Earley and Shinfield


Your Lib Dem representatives

Lib Dems represent this area on both Wokingham Borough Council and Earley Town Council. We have 21 councillors on Earley Town Council. We have 5 councillors on Wokingham Borough Council representing Hawkedon, Hillside and Maiden Erlegh wards. Find out more about our councillors by clicking here.


Latest News from Earley and Shinfield


Earley & Shinfield Lib Dem Branch Local Plan Update Submission

Earley and Shinfield Liberal Democrats’ submission to the November 2021
Wokingham Borough Local Plan Update (LPU) public consultation. 


Themes:

Inability to proceed with earlier Grazeley Garden Town proposals
We note that proposals at Grazeley were intended to include very good road
connectivity to the M4 and into Reading and there was the promise of a station on
the Reading to Basingstoke railway line. Proposals to provide roughly 4,500 of the
homes planned for Grazeley at Hall Farm, instead, do not provide anything like the
same and vital level of connectivity. This, together with other new building in
Shinfield and neighbouring areas, is likely to contribute to very significant congestion
and road safety issues. In short, compared to Grazeley, Hall Farm is locationally
disadvantaged.


We fear that, unless the LPU addresses the challenge of how to have adequate access
from south of the M4 into Reading, it could become very difficult for residents and
visitors to travel into and out of that location. The plans, as presented, certainly imply
that there will be substantial congestion in Three Mile Cross, Shinfield and Winnersh.
We are concerned that government funding towards infrastructure that appears to
have been promised for Grazeley may no longer forthcoming for other sites in the
borough, including Hall Farm, posing multiple and significant challenges. Despite bold
claims in the documentation about the sums available for infrastructure, there is little
indication of where this money is coming from.
In parts of newly built upon Shinfield, the provision of facilities such as shops has not
been timely. This must not be allowed to happen if Hall Farm is developed to avoid,
amongst other possibilities, emergence of a large and poorly serviced ‘sink estate’.
We note that Grazeley Garden Town proposals were abandoned following the
extension of the AWE evacuation area. This prevents a sizeable area of land from
being developed in the future and we wonder whether this is being allowed for the
government’s calculation of the borough’s housing quota. We believe that WBC and
the other neighbouring local authorities should raise with central government
whether the presence of this large facility in its current location is appropriate
because of the significant constraints it places on future development options.


2. Potential relocation of the Royal Berkshire Hospital (RBH)
Whilst we appreciate that it is not possible for the LPU to include any details, if the
RBH was to relocate in part or full to land south of the M4, this would throw much of
the LPU into disarray. We would hope that WBC does all within its powers and
influence to secure information about possible proposals and to try to ‘future-proof’
the LPU to be able to accommodate such a major project with all of its attendant
needs.
We would comment though that a RBH facility located south of the M4, even if only a
satellite to the existing site, will be poorly located for the area it serves, and will be
hard of access for ambulances. A significant employer, the hospital will also attract
large numbers of the public attending for appointments or visiting patients at the
hospital. There will also need to be public transport provision for employees and
visitors without cars. This will contribute further to the congestion we anticipate.
The best and most accessible sites on the Hall Farm ‘estate’ have already been taken
by low usage, low density employers (Shinfield Studios, the British Museum outstore).
It might also be added that the provision of a hospital facility, with associated car
parks, would reduce the area available for housing and might lead the whole Hall
Farm project to become unviable.


3. Infrastructure - General
Quite rightly, the LPU proposes significant investment in infrastructure. We note that
inadequate infrastructure is a material reason why planning applications can be and
often are refused. Our concerns include:


i) Failure to provide infrastructure in timely manner is likely to negatively impact on
the ability to meet new housing targets and to be very detrimental to the quality of
life of residents living in areas where infrastructure is delayed or inadequate. There is
much local scepticism, in the light of earlier promises, as to whether the promised
infrastructure offered will ever be provided.

ii) Lack of evidence of a coordinated approach with neighbouring local authorities to
the delivery of all the different types of infrastructure. We do not know what the
attitude of Reading BC to the development is, but access to it will largely pass through
their area. It is unlikely that the Hall Farm development can be a success without their
commitment to the project.

iii) Likely, significant problems in terms of being able to finance and deliver
infrastructure in advance of house building commencing.

iv) The apparent absence of any policies regarding population densities in new and
intensified developments – and the impacts of population distribution and densities
on infrastructure needs and operation.


