- Pat Phillipps
Local plan consultation - what’s happened?
The WBC Local Plan was put out for consultation again after the failure of the Grazeley scheme two years ago. A fair number of sites were put forward by developers, some large, some small. Just to make sure we could see what they wanted, the former Council put a great big tick against one planning proposal in particular. They said:-
‘A garden village at the Hall Farm / Loddon Valley site was considered the most deliverable and sustainable strategic option.’ (§5.45)
Wokingham Borough residents were consulted between November 2021 and January 2022 on what we thought of the various planning proposals put foward. What did the public make of them? For a long while we weren’t told. After taking eight months, the Council officers finally produced the results of the consultation last September. It’s in the form of a 215-page online document with all the information you could possibly want, except one:- What actual conclusions did the Council draw from asking the public for our views? We’re not told. There’s no executive summary, just endless tables of facts and figures. Still, near the end of their lengthy publication, they say:-
‘These detailed comments will be subject to further analysis to help inform the council when taking the next steps of plan preparation.’ (§6.1)
Very good no doubt, but that was nearly six months ago. Nothing seems to be forthcoming, even though the Council say they’re ‘moving forward’ with the LPU. Have the Council officers ‘informed’ the Council Executive as they said they would be able to, once the results of the consultation were ‘analysed’? Last week we asked Council Executive members if the officers had made recommendations to them following the consultation, but apparently not. So let’s see if we SOLVE people can help them along with that informative analysis work, shall we?
In the consultation, the public were asked to state whether they ‘agreed’, ‘somewhat agreed’, ‘disagreed’, or ‘somewhat disagreed’ with the proposed site development, or else were ‘neutral’.
There were nine sites in the Local Plan where over 100 dwellings were indicated for possible development, including Hall Farm. The list below shows the sites ranked by the degree to which the public rejected the development proposal for that site.
Residents’ and community groups’ percentage responses, by order of % level of rejection
Key - + : agree/somewhat agree - : disagree/somewhat disagree = : neutral
Rooks Nest Farm
N. of Arborfield Road, Sh’field
Hall Farm / Loddon Valley
S. of Waterloo Road
Bridge Farm, Twyford
Hyde End Rd
E. of Toutley Depot
Hyde End Rd
Of these sites, Hall Farm was the third most objected to.
Not all sites got the thumbs down from residents, though. The sites with the highest ‘agreement’ percentages were Ashridge Farm and East of Toutley depot.
Most proposed sites generated around 400-500 responses from residents and community groups. Hall Farm got no fewer than 1,274 responses, a sign that people care a lot about this site and the place its unspoilt countryside has in the local community.
The public consultation showed clear opposition to the Hall Farm/Loddon Valley proposal among residents of the Borough. More than 700 people or community groups voiced their disagreement with it, easily the largest amount of opposition to a development proposal recorded by the Council’s consultation. This was despite the fact that the Council was far from neutral in the way it consulted residents, claiming as we saw that Hall Farm/Loddon Valley was ‘the most deliverable and sustainable strategic option’. The question now for the Council Executive members is whether, faced with the public’s response, they will go against it.
You can see the ‘Revised Growth Strategy Consultation 2021 - 2022’ document at:-
Text by Pat Phillips. Photo by Paul Stevens.