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Category Archives: Ray Morgan

Woking skyline 3

The towers of Woking’s Victoria Square development are beginning to dominate the local skyline, just as the council’s chief executive Ray Morgan envisioned they would. Rightly or wrongly, it has long been the perception among many residents that it is only the views of Morgan that really count when it comes to anything that is allowed to happen in this town.

The towers that now loom high on the local skyline merely foreshadow more to come, with another development planned close to Woking station, and three more towers due next to the new fire station in Goldsworth Road as well. They are seen as part of Morgan’s vision for Woking, which is, according to various accounts, a “mini-Singapore”, a “mini-city” in Surrey, and a landmark that can be spotted from the top of the viewing area of the Shard in London.

Many long-standing residents of Woking have been dismayed at seeing the initial three towers go up, although Wokingmatters does confess to liking the changes to the skyline that are taking place, and believes that they help to put the town on the map.

Councillors have argued that the only way is up, because Woking is surrounded by green belt, and does not have that much spare land to build houses on. But for many, it all adds to the feeling of Year Zero in Woking borough – that there is always work somewhere going on – and with the wholesale demolition and regeneration of Sheerwater, plus the dramatic redevelopment earmarked for the centre of West Byfleet still to come, there is no end in sight.

Questions have been asked for some time about the level of debt that Woking council has taken on over the years to invest in developing the town. This week a Conservative councillor switched to the Liberal Democrats, and accused his former colleagues of “failing on openness, proper consultation, and financial disclosure”.

According to the Woking News & Mail, Graham Chrystie, who has represented Pyrford for eight years, expressed disquiet about the fact that Woking has borrowed more money than almost any other local authority in England. There are new council elections on May 2, but meanwhile councillor Chrystie’s switch has left no party in overall control of the council.

Woking Gateway tower blocks

Artist’s impression of the proposed Woking Gateway towers

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This is big news. The likely demolition of the notorious Canopy in Albion Square  outside Woking station comes as a shock – but is also not that surprising. The out-of-place structure has dwarfed, darkened and overshadowed its surroundings since its construction just nine years ago – and any environmental claims made for it at the outset have long since been discredited, and held up to ridicule.

In 2007 Woking council hailed its photovoltaic panels intended to generate solar energy as “an invaluable source of renewable energy for decades to come” – and even Prince Charles came to have a look.  However, critics who said that it would never generate the levels of power promised were soon proved right.

In 2009 a national newspaper claimed “the £4m project … produced only enough electricity in one year to power a single 100-watt lightbulb for just 59 days”. At the time the council said it was confident that the Canopy would eventually hit its green targets, and blamed “inclement weather” for its initial poor performance.

At a public meeting in 2013, Woking’s chief executive, Ray Morgan, conceded, with refreshing candour, that the Canopy had been “a disaster in its implementation”. But he also claimed, more surprisingly, that “it was never an environmental project. It was meant to be part of a scheme to provide a gateway to Woking at the station. But the private sector walked away from the project. We have learned lessons from that.”

The Canopy had been described as the “gateway” to the town when it was hoped developers would help reshape Albion Square around it. Now developers think the only hope for a future Albion Square is to knock the “unsightly” structure down. A planning application says its demolition “would significantly improve the quality of the public space at Albion Square and the arrival experience into the town centre”.

The saga of Woking Canopy, quite frankly, makes one question the thinking behind any future huge project unveiled by the council, which is understood to have amassed enormous levels of borrowing over recent years – borrowing that it always seems to justify as investment in the future. Have councillors actually been operating proper levels of scrutiny that we expect of them? Or just agreeing to such mega-projects on the nod?

Whatever lessons may or may not have been learned from the Albion Square debacle, some “gateway” the Canopy turned out to be. It is a modern-day folly, and has proved a scandalous waste of money. The Local Government Ombudsman should be asked to investigate the whole affair.