4. Roads and Transportation – General
We are concerned that many of the proposals are premised on very ‘generous’
assumptions, including significant numbers of people working from home and being
employed in nearby facilities such as Shinfield Studios. Even small deviations from
those assumptions would have significant impacts on this infrastructure and quality
of life.
We support proposals to encourage and enable more active travel including cycling,
walking and use of public transport. We believe that achieving this requires the LPU
to explicitly commit to designing in, from the outset, features such as segregated
pedestrian and cycle paths; dedicated bus lanes; and some form of light railway /
tramway linking the developments south of the M4 with employment hubs and
Reading.
We remain unconvinced that either Winnersh station would form a suitable
interchange with rail, or whether the Waterloo line would meet the needs of the Hall
Farm development. It would certainly be a poor relation to the London main line and
Crossrail for persons wishing to travel to London.
Matters such as road widths, tree lined verges and traffic calming measures must be
included in the LPU from the outset with the caveat that good road design must
always ensure that, where practicable, people are encouraged to pursue active travel
options. We are concerned, for example, that often roads are simply too narrow
making parking on pavements in some areas unavoidable. Unless such decisions are
taken from the outset it is almost always too late to make changes when new estates
are being designed and building plots mapped.
Here we note that some of the recently-built estates in Shinfield contain houses in
multiple occupancy, with each or most of the tenants of the house possessing a car.
The provision of car parking on these estates is therefore utterly inadequate. The
same mistake should not be made again.


5. Flooding and questions of drainage
We note that large parts of Earley and Shinfield, in common with many other areas in
the borough, are quite low lying and sometimes at similar elevations to the River
Loddon. We are very concerned that:


i) Flood mitigation measures relating to the Loddon which we understood were under
discussion are not mentioned in the LPU. Most importantly, we are concerned that
proposals in the LPU may impact on ability to deliver these vital measures.

ii) Proposals in the LPU will inevitably create more runoff and reduce the amount of
land available to hold back and ‘soak up’ water. This, together greater climate change
related flooding, will pose enormous challenges and obligations on WBC to
adequately future proof against flooding.

iii) When flood risk is assessed, we believe it is vital that explicit reference is made to
full consideration of the impacts nearby, and downstream, on already existing built�up areas and infrastructure. It should also acknowledge that building is going on a
pace higher up the Loddon in Swallowfield. The assessment undertaken to date
appears to be inadequate and should deal with the whole Loddon catchment.
We wonder if the advice of the Environment Agency has been sought or whether the
plans have been prepared in conjunction with the recent Review of policy for
development in areas at flood risk (July 2021).

6. Hall Farm Garden Town

Matters considered include:

i) The importance of ‘designing in’ at this preliminary stage significant measures to
promote active travel and explaining how each would support this objective.

ii) We would not support reopening to vehicular traffic the bridge over the M4,
opposite Cutbush Lane, because of the impacts this would have on traffic in Earley.
We believe this bridge should be retained for pedestrians and cyclists to facilitate
active travel between Earley and Shinfield.

iii) The rapid pace of development of Shinfield Studios and Science Park, and the
associated increased vehicular traffic, makes it important that all road infrastructure
is completed in a timely manner.

iv) We do not believe that the recently developed roundabouts at the Black Boy and
its partner to the immediate north of the M4 are adequate to cope with any new
traffic flow from the Hall farm development, nor could Shinfield Road (as the logical
route into Reading from this point) accommodate a substantial new traffic flow.

v) The likely increase in vehicular traffic will impact on the Mill Lane / Lower Earley
Way junction and roadways, and area around the Shinfield Road roundabout, which
already often experience severe congestion. Mill Lane would be unable to
accommodate even relatively small increases in the volume of traffic from Winnersh
towards Lower Earley Way. We would, therefore, support closure of Mill Lane to
through traffic but recommend the addition of measures to promote this as a future
safe cycle and pedestrian route.

vi) Given the inadequacy of existing road networks when confronted with a major
new development, we suggest that the provision of adequate access to the
development requires a new junction on the M4 (which might be one sided, so
allowing access to and from the motorway in both directions, but not offering a route
into Lower Earley). Direct access from the motorway would be vital if a hospital
development was to take place on a part of the site. Access to the Hall Farm
development – certainly for heavy vehicles - would normally be from the new M4
junction.

If this access is not possible, then the project should be dropped.

vii) In general we are concerned that development in neighbouring areas, such as in
Swallowfield and Riseley, must be considered when making decisions about the Hall
Farm project. An example would be the need for traffic modelling to consider likely
impacts, sometimes many kilometres from proposed developments, particularly
where there are already existing bottlenecks such as at Three Mile Cross.
In summary, from what we have learnt so far, we question whether the Hall Farm
development is either desirable or deliverable. The twin disadvantages of location
and drainage seem unsurmountable.


