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Woking council announced yesterday that it had reached an agreement with a London-based property development and investment company, Carisbrooke, that could lead to a multi-million pound redevelopment of  part of the town centre. The Woking Gateway project area  runs from Albion House in the east to Cawsey Way in the west, and takes in High Street and Commercial Way. The development includes residential, leisure, commercial, office and retail space. The council says that “public transport facilities and quality public spaces will also be important elements of the development”. The announcement says that Carisbrooke, which owns Albion House, now has the right  to acquire land owned by the council under the agreement. The council can also consider using its compulsory purchase powers to acquire properties owned by third parties (at Carisbrooke’s cost) “if they cannot be purchased on a voluntary basis”. There is talk of a planning application in 2011, and that work will start the same year, and be carried out in phases.

All this sound rather ominous for the small shops clustered round and dwarfed by Woking’s “energy-saving” Canopy, above, outside the station. Since its delayed construction the Canopy has always overshadowed its surroundings, and the suspicion has been that the council has wanted to clear a space round it – so that it can be seen more as a “gateway”. That would mean the disappearance of nearby shops. It would be no great surprise to me if this turns out to be part of the overall grand plan. Woking’s chief executive Ray Morgan has made no bones in the past about saying that much of Woking should be knocked down.  This appears to be the start of the implementation of his vision. Leaving aside the debate over the energy-efficiency of the Canopy and whether the council was right to go ahead with its hugh cost, these plans must mean relocation or closure for individual business in the short-term, whatever the final effect that is achieved.

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