Firstly a welcome for people newly discovering this site. With the delivery of thousands of letters from Wokingham Borough Council across the affected areas of the borough, the first of which arrived yesterday we have a significant increase in people visiting our site and in enquiries. Please bear with us if we don’t reply immediately. Please sign up to our mailing list, Facebook page or Twitter feed if you have not already done so to keep up to date.
For the benefit of everybody we thought we’d give a quick summary:
We are currently studying the application and will make further comment once we have looked in more detail.
Please note that in common with all Wokingham Borough Council consultations the volume of responses is important, so for example a petition of any size would be considered one response as would a letter from one person. As a result rather than one letter per family, one differently worded letter from each member of your household would make more impact in terms of responses.
The outline planning application for the northern part of the SDL from the Arborfield Garrison Landowners Consortium is now online at the Wokingham Borough Council website.
As anyone who has tried to find a planning application on the site before will know it isn’t exactly the most user friendly site, it’s not quite on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’, but it’s still difficult to find so here is a quick guide to locating the application documents.
Firstly go to this page:
There are four search boxes in the main area of the screen, leave the search set to “All Parishes” and “All Types” and in the optional application number box type: O/2013/0600
Now press the Search button and the application will come up under Finchampstead parish – ironic as the bulk of the land in this application is in Barkham…
There is a link See the Plans and Documents at the bottom of the information that will load links to the large number of documents that make up the application.
Update: The plans are now also online on the Arborfield Vision site, and are a lot easier to find and navigate there. The plans can be found at http://www.arborfieldvision.com/downloads/planning-application-documents/
Whilst we wait for the staff at Wokingham Borough Council to scan in the 21 boxes of paperwork for the outline planning application, and for the developers themselves to get the planning application uploaded to their own Arborfield Vision site, an interesting map to take a look at.
This map is generated from the UK Election Maps site which is a useful resource for working out who your parish or local council is, or which parliamentary or european constituency you are in. It is worth looking at for the Arborfield Garrison SDL because it does highlight quite how misleading the name actually is!
Looking at the map, Wokingham Borough ward boundaries are in purple, and the parish council boundaries in blue. The first thing you’ll notice from them is that through the garrison the two boundaries are subtly different – the Arborfield Garrison Community Centre is in the Arborfield Parish Council area, but is in the Barkham Ward, similarly with some of the houses along Bramshill Close and Valon Road.
You’ll also notice quite how little of the SDL is actually in Arborfield, in terms of areas Barkham has most of the SDL, followed by Finchampstead, then Arborfield, and finally there is a very small triangle of land that is under Swallowfield.
Assuming the phasing plan presented by the developers last week is what actually happens, the first houses will be built in Swallowfield and Finchampstead. No new houses at all will be built in Arborfield. All of the development in Barkham is on brown field, previously developed land, most of the development in Finchampstead and all of the development in Swallowfield is on green field, undeveloped land.
We released the following press release in response to the recent exhibition by the Arborfield Garrison Landowners Consortium, concentrating particularly on the traffic mitigation plans, and the issues around the timing of the school with the development phasing.
Thank you to everyone who took the time and trouble to attend the Arborfield Garrison Landowners Consortium hosted exhibition of their planning application this week. Although once again there were issues with pre-publicity, a large number of people turned up to review the plans.
In general we were pleased to see that the plans were broadly the same as those which had come from the community planning weekend earlier in the year, with small changes such as the addition of allotments or a community orchard adjacent to the tennis courts on Baird Road rather than significant relocation of key buildings or new housing areas.
The plans causing most discussion of course were the developers traffic mitigation plans.
Notably absent were any plans for a bypass – this being because the AGLC proposal (mentioned on one of the boards) is still changes to the Arborfield Cross roundabout – and also any mitigation for the Finchampstead stretch of the A327 down to the Tally Ho and on into Eversley. Questions on those areas were generally referred to Wokingham Borough Council and not the developers problem. What plans there were showed some consistency in that the developers answer to all the potential traffic black spots, Barkham Road and California Crossroads for example, seems to be to remove existing mini roundabouts and replace them with traffic lights. By way of an example under the developer plans the four mile drive into Wokingham from Arborfield would go through four additional sets of traffic lights within the space of a mile going through Barkham. Another proposal which perhaps people didn’t spot is to ‘solve’ issues with Commonfield Lane by making it a one way street.
