Hot on the heels of the Open Letter from SOLVE Hall Farm to Helen Gordon, President of the Council of the University of Reading comes news in the Reading Chronicle that a controversial plan to ‘bulldoze’ a meadow and build two sports pitches in Reading has now been approved.
"The plan, submitted to Wokingham Borough Council by the University of Reading, will see the development take place on land at Shinfield West, which currently comprises of a wildflower meadow. The land is now set for the installation of two full-size football pitches and a cricket pitch. Many residents registered their anger at the plan, with objections being lodged against the application regarding its expected impact on wildlife, increased traffic and issues related to parking".
I am sure many Shinfield residents are fans of Cricket and Football and are keen to see pitches being built that will encourage more people to play these sports. But to bulldoze a wildflower meadow in order to create them beggars belief! Why on earth would the local Council approve such a plan? As ever, it pays to follow the money!
"The site is located west of Hollow Lane and south of Church Lane on Hyde End Road and makes up part of the approved Shinfield West development that will eventually see the construction of up to 1,200 homes with associated retail, leisure and community facilities, as well as a new primary school".
The amount of Community Infrastructure Levy or CIL charged on new developments varies according to where the houses are being built and the precise nature of the housing but as an example, on the nearby Arborfield Green SDL, the charge is £365 per square metre for residential housing.
The 2012/13 English Housing Survey provides some useful evidence for England on average house size and indicates that the mean property floor area is 92.3 m² So how much CIL does that add up to? 365 x 92.3 = £33,689.5. But that is just for 1 average house. The proposal above is for 1,200 houses. The calculation then becomes 33,689.5 x 1,200 which equals a staggering £40,427,400. Not forgetting that many of the houses built could be much bigger than the mean size quoted here.
Forty million quid, give or take a few hundred thousand, ought to be enough to build a few sports pitches, but why do we even need these pitches? Reading Football Club had some excellent pitches at Hogwood Park they have since "outgrown". Why not use those for the community? Oh, wait a minute, more houses!
Hmmm, ok well what about the very fine sports pitches at the Old Army Garrison? A quick search for pitch bookings at Arborfield Green (as the old garrison site is now known) reveals https://pitchbooking.com/partners/wbc Arborfield Green is of course yet more houses.
These "high quality surfaces" are used by The Bohunt School for PE lessons, after-school activities, and matches during the day. The site is also open to the community during evenings and weekends, so you can play on a floodlit, all weather pitch and it will "only" cost you £53.40 for 2 hours.
What happened to open fields and jumpers for goal posts?