A report(link is external) recommending the closure of the Victoria Arch Widening Scheme, in Woking town centre, has been published ahead of the meeting of the Executive on Thursday 5 October.
The report(link is external) outlines that the project will no longer be able to proceed due to a projected £53/£54million cost increase above the original budget of £115million, which the Council and Homes England are unable to support.
At the meeting, Executive members will review the recommendations to formally close the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) Grant Determination Agreement and discuss the project closure requirements. These include works to recover funding for the remaining project costs, consider development opportunities for the Triangle site, withdraw two planning applications for the Downside Goods Yard, and work with partners to improve the state of the arch and adjacent highway.
The potential closure of the Victoria Arch Widening Scheme concludes the fundamental project review, conducted from July 2022 to June 2023, to provide a rescoped, best value engineering proposal within the scheme’s agreed budget. In collaboration with the project partners, the review determined that the scheme is no longer viable.
If the recommendation is approved, Homes England will not seek to recover the grant funding paid to date and it will consider reimbursement for outstanding and reasonable project closure costs.
Cllr Will Forster, Woking Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Key Projects and Deputy Leader, said: “Given Woking’s critical financial situation, both the Council and the Government have concluded that the Victoria Arch Widening Scheme cannot be progressed. It is clear the Council needs to draw a line in the sand on this project.
“If the recommendation is supported, I know many residents and businesses will be pleased that the original plans for the Victoria Arch project will not go ahead, which would have involved this key road being closed for over three years.
“I would like to extend my thanks to the project team and partners who have undertaken significant works to rescope the scheme. The extensive engineering and impact studies are, and will remain, valuable intellectual property of the Council. These will be used to inform any future utility works and, if sufficient funds come forward, to progress a future scheme at a later date.”
Cllr Will Forster, continued: “The demolition of the Triangle site should not have started without having a plan in place and owning all of the properties in the area.
“We understand people’s concerns and frustrations regarding its current state. The visual amenity is unacceptable and it is our priority to improve the site as soon as it is feasibly possible.
“However, I must be upfront about the site’s medium-term future. This is an issue which is not going to be solved quickly. Detailed discussions will need to be conducted with the highway authority, Surrey County Council, and development options considered and presented to interested developers. These actions will take time.”