Other issues were ones of phasing, in particular around the secondary school. The AGLC representatives were highlighting that Wokingham was wanting the secondary school open by September 2015, the problem being that it is adjacent to one of the last parts of the garrison to be occupied and according to their own phasing plans an area that won’t be developed until 2017. It is perhaps not the ideal educational environment to have a full scale demolition going on right next door to the school…
As ever we would welcome any feedback or comments on the exhibition members may have, and we will feed that back to the next liaison meeting with the council in a couple of weeks.
The full planning application will eventually be available online at the Wokingham Borough Council website. AGLC have made their exhibition boards available online copies can be seen below:
This week is an important one for progress of the Strategic Development Location here on the edge of Arborfield, Barkham and Finchampstead. Many of you will have received a flyer through your door from the developer inviting you to a presentation this week, on Thursday 25th April, between 2pm and 8pm at the Garrison Community Centre. At this exhibition the Arborfield Garrison Landowners Consortium will present their application for the development of their part of the SDL. It is important to note that this is only part of the whole development, the Finchampstead based Marino Family Trust own the remainder of the land in the SDL and will be putting in a separate application for the balance of the houses.
A copy of the flyer can be seen below:
We understand from Wokingham Borough Council that the application was delivered last week in over twenty boxes, however the application has still not gone live whilst the consortium answer a number of queries and provide additional information. Both the council and the consortium are keen that the application doesn’t go to appeal as this would be an expensive process for all involved – and given that the MoD and Wokingham Borough Council are both taxpayer funded it will ultimately be us that will pay for all the lawyers should it go to appeal!
There seems to be little information currently about when we might expect an application from the Finchampstead based Marino Family Trust, however this causes issues for the AGLC submission as although the two groups have chosen to submit separately the two applications are dependant on each other to ensure all the infrastructure requirements set down by the council are met, in particular the main access to the SDL from the Finchampstead side comes across Marino land.
In other developments the SDL has featured significantly in the annual parish meetings that have happened so far, and seems likely to feature in those that are yet to take place. The main area of concern is very much the bypass, indeed we have been sent a copy of the Swallowfield Parish Newsletter with a lead article about the bypass by a member and asked to comment.
Firstly, the article suggests various routings for the proposed bypass, apparently taken by looking in detail at this diagram from the recent WBC presentations and overlaying it on a map. These routes have absolutely no basis in reality and are merely speculation. The council has had no conversations with landowners, has done no route surveys, nothing. What this diagram shows is that they have put arbitrary points into their traffic model on each side of Arborfield and connected them together for the purposes of the model, in geographic terms the traffic vanishes at those points and reappears at the matching points on the other side of the village without any modelling of the interaction of this new road with both the landscape and the other roads in between. Whilst it is obviously frustrating and results in concerns across a wide area about the impact of the road, there is no routing and until we’ve been through a lot more detailed consultations and in particular found out how much money will be available for such a road there won’t be. Different communities obviously have preferences for the route of the road, but they are just preferences – the council has no stated preference for any route.
As we draw members from across the area we as a group also do not have any formal position on the exact route of the bypass, suffice that we believe one needs to be built somewhere as without it the A327 will grind to a total halt and all the local villages will feel the effects as drivers try to avoid the A327 by taking totally unsuitable routes through the surrounding villages.
Swallowfield Parish Council intend to discuss the relief road at their annual meeting on 30th April.
There has also been recent news that Reading Football Club will not now be moving their training facility to Aldermaston. Whilst this might seem like good news, we remain concerned. The football club wish to move from Hogwood Park because Wokingham Borough Council will not allow them to expand the facilities on the site as the football club require, so we expect them to be looking at other local sites. Hogwood Park is very clearly not within the SDL boundary which means that with the football clubs departure there is a very tempting piece of previously developed land that could be developed for houses in addition to the 3,500 already penciled in within the SDL.
Tonight’s Finchampstead Society Traffic Presentation was well attended, much as with the Highways Forum extra chairs were needed to accommodate everybody who attended.
