Revised Growth Strategy Consultation, November 2021
Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) consulted on a Draft Local Plan in February 2020. A central plank was the creation of a garden town at Grazeley. Subsequently, there was a change in legislation affecting the area near the Atomic Weapons Establishment Burghfield, which means that the Grazeley garden town proposal is no longer achievable.
To achieve the forward target for numbers of new houses laid down by central government, WBC has to propose a new strategy and a Revised Plan that designates additional areas for large and small developments. This was published for consultation on 22nd November 2021.
GLRA has prepared a briefing that summarises the key aspects of the Revised Plan that impact future development in Wokingham Town Centre and the rural area south of the Waterloo rail line.
To access this brief and to see how residents can comment please the document attached here.
The GLRA committee will be responding to the consultation but also encourages individuals to respond to the consultation with their own views on the draft plan.
The Chairman's Newsletter for the 2021 AGM has been added to the site. The newsletter can be found on the Minutes page of this site.
This year, we have followed the same format as last year providing links to our submissions on Council planning applications and an online survey (see
this survey at https://www.survio.com. To complete the business of the AGM we ask residents to
complete this survey, in which we also hope that residents will leave any feedback for the committee.
Town mayor Cll Tony Lack met the Gipsy Lane Wildflower gardeners on 23rd May to open the bug hotel
and admired the flower beds and willow structures. The garden featured on the One Show as a finalist in the RHS
and One Show competition.
The GLRA site has now adopted a new and (hopefully!) improved main page for displaying the articles and stories of the association. Included is a basic search function to help navigate the stories posted by the committee.
(Note that when the stories are searched, the filtered list appear in both the main page and in the expandable "stories" index on the right of the site. To get the full index and list of stories please clear the search entry box).
Saving the Lime trees in Langborough Recreation Ground
A resident expressed concern at the visible die back of the lime trees in Langborough Recreation Ground. We wrote this letter to our Borough & Town ward Councillors. They arranged for us to meet with the Amenities Committee of the Town Council, who care for our parks. We are delighted that they have agreed to a pilot treatment of a few trees starting in January 2021. They will also seek funding for a full programme of root treatment. If this is successful, it should extend the life of these beautiful trees by decades.
You will be aware that there has been a significant rise in damage and antisocial behaviour around Howard Palmer Gardens in the last few weeks. It would greatly help Counsellors and the authorities if all incidents are reported so that the scale of the problem can be identified.
GLRA Meeting with Susan Parsonage, Chief Executive WBC
The GLRA had a meeting with Susan Parsonage, Chief Executive of Wokingham Borough Council, to follow up on a commitment made in the 2019 AGM to document her strategy and priorities for Wokingham in the future.
Planning Application for 190 houses south of Gipsy Lane
WBC are consulting on Hybrid planning application consisting of outline application with details of access for up to 190 dwellings, public open space and associated infrastructure and full application for suitable alternative natural greenspace (SANG). See link here.
The GLRA response to this consultation can be found here.
Note: The deadline for responses to the current draft Local Plan Update consultation has been extended for an extra 2 weeks and will now run until 5pm Friday 3 April 2020. We encourage all residents to individually reply as well!
Congestion concerns, traffic modelling & latest outlook
The GLRA had discussions with the council to understand progress and current timings of the South Wokingham Distributor Road (SWDR) and in particular the Western Gateway and issues around the exit onto Finchampstead Road
Further to our update on Monday 3 December regarding the whistle boards at Smith level crossing, I write to update you following the completion of our performance and data analysis.
As you are aware, Network Rail has a responsibility to our lineside neighbours and passengers to keep them safe, as well as provide a service they deserve and this is the reason why a decision was made to install whistle boards.
However, we have been concerned by the impact of the whistle boards on the local residents. We have therefore come to the decision to temporarily remove the boards whilst we continue to explore alternative solutions without compromising safety for the public and train performance for our passengers. This will take effect from 23 December 2018.
We will continue to update you and we appreciate your patience in this matter.
Although this is not a permanent solution to the issue, it is an excellent interim result that shows that action by the community can make a difference!
The GLRA had discussions with the council about the permanent closure of Luckley Path to vehicles. The following response was received by one of the members after the decision to close was made: Response to Luckley Path enclosure.
I would like to update you following the meeting we held on Monday 3 December with the local residents of Wokingham regarding the whistle boards at Smith level crossing.
We understand the installation of the whistle boards is of great concern and the noise created as a result is disturbing for local residents. We do sympathise with you and we are working hard to establish options that will resolve this matter as well as ensuring safety and train performance are not compromised.
As we explained, Network Rail is committed to carrying out further performance analysis and overall review of this matter. Since last Tuesday, our teams have undertaken data analysis which is still going on and more detailed work has been requested to ensure all trends investigated are accurate. We now expect to have an outcome by the end of this week when we will write to you again after a full review and analysis is completed.
Once again, we are sorry for the inconvenience we have caused you and your families and we understand the impact of this on the local residents. We hugely appreciate your patience as we continue to explore alternative approaches.
The GLRA data protection policy and practice was agreed by the committee on the 15 May 2018.
Background The Aims of the Association are: -
To be a voice on behalf of the local population on local issues.
To offer an open forum on a regular basis for local residents to air their concerns about the area.
To collect and publicise information for the benefit of local residents and appropriate governing bodies.
