Every time I open a Newsletter from Wokingham Borough Council these days it includes the now familiar refrain: "We want your views on a revised growth strategy for where new housing and other essential services should go between now and 2038. As in our current Local Plan, which must be revised as it only runs to 2026, we propose concentrating most development in new communities to guarantee the necessary infrastructure and make developers pay for it"
But how does this promise of infrastructure, paid for by the developers fit with reality?
A recent BerkshireLive article (https://www.getreading.co.uk/news/property/arborfield-homeowners-furious-garden-village-22261337) paints a very different picture.
To quote a small part of it: "People who moved into a huge new housing estate on former home of Arborfield Garrison are fuming. A village centre featuring shops and a pub has yet to be built five years after they moved in. Hundreds of homes have been built on the site now, but the area where the village centre should be is little more than a pile of rubble".
Back to one of many PR missives from WBC: "We’ve learned from experience that deciding planning applications for new homes with no overarching strategy results in poor quality housing, in the wrong places, and with little or no infrastructure or affordable element".
Have they spoken to any of the residents of Arborfield Green?
"The first residents moved in to this so called "garden village" in late 2016, some five years ago now. There have been residents meetings, repeated representations to all levels of Wokingham Borough Council, Pinnacle (the CIC management company who charge estate charges to every resident), Crest Nicholson (the main developer on site) and the other developers to no avail.
The main issue is the lack of this district centre we've been promised. I understand it was set to be built when a certain amount of homes were finished, well there's about 2,000 done now and we've not seen anything. We just get fobbed off"
My personal experience of trying to engage with WBC has not been that great either. I went to Shute End to pick up a hard copy of the LPU consultation but was unable to get a hard copy of the plan itself. The reason given was "It would be too expensive to give out copies and its all available online". Despite arguing that not everybody can, or indeed wants to read large complex documents online, I was denied a copy of the plan and had to leave without one. I did eventually get a copy, thanks to the personal intervention of Councillor John Kaiser, but is this really the way to conduct a fair and open consultation?