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Local Elections are about Local Issues.

The cat is out of the bag. When residents of Arborfield Cross questioned Adrian Betteridge (one of three Lib Dem candidates for the new Arborfield and Barkham Ward in the upcoming Local Elections) about the long awaited and much anticipated Local Plan Update he trotted out the now familiar party line: We have made no decisions yet but will look at the plan soon and make a judgement about where best to put the houses Wokingham needs, or something similar.


He was then asked if he thought Hall Farm was a suitable site for building houses given its proximity to the River Loddon at Shinfield, and how often this area is known to flood. His alleged reply was along the lines of: Flooding in this area can be dealt with by diverting flood water away from any houses.


EDITORS NOTE: Adrian has been in touch since my first version of this post pointing out that he has no recollection of using those precise words, and as I was not present at the conversation my reporting of them in quotation marks is misleading. With apologies to Adrian, those were the words given to me, however I do accept that as hearsay it should not be in quotes, and I have removed the quotation marks. However, those were the words my sources thought they heard.


So let me try another tack, essentially revealing the same TRUTH. In the letters page of Wokingham Today, published on Thursday April 18th, Cllr Lindsay Ferris, Executive Member for Planning and the Local Plan, has a bit of a pop at Cllr Pauline Jorgensen for her "inaccuracies on the local plan." He says "She claims that the new houses that her Government insists we deliver can be accommodated on Brownfield sites". Actually, what she said was "we would prioritise building on brownfield sites". But we all make mistakes.


What is clearly not a mistake is Cllr Ferris going on to say "Finally, she berates the current administration for delay, yet if she is radically to depart from the current draft local plan in the way she suggests, a very long delay is inevitable, as such a material change would require two fresh new public consultations before an agreed local plan could go to public enquiry."


There you have it in black and white. The LPU will be back, unchanged in any material way, we are just waiting for the dust to settle on the Local Elections. Why not come out with it and say so then? Be up front with the voters and tell them a vote for the Lib Dems on May 2nd is a vote in favour of building a vast new SDL at Hall Farm (right between the two already built at Arborfield Green and Shinfield).


I have just watched Sir Ed Davey, Lib Dem leader Nationally, being interviewed by Laura Kuenssberg and when asked about Lib Dem Chances on Thursday (Local Election Polling day is Thursday 2nd May) he said he anticipated very good results, “particularly in places like Wokingham”.


Clearly the Lib Dems anticipate winning outright control of Wokingham Borough Council on Thursday, and once in power they will be free to push all the house building Wokingham “requires” into a vast new housing estate at Hall Farm.


Note, I say “requires” because Hall Farm is known to be 4,500 houses, to be built over two plan periods. Nobody is making them build the houses over a 30-year period, instead of the legal requirement of 15 years, this is a CHOICE.


Building at Hall Farm is not the obvious solution to house building, particularly given the complete lack of transport and other infrastructure, but it is clearly being heavily promoted by the University of Reading.


I can see the attraction a major development at Hall Farm will have for other areas of Wokingham. One can even see how other areas on the edge of Hall Farm are being “protected” by Planning Officers at Wokingham. Witness how a mere 3 houses at Barkham are turned down. But look at the arguments made by Planning Officers against the houses:


“Planning officers also said the location was not sustainable for housing. They said: “The application site is within an unsustainable location that would not encourage a modal shift towards sustainable modes of transport, by reason of the countryside location outside of settlement limits, distances to facilities and services, limited public transport links and poor quality of the walking/cycling environment.”


Which are precisely the arguments SOLVE Hall Farm has been making to the Lib Dem administration at WBC but to no avail. The ONLY party prepared to SAY NO TO 4,500 HOUSES AT HALL FARM IN THE LOCAL ELECTIONS ON MAY 2nd ARE THE CONSERVATIVES.


To voters who might consider voting Conservative difficult I would suggest you at least consider this: A VOTE FOR THE LIB DEMS ON THURSDAY IS A VOTE IN FAVOUR OF BUILDING HOUSES AT HALL FARM.


If we can break the Lib Dem hold on the Council there is a good chance we can get Hall Farm taken out of the LPU and other, more suitable sites such as Twyford or Ashridge, at least considered on an equal basis.



 Paul Stevens

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How trustworthy are our politicians? Good question, to which there is not a simple answer. I have looked all the local politicians in the eye, Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative. So far only the Lib Dems have said one thing then done another. I would have more respect for them if they stopped pretending a) They have no choice (because they do) b) They are still thinking about the LPU (because the decision has been made already as Lindsay Ferris makes clear in his letter to Wokingham Today) c) They have considered all possible options (because they are ignoring two serious contenders for the houses, Ashridge and Twyford).

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Appreciate the update - has made me reconsider how I will vote this time around. One question though - how trustworthy are any of our politicians?!

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