The Association is not party political.
Policy - The only reason the Association collects personal data (as defined in UK Data Protection Law) is to enable it to achieve its Aims.
Practice - Statement to members, prospective members and individual contacts. The only data we hold about you if you are a member, attend one of our meetings or contact us for any reason is:
Your name, address, telephone number(s) and, if provided, your email address
Copies of correspondence between you and Committee members
Your statements or questions in minutes of Association meetings or notes of telephone calls to us
We use your contact data to send you information about:
Annual and Special General Meetings [as per our Constitution]
Events organised by the Association
Events organised by other organisations in or concerned with the town of Wokingham or the neighbouring area that, in the opinion of the Officers, will enable further understanding of issues affecting local residents
News about Wokingham and its locality that we believe may be of interest
Meetings that Committee members have with other organisations or individuals
If you cease to be a member or inform us that you do not wish to be contacted, the only information we will hold about you is that required by law.
Other personal data - We do not systematically hold personal data about others. Any non-member’s or contact’s personal data will be held by the relevant Committee Member only for so long as it is needed to administer the Association or to pursue its Aims.
Systems - Data is held on systems in compliance with UK data protection laws.
Data Protection Contact - Any member or other individual who wishes to know what information we hold on him or her should contact the GLRA Secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org
A PDF version of this policy statement can be found here.
Elms Field - traffic & trees; No funding for public art; Retail business outlook
On 20th March, we had another regular update meeting with members of the Regeneration Team and one of the contractors.
This was in the week leading to the re-opening of Broad Street on 23rd March and closure of the upper part of Denmark Street – a planned part of the Market Place resurfacing project. The long term ‘no entry’ to Langborough Road from the west has been removed. Wokingham Town Council has announced that the start of the Elms Field project will cause more street work in the coming months. This will affect the lower part of Denmark Street and Langborough Road. The detail of this is still being worked through and the Regeneration Team will come out with this information at the appropriate time. We advised against using Langborough Road for construction traffic and await confirmation on this point.
Many residents have been shocked by the very visible removal of many trees in the south east part of Elms Field. This is to make way for the hotel and supermarket construction. There will be a row of new town houses at street level on the west side of Denmark Street. We were informed that 99 trees had been retained. By the end of the project, 25% more new juvenile trees will be planted than will have been removed. Some felled tree material has been retained for park furniture.
Regrettably, there were no plans for local authority funding of public art. Private or corporate sponsorship will be needed.
We discussed recent reports of financial difficulties and slow growth in retail spend at the national level. However, the Regeneration Team continued to express a high level of confidence in the vitality of the new retail facilities. We recommended an aggressive marketing plan for Wokingham to compete effectively with the new Bracknell retail development.
GLRA Meeting with Wescott Ward Councillors 21.02.18
Topics included Market Place, Regeneration, Local Plan & New Roads
Members of the GLRA Committee met with Wokingham BC members for Wescott Ward Councillors Julian McGhee Sumner and Oliver Whittle. We discussed several areas of key interest to residents, as detailed below.
Residents, local businesses and the press had expressed concern about the delays to the completion of the Market Place resurfacing. Broad Street was now not estimated to be open until 23rd March - at which time Denmark Street will close again. Some retailers had requested and received a rebate on their rates. Despite unforeseen difficulties encountered recently, we were told that the whole project was expected to complete by its revised date of July and that the cost should not exceed the contingencies allowed.
The plan for Peach Place was that it should be open for occupation by businesses in November 2018 – in time to take advantage of Christmas and New Year trade. We stressed the importance of meeting this important date. The latest assessment was that the project was running on time and to cost.
We were informed that three unspecified businesses had already contracted to occupy premises in Peach Place and that more were in advanced discussion stages.
The premises previously occupied by M&S were to be temporarily rented by an armed forces charity Forces Support. Concerns about the financial probity of the organisation had been resolved to the satisfaction of both WBC and the Charity Commissioners. Longer term proposals for the commercial occupancy were under discussion, but not yet ready for announcement.
Despite recent publicity about economic difficulties in both the high street retail and restaurant sectors of the UK economy, WBC remained confident in the viability of both the Peach Place and Elms Field developments.
Temporary traffic arrangements affecting both Langborough Road and Luckley Path were under review. We highlighted the frustration of residents with the protracted closures and pressed for more information. We were told that more would be available when the various factors of traffic flow, air pollution and construction work had been reviewed.
We expressed an issue with what appeared to be a lack of WBC plans to spend on public art in the town centre. We felt that it was important for WBC to demonstrate its commitment by funding a significant and prominent reflection of the history and culture of Wokingham.
GLRA would be meeting the Regeneration Team again in late March to review the development projects and plans for attracting residents and visitors to the new facilities.
We discussed the continuing difficulties that WBC had experienced in resisting developer applications to build on land not designated for development. On appeal, DCLG Inspectors continued to interpret the calculation of WBC land supply in a way that was regarded by WBC as harmful to the environment. They disregarded the responsibility of developers for the slow progress of housing completions in the Borough. WBC had decided to attack the problem aggressively both legally and politically at the highest level. We expressed our support for a robust approach.
