Growth and change are vital for towns and cities to thrive but many locals are saying enough is enough. There is little question that Woking has a housing need but is it so great as to require 1,154 new flats in a new Goldsworth Road development alone? Nearby residents certainly don’t think so. Given that a complex including five high rise towers was approved, despite being refused by Woking Borough Council, it’s no wonder locals are up in arms.
The proposed Goldsworth Road development, comprising five tower blocks of varying heights between nine and 37 storeys, will include over 900 flats and a replacement shelter for the homeless charity York Road Project. Concerns from residents and WBC members about loss of privacy, bulk and height, with the tallest tower set to be three storeys taller than those in Victoria Square, were deemed inconsequential as the original decision was overturned by the Planning Inspectorate and the planning application approved.
So far, planning permission has been granted to EcoWorld developers for their proposal. However, there is also competition from not-for-profit Abri, promising affordable housing and a commitment to sustainability.
Let’s take a closer look at the two developers.
Who are EcoWorld Developers and what do they mean for Woking?
EcoWorld Developers, a for-profit company based in Malaysia, are operating under the name Goldsworth Road Development LLP for this project. Focused on projects predominantly in Australia and the UK, the bulk of their UK developments is London-based flats, upmarket, and the cheapest of which sports an asking price of £425k for a one bed flat; two bedrooms start at £720k. While no figures have as yet been provided with regards to what the Woking properties will go for, these are not being touted as affordable housing. With thousands of residents, it is unlikely that the 263 designated parking spaces or car club, a shared vehicle service which allows users to borrow short term, will be sufficient. Apart from worries from local residents about losing the small-town feel Woking possesses, the buildings not being in keeping with the current look and privacy issues, there are safety concerns. The development made national news when a fire safety expert expressed fears over the fact that EcoWorld’s tallest tower – 36 storeys – would possess only one staircase, deeming it ‘utter madness’ and drawing from the Grenfell tragedy to reinforce the point that a second staircase was necessary in order to ensure residents’ safety. EcoWorld have as yet declined to say whether they have adjusted plans to include an additional staircase.
Who are Abri and what do they have to offer Woking?
Abri Homes, the company proposing a 24-storey, 225-unit residential site, have deemed the entire development affordable housing. Comprising 90 one-bedroom flats, 129 two bedroom and six with three beds. Affordable rentals will make up 56% with the other 44% earmarked for shared ownership. The development will be a car-free zone, providing parking only for disabled residents and an electric car club bay. Adding to its sustainability factor, the site will not require a gas connection, connecting instead to the neighbouring and newly build ThamesWey Energy Woking Power Station. One of the largest housing associations in England, Abri have to date provided over 35,000 homes in the South and Southwest. Stating they are a not-for-profit organisation, channelling funds back into communities in need of affordable housing, Abri have recently been shortlisted for two First Time Buyer Awards and the company claims to work closely with local government officials and residents of the areas in which they build developments. However, Trust Pilot reviews show 46 out of 55 residents gave the company a ‘bad’ rating with less than five deeming Abri ‘excellent’.
Affordable or not, does Woking need more housing?
With constant rises in the cost of living, abundant, affordable housing is an indisputable need and Abri claim to provide just that. It remains to be seen whether the need is great enough to justify the vast number of homes being built or if they will be affordable for the majority of residents.
- Goldsworth Road: Ordnance Survey