Investigation slams process behind football ground plans

June 6, 2020 3:36 PM
By Cllr Will Forster

Deborah HughesA review by a cross-party task group into the decision to build a 9,000 capacity stadium and 1,100 flats at Woking Football Club's ground has heavily criticised the decision-making process behind the plans.

Following the announcement of plans to redevelop the football ground with a £250 million loan from Woking Borough Council there has been significant concern from local residents and some council members that the development is inappropriate for the area, the plans do not help the football club and about how these plans were proposed in the first place.

A cross-party task group led by the Chair of the Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Lib Dem Councillor Deborah Hughes, was established to review the process behind the Council's involvement with the development and the group has now published its report.

This task group's report makes 14 wide ranging recommendations to help ensure better decision making; greater transparency; clearer business cases and more thorough due diligence in future. Given the scale and gravity of its findings, it requests that a further independent and fully resourced investigation into the processes behind this development should be undertaken.

The task group's report states that "due diligence appears wholly inadequate", "there appears to be as little if any documentation to explain why the Council offered the developer a £250 million loan" and that they cannot assure "residents that appropriate due process has been applied".

Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Lib Dem Councillor Deborah Hughes, said:

"I believe passionately in the independence of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to review and scrutinise Council decisions and processes, this is a fundamental point of our local democracy. The task group has worked hard to review the evidence and produce its final report for discussion on the 15th June."

Lib Dem Councillor for Hoe Valley, Will Forster, added:

"This report is damning on the decision-making process at Woking Borough Council. I hope the Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee supports this detailed and thorough report at its next meeting on 15th June and that the planning application is rejected at the Council's Planning Committee. The plans to redevelop the football ground are inappropriate for the area, wrong for the club and come from a flawed decision-making process."