The plan for the South wokingham distributor Road joining Montague Park and Finchampstead Road had taken an important step forward with the granting of the planning application for the “Eastern Gateway” – a bridge over the Waterloo railway. Completion date of this phase was anticipated by the end of 2019. There was a discussion about the long term effectiveness of the published outline plan for the SWDR to join Finchampstead Road at the Tesco roundabout. We stressed the urgency of removing traffic from the town centre with as few years’ delay as possible.
Thames Valley Park: Park & Ride
We asked whether the proposed new park and ride had been assessed for risk of flooding.
We were informed that this had taken place and that it should avoid the problems of the Winnersh Triangle site.
Small community garden plot in Gipsy Lane
An initiative by residents to be allowed to enhance an unsightly mud patch opposite No.12 Gipsy Lane was inhibited by the cost of the permit process. We agreed to ask the residents concerned to write and describe their plan in the hope that some flexibility might be offered.
Market Square Project Hold Up - Impact on completion date and cost
Several GLRA committee members attended the public “drop in” session at Wokingham Town Hall on 26 January. Earlier that week, it had been announced that the first phase of the refurbishment would be delayed beyond its expected time of late January. The session was staffed by Wokingham Borough Councillors and officers plus representatives of the contractor, Balfour Beatty.
We were told that the primary cause of delay was the discovery of a live concrete water main running down the middle of part of Broad Street. This is bridged in concrete and was neither recorded nor detected at survey time. The new level for the road meant removing this concrete structure and replacing it at a lower level. The concrete structures concealed other services pipes and cables obscured from surface detection, which would require rerouting.
Very recently, an unknown live gas pipes had also been detected in Broad Street which would also need to be removed and replaced at a lower level. This matter was currently being pursued with National Grid as BB cannot touch gas supply – hence potential further delays.
We emphasised that expectations were not being properly managed. This was causing public dissatisfaction. For example, there was no explanation for why work ceased at weekends and shut down before Christmas. The reasons for these were discussed in detail. We heard that the re-opening of Broad Street was being treated as an absolute priority with maximum effort applied. We emphasised that this effort needed to be demonstrable and communicated effectively.
The impact on the project would be not only one of time delay but potential additional cost to the local authorities. In terms of costs for delays and extra work, we were told that the contract had been agreed for a fixed price, but this had exemptions based on risks outside the defined scope of the agreement. Town Council fund allocation was fully spent as were the (small) contingencies on the project.
The responsibility for the additional costs was currently under negotiation between the contractor and the Borough Council. We encouraged the Borough Council to be firm in these discussions.
Parking: The current “Free after Three” would continue. The current cost in revenue was £18,000 per month. The scheme was not felt to have made a difference to footfall for businesses. At the WBC meeting on 25 January, there was a discussion about replacing it with the Woodley design of free parking at night and weekends, paid for by an increase of 10p/hr on daytime parking charges.
May Fayre: This was usually held on Denmark Street and Elms’ Field. However, by that time work would have commenced on Elms’ Field development and this wouldn’t be available. There will be further announcements on the Fayre.
GLRA committee members met members of the WBC Regeneration team on 22.08.17 as part of their ongoing discussion of the Regeneration project. The Regeneration team reported that all project phases completed or in progress to date were on time and to budget.
We discussed the changes in the economic position and outlook and their potential impact on the project.
The Regeneration team view was as follows:
Wokingham town centre remained an attractive destination for new retail outlets.
The outlook for trading potential still supported the additional retail capacity in plan.
The current recommendation for the next formal review was to maintain the published project future completion dates.
GLRA/Wescott Ward Councillors Meeting, 16 August 17
This meeting was between members of the GLRA Committee and the Wokingham BC Councillors for Wescott Ward: Julian McGhee-Sumner (executive Member for Adult Services, Health, Wellbeing & Housing) and Oliver Whittle (Executive Member for Finance, 21st Century Council, Internal Services & HR).
We discussed the following:
Strategic options for housing development in the Borough.
Control of housing development – how to get more support for WBC planning control from the Department of Communities & Local Government and their Planning Inspectorate.
Effectiveness of communications between WBC, community groups & individuals about planning issues & general policy.
Wokingham Town Centre development and its impact on local traffic.
We agreed that a continuation in regular dialogue was desirable and to arrange another meeting in 3 months.
The site now contains the AGM minutes from 2017 AGM, in addition to all previous minutes from 2008 - see the Minutes section. The page also contains the presentations used and presented by the AGM committee and that by Andy Couldrick, Chief Executive of Wokingham Borough Council.
Prue Bay, Liberal Democrat councillor and supporter of the 'Keep Elms Field Green' campaign, has commented on forthcoming building work on Elms Field tennis courts. Her comment is as follows:
If you see work going on next week to cut down 3-4 trees on the boundary between The Paddocks car park and Elms Field, please do not panic! It isn't work starting on the development of Elms Field
So what IS happening?
You may know that Network Rail and Southwest Trains have decided to turn the car park at Wokingham station into a multi-storey. Work is going to begin at the end of March. Lots of commuters will have nowhere to park for about 4 months.
A little bit after the end of March, the council will be closing the Carnival Pool car park to turn that into a multi-storey as well. Lots of people who use the pool will have nowhere to park for about 4 months. A large number of council staff pay for permits to park at Carnival Pool for work, and they will have nowhere to go either.