7. Local Green Space designation: Shinfield
We note with dismay that there is little or no land designated as Local Green Space in
Shinfield parish and wonder why, given that much of the development over the past
few years has taken place here, and that Shinfield will continue to be one of the
fastest growing parts in the borough in the foreseeable future.

We therefore wish to see, at a minimum, the following designated as local green
Space:
- the gardens of Shinfield Grange. This is one of the few open areas left in Shinfield: as
it is, in effect, mature parkland, it should not be built on but opened up for
recreation.
- open ground on the west side of the Basingstoke Road in Spencers Wood, known
locally as ‘the Common’.
- woodland to the west of ‘The Common’ lying south of Highlands and north of
Whitehouse Lane.
- the recreation ground in Spencers Wood to the south of Clare’s Green Road.
Outside the ward, Swallowfield Park certainly has a claim to be designated.

8. Local Green Space designation: Earley
We welcome the inclusion in the LPU of most of the areas proposed by Earley Town
Council and the Earley Environmental Group for Local Green Space (LGS) designation.
However, our local knowledge of the following sites, which are not being supported
for LGS designation, suggests that the reasons put forward by WBC are significantly
flawed. The sites we would like to see included in the LPU are: LGS 06 (Land at Laurel
Park); LGS 021 (Harris Gardens and Wilderness); and LGS 55 (part of Lower Earley
Meadows). Each of these sites is important recreationally and environmentally and
we believe easily fulfil the requirements for LGS designation.
We are very pleased that the Thames Riverside in Earley is included for designation as
LGS. However, we wish to see reference to this land being safeguarded as a strategic
transport link removed from the LPU, as we believe use for transport and LGS are
irreconcilably incompatible.

 


Former Sibly Hall site and Redhatch Copse update

 A statement from Cllr Clive Jones, Leader of Earely Town Council

We share residents’ considerable frustration that the anticipated transfer of the former Sibley Hall site and Redhatch Copse has not been completed. The purpose of this letter is to update residents and to correct some misrepresentations that have been made by a Conservative Councillor.

In 2015 Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) made the very unusual decision that Earley Town Council (ETC) would look after the grounds and woods around this development. This hadn't happened before.

It has been claimed that the transfer was all agreed before the Conservatives lost control of ETC in May 2019. This is a misrepresentation of the facts. Nothing had been agreed before May 2019. Very little had been done either by WBC or ETC.

A Conservative Borough Councillor met with the developers, Persimmon, the ETC Town Clerk and the Environment Director of WBC on 9th July 2019. No councillors from ETC were invited to that meeting. A six-figure payment was discussed with Persimmon, to enable ETC to take on the responsibilities of managing these assets.

A week later, on the 16th July, at meeting with Persimmon, ETC Councillors, including the new Leader of the Council Cllr Clive Jones, Town Clerk and the Environment Director of WBC, the six-figure sum discussed the previous week was considerably increased, and important additional issues were raised.

Agreement was reached in the following few months and the WBC solicitors were to complete the legal work. However, the pandemic hindered the process and Persimmon agreed that the transfer could be delayed.

In the summer of 2021, ETC gave up waiting for WBC legal department to start work on the transfer and decided to instruct its own solicitors. This is now proceeding and we are doing all that we can to ensure that this will be concluded as soon as practicable, in a manner that protects the interests of ETC and our residents.

We believe that the misrepresentation of the situation has recently been repeated, so we felt it was time the full facts were in the public domain. There was NO agreement on the transfer whilst the Conservatives were in control of ETC.  An agreement wasn't even close.  We look forward to an agreement being reached that will then enable ETC to manage the green spaces in the estate and Redhatch Copse in an exemplary manner.

collins_drive_1.jpg


CHALFONT WOODS

CHALFONT WOODS (AREA DD): Potentially a massive victory for residents, but the devil will be in the detail.  

Earley residents and Liberal Democrat Councillors have consistently fought hard to retain Chalfont Woods as a valued green space. Hawkedon Councillor Clive Jones says, "As little as three years ago there were firm plans to build on this Wokingham Borough owned land. The Council’s dramatic U-turn during 2019 still left many of us worried that, despite our numerous requests, the Executive Members would not commit to protecting the woods in perpetuity.”   

Chalfont Woods are in Cllr. Caroline Smith’s Hillside Ward. She added, “During the Wokingham Borough Council meeting, Executive Member Cllr. Gregor Murray stated that the woods will be managed using a climate emergency based strategy that residents will be consulted upon. This might be a great relief to all those who campaigned against plans to build on the woods.” 

