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What now for the Loddon Valley at Hall Farm?

I see in the Reading Chronicle that a “local councillor” has been asking Steve Barclay M.P. “When will the new Royal Berkshire Hospital be built?”

But in parliament last Thursday, 25 May, Barclay avoided giving a specific timeline for the construction of a new building. Now, Cllr Jones has written to Barclay demanding more answers. He has also written to local M.P. John Redwood asking for his support in this matter, to which Mr Redwood has replied “As Councillor Jones should know the local NHS management have not decided if they wish to redevelop on the existing site or plan a new hospital elsewhere. Until they have decided and presented a business case, ministers cannot approve money for the project. If Councillor Jones wishes to help then he should seek clarification of aims from the Health Trust, as I have asked for”.

Which puts me in mind of something I read back in March 2023 entitled “Why no one will talk about Hall Farm”. It was published by the Shinfield Lib Dems as part of their local election campaign. It starts: “The debate about Hall Farm rumbles on with some of the lobbyists against it complaining that Wokingham Borough Council accepted, and then declined to debate, a petition against the proposed development. In their wilder statements, they suggest that the Lib Dem partnership is preparing to reverse its position and include housing at Hall Farm in the revised Local Plan”.

There then follows a “justification” for not allowing a debate; that it would leave them open to accusations of “pre-determinate bias”. How did the Revised Local Plan ever get as far as it did unless someone, somewhere had proposed it? Was it never looked at or thought about? Why were the developers allowed to present a case to Council? When John Halsall sent a letter to all residents in the Borough extolling the virtues of building at Hall Farm was this not evidence of “pre-determinate bias”? As for building a hospital at Shinfield, back in February 2022, Councillor Halsall went so far as to start a petition in favour of it!

Back to the Lib Dem Campaign flyer: “Meanwhile the Royal Berkshire Hospital has not given up on the idea of moving to a Greenfield site in Shinfield. At a recent presentation it said it was talking to the University about acquiring 20 – 25 acres”. It went on to say “Where might that be? Lib Dem campaigners in Shinfield will oppose this as much as we oppose 4,500 houses at Hall Farm”.

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