The council has already made arrangements to smarten up the Elms Road multi-storey to encourage people to park there, particularly council staff. They are also going to bring the old Wellington House car park into public use temporarily, to take people who would normally park at Carnival Pool. But that is not enough to accommodate everyone.
So, they are going to use the tennis courts on Elms Field as a temporary car park. The courts will be fenced off. Access will be from The Paddocks car park. Council staff who have permits to park in The Paddocks for work will park on the tennis courts instead, leaving The Paddocks for the displaced commuters.
This requires planning permission, which the council has now applied for. To get the access to the tennis courts from The Paddocks, they need to remove 3-4 trees. They cannot cut trees down during the nesting season, which starts in March. So they will cut the trees down next Monday.
I was briefed about this yesterday. I was assured that all of the affected trees are Category C, so not good quality. The council are extremely worried that people will think that cutting down the trees means building on Elms Field is starting. It isn't. They don't even have planning permission yet. The project is being run by the Hignways team. Building on Elms Field is being run by the Regeneration team, who are not involved with the temporary car park._
Using the tennis court area for car parking for the next few months is not ideal, but both the council and Network Rail/Southwest Trains seem determined to push ahead with building multi-storey car parks and closing surface car parks at roughly the same time, so parking capacity does need to be created somehow. In my opinion it is a better idea than putting grasscrete down on public open space and using that, which seemed to be the only other alternative.
If you have any questions about this, please do get in touch.
GLRA has respondedto WBC's planning application 153125 to redevelop Elms Field. The response can be found here.
Our submission makes some key recommendations for changes to the plan to develop Elms Field. In making our comments on the planning application, we recognise that the principle of developing Elms Field was resolved by Wokingham Borough Council several years ago.
In view of this fact, we have decided not to challenge this overall policy decision, which is unlikely to be reversed.
How GLRA is engaging with the plan to develop Elms Field
Elms Field is the most complex of the four Wokingham Town regeneration schemes. It represents the most substantial investment by our local authority. It has caused the most controversy.
Since the schemes were approved in outline by the members of the Borough Council, we have not argued against the principle of redevelopment. We are focusing on the following aspects:
what amenities can be included that will benefit our community
how green spaces can be retained and their value enhanced
how building design can enhance the attractiveness for residents and visitors
how they will best interact with increasing traffic of vehicles and pedestrians
how the financial plans will work in a challenging and rapidly changing period
Members of the GLRA Committee will be studying and submitting our response to the full application.
Because of the significance of this development for the future of Wokingham, we would also encourage all residents to familiarise themselves with the plan and submit comments via any of the normal channels – hard copy and on line. This is your last chance to influence the plan.
The full Elms Field planning application 153125 was submitted on 30th November 2015. The extended consultation period ends on 31st January 2016.
You can see the full list of documents on the Wokingham Borough Council web site. Key documents are available for viewing in hard copy at the Council Offices in Shute End 08:30 – 17:00 Monday to Friday and Wokingham Library during opening hours.
The main source of information in Wokingham Borough Council is the planning case officer Emy Circuit on 0118-974-6479. There are also the usual Development Management facilities by telephone or on line.
However, if for some reason these do not work for you, please send an email to email@example.com and we will do what we can to help.
The full suite of planning application documents will be available to view on the council’s website by searching for planning application 153125. Also, for more information check out the Wokingham town centre regeneration Elms Field leaflet here.
Planning submission for Elms field - information for GLRA residents
The planning application for Elm's field went in on Friday 27th November 2015. Some of you may already be aware of this. David Nash and I attended a stakeholders meeting where the information and details were shared with us.
The council has allowed a longer consultation period this time ending at the end of January. The committee plan to collate our views over this time so please feel free to send us your views and /or send them to the council direct. The more individual views the better.
GLRA Reports on Wokingham Regeneration Financial Plan
Robin Cops and David Nash - both members of the GLRA - attended a meeting on the 3rd July to understand further the financial plan projections for the regeneration. The previous meeting on this topic took place on 14th May 2014. The main focus was again on the management of public funds.
GLRA response to the Peach Place planning application
The GLRA has responded to the Wokingham Borough Council's Peach Place planning application. In summary, it was appreciated that the council planners have taken on board many of the comments made by residents in response to the previous application, but we still have concerns over the appearance of some of the proposal.
Letter to Philip Mirfin, Strategic Risks for Wokingham Town Regeneration
The GLRA has responded to the Wokingham Borough Council's Retail Studies report from Nathan Lichfield and Partners (NLP), dated April 2014. The GLRA believes that for the council to base its regeneration plans on this report alone would be risky, so we have responded to the council to highlight our concerns.
South Wokingham Highway Study - Individual Responses Needed!
The Greater Langborough Residents Association (GLRA) has provided feedback to Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) on your behalf regarding the preferred route for the South Wokingham Distributor Road. In summary we support their proposal for the central route, but with Option B1. Please see the article posted here for more information on this response.
In addition, it is important that you also share your views directly and are able to do so by either sending a letter or email to WBC.
On the 23rd June, the GLRA had a very successful AGM meeting held at the Salvation Hall in Sturges Road, where were we delighted to welcome Councillors Prue Bray and Philip Mirfin to discuss the town centre generation. The councillors gave a short presentation on their proposals, and then answered questions from residents. Hopefully all felt it was an interesting and informative evening.
