Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Concrete Housing Plans Scrutinised

As many as 15,000 new homes are planned to be built in Wokingham borough by 2026 as consultation on the adoption of the regional South East Plan continues apace.

This core strategy is currently undergoing scrutiny to adjudicate on the proposals to build 3,500 homes in Arborfield Garrison, 2,500 homes in Shinfield, Spencer's Wood and Three Mile Cross and additional thousands on the northern and southern fringes of Wokingham.

Cllr Gary Cowan explained that the plans set out the development of Wokingham for the next 20 years.

Residents have been encouraged to attend community meetings to have their say at a series of meetings which will continue until 23rd April, but they are not impressed. The Wokingham Society, which works to retain the character of the town, has 'expressed concern'.

14 sessions of public consultation have been announced.

Wokingham LibDem, Cllr Prue Bray has been leading the opposition to the Labour government proposals presented by the Conservative local administration, explaining with a hint of regret that the most active participants in the examination sessions are "the council and the developers who want to build the houses" - a more diverse range of views would be more democratic.

Shinfield Parish Council chairman John Heggadon described how the complexity of the process left residents "totally bemused" after being gradually worn down by years of fighting corporate developers who have developed professional relationships with the authorities. Another resident described the plans as "absolutely catastrophic for the area," questioning the ability of local infrastructure to cope with the additional pressure. [1]

Major landowners supporting the developments include Reading University at Shinfield and the Ministry of Defence at Arborfield Garrison.

The proposed development will have a major impact to the south of Reading.
Find out more about the South East Plan here.

Friction has existed between the different communities of Berkshire since before the county council was replaced by Unitary Authorities nearly two decades ago, but with planning devolved to the unelected South East England Regional Assembly (SEERA) - now dissolved - the problem of differing local strategies has been effectively bypassed through a lack of public accountability.

This is particularly important when asking questions about who decides on important matters, such as Reading's mooted 'third Thames bridge' or when choosing the location of schools in the area.

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