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Byfleet United Charity

A plan to build a power plant on derelict land in West Byfleet has been scuppered by the strength of opposition by residents, which appears to have taken the power company and the owners of the land by surprise. First the company, UK Power Reserve, withdrew its initial plan after more than 1,000 objections were registered. Then the landowners, Byfleet United Charity, said they would not support a second application by the company. The charity, which provides help to residents who have lived in Byfleet for at least a year and also provides some sheltered accommodation in West Byfleet, said the “difficult decision” had been made not to support a future application.

Tony Thompson, the chairman of BUC, told Surrey Live: “The view of the charity is that we would not support a second planning application. What we have tried to do is balance the understandable concerns of the community with the potential benefits to the charity. It has been a difficult decision but we have tried to take a fair view.”

What the affair demonstrates is the speed and impact of social media in quickly drawing attention to a planning application, and in drumming up opposition to it before the application is decided. Concerned residents in West Byfleet lodged more than 1,000 objections to the initial planning application for the former waste tip adjoining Camphill industrial estate, between the railway and the Basingstoke canal, and the company reacted by withdrawing it. Then the landowners backed away from the plan altogether in the face of widespread local opposition.

A similar campaign has been waged largely on Facebook by angry parents – supported by West Byfleet Bowls Club – against plans to build a pub on the local recreation ground next to a school in West Byfleet, and re-locate a children’s play area. A consultation by Woking council has resulted in a vote of around 1,100 to 24 in favour of keeping the play area where it is. The council will discuss the issue at its meeting on Thursday 13 September. There seems a good chance that this second West Byfleet campaign, to stop any pub being built on the recreation ground despite an apparent deal with Woking council, will succeed as well.

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