The GLRA Chair's report of this discussion can be found here.
Wokingham BC issues study on the route of the South Wokingham Distributor Road
The South Wokingham Strategic Development Location (SDL) includes an important new road. It will join the Tesco roundabout in Finchampstead Road to a new railway bridge. This will join a section in Montague Park to London Road near Coppid Beech. The SDL will also contain 1,850 new houses south of the Waterloo railway line.
Wokingham BC has just issued a Highway Study report evaluating 3 main route options for the road. A period of Public Consultation runs for 8 weeks from 23 June to 22 August 2014. Static exhibitions will be at the Council Offices in Shute End and the Library. Council officers will man further exhibitions in the Market Square on Friday 27 June, Saturday 28 June, Friday 18 July and Saturday 19 July.
2013 AGM: Progress Report on North & South Wokingham SDLs and Road Connections
Our keynote speaker at the 2013 was Keith Baker, Wokingham BC Executive Councillor for Highways & Planning. Keith's presentation was an update on the progress of the traffic modelling and planning for new roads in the major housing developments on the town boundary. He described the stages completed and the planning work yet to be carried out.
Information to the Town Centre Regeneration Project from Cllr Philip Mirfin
Cllr Philip Mirfin has sent some information on the Town Centre Regeneration Project which might be of interest to the GLRA residents. The following documents would give a good background the project as it covers why WBC are regenerating, and what they are trying to achieve.
Project Brief – This was the initial briefing document produced for the project which sets out the vision and
key principles guiding the regeneration as well as more about the context of the SDL’s and some of the constraints/issues that need to be taken into account and addressed within the town. The brief can be found here.
WTCR July Consultation Q&As – These were compiled in response to the main questions emerging following the 2012 public consultation event feedback. Although a few of the responses relate specifically to the 2012 design iteration rather than to the submission scheme, many relate to general themes and remain applicable. The consultation Q&As can be found here.
Infographics on ‘Why we are Regenerating’ and ‘Why talking to you matters’ – These two infographics were produced for the public exhibitions in Market Place held in the run up to the submission of the planning application in 2013. The two infographics can be found here ('Why we are regenerating') and here ('Why talking to you matters'). Both open in a new window.
Liberal Democrats - Alternative Town Centre Regeneration Proposal
Follow the link below to access a document that presents an alternative proposal by the Wokingham Borough Liberal Democrat Group for redevelopment of the Town Centre and Elms Field. Prue Bray has also created an accompanying regeneration information sheet that describes ideas for Elms Field, Peach Street, and what the Liberal Democreats believe should be the undepinning aims of the regeneration.
The proposal presentation document can be found here.
The Liberal Democrat Regeneration Information Sheet can be found here.
Elms Field and Peach Place Retail and Home Assessment, October 2013
Follow the link below to access Elms Field and Peach Place Retail and Home Assesment (from October 2013), prepared on behalf of Wokingham Borough Council and Wilson Bowden Developments Limited by GL Hearn.
Follow the link below to access both the initial Donaldson’s Retail Study (2007) and the NLP Retail Refresh (2010). It also has a link to a page which lists all the national and local planning policy framework documents relating to retail that might also be of interest to them.
Wokingham Town Centre Regeneration, Financial Plan Assumptions
Robin Cops and David Nash had a meeting with the Council on the 14th May to understand further the financial plan assumptions for the Regeneration, particularly following the GLRA meeting of the 13th December (see the news article here). The main focus was on the management of risk to public funds especially following the withdrawal of Sainsbury as a potential supermarket tenant.
Wokingham Town Centre Regeneration – Financial Plan Report
There was a meeting on the 13th Dec 2013 to understand the top level financial plan assumptions for the Regeneration, including the main items of expenditure and income and the management of risk to public funds.
GLRA Response to Extraordinary Council Meeting on the 4th Dec
The following email was written by Pat Smith, Chair of the GLRA, to Wokingham Borough Council Mayor, Cllr UllaKarin Clark, and carbon copied to John Redwood, in response to the Extraordinary Council Meeting on the
4th Dec discussing the planned Elms Field development.
Dear Madam Mayor,
I, along with 3 other members of the Great Langborough Residents Association, attended the extraordinary meeting and were able to ask questions of the council. Sadly it was indeed an 'extraordinary' meeting.
It became abundantly clear that the meeting was not only scripted which I understand is the way council meetings are managed, but that there was never any intention for the council to listen to or take any note of the views of their residents as the motion you allowed was that pre-printed by Alistair Corrie.
One might ask why council meetings are organised in this way as they can never be free exchanges of ideas. No doubt that happens behind closed doors with a similar disregard for the electorate.
It appeared also that the council did not even have sufficient confidence in their own Masterplan to allow a vote on Prue Bray's motion. She was totally ignored in favour of that patently planned action and pre-planned motion from Alistair Corrie.The ridiculous thing is that the outcome would almost certainly have been the same but you all came away diminished by the process.
One of my major concerns about the current planning applications for the town centre regeneration is the fact that the council itself is presenting the applications to its own planning committee. I have to ask
whether there is a basic conflict of interest as it appears that all the councillors follow the party whip. What happened for instance to the requirement for social housing for any developer except apparently the council?
I must point out to the council, that questioning the wisdom or rights of the council to build on Elms field is not a political matter. It is one of concern for the future of our town and it does not mean that concerned residents do not want the rest of the town to be regenerated or that it should die!