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Almost three years ago this blog ran an item titled ‘The thoughts of Woking’s Ray Morgan’, a report of comments Woking council’s chief executive had made on a wide range of subjects at a public meeting. At the time we said we thought this was interesting because of Mr Morgan’s status – he is regarded as ‘Mr Woking’.  Not so much the power behind the throne, but the throne itself, you might say. Recently he has made his views known again, at a public council meeting, about the Phoenix Cultural Centre – a cause which Wokingmatters has supported in a number of blogs –  and its relationship with the council in its search for a live music venue with community facilities in Woking, a search that councillors have instructed Woking council officials to assist. Commenting on the progress made, Mr Morgan produced these soundbites:

“There’s a reality check here … I drafted an email in response to the one sent by them … It’s still in my draft box, because I thought it would cause more offence by sending it … simply because I was appalled by their approach, and their total misrepresentation of everybody else, and rubbishing everybody else … and not valuing anybody at all that actually makes a difference, and whinge and moan … so I’m afraid … but I didn’t send it … although I’ve said some of it … it’s been very difficult … [it’s] very easy to go in and complain about what we should do … but they need to actually help themselves …  I think sometimes they over-represent the contribution they make to the cultural life of the borough, and under-represent that made by others. So, we’re trying to navigate that route, they were offered premises … not yet resolved, I think would be the way to say that … but is that easily resolvable? Probably not. But all the fuss they were making to you [the councillors] about not being made homeless … I know who owns the building, they’re not in a hurry to do anything about it … they can’t, because everyone around them won’t let them … so the likelihood of it being let to someone else in the short-term, once everything around it starts getting knocked down, it’s not likely to be let to anyone else. So I think the practical reality is, it’s not a crisis at the moment  … so could we just avoid believing them always when they whinge and moan about us, and actually start recognising that officers have tried really hard to work with them, and so far that’s not been over-productive.”

Mr Morgan goes on to say that council officers made arrangements for a redundant building to be used “for the York Road project to look after the most vulnerable instead of giving it to them [the Phoenix] … where’s the priority in our life? Should we look after rough sleepers before we look after those that just want to make a lot of noise? We’ve got other places for them to make noise …”

At this point the council chairman interrupts him: “Can I stop you there …?”

It appears not. Mr Morgan goes on: “Sorry chairman … but they really annoyed me …”

The council chairman says: “No doubt they’re watching on the webcast …”

Ray Morgan: “Jolly good!”

Council chairman: “And no doubt we will hear … “

Ray Morgan: “I can send my email … if you like. But I think there is a danger that we listen to those who complain, rather than to those that matter.”

Council chairman: “Can we definitely stop there?”

And that, amazingly, is that.

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In reply the Phoenix Cultural Centre – here’s a photograph at the start of one of their music nights at Goldsworth Road – have issued a very long statement “to clarify our position, draw a line under this regretful situation, and move on”.  It includes these comments:

“In November, we sent an email with a report attached updating on the progress of our project since 2014 when councillors agreed to support our petition for assistance to identify a building. The report and email sent were private and part of negotiations. They were sent to all Woking borough councillors, senior officers who have dealt with us and Woking’s MP who had asked to be kept up to date on our project.

“Our CEO spoke to the Woking Advertiser on viewing the content of the webcast and said that the project and its volunteers are only interested in building something good and not fighting or taking on an adverse stance to make things happen, and furthermore had no interest in entering into a negative public exchange with [Ray Morgan] … as she did not believe it to be in the best interests of the project, its volunteers, beneficiaries, partners or fair to the council staff we deal with. She did ask them however to publish that the project had a fantastic working relationship with Woking BC officers and had found them professional and courteous and enthusiastic. We have worked with them on a number of projects in the borough.

“However … it is important that we correct some of the points made in the statement to councillors on 4 Feb. First of all, to clear up some common misconceptions:

“We have not asked the council for money, we asked them to help us identify a building and assist with brokerage to start the  … process set by government to enable communities to run buildings for community benefit and unlock central funding to enable them to do that.

“We have never turned down free premises or any offer of premises. We have entered into lengthy negotiations and these were not taken off the table by us.

“In 2013 we negotiated a shop premises offered by the landlord rent free after a local letting agent presented our case to them.

