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Residents in West Byfleet crammed – and I do mean crammed – into a small community room on Thursday night to inspect the first ideas put forward by property firm Altitude for the regeneration of the town centre. Staff representatives emphasised that what they were suggesting were not plans at this stage, but ideas on which they were seeking the views of residents. DSC_0426The ideas include a new square, to create a “core heart”, reduced traffic movements, “shared space”, new slip roads to Old Woking Road, and the possibility of extending West Byfleet health centre. It all sounded jolly good, but you wondered where all the additional cars that would be attracted to the new shopping centre would park, given that the existing Waitrose car park suffers gridlock problems on many days, and for most of each day. There was gridlock in the community room, too, as residents jostled for a view of what might be on offer in the confined space.  Last September, in its first major commercial acquisition, Altitude  purchased Station Approach, a mixture of office and retail accommodation, and the main shopping and commercial centre for West Byfleet, for £10.5m.

At the time Nigel Robson, director of Altitude Real Estate, said: “West Byfleet is an attractive town with an affluent catchment area and first class connectivity to central London. We think there is significant untapped potential in the area for high quality retail, restaurants, living and work space.” Another Altitude director, Stephen Tillman, said: “There is a remarkable opportunity to use investment in the property to help transform the whole town centre of West Byfleet. Fundamentally, the town has everything one would look for. We want to start from scratch and take a holistic approach to look at how people use the town centre and then work alongside Woking council, occupiers and local groups to generate.”

Woking’s chief executive, Ray Morgan, has said that the council has “serious ambitions for the regeneration of the whole town centre of West Byfleet and have been delighted to hear how the Altitude team wants to take the project forward. This is a once in a generation opportunity and the Council will use its powers, influence and expertise to capitalise on this exciting opportunity for the local community.”

Presumably the rather chaotic consultation on Thursday night was the start of the “holistic approach”. Let us hope the miscalculation of the size of room required is not an omen of things to come.

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