“I am told that Chalfont Woods is the last ecosystem of its specific type in the area and many believe it should be retained as such. Earley Town Council (ETC) had sought to protect the woods by seeking their transfer to ETC  so that the woods could be be managed and protected for all future generations as a Nature Reserve. I am not aware of any response to ETC’s request, and disappointed that the Executive Members are making announcements to the Council instead of engaging in with residents and our Town Council.” 

Clive Jones concluded, “We have climate and biodiversity emergencies.  Residents and my colleagues will be looking very carefully at the detailed proposals for Chalfont Woods, and will hold (the) Cllr. Murray to his promise to engage in public consultation. We will insist that  the current biodiversity  of the woods be fully protected forever.”

 

 


Update on zebra crossings in Pepper Lane

I am very pleased to see that Reading Brough Council are installing a much-needed zebra crossing on Pepper Lane near the entrance to university, as shown in the photo. I am also pleased that today WBC provided me with an update on our efforts to have a safe crossing installed near Harcourt Drive. 

In summary: about two years ago I formally raised with WBC the need for a crossing.  Soon after it passed the first test (an initial traffic survey and gap analysis) needed to go to the design stage. The pandemic has delayed design – including the need to assess design factors in ‘normal’ conditions.  It is now hoped that the necessary further surveys and assessments may recommence in September, with design to follow the assessment of results of that work. So, still a long way to go, but a safe crossing is very much on WBC’s agenda. I will keep people informed as I receive more updates.

 


Swallows Meadow: Tree Protection order (TPO) made permanent

After the wanton destruction of much vegetation late last year at Swallows Meadow, a temporary (6 month) TPO was placed on all species of all the remaining trees.
Councillors David Hare, Clive Jones and Andrew Mickleburgh, as well as Earley Town Council, all lobbied for this TPO to be made permanent, which Wokingham Borough Council has now agreed to.
In summary, nobody will be allowed to cut down, top, lop, uproot, wilfully damage, or wilfully destroy any trees within the area shown on the map below.
Despite the loss of so many trees here last year, it is still a home to lots of plant and wildlife, including muntjac – emphasizing just how important this TPO is.
We still anticipate a planning application from the new owners of the land and will let people know when this is lodged and how you can lodge your comments on the WBC planning site.

Earley Town Council's proposals to promote walking and cycling

EARLEY TOWN COUNCIL’S PROPOSALS FOR IMPROVING WALKING AND CYCLING IN EARLEY: Huge thanks to all the members of the Earley Town Council Working Group who prepared this very thorough and constructive submission to Wokingham Borough Council, that would help promote walking and cycling in Earley with all of the resulting benefits.

We look forward to WBC’s response and to seeing these suggestions implemented.

ETC-submission-to-WBCs-LCWIP-Consultation-2021.pdf (earley-tc.gov.uk)


New Town Mayor elected for Earley

The Members of Earley Town Council elected a new Town Mayor for 2021/22 at the Council’s annual meeting on 4th May 2021. As the Council meeting was held remotely, the outgoing Town Mayor, Cllr David Hare, made a socially distanced presentation of the Mayoral chain to the new incumbant, Cllr Anne Bassett, a town councillor for Redhatch ward, later that week.

Cllr Anne Bassett, who had previously served as Deputy Town Mayor, said of her appointment “I am honoured and proud to be elected as Mayor of Earley.  It is a great privilege and responsibility and I look forward to serving our residents in the year ahead.  I would like to thank our outgoing Mayor Cllr David Hare for all his work over the last two years and particularly for steering the Council through this last difficult year. It is a credit to our officers, staff and Councillors that the work of our council has continued throughout the pandemic, maintaining our facilities and green spaces, enhancing them and making improvements. 

Earley has a lot to be proud of, not least its community groups and volunteers who have continued to give support to residents throughout. As we cautiously take the next steps along the government’s roadmap, I am hopeful we will return to more normal times. I look forward to meeting and thanking those groups and volunteers who have done so much, quietly, for Earley.  I am proud of this community and grateful for the way people have followed the rules and looked out for each other over the past year.  I urge everyone to continue to do so and we will emerge as a stronger community as a result.”

At the same meeting on 4th May 2021, the Members of Earley Town Council also elected Cllr Tahir Maher as the new Deputy Town Mayor for the coming year. ​​Regarding his appointment Cllr Tahir Maher, a town councillor for Maiden Erlegh ward, said “I am honoured to be elected as Deputy Mayor and I look forward to working with our very able Mayor Cllr Anne Bassett. I would also like to thank our outgoing Mayor Cllr David Hare for all the hard work he’s done over these last two years for the residents of Earley”.