“There was a statement made by the CEO of Woking BC that he knows the owner of the shop we use and contrary to what we have been recently saying there is no intention of us being asked to leave. This has given the impression that we are falsely claiming this for publicity. Firstly there is no value in this to us, we have been on the point of moving before and know how unsettling it is. Secondly the letting agent confirms that whilst the owner does know the CEO of Woking BC they are intending a short-term let and the planning portal on Woking BC website had the documents lodged in October 2015 for change of use to restaurant as the kebab shop next door wishes to extend. These are available for public viewing. The restaurant have also confirmed this to a group who used us and who have now relocated based on this information. When this is received (anytime now) we will be given the notice date so can only guarantee 30 days hence. Learning partners have started sourcing other premises too.

“We have never refused to work in partnership with anyone. We have a track record of putting on music for a variety of causes and in a variety of places and organisations in the town. One of our most constant partners is Woking BC.

IMG_3219“UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES HAVE WE OR WOULD WE RUBBISH OR DENIGRATE OR SEEK PREFERENCE OVER ANOTHER GROUP IN WOKING. It simply doesn’t make sense nor does any of the work we do ever suggest that and to be honest this assertion was the one the volunteers took most personally especially as it was levelled with regards to our attitude to homelessness. On this point we can only hope and trust that people are aware of the character of the people who work in the centre, their track record and attitude to the community of Woking and let that speak for itself.

“We haven’t overblown our culture contribution to the town and put down others. We have listed our activities and achievements – open for all to see so to do anything else would not bear scrutiny. There’s no value to pretending to do what we haven’t.

“We may appear to Woking BC’s CEO that we are just a group of people who want to make a load of noise and he is entitled to his personal private opinion. We appreciate not everyone will be a fan of what we are trying to achieve. Hopefully those who know us and know the project and what it is trying to achieve will see the positive work it has been trying to do which ultimately benefits Woking. It is to our regret however, that he made the remarks without ever having visited. He would be made very welcome if he did engage with us. We see no use in carrying on any tension and would rather be optimistic about working relationships.

“To describe us as ‘moaners’ and ‘whingers’ and ‘those who shout the loudest’ doesn’t really match up to our communication style at all, or our history. It also insults the intelligence and expertise of the group who call on many years of experience in music and community and business and come from many different backgrounds for a common aim.

“We received no reply to this document sent in November yet now in February this happens. We did not use a public forum to call out or denigrate the council as a body and are disappointed that the most senior paid officer chose to do so about a group of residents who are volunteers, on camera, in front of the press where we weren’t present to answer, and thus forced us to spend time away from building our project to answer when we could so much better have spent the time on something useful.

“There was an assertion at the meeting that it would make future meetings with council officers difficult with us. This will never be the case, we are not in the habit of making life difficult for people trying to do their job to reach a positive outcome.

“This is our answer – this is all we have to say on the matter and wish only to move on positively. We can only hope that everyone has a bad day at work sometimes and is also allowed to move on.”

Wokingmatters has not of course been privy to the negotiations between the Phoenix Cultural Centre and Woking council, and so cannot reasonably take a view on who is right and who is wrong, if there are such black and white positons in this case. But we can express our amazement at some of the angry language used by Woking’s chief executive Ray Morgan – and reflect that dismissive phrases such as “making a lot of noise” in regards to music might just have alienated a great chunk of Woking’s youth in one fell swoop.

Unlike Ray Morgan, Wokingmatters has visited the Phoenix Cultural Centre’s warm, welcoming but inadequate premises on a number of occasions, and can testify to the encouragement given to nervous young musicians stepping up to the open mic for the first time.  A number of important and worthwhile community activities also take place at the former shop in Goldsworth Road, near the JobCentre. These are the ideals and vision that we understand the Phoenix wishes to develop at a designated, suitable place somewhere in the heart of Woking.

Going back to that previous time when Ray Morgan went public in a big way, back in 2013, there was a comment made at the end of that meeting which is still pertinent today. A businessman spoke from the floor about moving both his home and his firm from Guildford to Woking. “We should be proud of what goes on in Woking,” he said. But he added the rider that there should be more facilities for the youth of the town. And on that, surely all of us can wholeheartedly agree.

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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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“We as the council need to enforce some confidence back into the public.” These words were attributed to Woking council Ray Morgan by the Woking Advertiser in its report of a recent council discussion about the continuing fear and anger of many residents in Sheerwater about council plans for the area’s regeneration.