This is clearly emotive language which was repeatedly used by the council who should have the town's best interest at heart.
I am constantly being told that the die was cast when the land was appropriated and the Master plan accepted in 2010. But it was made very clear to us at the first workshops that the discussions were about how to develop Elm's field and not whether we should be doing it.
I have supported the council in trying to regenerate Wokingham but found I have lost confidence in the plans which do not seem to me to allow for the problems which are likely to arise out of the increased housing and traffic.
I am fully aware that this email is unlikely to impact on the council or its plans but felt I had to make the points on my own and my Associations behalf and felt that the manner of the meeting could not go unchallenged.
I look forward to hearing your views on ways we can improve the processes and if at all possible the plans.
Questions for the 4th December Extraordinary Full Council Meeting
The GLRA committee have been busy, hopefully with your agreement, in dialogue with the council and in the papers over the plans for the town centre regeneration and specifically current planning applications.
Copies of the letters are now on our website - please see the following articles below.
Also you are probably aware of the petition raised by the Liberal Democrat leader Prue Bray which has triggered an extraordinary meeting on the evening of 4th December at St Crispins school. We have submitted 3 questions (presented further on in this article) which have been accepted.
The planning applications for the Elm's field and Peach Street Plaza have now been formally issued to residents by email so if you have not seen them, please go on the council website or ours for the reference. Initially the date for end of consultation was 24th December... and has now been extended to 3rd January (which is not much better!)
There is a lot to read and the committee is of the view that it is impossible to meet this deadline and have objected to the council on those grounds.
For more information please go to the following link on the Wokingham Borough Council web-site: http://wokingham.gov.uk/planning/services/search/ and in the 'application Number' field enter the code for the application interested in. The planning applications are "F/2013/2284" for Elms Field, and "F/2013/2283" for Peach Place.
Please do give us your comments so we know whether we are reflecting your views.
The questions we have submitted:
The lack of transparency on the financial need to destroy half of Elms Field has given rise to concerns about whether this scheme will either cross fund other developments or worse, lose money for the tax payers of Wokingham. Will Wokingham Borough Council now publish the full business and financial plan for this redevelopment, including cash flows, to allay those fears?
When the proposed planning details are finally available for public viewing will the council confirm that it will make all responses available to the public and take a collaborative and consultative approach, which fully takes into account public feedback, to ensure a development that is balanced and not just financially driven?
Given the planning application to place a Sainsburys store in Norreys and the proposal to redevelop the Cantley lodge site into retirement housing will the council reconsider the plans for developing Elm's field?
Below is a link to a letter to Alistair Corrie, explaining the GLRA position of being shocked by the limited and aggressive timescale the general public have on commenting on the town centre regeneration plans.
Below is a link to a report on a meeting between local residents (including a representative of the GLRA) and Cllr David Lee, leader of Wokingham Borough Council, held on 3rd October 2013. This meeting was prompted by concerns regarding the northern distributor road impact on previous millennium tree planting and parks, and the Elm's field development.
Letter to GLRA from Cllr Alistair Corrie, Executive Member for Wokingham Town Centre Regeneration
Cllr Alistair Corrie, Executive Member for Regeneration at Wokingham Borough Council, has responded to GLRA after a request to present reasoning for and current state of the Wokingham Town Centre regeneration plan. In particular, he addresses:
Why no department store?
Why no department store?
Why a foodstore?
The loss of trees in Elms Field
Why the project is driven by retail strategy and rental income
Why a Premier Inn and not a statement hotel?
Listening to consultations
Why proposals are not based on what’s good for the developer rather than the town
Where is the supporting evidence and guidance?
Will there be further consultation on whether the proposals go ahead?
2014 Children’s Fun Day on Langborough Recreation Ground
Wokingham Town Council have organised the 2014 Children's Fun Day. Previously this has been held
in Howard Palmer Gardens, but has now been moved to Langborough Recreation Ground.
The event it consists of a small number of young child friendly fairground rides (Ages 4 – 10) a number of
children’s entertainment shows, face painting, a small petting zoo and a local scout group provide a
refreshments tent. All entertainments are free. The event generally starts from 8:30am with providers
setting up, 10am it is open to the public and it is finished at 4pm. By 5pm all providers are gone.
The full letter describing the event can be found here
Email from Jan Nowecki, Town Clerk, Wokingham Town Council, 19 July 2013
Good afternoon everyone, I trust that this finds you all well in this glorious, if rather hot, weather.
I wanted to update you following your meeting which I attended after the Traveller incursion.
The council has met and received a report from me in relation to the events in June and this included the consideration of the on-going security for Langborough and also some of our other parks and open spaces.
I reflected the feedback you had given me in that you wished consideration to be given to installing black cast-iron bollards on the field, particularly along the Gipsy Lane perimeter.
Council has decided that they will of course improve the security on the site but will not be installing the cast-iron bollards. The reasons are three-fold:
Following some research this type of bollard actually shatters if run into
The committee felt that aesthetically it was in favour of using the wooden bollards as they believe this is more in-keeping with the beautiful space that Langborough provides
The cost of the cast iron bollards was prohibitive
When we discussed matters at the meeting in June it was felt that any damage to a cast iron bollard could easily be seen as criminal damage, which would most clearly trigger the police S61 powers but the same would apply to the wooden bollards if for example a chain saw was used against them, so I hope that this offers a level of reassurance.
