No disrespect to the hard work of many at the University of Reading (UoR) in their highly commendable efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of Reading University, which recently won them an award, BUT…
This award is all about the impact of the University on its own campus, what about the impact of the University on the lives of its neighbours? Here in the South of Wokingham Borough, just a few miles from the precious green space of Whiteknights, rightly celebrated and enjoyed by many, are the precious green fields, woods and heritage of a small village called Arborfield Cross, now under threat from a massive housing development.
Despite the much vaunted ambitions of the University to “work with the community” at a recent meeting between representatives of UoR and Save Our Loddon Valley at Hall Farm (SOLVE Hall Farm) they made it quite clear they had every intention to not only sell the farm land they owned along the Loddon at Hall Farm to developers, but to continue this business model going forward.
Not content with selling off over 500 acres of good quality agricultural land to developers, in order to reach the target of 4,500 houses they would also be buying out local farmers for even more land, destroying the rural nature of our community to satisfy their need to prop up loss making research. Is this really what they should be doing with their money?
Surely this land is needed for agriculture, education and research we pointed out. Not so says the University, not only do we have more farm land for our research and education, but we have very deep pockets, AND we WILL KEEP DOING THIS! Yes, the award winning UoR sustainability model is predicated on endlessly buying up evermore farm land on the edges of towns and villages across the South East. They then sit back and wait for the ever increasing housing demand across the area to push up prices for land, sufficient for them sell it to housing developers. They then rake in a return on their investment of around 1000%, rinse and repeat. THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE SUSTAINABLE?? Where are we meant to grow food?
A sustainability award for the practice of concreting over the fields, woods and rivers of rural Berkshire? Yesterday Shinfield, today Arborfield, tomorrow Sonning?
At our meeting they admitted “mistakes were made in Shinfield”. The justification for wrecking what was once a quiet village with thousands of badly built, poorly serviced houses? “It would have been a better community, but they resisted our plans and their failure to co-operate with us meant we could not deliver everything we wanted to”. Is that an inducement, or a threat?
Dig a bit deeper and not only are the University now moving from education to speculation, they are also big money lenders, happy to bankroll big infrastructure. Hochtief, working on behalf of the University Of Reading built the bridge over the M4 at Black Boy roundabout, but why would a University need to get involved in massive infrastructure projects? Because the bridge provides a road link to Thames Valley Science Park (big bucks for UoR) and 10,000 new homes in Shinfield, Spencers Wood and Three Mile Cross! (Even more big bucks for UoR).
SOLVE Hall Farm are NOT NIMBYs! We fully accept the need for housing, that is why the 10,000 new homes mentioned above have already been built at Shinfield. Add in 3,500 houses at Arborfield Green. That’s 13,500 houses. Plus all the other speculative and proposed development at Hall Farm, Cross Lanes Farm, Ducks Nest Farm, Edneys Hill, Hogwood Park and Barkham Square? Around 20,000 new houses in the South of Wokingham! What impact will that have on our roads, schools, doctors and other services?
Ok, not all of these houses are being promoted on UoR land, but many of them are. We are simply wanting our “good neighbours” at the UoR to respect the Arborfield and Barkham Neighbourhood Plan. Voted for in 2014 by 94% of local residents the plan seeks to preserve the separation between settlements. It seeks to keep thousands more cars off our small country lanes. It basically says in black and white that the most important aspect of living in Arborfield for the vast majority of people who live here is the countryside around us.
This is what sticks in my throat when I see the University is winning awards for sustainability and receiving plaudits for their efforts to reach net zero by 2030. The UTTER HYPOCRACY of it!
It takes a quarter of a tonne of CO2 to create a tonne of brick, and even more for steel and other house elements. Then there is the pollution from all the gas guzzling construction equipment. As a result, a typical masonry house in the UK takes an estimated 80 tonnes of CO2 to build. Just looking at the houses proposed at Hall Farm 4,500 x 80 = 360,000 tonnes of CO2!
To quote from the UoR self-promotion linked to above:
“Salix Finance has been integral in helping the University reduce its carbon emissions by an estimated 816 tonnes per year, thanks to a series of work to upgrade and redesign the University’s heating systems.
The project has also enabled the University to save money which can be diverted into other sustainable projects around the campus.
The University has pledged to become carbon net-zero by 2030.
Dan Fernbank, Energy and Sustainability Director at the University said: “Sustainability is absolutely at the heart of our ambition to become one of the greenest universities in the world and we’re pleased to be recognised for how we’ve integrated these values throughout our campuses.”
Forgive me but UoR are proposing that fields and trees are to be replaced by houses and roads. This reduction in potential for carbon capture will be for the foreseeable future, well BEYOND 2030. The 816 tonnes of CO2 they save on the upgraded central heating system will take 441 years to make up for the carbon footprint inflicted by building another 4,500 houses.
So, it gives me no pleasure whatsoever to award the SOLVE Hall Farm Greenwashing Award 2022 to Reading University’s very own Bob de Builder for his tireless efforts to join Reading to Wokingham in an unbroken sea of cars, roads, houses and concrete. Well done Bob! Looks like you might be keeping the award for the next 400 years!