If Mr Morgan really did say exactly that, then he may be regretting his surprising choice of words. For many folk of Sheerwater have been feeling for some months that the council is trying to “enforce” its vision of a new Sheerwater, demolishing around 600 homes and replacing them with 900 new ones, against their wishes. Mr Morgan’s remarks came as the council agreed to set up an independent scrutiny committee to review the project, after a letter from a nearby resident in Woodham, Michael Adams, claimed that the process “was not upholding the vision and values of the council”.

Last month Sheerwater residents called for the regeneration project to be halted, in an open letter containing “unanswered questions”. A spokesman for New Vision Homes, the council’s social housing manager, said it recognised that “there are a number of strong views being expressed by people within the area, both by those directly affected and those with a general interest. A number of these views do not reflect the reality of the current proposals, particularly relating to property types and size and recreation space.” You can read the council’s reply to the residents’ letter here. Here are some typical questions, and replies, that give a flavour of the current dialogue between residents and the council:

 

Can anyone explain to me how replacing 600 solidly built homes, with reasonable sized rooms and plenty of outside space, with 900 houses and flats with minimal internal and external space (guaranteed to last 60 years according to developers), can improve the lives of people in Sheerwater?

 All of the new properties will be provided with spacious rooms and dedicated private amenity space that will be supplemented by attractive public open space. The improved leisure offer, improved energy efficiency and increased number of family houses will all contribute to improved wellbeing of Sheerwater residents.

It would be interesting to know the true motives for demolishing perfectly good homes …

To deliver the regeneration benefits detailed above and create a sustainable future for the Sheerwater community there will unfortunately be a requirement to demolish some of the existing homes.

What are the true benefits for the people of Sheerwater?

The people of Sheerwater will benefit from high quality new homes, and improved community, leisure and retail facilities. There will be an increase in housing supply and an increase in the number of family sized units, which will all be built to modern energy efficiency standards to reduce fuel bills. A new retail hub will provide a varied and more sustainable retail offer. A new leisure and education hub will improve access to sports and recreation facilities that support the health and wellbeing of the local community. The existing open space and community facilities will be re-located to the centre of the estate to maximise accessibility and enjoyment for the whole community. Improved pedestrian, cycle and public transport routes will increase connectivity of the estate and the community facilities with Woking, West Byfleet and the Basingstoke canal.

 

Looking at these council replies, one wonders if they could help their case by making some of their language more intelligible to ordinary people. What exactly is a new retail “offer”? Something you get at Tesco? The existing plans include the demolition of a church and a parade of shops. The final plan will be presented publicly at a community exhibition on February 13 and 14 at Parkview community centre.

On its website the council says: ”The regeneration project would potentially see millions of pounds invested into Sheerwater which would see significant improvements to housing, roads, parks, shops and community facilities, making the area a sustainable, desirable, more attractive place to live, work and play. By making the necessary investment, Sheerwater has the potential to become a more vibrant, thriving community that will attract new families and commercial enterprises to invest and live in the area.

It adds: “While Woking is within the top 10 per cent of least deprived areas in the country, Sheerwater and, specifically the Dartmouth and Devonshire Avenue areas of Sheerwater, are defined within the 14 per cent most deprived areas nationally and, the most deprived in Surrey.”

A recent petition, ‘Save Sheerwater From Social Cleansing’, from the online campaign group 38 Degrees makes a number of interesting points. It says: “We call for Woking borough council to look at what regeneration really entails and where it is necessary. Selling social housing stock even to housing associations does not regenerate, nor does enforcing compulsory purchasing orders on home owners, who make up a huge amount of the proposed regeneration zones. We call for the regeneration ONLY of the areas in Sheerwater that need it.”

In the latest boundary recommendations, Sheerwater and neighbouring Maybury will be merged in a new council ward called Canalside.

