Report outlines Victoria Place development's positive performance


Wednesday, 16 November, 2022

A report providing an update on the performance and successes of Victoria Place Woking, whilst identifying the project’s remaining challenges, will be presented to the Council’s Executive at their meeting on Thursday 17 November 2022.

The report also updates elected members on the latest financial modelling of this significant regeneration project.

Woking’s much-anticipated retail, residential and leisure destination that transformed the western quarter of Woking town centre was officially opened by the Mayor of Woking on 23 March 2022.

Billed as one of the most ambitious developments in the south east, Victoria Place Woking includes 429 studio, one and two-bed build-to-rent apartments, 140,000 sq ft retail and leisure space, 47,000 sq ft performing arts academy, 189 bedroom 4* hotel, 1,556 capacity car park featuring electric vehicle charge points, two public spaces and a medical centre.

Anchoring the development is Marks & Spencer, which opened its impressive store in Henry Plaza, featuring a market-style foodhall, 100-seat M&S Café and extensive clothing and home departments stocking the retailer’s full range of sought-after products.

Joining M&S are formalwear specialist, Moss Bros; Skechers, the world-famous athletic footwear and apparel brand; Gail’s bakery and café; leading national gym chain, The Gym Group; and entertainment complex, Woking SuperBowl.

Six months on, and despite difficult market conditions, the development has performed positively, most notably:

  • 70% (301) of the build-to-rent apartments, known as The Marches, are already let with more than 262 now occupied - this is above projected tenancy rates.
  • 91% (175,000 sq ft) of available floor space has been let whilst another 3,300 sq ft is under offer.
  • Soon-to-open retailers include Seymours Estate Agents and lifestyle retailer, Lark.
  • The opening of Italia Conti Performing Arts Academy in September has brought more than 600 students and staff, benefiting local businesses and added vibrancy to the town centre.

Meanwhile challenges remain, particularly around the delayed opening of the 4* hotel and conference centre due to the need to replace the exterior paneling of the building. Work to resolve the situation has been ongoing and a rain-screen panel replacement programme is now underway. It is expected that these works will be complete by 31 October 2023, with the hotel trading before the end of 2023.

The report also provides a summary of the Council’s £700m loan to Victoria Square Woking Limited to cover project development costs. It seeks approval to increase the current loan to meet initial operating costs for the next few years. These additional funds will be closely monitored, along with regular market reviews and seeking future inward investment.

Cllr Ann-Marie Barker, Leader of Woking Borough Council, said: “Victoria Place has transformed the outdated western quarter of the town centre. It has brought life and energy to an otherwise tired and uninspiring part of Woking.

“The development has attracted the return of Marks and Spencer to Woking, university level education for local young people through Italia Conti, modern urban living and a new Hilton hotel.

“The challenge ahead of us now is to manage the eyewatering levels of debt and see a return on our investment. The economic climate has radically changed in recent months and we cannot continue to finance this project with an open cheque book.

“It is essential that further funding is tightly controlled and private investment is sought to secure Victoria Place’s future.”

The Council and its partner, Moyallen, formed a joint venture company, Victoria Square Woking Limited (VSWL), to oversee the project’s delivery. The Council funded the project via borrowing through its access to the Public Works Loan Board.

Read the Executive’s Victoria Place update report