HVNF activity and key dates is included in Appendix 3.
The Neighbourhood Plan, once drafted was shared on the website and facebook, for member comment, and all members were contacted to raise awareness that the Plan was in draft form and invited comments, prior to going out for a formal 6 week consultation of residents prior to submission of the Plan to Woking Borough Council.
The statement below is taken from the work of residents at a Neighbourhood Planning workshop held on the 25th of October 2019 and collated by Locality as a crystallisation of residents views and aspirations for the Area.
‘We want to live in a community that is inclusive, safe, caring and connected.
One which builds social and environmental capital as well as decent housing & facilities for all generations and incomes.
We want all our children to be able to safely walk to their schools and for the public realm to be safe, calm, shaded and geared mostly to pedestrians and cyclists.
We want to encourage behaviours that respects and protects newcomers, our existing diverse built environment, biodiversity as well as behaviours that encourage all to invest in renewables and carbon neutral ways of living.
Above all we want residents and those working here to be really proud of the neighbourhood and its facilities (green spaces, sports facilities, shops, businesses, community buildings and schools) and for them to be destinations of choice that meet the needs of all age groups’
The impetus for creating a Hoe Valley Neighbourhood Forum (HVNF) was initially proposed by a Local Councillor, in 2012, but it took the threat of a major development on the site of the Football ground in Westfield to take root. However the ambitions of the HVNF go far beyond one local development as will become clear in this Plan.
The vision statement was created for the HVNF using information gathered from the initial workshops by Locality, this is stated at the opening of this Plan and has been further reinforced by resident feedback throughout the formulation of the Plan.
The Plan is designed for residents to reflect their aspirations for the area, for Woking Borough Council as a Local Plan with legal status, and as a guide for future developers in the area. The Plan is set to cover the period for 10 years from the date of formal WBC agreement to the Plan, anticipated to be 2022-2032. The ambitions of the Plan are to ensure that future developments are in keeping with the area; to ensure that residents have more involvement in the planning process; that developers take the policies in the Plan into account when considering future developments in the area and ensure that the use of the Community Infrastructure funds support local projects/ policies as identified in the Plan.
The Plan incorporates a number of local neighbourhood policies which have been identified from the feedback, surveys and consultation resident/ business responses. They are consistent with the WBC strategic policies and go beyond these where no policy yet exists according to resident feedback. These range from policies which will influence future developments, but go much wider for example they include consideration of climate change and health and wellbeing of residents in the area. The vision, aspirations and policies will together form the basis for projects which can be implemented utilising any Community Infrastructure Levy monies. The Plan, whilst preserving the best of the Area, is not resistant to change, but aims to enhance the natural environment and residential character. It wishes to promote a safe, pleasant environment for all , whether as a resident, someone employed here or a visitor to the area.
A. Preserve the distinctive characteristics of the Area
B. Preserve and protect important open spaces
C. Promote housing and commercial building that meets the needs of the local population and that all new development meets appropriate design and building standards.
D. Promote the growth of the local economy and preserve employment opportunities.
E. Promote the health and well being of residents
F. Improve accessibility, infrastructure and movement around the Area via promotion of more sustainable transport choices
G. To promote sustainability, to reduce impact on climate change and move towards a zero-carbon local economy.
|Policy 1||Protecting and Enhancing the Built Area character of the Hoe Valley and Promoting High-Quality Design.||+||+||+|
|Policy 2||Protection and Enhancement of the landscape character of the Hoe Valley||+||+|
|Policy 3||Conserving and Enhancing Local Heritage Assets||+||+|
|Policy 4||Commercial/ Retail development||+|
|Policy 5||Protection and Enhancement of the Public Realm||+||+||+||+|
|Policy 6||Parking provision||+||+|
|Policy 7||New homes/ area for development||+||+||+||+|
|Policy 8||Improving transport, accessibility and local infrastructure||+||+||+||+||+|
|Policy 9||Climate Change||+|
|Policy 10||Society and community services||+||+||+||+|
|Policy 11||Protection and Enhancement of green space||+||+||+||+||+|
|Policy 12||Preservation and utilisation of blue space||+||+||+||+||+|
|Policy 13||Protection of wildlife in the Area||+||+||+|
In Section 2 we explain the planning context that shaped the development of the plan, objectives and policies.