A Joint Statement from your Local Ward Councillors – 3rd February 2020
The lack of progress with the development work at the Sheer House site is extremely disappointing. This, along with the gradual deterioration of the buildings is a source of mounting concern to residents, our community groups and of course us your local ward Councillors.
Outline Planning Permission was granted in December 2017 to Altitude to develop the complex that is owned by Prime Finance. Since then no Detailed Planning Application has been submitted. Altitude have offered the following two main reasons for these delays:-
- “Vacant Possession – the owner has tried over many months to reach agreement with several tenants to vacate the premises prior to their lease expiry. We have been successful in all negotiations except for two. Despite offer for compensation, these tenants have chosen to stay through to lease expiry. As a result, the earliest VP will most likely be August 2020, and, therefore, it is unlikely that demolition will start before Q4 2020.”
- “Brexit – sadly this is beyond our control. The cloud of uncertainty is not conducive to making major investment decisions relating to a multi-million £ development. The level of uncertainty makes it very difficult to plan definitively for the future, as we have no assurance of foreseeable market conditions. Until such time the situation has some resolution in sight, the pace of progress of the development will be at a cautious speed. As you are aware this is a UK business wide problem and not just an issue for West Byfleet.”
Since we received this statement on 12th November 2019 our departure from the EU has been confirmed so we hope the issue of investment can be speedily resolved.
We would like to remind residents that Woking Borough Council is in no way responsible for the lack of progress nor does it have any legal authority to force the pace of development, this is a privately owned site.
We are regularly approached by residents who are understandably concerned with the potential loss of amenity, the Library, Boots the Chemist and the Post Office prior to and during the construction phases of development.
On June 17th 2017 Turley UK issued a Statement of Intent on behalf of their client Prime Finance (West Byfleet) in which they set out a number of potential options for relocation of key services as mentioned above. The statement was submitted as part of the Outline Planning submission documents at the Planning Meeting in September 2017. The Planning Committee asked that a clause be added as a condition to reflect the overall intent. The Decision Notice to Grant Outline Planning Permission (PLAN/2017/0128) contains this clause under condition 32. (It is suggested in Turley’s report that the PO, Boots and the Library could operate from Mobile facilities during demolition / construction), Prime Finance / Altitude continue to be engaged with existing tenants to assist with relocation elsewhere in West Byfleet.
Currently the most pressing issue is the Post Office
We have been informed that the Post Office will close at the end of March 2020 having decided not to agree to a ‘rolling’ short term lease extension, the Londis Store is expected to remain open for business until April / May 2020. At this time no suitable alternative premises have been identified. The WBBA wrote to Altitude on January 8th 2020 asking them to share any plans or thoughts particularly on this issue. WBC wrote to Councillors on 29th January 2020 having received a communication from Altitude advising that the Post Office franchisee has already put in motion the ending of his Post Office licence and served notice on his staff. The Post Office Ltd (the umbrella UK Company) is advertising for a new franchisee/location in West Byfleet.
The West Byfleet Business Association is also actively exploring all opportunities to help retain these essential services in the Village however there are few, if any available vacant premises.
We understand that Boots HQ are actively considering what options are available or may become available to relocate within West Byfleet, we assume that the Library service will continue until nearer the project commencement.
We will all continue to work together and with our community groups to ensure the best outcomes for West Byfleet Residents and Businesses. We very much share your concerns and anxieties.
Your Local Ward Councillors:
Gary Elson, Amanda Boote, Graham Chrystie,
John Bond, Mary Bridgeman and Rashid Mohammed