Woking council seeks funding to complete 380 homes out of 1,142 originally planned for Sheerwater estate

Woking council is seeking £57.7m in government funding to allow the completion of 380 homes, forming part a regeneration project halted due to the local authority’s financial troubles. The housing scheme, designed by BDP and Belfast-based White Ink Architects, is being delivered by Gilford Ash.

The Sheerwater project, which was originally intended to deliver 1,142 homes, is now set to deliver 472 homes in total. The rest of the development will now not go ahead, under a new plan set to go before councillors tomorrow (Thursday). The project masterplan was developed by BDP, who also saw elements of the housing through to RIBA Stage 2, before White Ink Architects took over as exectutive architects on the delivery stages. 

The authority, which in the summer issued a section 114 ‘bankruptcy’ notice, is also considering forward selling the homes and land in the three phases under construction, with the exception of 106 existing properties which will be refurbished.


How the original Sheerwater scheme was expected to look. 

The Sheerwater regeneration project had been set to deliver 1,142 new homes over a nine-year phase of development.  However it now looks set to deliver 472 homes over four phases.

The development agreement between the council and ThamesWey, the developer of the £492 million regeneration scheme, ended in July this year when Woking Council issued a S114 notice due to financial pressures.

A section 114 notice is seen as demonstrating a council faces bankruptcy unless action is taken. It restricts a council to only funding statutory services, meaning the council could no longer borrow to invest in the project to the same exent.

This means the council is now seeking additional funding to complete three phases, Red, Yellow and Copper, which are already under construction by ThamesWey.  

Avison Young, the consultancy hired to assess potential options for Sheerwater regeneration in May 2023, has also recommended that the council forward sell all homes at the site, apart from the 106 existing homes, as a single lot or in parcels.

The 106 existing homes on the site were previously earmarked for demolition. As the regeneration project will now be discontinued, the 106 homes, which according to the report “have been empty for some time and are in poor repair”, will be refurbished. 

The estimated cost of repairing these homes is £2.9 million. The works will be paid for with money from capital receipts, land transfers and the sale of land occupied by the old blocks of flats.

The proposed plan will be considered by council members and put to a vote tomorrow (12 October).

>>See also: Development debts prompt DLUHC intervention at council

The council’s debt portfolio is £1.8 billion with a predicted HRA revenue deficit of £1.3 million for 2024/25.

The construction work, which started in 2019, has delivered a £26m community facility, Eastwood Leisure Centre (designed by Pozzoni), and completed purple phase which consists of 92 properties. 

Eastwood Leisure Centre was completed in October 2021, and purple phase was delivered in November 2021. 

Councillor Will Forster, deputy leader of Woking Borough Council and portfolio holder for Sheerwater, said: “We are listening, and it’s clear from the survey that residents will be satisfied if we complete the phases currently under construction but not the rest of the consented scheme, which was too big and too disruptive. But, residents don’t want the estate left as it is, with boarded-up homes, people left isolated in empty apartment blocks and roads which are barely accessible.

“I wholeheartedly agree with this, and we have put forward a robust case to government to draw down funding from the Public Works Loan Board that was previously agreed by this council. It wouldn’t be good for the community and it wouldn’t be value for money for the taxpayer if we don’t complete the three phases already started. In total we are asking the government for £57.7 million to finish these phases and conclude the council’s involvement with the scheme”.