We are currently undertaking the costing of both replacing any old or damaged bollards and extending along the full length of Gipsy Lane
We anticipate that the work will begin in early Autumn
I recognise that there was a mixed view among the residents about the cast-iron bollards versus the wooden and so some of you will be disappointed but I hope that you can understand the Council's decision.
I am of course happy to speak to any of you should you wish to clarify anything.
I hope that you all have a good weekend and if going away for a summer break have a relaxing and refreshing holiday.
Email from Jan Nowecki, Town Clerk, Wokingham Town Council, 06 June 2013 (Evening)
Good afternoon residents, thank you to those who have continued to interact with me and other colleagues today. For everyone's information I offer an update on the current position:
This morning the police, WBC Traveller Liaison Officer and the Town Council attended the site and the Travellers were formally 'requested' to move on.
Throughout the day the police have been monitoring the situation.
We are operating under police powers and TVP will be enforcing this 'request' early this evening when they anticipate that all the group will be present and that the relevant vehicles will be on site to tow their caravans etc away.
Once the group have left the site will be re-secured and the recreation ground cleared of any residual debris etc.
Once again can I reassure you that all the agencies are working closely together with full commitment to resolving the problem as soon as possible but the police do have to operate appropriately within theirpowers. I will continue to work through Pat your Chairman in order to update as many of you as possible.
I am of course happy to speak to you if you have any specific queries.
Email from Jan Nowecki, Town Clerk, Wokingham Town Council, 06 June 2013
Good afternoon residents, I am taking this opportunity to update you on the position in respect to the traveller incursion onto the recreation ground.
The Town Council, police and WBC Traveller Liaison officer are working closely together to manage and resolve the problem.
The travellers have been visited by both police and liaison officer today (5th) and advised appropriately.
We are working under police guidance and within the powers they have to address such an incursion and will take the next steps if the travellers have not moved on tomorrow. I would very much like to thank those of you who ensured that both the police and ourselves were alerted at the earliest opportunity and we will continue to work to bring a swift resolution to this problem.
I am out of the office on Thursday 6th June but available on my mobile below. Rob Vincent our Buildings and Grounds Officer will have responsibility in my absence for this matter and his mobile number is [hidden]
I will of course keep you updated but please be assured that we are all focused on ensuring that the recreation ground is returned to its normal position very quickly.
At a meeting of the Southern SDL Forum on 22 May 2013, on which David Nash is our representative, Keith Baker updated the meeting on progress for plans south of the railway. A report on 3 alternative road routings was expected by the end of June. This would be followed by a public consultation. Negotiations were underway between land owners, developers and Network Rail about the proposed rail bridge to the Buckhurst Farm phase of the SDL.
Report by Pat Smith (written on the 30th May 2013)
Plans to address the development of our town centre have been around now probably for 40 years. It is a positive step forward now to find that the current plans started in 2009 and passed in 2012 are coming to hopeful fruition.
The council have held irregular town centre forum meetings since 2009, the last of which was on 13th February 2013 regarding the overall regeneration and on 29th April regarding the Public Realm.
The forum includes representatives from Wokingham’s interested groups including Residents Associations.
The meeting in February 2013 was well attended though many of those there were developers and town council representatives.
We were informed, as we already knew, that the plans for the Rose St/ Broad St development had been accepted but that work which had been planned for the new year would now start in/or after March 2013.
We were shown more detailed plans for the Rose St ‘plaza’ and Elm’s field.
Rose St Plaza appears quite modern in the pictures and seemed much larger than one might anticipate. It includes a Pavilion at the M&S end which would be an open café area. On the rose street aspect and next to the Bradbury centre the plans include 4 terraced houses and a large square, modern building on the corner into the plaza, suggested to be a signpost to something important inside
On the Peach St side of the development the building currently occupied by Clinton cards and round to the alleyway is to be replaced and there will be an anchor store next to Marks and Spencers. The new buildings look similar to those around it and include ‘bay windows’. The developers think this is in keeping with the buildings around
Elm’s Field plans are taking shape with the same tall buildings that have raised objections in the cricket pitch development as being too tall but which the developers clearly feel are necessary to ‘frame’ the field because it is such a big space!
The open area is to remain more open with fewer planted trees and no orchard as was raised as possibly desirable, which I think is very sensible. One can just imagine what would happen to those trees and the fruit!
There will be a wide pavement next to the new shops allowing for market style stalls; also a ‘robust’ planting of bushes alongside.
The supermarket will have a ‘green’ wall facing carnival pool shielding the access to the supermarket loading area and open onto a ‘road’ extending from Langborough Road to the new Elm’s field road which I think is pedestrian only.
There will be an apartment block to the south of that road with the hotel further down. The council have announced recently that Premier Inn have been accepted as the hotel provider and that Sainsburys are the likely supermarket provider.
One willow tree is to be preserved!
The underground car park will extend the full length of the new shops making the loss of virtually all our trees inevitable.
Forum Reaction: several members expressed concern about the modern appearance of all the developments given that the developers were trying to maintain the Wokingham feel of a market town. The terrace in Rose Street and the corner block building were particularly felt to be out of character with the Rose St houses. It was pointed out to us that the square building was opposite the modern block already in Rose St.
