In the last Blog I mentioned how fundamental fungi are to the development of life on Earth. (It is believed that plants only made it out of the water and on to the land around 500 million years ago because of their collaboration with fungi, which served as their root system for tens of millions of years, until plants could evolve their own).
Their is now a growing awareness of many quite sophisticated problem solving behaviours in fungi. For example simple decision making, by comparing a range of possible courses of action, means "slime mould" can find the shortest path between two points in a labyrinth.
Japanese researchers released slime moulds into petri dishes modelled on the Greater Tokyo area. Oat flakes marked out major urban hubs and bright lights represented obstacles such as mountains - slime moulds don't like light. After a day, the slime mould had found the most efficient route between the oats, emanating into a network almost identical to Tokyo's existing rail network.
In similar experiments, slime moulds have re-created the motorway network of the United States and the network of Roman roads in central Europe. The real test of the problem solving ability was set by the ultimate maze challenge - find your way out of an Ikea store! A researcher built a model based on his local Ikea store, and sure enough, without any signs to follow or staff to direct them, the slime moulds quickly found the shortest path to the exit.
So what bearing does all this have on Wokingham Borough Councils ability to model road networks, and in particular the impact this will have on traffic? In an article published here: https://www.getreading.co.uk/news/reading-berkshire-news/reading-borough-council-wont-support-23087668 Reading Borough Council has raised concerns around the accessibility of any new proposed site for the Royal Berkshire Hospital at a newly proposed site in Wokingham. (Hall Farm).
"Wokingham Borough Council's Local Plan and Revised Growth Strategy will see a major development of up to 4,500 homes at the Hall Farm/ Loddon Valley site and the plans also refer to the potential to house Royal Berkshire Hospital.
Reading council has raised concerns and said that they believe the most appropriate location for the hospital is in fact at the "heart of the community", which it says is "here in Reading".
The council's key concern about relocating to Wokingham relate to accessibility as the Hall Farm/Loddon Valley site has poor transport links.
The council also noted that access to central Reading and the rest of the urban area is extremely poor, and the M4 and River Loddon and its floodplain, form major issues with movement and transport.
Both Reading and Wokingham councils declared climate emergencies in 2019. Reading council also said that the relocation of the site to Wokingham would go against the proposals set out in terms of sustainable construction and a carbon-neutral policy.
Councillor Tony Page, the council's lead for strategic environment, planning and transport, said: "We understand that all organisations will routinely review their premises, but the focus has to be on the well-being of people who require care.
"The Hall Farm/Loddon Valley site simply does not currently have the public transport links available.
"While the final decision on relocation sits with the NHS Trust, and not Wokingham or Reading Councils, both have declared climate emergencies.
"To relocate the hospital to a site where the only current realistic travel option would be by car, would seem to be at odds with that commitment."
I should also note that the report quoted above says that the Local Plan and Revised Growth Strategy WILL see a major development of up to 4,500 homes at the Hall Farm/ Loddon Valley site. Surely some mistake here? WBC are currently consulting on this and as yet, no decision has been made?
Many of us suspect that despite the obvious problems this site has with transport links, and the ridiculous notion that putting people into cars somehow helps the Climate Emergency, that WBC are in fact determined to push ahead with developing this site.
A Slime Mould could make better decision.