The presentation was a simplified version of the presentation given recently to the Arborfield Forum, generally with a lot fewer figures, and this perhaps made for a clearer understanding for those present. The presentation didn’t give a different message than on that occasion either – even without any houses being built there are a number of problems with the network, but with the SDL’s in place everything is much worse. The most interesting part was the question and answer which raised several issues which have not been discussed previously.
All in all it was an interesting presentation, and our thanks to the Finchampstead Society for hosting the event.
Whilst we await the planning application from the Arborfield Garrison Landowners Consortium, now expected in April, the council has continued with it’s ongoing consultations.
This week Wokingham Borough Council held the first “Shaping our New Communities Workshop” which brought together people who had expressed an interest in the community facilities across the strategic development locations in the recent survey of community needs, in particularly what could be put in the new community facilities at the centre of the developemnt. The group consisted of a real mixed bag of people including representatives from churches, the local uniformed organisations, local drama groups, plus a couple of parish councillors. Sadly when it came to the discussions specifically about Arborfield there was no representation from either Arborfield Parish Council or Barkham Parish Council with only the local churches and Lauraine Newcombe a parish councillor from Finchampstead in attendance. The council is intending to run the workshop again, so to ensure you get an invitation please fill in the SINC Consultation on the council website, it is important to get these requirements done early as quite often with new developments leaving this kind of infrastructure results in them not being completed. If you are directly involved, or you know anyone locally who may be involved with any sort of local group that might want to use the potential new community centre, or you have an interest in ensuring we get a library in the new development for example it is important to make your voice heard.
Borough councillors, parish councillors and ourselves continue to meet with Wokingham Borough Council officers monthly to discuss the ongoing progress of the strategic development. The minutes of the most recent meeting can be found here. If there are any particular issues you wish to raise at these meetings we are happy to do so, please let us know through our contact page.
There are a couple of public meetings that may be of interest coming up this week. Firstly tomorrow night the Finchampstead Society are holding a special meeting at the Memorial Hall in Finchampstead where Matt Davey the Head of Highways and Transport at Wokingham Borough Council will be giving a presentation on the Traffic in Finchampstead related to the Housing Development at Arborfield. Those of you who attended the special highways meeting last month will be familiar with Matt, but for those concerned with the effects of the development particularly around the California Crossroads, and the Reading Road down into Eversley this will be an ideal opportunity to come and talk particularly about the potential traffic problems that the development will produce in these areas. The society was formed in 1976 when urbanisation was threatening Finchampstead, and their website includes an interesting document produced at that time that is worth reading given the current development! A flyer for the meeting tomorrow can be found here.
The other public meeting of interest is the Finchampstead Parish Council Annual Gathering for Parishioners, this is to be held on Wednesday 27th March, 2013 at 8pm at the FBC Centre in Gorse Ride. This is an open meeting for all Finchampstead Parishioners and is your opportunity to ask any questions you wish about the parish council and its work.
In terms of what happens next, the Arborfield Garrison Landowners Consortium is expected to put in their planning application in April, the official line from the council with regards to an application on the southern part of the site on the land owned by the Finchampstead based Marino Family Trust is that they don’t know when they might receive an application. It is worth noting from the minutes of the steering group meeting that the council can’t refuse the AGLC application if Marino don’t put in an application of their own.
Tonight the Arborfield SDL Community Forum met for the fourth time at the Henry Street Garden Centre, can we also offer our appreciation to the Goold brothers for graciously offering the use of their coffee shop area for the meeting – given the interest and numbers of attendees at the forums now it is good to have a location that can both hold everybody in comfort, and which provides adequate car parking.
The meeting this time consisted of two presentations, one by Cllr Keith Baker, and one by Tracey Coleman Assistant Head of Development Management at the council, followed by a breakout session for each area to gather requirements for upcoming discussion topics.
Cllr Baker covered highways matters, this time looking further afield than the Arborfield Bypass, taking in Barkham Bridge and discussions about Eversley. As might be expected from a politician there was a good bit of political spin, for example we know that the discussions he mentioned with Eversley Matters are not nearly as advanced as was suggested, indeed our colleagues in Eversley were further taken aback by some of the discussion about an Eversley Bypass. Certainly from our position we bring together residents from across the county boundary, all of whom have legitimate concerns of the effect of the development. Although it is obviously tempting to present matters from a Wokingham centric viewpoint, as open meetings Eversley residents and councillors are always well represented and we would encourage councillors and staff from Wokingham to present their comments and thoughts accordingly. Cllr Baker also made mention of funding, where the council is lobbying for funding from the Local Enterprise Partnership – there is a time critical element for this because with a General Election due in 2015, the opportunity to secure funding may change were a new government to be elected, much as it did when the current government was elected and swept away the previous structures.