   

 


Earley Climate Emergency Action Plan

Earley Town Council has announced its own Climate Emergency Declaration and published a Climate Emergency Action Plan on its website. This year will see the United Nations 26th Conference of the Parties (COP 26) coming together for a major climate change summit in Glasgow. The world is taking this necessary step to change human behaviour for the next generation, Earley Town Council will also play its part in stopping and reversing the damage from human activity in recent times.

 

On 17th February 2021, Earley Town Council announced its own Climate Emergency Declaration, a Declaration that was the result of an enthusiastic cross party Council working group, beginning to move ETC to a Net Zero emissions status.

 

At the full Council Meeting on 31st March 2021, the climate emergency working group presented and received the full backing of the Council for the Earley Climate Emergency Action Plan which details how ETC will begin to move to Net Zero emissions.

 

The working group Chair, Cllr Caroline Smith, said at that meeting – “This action plan is a live document and will evolve as we go forward – it is definitely neither cast in tablets of stone nor is it highly prescriptive because that would make us a hostage to fortune. There are many uncertainties, and we will need to remain agile. And we are keen to receive input from residents and stakeholders.”

 

Cllr Marion Shaw added – “Earley Town Council aims, through its Climate Emergency working group, to achieve a new and greener vision to promote quantifiable improvements in the lives of Earley residents.” She went on to say “Key activities will include securing financial and expert support, reducing plastic use and disposal, enabling the provision of allotments and other outdoor green activities, limiting energy consumption, the intention being to contribute to the C02 mitigation rates of 13.19% required by Wokingham Borough Council to stay within our recommended carbon budget.”

The Action Plan can be accessed here:  31.3.21-Appendix-F.pdf (earley-tc.gov.uk)


Earley Town Plan 2021 is now online

Clive Jones, Leader of Earley Town Council has announced, " I am delighted that the Council passed this important document at its meeting on the 17th February.

This Town Plan describes the Town Council’s structure and responsibilities. It identifies the Council’s vision, values and key priorities in making Earley an even better place for all our residents. It will  guide the Council and its committees in their considerations and decisions and help to ensure that the Council remains accountable to Earley residents.

I hope you will take a look at the Town Plan on the Earley Town Council website using the link below. There is lots of information there for everyone – whatever your interests and needs. Please also send ETC your comments and suggestions for future versions of this working document."

ETC-Town-Plan-2021.pdf (earley-tc.gov.uk)


Our Climate Emergency: Earley Town Council's commitment to action

Around the world we see evidence that climate change is real, significant and affects us all.  Thinking and acting locally has a vital role to play in helping to tackle our Climate Emergency.

 After the Earley Town Council meeting on the 17th February, Council Leader Clive Jones said, “Tonight our Council passed what I believe are two of the most important resolutions in the history of the Town Council, binding Earley Town Council to play its full and proper role in helping to tackle our Climate Emergency.”

 “The first resolution committed Early Town Council to:

  • declare a Climate Emergency in Earley.
  • engage with Earley stakeholders to develop and implement an Earley Town Council Climate Emergency Action Plan.
  • ensure that the Climate Emergency and related environmental issues are front and centre in Earley Town Council decision making.
  • develop and implement realistic strategies and actions, within the remit and capacity of Earley Town Council, to help tackle the Climate Emergency. 
  • support local and wider initiatives to tackle the Climate Emergency.
  • work with Wokingham Borough Council, where relevant and practicable, to support our joint ambition for the Borough to be carbon neutral by 2030.”

 “The second resolution set out the Council’s ambition to present a Draft Earley Town Council Climate Emergency Action Plan to the Council meeting on the 31st March. This will be followed by a 12 month period of meaningful engagement with Earley stakeholders, leading to the adoption of an Earley Town Council Climate Emergency Plan.” Cllr. Jones explained, “In the meantime we will press on with the Council’s ongoing, recent initiatives along with some new ‘green’ ideas.”

Cllr. Jones concluded, “Declaring a climate emergency means nothing without credible and achievable actions to back it up. Our Town Council Climate Emergency Action Plan will do this. It will also be presented in a manner that will make it easy for Earley residents to hold the Council to account. In an emergency we must all roll up our sleeves and do everything we can to help. I am proud that tonight Earley Town Council formally embarked on this journey.”  

(Photo:  Mike Smith, Earley Town Councillor and Maiden Erlegh Candidate in the May 2021 local elections, with flooding in Loddon Fields January 2021.)

 



Ward map images are a remix of previous work available on the Wikimedia Commons (created by Nilfanion, using Ordnance Survey data) and are licensed under CC-SA-3.0 and the attribution must contain the following notice also:  Contains Ordnance Survey data (C) Crown Copyright and Database Right.
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