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Just how much does having motor racing giant McLaren in the borough actually benefit Woking, increasing numbers of residents are beginning to wonder. The latest doubts have emerged after McLaren changed initial plans to expand its technology centre, which had been agreed, on a site on the other side of the A320, to a blueprint adjoining its current HQ, above, that has a much greater impact on the surrounding green belt countryside. Horsell Common Preservation Society has said that McLaren  promised to keep the land which it now plans to build on as open countryside when it was granted permission for its existing building in 1996. The Woking Advertiser quotes a McLaren spokesman as saying that the firm is “an important employer in Woking, providing high quality jobs for over 2,000 people, who all work in an iconic facility which has won countless architectural and environmental awards”. The spokesman added:  “However, we recognise our proposals cannot please everyone. But the planning process is just that – a process – which allows for consultation and discussion. The council will decide whether our scheme is acceptable, but meanwhile, we will engage openly with and listen to all interested parties.” The council is due to make a decision on whether to allow the plans next month. In 2012 McLaren emphatically denied that it had promised to set up a visitor centre in Woking as a condition of its original planning permission, despite the council’s long-standing hopes – a stance that some saw as the company turning its back on the town. In 2013 Woking council’s chief executive, Ray Morgan, said that McLaren’s continuing failure to provide a visitor centre in the town “remains an embarrassment”. Woking’s Conservative MP, Jonathan Lord, is reported by the Woking Advertiser as saying:  “It’s my understanding that this planning permission is going through all the correct processes … this development would bring future high quality jobs to this part of Surrey.”

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In what seems an extraordinary flourish of the bureaucrat’s pen – or an astonishing series of mouse clicks – most of Woking’s well-known place names may be swept away in proposed council ward boundary changes. If the changes likely to be recommended by Woking council are approved by the Boundary Commission, you can say goodbye – as council ward names, anyway –  to Maybury, Pyrford, West Byfleet, Sheerwater, Woodham, Westfield, Kingfield, Mayford, St John’s, Old Woking, Mount Hermon and Brookwood. They will be replaced with unfamiliar new locations like Canalside, The Heath, Woodlands, Town and Hoe Valley.

The plans mean reducing the existing number of 36 Woking councillors to 30, and 10 wards, each with three councillors. Under the present system, some wards have three councillors, some two, and some only one. Woking council’s chief executive, Ray Morgan, has said that the changes, which aim to create a matching number of electors in each ward, mean more equality of democracy, and has added that there had been “a lot of heart-searching” before the changes were put forward.

DSC_0042At a public meeting to explain the proposals, a number of residents from Pyrford in particular objected to their loss of identity as a community, and their ward being split into The Heath, and Woodlands. The latter also includes parts of Maybury, Sheerwater, West Byfleet and Woodham. In reply, Morgan referred to the need to “find ways of integrating communities differently”, and also to a recent Electoral Court ruling. In May 2012 Mohammed Bashir was elected as Liberal Democrat councillor for Maybury and Sheerwater, but was removed from his post after a trial in 2013 found him guilty of illegal and corrupt practices, including false names entered on the electoral register.  The court ruling did not attach any blame to Ray Morgan in his role as returning officer, and praised his meticulous record-keeping. At the public meeting Morgan left his audience in no doubt that part of the reason for merging Sheerwater with parts of Pyrford, West Byfleet and Woodham was to prevent another case of electoral fraud occurring in Woking. You can watch the webcast of the meeting here.

On its website the council says that “in drawing up its response to the consultation, [it] has sought to ensure that the new wards reflect community identity whilst fulfilling other criteria such as ease of movement and physical boundaries. For many residents, the changes will mean that their area is represented by more councillors and that they have the opportunity to vote more often. The new arrangements may also mean that local polling stations will change.”

Residents have until 7 March to have their say. There is a feedback form on the council website. There are also maps of the new wards displayed in Woking town centre, with feedback forms available there.  The new wards will take effect from May 2016, when all seats on the council will be up for election.

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Ray morgan

How much do one man’s views matter? Quite a lot when he’s the chief executive of Woking borough council. That’s why it was fascinating to listen to the views of Ray Morgan – who, he acknowledged himself, has been likened to Hitler –  at a public debate, Is Woking Becoming a More Sustainable Town? held at Christ Church, Woking on Saturday morning. At the packed meeting of around 60 concerned, committed people – the third of six Woking Debates initiated by Woking Action for Peace –  “Mr Woking” revealed himself to be a radical with passionate and outspoken opinions. Here are some of his quotes from the meeting:

  • “We need to have a wider debate with faith communities on gender and equality issues”
  • [On food waste] “I would treble the price of food”
  • “Every proposal by us to provide homes for people is opposed by people who already have them”
  • [On conservation] “There is this paranoiac behaviour about keeping everything as it is”
  • “The green belt will be reduced. It has to be reduced.”
  • “Silver birches are an intrusive weed”
  • “We need to think of Woking in 2050 as being like the Iberian peninsula”
  •  “In Woking, when we don’t get it right, we knock it down and start again”
  • “The Canopy was a disaster in its implementation. But it was never an environmental project. It was meant to be part of a scheme to provide a gateway to Woking at the station. But the private sector walked away from the project. We have learned lessons from that.”

