Interview: Matt Peachey from Woking Council

Fri 8th August 2014, 10:50 am

The Sitematch London team sat down with Woking Councilís Matt Peachey, to find out what makes Woking an attractive place to invest in and what is currently happening in the borough.

What is your role at the council? What are your responsibilities and duties?

As Woking’s economic development manager, I am responsible for delivering Woking's economic strategy 2012-17 and for promoting the borough. I lead the economic development team responsible for communications, stakeholder engagement and economic development. The economic development strategy prioritises a major programme of town centre regeneration, business engagement, inward investment attraction, and numerous strategic actions to create opportunities for economic growth.

If an investor or developer is looking to develop sites in Woking, what types of sites are available?

Woking is committed to an ambitious economic vision to be recognised, nationally and internationally, as a premier business location. To help deliver this vision, Woking town centre is undergoing a major physical transformation, with an estimated £500 million of public and private funds expected to be identified across numerous schemes, which will create a high-quality, modern environment where businesses choose to locate, and where people aspire to live. Following the adoption of Woking 2027, the borough’s core strategy, Woking is primed for a new phase of rapid, sustainable growth. As part of this positive approach to growth, numerous brownfield sites are available for a mix of uses with a particular focus on the town centre, including housing, office and retail.

Woking 2027 provides a policy framework which will guide future developments within the borough. This plan will make provision for the following scale of uses between 2010 and 2027:

- 4,964 net additional dwellings, with an overall affordable housing provision target of 35 per cent
- 28,000m² of office floor space, 20,000m² of warehousing floor space, and 93,900m² of additional retail floor space

Woking’s town centre is the primary driver for development within Woking along with a mixed use development policy for the centre of West Byfleet, the borough’s secondary district centre. Sites to support the majority of this development have already been identified.

Why should an investor or developer invest in Woking?

In addition to Woking’s growth focused vision in terms of economic and spatial planning, Woking is fortunate to have several inherent strengths that make it a highly competitive and strategic location for investors and developers. Located in central Surrey, 25 miles south west of London, Woking’s direct 23-minute train connection to London Waterloo is a major benefit for businesses. Woking has many of the advantages of being located in London, without the capital’s operating costs, coupled with the lifestyle benefits of Surrey’s wooded, rural hinterland. Our top 10 per cent positioning in the Halifax Quality of Life Index is evidence of the positive work/life balance that can be found find in Woking.

Talent, the lifeblood of any business, is readily available in Woking and the figures speak for themselves. Over the last decade, Woking’s population has grown by 10 per cent, and it is central to the Guildford, Woking and Aldershot travel to work area – the 14th largest labour market in the UK. The calibre of our people is also evidenced with 53 per cent of those working in Woking in managerial, professional and technical occupations; 7.1 per cent above the national average. Moreover, 47.5 per cent of the population is qualified to NVQ Level 4 and above; 13.1 per cent above the national average.

Choosing Woking means investors and developers will be in good company as valued members of a highly competitive business community. Several global names have invested in their operations here, including McLaren, SAB Miller, Petrofac, Cap Gemini, World Wildlife Fund UK and Mustang Engineering. Woking has one of the largest concentrations of knowledge sector businesses in the UK.

What is Woking doing to make the borough more attractive to investors/developers?

Woking is pro-active in promoting the area as a place where business matters, and our team works directly with companies of all sizes to ensure they can locate and expand within the area. We offer a full relocation support service, which has helped retain and create thousands of jobs locally.

In a prosperous location such as Woking, it is vital to ensure that the transport infrastructure is able to support forecast growth. We have identified £35 million of investment in major transport improvements across the borough by creating a local growth deal to support our strategic priorities. We are also working with strategic partners such as the Local Enterprise Partnership, Department for Transport, Network Rail, South West Trains and partner councils to ensure that our infrastructure is further invested in, and fit for the future. We are taking the same long-term approach with housing and employment land, creating the space for growth.

Coupled with this, we remain one of the greenest boroughs in the UK. Woking has Beacon Status for adoption of sustainable energy and tackling climate change, and leads on the application of innovative transport and energy production initiatives, which could benefit both investors and developers.

Which key developments are currently in the pipeline? Are there any specific sites that will be marketed soon?

Woking’s most significant upcoming development is Victoria Square (www.victoriasquarewoking.co.uk), our most ambitious phase of town centre development is now being bought forward for autumn planning determination. This £150 million scheme will further transform the town centre, delivering 10,967sq m of new retail floor space anchored by Marks & Spencer; a 190-bed four star hotel with conference facilities, spa and gym in a 21 storey tower; 392 residential apartments in two towers of 28 and 34 storeys; 380 parking spaces; and two new public plazas. It is anticipated that Victoria Square will be completed in 2018.

Across Woking, we have numerous Brownfield development sites, of various sizes and scales, that will support dense mixed uses including offices, residential and retail. These sites will attract more than £500 million of public and private investment to 2020. We plan to highlight several of these current opportunities as part of Sitematch South East.

Is Woking looking to promote specific development types?

We are keen to promote all development types where there is market demand including employment uses and housing. Take-up across office, retail and industrial sites has increased across the board and demand for housing is particularly high in Woking and Surrey as a whole. We are keen to see a mix of high quality, affordable homes and family homes and will work closely with developers to facilitate development wherever possible. 

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