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Category Archives: Basingstoke Canal

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It seems there is always building work going on somewhere in Woking at the moment, from the Victoria Square development and its fast-rising towers beginning to loom above the town, to the Albion Square facelift that has involved the removal of the short-lived Canopy – a fiasco that will not be forgotten in a hurry by Woking’s council taxpayers. Even along the “tranquil” Basingstoke canal, beside the WWF HQ and the Lightbox art gallery, construction work is taking place this summer.

It is hoped that such work should prove beneficial to boat users – and also enhance the townscape for the benefit of all. The Town Wharf beside the World Wildlife Fund’s UK headquarters and opposite the Lightbox art gallery – from where the Basingstoke Canal Society currently runs its hire boat excursions, pictured above – is being extended so that eventually up to 15 boats can moor there. This raises the prospect of a host of colourful boats moored along the canal in the centre of Woking.

It can be argued – it has been – that Woking has failed to appreciate what the canal can offer the town, in softening its concrete profile and making it more attractive to visitors. Soaring new towers may offer hard economic benefits, but are maybe not so good for the soul. The “softer” appeal of an enhanced canalside beside undoubted visitor attractions such as the Lightbox, and, to a lesser extent, the WWF,  can provide something else – a place to escape? It is understood that talks are to take place involving the council that will be aimed at examining the chances of dusting down a shelved proposal to build a canal marina in Woking at Brookhouse Common, the site of a recent canal festival in 2016. That is a really exciting prospect. Let’s hope the funds can be found for that, one day soon.

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The attention of Wokingmatters has been drawn to this remarkably ugly building adjoining the Basingstoke canal at St John’s. Apparently it is being used, or has been used, or will be used, to store building materials. (Retrospective planning permission is now being sought). I know people are allowed to erect all sorts of things at the ends of their gardens these days, but this structure, backing onto the canal, a site of special scientific interest, really seems to be pushing at the boundaries. I can’t believe that Woking borough council will grant planning permission, and that will presumably mean that the owner will have to pull it down. It may seem a small thing, to get so het up about one building along the length of such a beautiful canal, but letting it stay will surely grant a precedent, and open the sluice gates to other hideous structures. Here are the details of the plan,  if you want to object to it.

View of Woking Lightbox from the current canal bridge

The power of protest and e-petitions has forced Woking council to retreat over its proposals for a new bridge over the Basingstoke canal linking the town centre with the Brewery Road car park and the soon-to-be-built UK HQ for the World Wildlife Fund. In  a press release last month the council said it has listened to residents’ concerns and was now promising that the bridge – which it prefers to call the Bedser bridge – would be “significantly lower than the previous proposal, meaning fewer steps and shorter, more compact ramps, while remaining Equality Act and disability compliant.”

The statement added: “Instead of a concrete and galvanised steel structure, the new design features a timber bridge that will be sympathetic to its surrounding area. The Brewery Road side has been reconfigured to improve public access to the bridge by incorporating split-level access to the WWF-UK building. Shorter, curved ramps will now mean that it has been necessary to revise the landscape scheme, which will include planting two native species trees as part of the revised ramps.”

This constitutes a major rethink, and indicates the strength of feeling which the council was forced to take into account.

Woking WWF bridgeWoking council has belatedly “extended” the deadline for objections to the proposed new canal bridge linking Horsell and Woking with the new WWF development at Brewery Road to the end of the month, after the outcry about its design. The objections include the height, linked to the WWF building itself which will be erected on stilts above the existing car park, but more specifically the lengths that pushchair, pram and wheelchair users will be forced to go along along the cyclists’ ramp if they choose not to use the lift. There is an online petition about this, with its closing date 21 October.  The row has rather sadly overshadowed the fact the new bridge is intended to be a tribute to Woking’s famous cricketing twins, Eric and Alec Bedser. It is also a shame that the WWF is being cast once more as a villain in this piece, with Woking council being accused of bending over backwards once more to facilitate the WWF’s prestigious arrival in the town. Surely the real reason for the increased height of the bridge has been overlooked: it is to attract larger boats along the Basingstoke canal as Woking seeks to reposition itself as a south-east centre for shipping.

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GEDC0616It’s time something was done to smarten up the Basingstoke canal and its surrounding area in Woking. At a recent meeting of the canal’s joint management committee last month one member of the public complained that the Woking section resembled “African Queen country.” It was certainly looking very overgrown in the summer. This may be partly due to the fact that it was closed to navigation for the last three years, until earlier this year. Even now the Deepcut flight of locks is closed and the St Johns flight is restricted because of water shortages. Such problems spurred the chairman of the regional branch of the Inland Waterways Association to describe the Basingstoke canal as a “national joke” at the same meeting last month. This is a bit harsh, for the canal is beautiful to walk or ride along, even when closed to boats, and is a haven for wildlife. As far as Woking is concerned, it is a wonderful green asset, along with Woking Park, and should be cherished more than it is. Efforts have been made to tidy the area around the footbridge from the Brewery Road car park, and these should be continued.  Something needs to be done about the rickety old bridge itself as well. The Basingstoke Canal Authority recognises the weed problem along the Woking stretch and says it has the matter in hand. As always, the problem is money.