One has to question the need for such tall buildings around elm’s field, whether or not this is just for financial reasons. The same issue was raised for the plans for the cricket pitch with a reduction in height following local pressure. Perhaps this will be a starting point for similar revisions but it has not changed thus far despite the same comments being made during consultations.
Public Realm - The meeting in April was only attended by Councillors and me…. But the public exhibition held at the town hall was imminent and I hope that more residents attended this. There had been a workshop earlier in the year when the plans would have been presented, discussed and hopefully altered in line with the workshop views.
Traffic modelling was discussed and highlighted the flow of traffic/number of cars having to travel around the town as being critical to possible changes to Peach street, e.g. single lane with parking bays to accommodate lorry deliveries for instance.
Traffic flow will be affected by the northern and southern distributor roads and of course the increased number of cars resulting from the housing developments around the town. The roads themselves would be marked
out to allow frequent pedestrian crossing points and pavements in the same colour and at the same level, which in other towns were reported to have alleviated the need for formal pedestrian crossings and naturally slowed the traffic flow.
Rectory road may become two way but that is very much in discussion and raises issues around access to Waitrose!
It will be interesting to hear how the public have responded and how that impacts on the council’s plans.
The GLRA has written a letter to Councillor Baker about the current plans for the Southern Distributor Road (SDR) in the South Wokingham Strategic Development Location (SDL). Please see here (PDF file, opens in new window) for a copy of the letter.
Wokingham Borough Council is as prepared as it can be to control future housing development. It has invested
enormous effort and resources over the last 8 years to provide the necessary framework to achieve this. Some
other local authorities are not as well protected. They could be vulnerable to uncontrolled development,
with little contribution to the necessary infrastructure.
Committee members of the Great Langborough RA have provided input throughout this period. We participated in
the many public consultations. We participated in the examination of the plan in front of the planning
inspector. We continue to be in close contact with the councillors and officers involved in development.
Our nearest large scale development is the South Wokingham Strategic Development Location (SDL). This
consists of four phases totaling 2,500 houses. They will be built over the next 15 years or so.
Initially, our aim was to avoid such a large scale housing scheme on the town border. Since it received
central government approval in 2009, we have worked in detail to achieve:
A quality development for future residents – our new neighbours.
The minimum damage to the rural environment impacted by the scheme.
The planning application for the first phase of the SDL has been approved. It is located at Buckhurst Farm
near the Coppid Beech roundabout. Building may start in 2013. It is a development of 35 hectares of land to
provide up to 650 dwellings, including 35% affordable housing. It provides the first stage of the southern
distributor road. There will be a new junction to London Road. It will include an entry primary school with
a foundation unit, games area and playing fields, children's play facilities and a local neighbourhood
centre. There will be green space incorporating a community orchard, land for allotments and a sustainable
urban drainage systems. You can see a map of this proposal here [NOTE: 7MB download, opens in new window].
We continue our dialogue with the council. We aim to assist them in achieving a high quality result for
existing and new residents. Please contact David Nash and the committee if you wish to make us aware of your views.
Report by Pat Smith (written on the 26th April 2012)
Plans to address the development of our town centre have been around now probably for 40 years. It is a positive step forward now to find that the current plans started in 2009 are coming to hopeful fruition.
Details of the plans and progress are available on Wokingham Borough Council’s website under the above title. The following paragraph is taken from that site.
The multi-million pound scheme to regenerate Wokingham town centre will be gathering pace in 2012.
Wokingham Borough Council and developer Wilson Bowden’s proposals include new modern retail units, an anchor foodstore, a new park and town centre homes which will create a vibrant and attractive mixed-use development, which fits with the special status of Wokingham as a unique market town. The regeneration will focus on refurbishing and redeveloping Peach Place as a fashion retail destination and transforming Denmark Street, Wellington Road and Elms Field into a destination for alternative food retail, leisure and relaxation.
The council have held 3 monthly town centre forum meetings since 2009, the last of which was on 3rd April 2012. The forum includes representatives from all shades of interested groups including Residents Associations. This last meeting was fully reported in the local paper and identified the time scales for planning applications and the pace of work.
The first phase will be for the refurbishment of the Peach St/Rose street corner which should start around Christmas time. The developers have responded to consultation by looking again at the appearance of the buildings in the town centre and are reconsidering the profile of the buildings there so that they should be more in keeping. It was good to hear that they had taken on board and were responding to the comments from consultation.
Planning applications for the other parts of the town as outlined above will also be made later in the year.
The development of Elm’s park continues to provoke discussion about the loss of open area, but plans for the remaining area will be subject to further consultation. The final space should provide for existing festivals and fairs with water and electrical connections.
Other issues raised at the forum included the increased occupancy of the shops in the centre, the provision of toilet facilities and transport issues not least in relation to the proposed station link road and traffic control across the railway crossing.
Councillor Matt Deegan, who spoke at our last AGM has been spearheading the regeneration project but will not be standing for re-election. He was thanked and applauded for his contribution.
As a result of agreement at last years AGM, and a recent committee meeting, we have launched the GLRA web site in order to help communicate the issues that we address as residents of the Great Langborough area, Wokingham. First up is preparation for the upcoming AGM in last June. Watch this space!