A public-inquiry inspector has thrown out plans by Woking Borough Council for a land swap at Westfield Common, Woking in Surrey. The council wanted to build an access road across the common to the potential housing development nearby. The proposal was rejected by inspector Mrs Helen Slade following a public inquiry last June. This is the council’s second attempt at a land swap.
Woking Council wanted to take 387 square metres out of the common and to give in exchange 1,174 square metres in three separate parcels. The plans were opposed by the Westfield Common Residents’ Association (WCRA), the Open Spaces Society and a number of individuals.
The inspector rejected the application because she agreed with the objectors that the two of the proposed replacement sites were already used by the public, being subject to by-laws, and that they ‘have the appearance, feel and character of the surrounding and adjacent common land to such an extent that their qualification as replacement land is eroded to the point where I can place very little weight on their value in that respect’.
The third site had already been offered as exchange land in Woking Council’s previous application, and rejected by a planning inspector after a public inquiry in 2010.
The objectors argued strongly that all the replacement land was already public open space, being used by the public for recreation, and therefore the proposal offered nothing that was not already available.
Says Nicola Cull, secretary of WRCA: ‘This is great news for the common and for those keen to protect the few green areas left in south Woking. Let’s hope that Woking Council sees sense before it destroys more of the precious leafy pockets of south Woking.’
Adds WRCA member Bob Shatwell: ‘We are delighted with this result. It’s a victory for common sense and the protection of common land. Let’s hope that the council will now back off and leave Westfield Common alone for people to enjoy.’
Says our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook: ‘This case demonstrates how important it is for local people to be vigilant and bold in defending their much-loved green spaces. Commons are a vital and irreplaceable resource for wildlife, landscape and public enjoyment.
‘We congratulate WCRA on its persistence in campaigning for Westfield Common, and we are overjoyed that it has been saved yet again.’