Back to the Future?
Just to be clear, it's not just the "lefty liberal press" reporting concerns about the Governments proposed reforms to the planning system that would allow developers in effect to ignore regulations protecting nature. This report from the Times:
"In a sign of a growing backlash against a perceived “attack on nature” by the government, 22 countryside, environment and heritage groups are to tell Simon Clarke, the levelling-up secretary, that they are deeply concerned by measures in last month’s growth plan. One of them is a series of proposed investment zones in which wildlife habitat regulations could be overruled".
On the positive side (for bio-diversity at least) Wokingham is not part of one of the proposed "investment Zones". Perhaps that is because we have already used up most of the land that can be dug up and built on? But then do our "Planners" need any excuse to create a car-dependent, nature-free zone? Isn't that what we are already building here in Wokingham?
It was interesting to discuss the future of scientific research at Hall Farm with a University employee recently, who is deeply concerned that if Hall Farm is sold it will mean an end to the valuable research they undertake on the Universities behalf. When SOLVE Hall Farm representatives met with University of Reading representatives we were told that alternative farms, such as the property they own at Sonning, could be used to replace Hall Farm.
Not so, says our contact. Sonning is nowhere near the size of Hall Farm. Also, there is a lot of farming infrastructure, much of it recently constructed that cannot be simply moved. In other words, far from this proposed land sale "supporting research at the University through making increased funding available" as claimed. It will in fact be a hugely retrograde step, damaging the Universities ability to continue research for decades or more.
The University is NOT a property developer and in our opinion should NOT be seeking to exploit more of its land holdings to make money. YES, it does have a responsibility to its students to fund good quality teaching and research, which is why Hall Farm is so well placed to continue to provide those opportunities.
Then there are the University claims to want to work with the local community. In fact they are already destroying the bits of community that are left in Arborfield after all the previous sell-offs of University land in Shinfield. House sales are rising in the area around Hall Farm as residents see what they perceive as "the writing on the wall".
I have personally been asked if I am planning to join the exodus, and visited by speculative land buyers asking if I want to sell. Local landowners are increasingly under pressure to sell to a mysterious group known as "Hall Farm Developments", including owners of land currently used for farming. The rural nature of this area is steadily being eroded and soon there will be no one left to continue growing food locally.
We have not yet had the results of the public consultation, but the vultures are already circling!
Speaking of the consultation, an "update" is now online at https://engage.wokingham.gov.uk/en-GB/projects/right-homes-right-places-local-plan/7
A keen eyed green4grow reader has clicked on the link ringed in red above and discovered NOT a brand new page full of details about the Revised Local Plan Update but this rogues gallery:
Forgive me, but didn't we vote them out last May? We have to stop this wanton destruction of our countryside now, before it is too late!
Join SOLVE Hall Farm at the University of Reading on Saturday 8th October to protest against the sale of Hall Farm for housing and help make the case for keeping teaching, research and farming.
Sign our petition to Wokingham Borough Council and let's have a debate by the Council on the future of this cherished green space and lets stop the irrevocable damage being proposed by this incredibly badly located development.