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Only 3,750 new houses at Hall Farm?

So, the big news is that the University of Reading (UoR) and Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) have come to an agreement over the Local Plan. In return for taking 750 houses out of the proposals for a new Strategic Development Location (SDL) at Hall Farm, UoR and their developer friends only get to build 3,750 houses.

The residents of the area around Hall Farm, in Shinfield, Lower Earley, Sindlesham, Winnersh, Arborfield and Newland will still be obliged to put up with 30 years (minimum) of construction traffic and an additional 5,325 cars, or thereabouts, on our already grid locked roads. (3,750 houses x 1.42, the average number of cars per household in South East England).

Local residents who use Mill Lane in Shinfield will already know about the impact of flooding on this area, as Mill Lane has been closed to traffic for several days now, and Shinfield near the River Loddon has once again turned the land around the Reading Road into several vast lakes. Shining Fields once again.

But then there is the news of not so much shiny as distinctly murky water as we also get reports of Sewage being discharged into our local rivers. Take a look at the latest update from Thames Water for the sewage treatment plant at Arborfield.

Click on the improvement plan link and you get “An upgrade is planned for Arborfield Sewage Treatment Works. This will improve its ability to treat the volumes of incoming sewage, reducing the need for untreated discharges in wet weather. The scheme is due to complete in 2026”. So only three more years of raw sewage being pumped into Barkham Brook! That is, assuming the works go ahead as planned?

Now anyone who has lived here for more than a few years will be familiar with the regular flooding along the Loddon, but climate change is bringing a whole new level of flood threat. More deaths and injuries were caused by flooding and other water emergencies in Berkshire last year, according to Home Office Data.

In Berkshire, eight deaths or injuries occurred in incidents where firefighters were called to flooding or other water emergencies in 2019-20 – up from four in 2018-19. The Fire Brigades Union said the effects of climate change mean it is "no surprise" that flood deaths hit a record high across England. Take a look at today’s flood risk map for the Hall Farm Area, shown below. The area shaded red is already on Flood Alert, with lots more rain to come.

If 3,750 houses are built here the rainwater runoff will be worse, the amount of sewage requiring processing will be greatly increased, the number of cars jamming our lanes and polluting our air will be exponentially higher, and nobody knows how much worse the effects of climate change could be in 30 years’ time when the houses are due to be completed.

The Met Office predicts In 50 years' time: Winter will be between 1 and 4.5°C warmer and up to 30% wetter and summer will be between 1 and 6°C warmer and up to 60% drier. Heavy rainfall is also more likely. Since 1998, the UK has seen six of the ten wettest years on record. The winter storms in 2015 were at least 40% more likely because of climate change. Of course it is reassuring to read on the same day I see the flooding, the road closures and the sewage dumping that the University of Reading is still flying the flag for a more sustainable future.

"Doing UoR bit" for a healthier bank balance possibly more important than doing UoR bit for a healthier planet UoR? (In case you are not aware of this, Hall Farm is owned by the University of Reading, and they are the ones pushing to develop it as housing, on top of the thousands they already helped develop at Shinfield, in an area of Wokingham that has already taken 97% of the new housing built in Wokingham over the past 10 years).

So much for a more sustainable future?

You could not make it up ☹

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