Tracey Coleman covered the planning application itself, now expected from the Arborfield Garrison Landowners Consortium only at the beginning of April – there is no detail of when we might expect an application from the Marino Family. There will however be a single infrastructure plan for the whole SDL submitted with the AGLC application. None of the developers were officially represented at the meeting tonight, although as with the highways meeting there were representatives present.
Following the presentations the meeting split by geographical areas to gather lists of topics for future forum meetings. Many of the items brought up were issues that we have mentioned previously, however what was of most concern was the lack of knowledge displayed by the Finchampstead Parish Councillor listing the important items for Finchampstead, indeed at one point he said incorrectly that the Hogwood Lane Industrial Estate was not going to grow. This is totally incorrect, a doubling of the size of the Industrial Estate has been a key part of the development here. In addition all of the 1,500 Marino houses and a small number of the AGLC houses will be built in Finchampstead – this has implications for all Finchampstead residents as those additional people will have the right to be buried in the churchyard at Finchampstead, they will also as parish residents be able to apply for allotments on the recently opened Finchampstead allotment site. The influx will be a significant increase in the numbers of residents these councillors represent and we would urge the local parish councillors in Finchampstead to bring themselves up to speed with what is proposed for their parish, and the effects it will have on the people they represent before it is too late.
As discussed, Wokingham Borough Council has suggested that the primary channels of communication between the residents and the council as through the parish councils and ourselves as the residents group. We have additional meetings with staff and councillors between the quarterly forum meetings and we are happy to take any particular issues forward that you might wish to be raised. Please contact us using the website contact form if there are any issues you’d like to raise or any questions you would like answered and we will do our best to get answers or to direct you to the person who may be able to help you.
The development is coming whether we like it or not, what is important now is that we use whatever influence we have both individually and as a group to get the best outcomes for our communities.
We try to keep our Facebook and Twitter pages updated with a broad range of links to news items that may be of interest, including more general local politics articles that will affect local residents alongside national policy items that will affect the development here. So for example next week the MoD are putting on an exhibition of plans for how they are going to redevelop RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire to accomodate the people moved from Arborfield. This is important because the move of army personnel from Arborfield is entirely dependent on them having somewhere to go at RAF Lyneham.
The other big bit of news this week was the long awaited announcement of where the troops returning from Germany are going to be housed. Whilst with the closure of the base at Arborfield confirmed this may not seem to affect us, it does. The Garrison Chaplain mentioned during the Community Planning Weekend in January that contrary to what we had previously been told, no further Army housing would be sold off – with the base gone the housing would come under Aldershot. The news this week confirmed that the number of troops based at Aldershot will increase as a result of the pull out from Germany, some of those returning troops will be placed in the housing here. The big difference of course is that rather than being able to walk to the base, they will be joining the thousands of other people who daily drive down the A327, heading for the main base at Aldershot. The retention of the houses in Kelvin, Fleming and Faraday Closes along with their associated security measures will also leave residents in Penrose Park essentially cut off from the new facilities being built as part of the SDL development as the barriers across Baird Road will remain.
One of our members who lives in Finchampstead has also submitted an excellent article explaining why she joined AG-RAG for the Finchampstead Parish Magazine. One of the big issues with the development here is that the name is pretty misleading. Although it is called the Arborfield Garrison SDL or the Arborfield SDL in most places there will be no new housing built in Arborfield. All the new housing is in Barkham parish or Finchampstead parish, however conversely the vast majority of affected existing residents – unlike the other three SDL’s there are a large number of people already living within the SDL boundary – live in Arborfield.
The development, in particular the issues that local horse riders have which were discussed at the community planning weekend were also mentioned on BBC Berkshire this week as part of a bigger discussion about the safety of horse riders after a horrific incident in Winkfield where a mother and daughter and their horses were run over by a drunk driver the programme can be heard on BBC iPlayer until the middle of next week.
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