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.

 


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