The local elections on 5th May will be the best chance we have to voice our opposition to the imposition of 4500+ houses at Hall Farm in Arborfield. It is becoming clear that the Conservative led Executive at Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) are not going to change the Local Plan Update in any significant way and instead, despite the many good reasons given for NOT building here, are wanting to go ahead with this plan.
It isn't clear WHY they are insisting that this is the best available site, given that Hall Farm is so important to locals in terms of Landscape Value, Heritage and Bio-diversity. Maybe that's it, it's only important to residents who live in the vicinity, not Twyford, Remenham or Hurst residents? Only Arborfield residents that will have their countryside destroyed and their peace disrupted by decades of construction work. Or is it? Take a look at this report from the Daily Mail:
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10635303/How-expanding-towns-swallowing-rural-communities.html?ito=native_share_article-masthead To quote just one small part of it:
"Boris Johnson has been warned of a ballot box backlash amid anger that English villages are being 'swallowed up' by sprawling towns. Planning reforms designed to help the government hit its target of 340,000 new homes a year are still expected to be a significant factor at local elections next month, despite desperate efforts to defuse the issue".
It also isn't clear WHY Wokingham actually NEEDS 4,500 additional houses either! A viable Plan for housing development IS important, but 2,000 houses are more than enough to take the borough over the requirement imposed on us by National Government. Just drive around Wokingham and look at how much new housing has already been built. Are we to sacrifice ALL our vitally important green spaces and beautiful landscape views on the altar of developer profits? Is this really the way for Wokingham to achieve Net Carbon Zero?
We are also being told by our "betters" at WBC that it is not enough to say NO to development at Hall Farm, we also have to do the Councils job for them and say WHERE we would build them instead. OK, well interestingly, a new proposal has been made for 3,000 new houses at Ashridge, between the M4 and A329M by a consortium called Ashridge Wokingham Ltd.
On 31st March this year they wrote to all members of WBC: "Ashridge Wokingham Limited is promoting 227 hectares of land to the north of Wokingham, between the M4 and the A329 – known as Ashridge – for allocation as a Strategic Development Location (SDL) in the new Wokingham Borough Council Local Plan".
To briefly summarise, the proposal for a new SDL at Ashridge:
• Would not include land in Flood Zone 3 (High Risk), unlike Hall Farm
• Would not include land in the Green Belt, unlike Twyford Gardens
• Would not risk the merging of settlements, unlike Hall Farm and Twyford Gardens
• Would not directly impact many borough residents, having few adjacent properties
• Would not risk urban sprawl, being bounded on three sides by the M4 and the A329
• Would benefit from proximity to the cycle network between Reading and Bracknell
• Would benefit from proximity to train services at Wokingham and Twyford
• Would benefit from direct access to the A329 via a new road junction
• Would enable enhancement of bus services between Reading and Bracknell
• Would enable enhancement of bus services between Wokingham and Twyford
Yet we have heard NOTHING from WBC regarding this proposal, or indeed about any other alternatives to Hall Farm. Come to that we have heard NOTHING from WBC about the response to the consultation on the Local Plan Update we all gave up so much time and effort to respond to. WHY NOT?
I note that our local Independent Brough Councillor, Gary Cowan, is very clear on his opposition to the 4,500 houses at Hall Farm. He is saying NO to this environmental vandalism. We should all use our vote on May 5th in the Local Elections to send a very clear message to the people trying to force this development on us.