126 – 128 High Street

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PLANNING COMMITTEE AGREED TO NEW HOUSES OVERLOOKING SCHOOL SWIMMING POOL

Woking’s Planning Committee, at its meeting on 11 June, approved the demolition of the existing houses and the building of 4 semi-detached houses and two flats on this site. 126 & 128 High Street sit right next to Knaphill School grounds. The flats will be close to the location of the current houses with the 4 semi-detached houses at the rear of the gardens and close to the boundary fence of Knaphill School and its swimming pool.

Prior to the start of the debate the Planning Officer announced that one of the planning conditions (condition 15) had been removed as he felt that another, more general condition covered the issue. The Planning Officer did not give the meeting any reason for this change and the Councillors did not seriously question this decision.

The issue is the need for screening between the new houses and the school’s open-air swimming pool. According to the developers brief the applicants had discussed the proposal with the school’s Head Master and it had been agreed to plant a Cherry Laurel that would be maintained at a height of 2.7 metres and not any higher as not to affect the school’s pool area via hedge roots. Condition 15 required planting of a hedge prior to the houses being occupied and for the hedge to be maintained in perpetuity. This was withdrawn by the Planning Officer but the Councillors would not accept to screening was adequately covered by other conditions and therefore a new condition was drafted. The conclusion was that it is left to the Council Planning Officers to agree with the developer the type of hedge or fence and the height.

Although some Councillors expressed their concern with the location of the proposed new houses in relation to the swimming pool they agreed to the development and passed responsibility for agreeing adequate screening to the Planning Officers. One Councillor added that if the school was unhappy with the screening provided by the developer they could place their own screening immediately behind the swimming pool. Why should school funds have to be used to meet the failings of the developer and the Planning Authority?

It is disappointing that two sound medium sized houses are to be demolished and replaced by 6 new dwellings with its associated increase in traffic. What I found amazing is that Surrey’s Education Authority were not required to make a comment. Doesn’t the Education Authority have an opinion on private houses overlooking a schools swimming pool?

The lesson from this application is that for Knaphill it is houses, houses and houses and to hell with the consequences.

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Phil Stubbs is Secretary to the Knaphill Residents' Association.

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