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You could not make this up!

Wokingham have announced they want the Royal Berkshire Hospital to be moved to Shinfield.

“The Wokingham Conservative group has launched a petition which it can present to the government as a sign of residents’ support for the plan. It comes days after Reading Borough Council expressed their concerns over the proposal.”

So what were Reading Borough Councils Concerns? “Cllr Tony Page said that the borough council had not yet explained how the site would be accessible by public transport, walking and cycling, and link to central Reading”. As we have pointed out here on green4grow many times the infrastructure at Shinfield does not include alternative modes of transport to the car. Despite this huge, and very obvious, flaw WBC are wanting people to sign a petition to show their support for this madness.

Hold on, did someone say “Petition”?

Cllr John Halsall said on 12th November 2021: “We are seeking your views and want to hear what you want to say but please note extraneous actions and petitions do not form any part of the consultation”. (Speaking at an Executive meeting on the Revised Local Plan Update, including 4,500 houses at Hall Farm).

Yet the same Cllr John Halsall says on 28th February 2022: “If you agree with our campaign, please show your support by signing our petition.” (The suggested site is part of a proposals to place 4,500 homes at the Hall Farm).

So, if the petition is AGAINST 4,500 houses at Hall Farm it will be ignored, but if it is FOR 4,500 houses at Hall Farm it will be encouraged? No evidence of bias here then!

Not that Cllr John Halsall is any stranger to contradictions, here is another, which got into Wokingham Today on February 17th 2022, courtesy of a letter from myself to the editor:

Cllr John Halsall: “We can’t refuse to take these homes, nor insist on a lower figure because this is set according to a national formula”

But according to Michael Gove, MP and Minister for housing at the time: “The standard method for calculating local housing need does not set a number ” As pointed out in the paper, someone is telling porkies.

Added to this, Cllr John Halsall has still failed to answer this question, months after it was first asked by a concerned resident who happens to live in the Hall Farm area: “Whilst we may not agree on the Hall Farm SDL proposal in the LPU, one thing I hope we are agreed on is that if a more manageable housing target is set down by the government for Wokingham BC, the need to build on any greenfield sites in the borough can be avoided? .. Given the scale of funding available for brownfield sites, do you consider that WBC is as active as it should be to identify such sites?”

Why no answer Cllr Halsall? Too busy writing petitions?

“..more homes have been delivered in Wokingham Borough, where 4,006 homes were built during the period, against a target of 2,125.”

Ok, so maybe we don’t need all 4,500 houses. If this article is correct, and I have no reason to believe it isn’t, Wokingham are building nearly twice as many homes as they need to! Not only that, but in the face of a climate change catastrophe they are building them in a place that has no public transport links and will encourage more people to get into cars and drive everywhere!

This from a recent Guardian article:

“Crude” computer programs that prioritise new road building should be banned from the design of new housing because they cause billions to be diverted to roads that could be used for creating more compact communities, campaigners claim.

It has been endorsed by Rory Stewart, a former Conservative leadership candidate; Toby Lloyd, a former Downing Street housing adviser and the Royal Town Planning Institute.

The attack on “big road urbanism” argues that the Department for Transport cost-benefit modelling tools for new roads fail to “properly capture non-travel-time benefits, such as health, wellbeing and the environment … so the answer will always be to build more or bigger roads”.

I hope you are keeping up here, because there is a lot to take on board. To recap: Not only are WBC building more homes than they need to, their plans indicate they are best built on green field sites, at a time when their brownfield site register is out of date, and they want to build them on our green-fields in the South, not their green-fields in the North.

Another Guardian report: “Everyone in the UK should be legally entitled to equal access to nature, wildlife campaigners will tell the government".

"Communities and NGOS would have the ability to take local authorities to court if they failed to provide healthy green space, under plans set out by more than 60 nature, planning, health and equality organisations. They argue that despite the fact there is strong evidence that accessible, nature-rich spaces boost our physical and mental wellbeing, and reduce mortality, one in three people in England cannot access nature near their home”. Seems like our health and well being in the South are not as important as their health and well being in the North?

Just to clarify that last point here are some extracts from the Hurst Neighbourhood Plan Working Group minutes:

"Wayne Smith recused himself from the meeting as there would be a clear conflict of interest in his capacity as Borough Councillor for Hurst and Executive Member for Planning and Enforcement for WBC".

“Meeting was held between Ian Bellinger and James McCabe WBC Growth and Delivery on 17 December, 2021 to discuss the LPU/HNP”. (Local Plan Update in conjunction with Hurst Neighbourhood Plan) Amongst other things discussed were:

· Proposed Value Landscape Areas (PVLAs)

· Biodiversity Opportunity Areas (BOAs) and wildlife fragmentation/connectivity

· Housing Need Assessment for Hurst and Site Allocations

· Neighbourhood Plan Development Orders

· Wildlife Corridors/Green Corridors

· Possibilities of Biodiversity Offsetting to Hurst

Now I have no objection to Hurst getting its act together and preparing a Neighbourhood Plan, in fact I gave up many hours of my life to help write ours, but as mentioned on this Blog before, my problem is with WBC ignoring the Arborfield and Barkham Neighbourhood Plan.

More from the Hurst NP Working Group minutes:

0172 Overall Strategy by WBC for housing allocation: Discussion took place and it was agreed that the overall strategy proposed by WBC was the right way to go.

0173 Proposed SDL Sites: The group considered the merits and shortcomings of the preferred SDL Site (Hall Farm) and compared it to the alternative master planned SDLs of Ruscombe and Ashridge, but on the basis of landscape designation, sustainability, deliverability, economic benefit and the impact on Hurst overall, Hall Farm was best.

CONCLUSION: The Hall Farm preferred site was the least bad of all the SDLs and the group support this proposal.

Well they would say that, wouldn’t they? But really, it’s tough “Up North”, consider this:

“A lengthy discussion took place as to the merits or otherwise of ‘squeezing’ 60 more dwellings into the Parish, without being harmful to the landscape character, historical character and the community of Hurst as the school and pre-school are up to capacity etc.”

You could not make this stuff up! We are expected to take 4,500 more houses while Hurst is worried about the effect “squeezing” in 60 more houses might have on their precious village! No wonder Cllr Wayne Smith (Executive member for Planning and Enforcement at WBC) recused himself from the meeting.

Bring on the local elections.

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