Agenda item

Victoria Place Update EXE22-054

Reporting Person – Giorgio Framalicco


The Leader of the Council, Councillor Barker, introduced the report which provided an update on Victoria Place and recommended to Council the approval of an additional revolving loan facility.  Councillor Barker highlighted the positive aspects of the Victoria Place major regeneration project including the new retail outlets such as Marks & Spencer, the opening of Italia Conti Performing Arts Academy which had brought university level education to Woking, and leisure operator Woking Superbowl.  It was noted that new retail occupiers were expected in the new year.  The Marches residential was performing well and demand remained strong.  Consideration was being given to Henry Plaza, named after past Councillor Henry Cawsey, and how the space could be used.  It was highlighted that Victoria Place would host the ice rink for the winter season.

Councillor Barker provided an update on the hotel and expressed disappointment that the hotel’s opening had been delayed due to a failed cladding system.  The Executive was informed that remedial work was due to be completed by the end of October 2023 with the Hilton Hotel opening before Christmas 2023.

The Executive noted the financial challenges and current economic situation facing the project.  The Executive was supportive of the proposal to make available further funding in the short-term to meet the net operating costs of VSWL between December 2022 and March 2027.  This would be a revolving loan facility, with tightly controlled drawdowns.  The Portfolio Holder for Finance, Councillor Roberts, advised the Executive that additional equity investment would be sought in the long-term.  New governance arrangements approved by Council in July 2022 were highlighted which would scrutinise the Council’s investment.

Attention was drawn to the arts provision in the Town Centre, such as the Ambassadors Theatre Group, Rhoda McGaw and Buzz Theatres, and it was suggested that opportunities could be explored with the University of Surrey’s cultural and drama departments to bring more people into the town.

Councillor Azad raised a number of questions regarding the report, including the completion of snagging work, the construction contingency amount, the percentage revenue split between the hotel, residential and retail, the sensitivity analysis to determine the impact of interest rate rises, and the advantages of holding the car park in VSWL.  Councillor Barker responded to the points raised before moving to the recommendations in the report.

RECOMMENDed to Council

That  (i)    the work to date on the delivery of the regeneration project, to support its completion and the next stages of the regeneration of the town centre, be noted;

          (ii)   a revolving loan facility of £745m be approved, representing an increase of £45m to the £700m revolving loan facility approved in February 2021; and

          (iii)  the development budget be retained at £700m with a reduced scope to exclude elements of the February 2021 approval including the Lockfield Drive pedestrian and cycle bridge, Victoria Way central reservation landscaping and Export House Building Maintenance Unit (BMU) to enable conclusion of the final account with Sir Robert McAlpine.

Reason:   To enable the successful completion of the Victoria Place regeneration project to support the overall vision for the town centre as a vibrant town centre, bringing together a compelling offer of high-quality business, leisure, retail and sustainable living opportunities.

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