Jonathan Lord

With Woking’s MP Jonathan Lord, above,  in the audience, Morgan, who made clear at the outset that he was speaking personally, rather than on behalf of the council, criticised the coalition government for backtracking on green pledges, talked of wind turbines along the M25, and added that he was totally opposed to the “short-sighted” freeing-up of the planning process, which he predicted would rebound on the government when people put up “ridiculous extensions” right next door to “their [the government’s] supporters”. He also suggested that the provision of winter fuel allowance for all those over 60 was “criminally absurd”, and that McLaren’s failure to provide a visitor centre in Woking despite a planning pledge “remains an embarrassment”, although he at the same time paid tribute to the vital contribution that the Formula One company makes to the UK economy as well as Woking’s.

There were many thoughtful and searching questions put by members of the audience, many from local religious and campaigning groups, but too many to deal with in detail here.

Jonathan Lord’s response included the need to get an attack on the previous Labour government out of his system: “They had all the money and threw it all away.” He defended the government’s environmental stance, mentioning its “fantastic initiative” on home insulation, and then asked a question of Morgan: “How does the council run itself, when we have such a powerful chief executive with such strong ideas, and differences of opinion between the CEO and many councillors?”  In other words, how does Ray Morgan always seem to get his way?

Morgan replied by conceding that “various people accuse me of being a megalomaniac”. It was true that he promoted an “environmental and social agenda”,  but “at the end of the day I do what the council decides”.

In these days of little or no reporting of council proceedings by hard-pressed local newspapers, it was a rare and rewarding opportunity to hear the views of  Woking’s chief executive – a man of undoubted ideals and vision – on a wide range of subjects.

Near the end of the meeting a businessman spoke from the floor about moving both his home and his firm from Guildford to Woking. “We should be proud of what goes on in Woking,” he said, although he added the rider that there should be more facilities for the youth of the town.

PHOTOGRAPHS: PETER BREDDAL

The former Jam drummer Rick Buckler today marked the end of a long campaign by many locals by unveiling an abstract artwork honouring the Woking band. Around 100 or so Jam fans turned up for today’s ceremony at Barratt’s New Central development near Woking station. The sculpture, by artist Richard Heys, is called The Space Between, and is comprised of three shaped pieces of wood, seven metres high. Heys said at the unveiling that he liked to make the kind of art that “we can relate to through time, and build a relationship with”. Woking council’s chief executive, Ray Morgan, who was also at the ceremony, said: “Public art stimulates reactions in people.” He referred to Woking’s Lightbox gallery, which people “either love or hate”.

But the day really belonged to the 100 or so Jam fans who had made  pilgrimages to be there – fans like Danny Plunkett, who had flown in from Dublin that morning with Jam singles autographed by Paul Weller in his rucksack, hoping that Rick Buckler would add his monicker when he got a chance to meet him later in the day. He and his friend Steve Kerr, from Nottingham, right, were both wearing Town Called Malice T-shirts. There was also 17-year-old Billy Sullivan from Watford, below, right, looking like a young Paul Weller, who reckoned he had been a fan of the Jam since he was aged eight, many years after the band had broken up. He plays in a band himself, IMG01333-20120712-1457called the Spitfires. A number of Jam hits, including In the City, This Is The Modern World, Down In The Tube Station At Midnight, and David Watts –  were played over  loudspeakers to get the crowd in the mood before the dignitaries arrived. And whatever you think of the sculpture – Danny Plunkett admitted he was “a bit underwhelmed”, but give it time, the artist said – there is now a tangible tribute to the band in the town, with a plaque. Paul Weller may have called Woking a Town Called Malice – but Woking showed today that it doesn’t bear a grudge, and is proud of some of its most famous sons.