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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
The Members of Earley Town Council elected a new Town Mayor for 2021/22 at the Council’s annual meeting on 4thMay 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 4thMay 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 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.”
Clive Jones, Leader of Earley Town Council has announced, " I am delighted that the Council passed this important document at its meeting on the 17thFebruary.
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 willguide 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."
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.)
Cllr. Caroline Smith and Wes Budd, Lib Dem Candidate for Hillside Ward in the 6th May local elections, want to build on the successful campaign initiated by Cllr. Clive Jones to begin to improve road safety outside Hillside School.
Wes says, “Our roads in Earley are heavily used and speeding, is common, including near schools. Cllr Jones’ lobbying of WBC resulted in action to encourage all drivers to keep within the current speed limit.”
“Specific locations in Earley are causing concerns with traffic congestion. Cars stuck in traffic add to pollution. Cllr. Smith and I want more steps to be taken to reduce all of these problems.”
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