Response to the Local Plan Update Consultation
From Borough Councillor Paul Fishwick (Winnersh ward)
Although this consultation document, the Revised Growth Strategy, has been prepared to seek views on managing development across the borough up to 2037/38. It is a very long document with considerable repetition and ridged questions.
The Engage online version has been found to be extremely difficult to use and considering the points made above the feedback has put residents off completing it.
However, I have tried to encourage residents to focus on specific sites of their interest and submit their comments on email.
It was noted that the consultation was originally planned to run from 22nd November 2021 until 17th January 2022. This is a shorter period than previous consultations (8 weeks), with the added disruption of Christmas/New Year within the timeframe it appears that this was not taken into consideration.
It is also noted that at the Executive meeting Cllr Stephen Conway requested that the consultation was extended by at least a week to the 24th January 2022 due to the impact of the Christmas/New Year period. Although this was agreed it has been difficult for residents to engage fully in the short timeframe.
The focus of my own submission is on the sites within or partly within Winnersh ward. However, I have made some comments related to the Spatial Strategy.
1. Spatial Strategy
a) I do not agree with the figure for the additional housing required in the plan period, as it is far too high given the significant amount of housing already built in the Borough over the past 25 years.
b) The mechanism that produces the number is flawed. Among the many things it does not properly take account of is affordability. Building more houses to reduce prices is a simplistic solution that does not work because it does not consider how the housing market actually operates. This article explains how more houses does not necessarily result in greater affordability https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/tackling-the-uk-housing-crisis/
c) As I don’t agree with the factors that have combined to produce the number, I cannot agree with the spatial strategy proposed for dealing with that number, on principle.
2. Sites for consideration
The focus of my submission is only on sites within or partly within the Winnersh ward.
The site numbers have been taken from the site for consideration table and plan shown within the document.
Site 1 Hall Farm/Loddon Valley – at least 4,500 dwellings (also in the Parish’s of Arborfield & Newland and Shinfield).
I strongly object to this proposal.
This is a new Strategic Development Location with proposal for at least 4,500 dwellings by 2050, and a minimum of 2,200 by 2037/38.
The shear size of this proposed development would be a 'town' equivalent to Winnersh and Sindlesham that make up the Winnersh Parish area constructed within the remaining countryside which separates the existing settlements. where there is currently no existing infrastructure. The impact of this development will be felt in and around surrounding settlements.
The site having the River Loddon and some of its tributaries flowing through it makes its prone to flooding and large areas form part of the flood plain. In addition, there is the flood zone from the Bearwood Lake earth dam that must be taken account of in any planning for the site.
Climate Change is bringing significant changes in our weather with more frequent and intense events now and even worse to come. Forecast modelling must be robust enough to ensure that no dwellings are placed in potential flood zone areas.
There is also the River Loddon Flood Alleviation scheme to consider. This project is designed to mitigate flooding downstream including the Showcase roundabout by ‘holding back’ water upstream by storing it in areas such as Hall Farm/Loddon Valley.
The Environment Agency indicate that the Wokingham area is included in a serious water stress zone. The proposal for building at least 4,500 dwellings must be looked at very carefully and the impact that it would have on neighbouring water supply.
This site bounded by the Mill Lane (Sindlesham) to the north, B3030 to the east, the A327 to the south and the M4 to the west/north is located within the countryside and generally agricultural land with a few dwellings, what would be deemed as a rural setting.
This proposed strategic development site is unsustainable without significant transport infrastructure. The existing highway network surrounding this site, are unsuitable, congested in the peak (pre-covid) and already burdened with the impact of the South of the M4 and Arborfield Strategic Development Locations which are not yet complete. In addition, there is the growing impact of the North Wokingham Strategic Development Location and the North Wokingham Distribution Road (still under construction), which will import even more traffic into the area.
The proposals indicate the construction of a new road through the development which creates a new access onto Mill Lane and another new junction between the M4 overbridge and the River Loddon. At that point a new road is constructed to run through the Hatchwood Mill Country Park and join Hatch Farm Way where a new junction is formed opposite the ‘earth bund’. This new road will place a significant amount of traffic onto Hatch Farm Way and onto the surrounding road network which (pre-covid) is already congested.
It also impacts on the Country Park by dividing into two parcels of land and weakening its ‘countryside’ appearance and purpose.
The impact of the closure of Mill Lane as a through route will also put added pressure on Hatch Farm Way junction with King Street Lane, and King Street Lane/Bearwood Road past the school, which queues during the lower traffic volumes such as the pandemic.
The document also refers to the provision of a new junction with the M4 in the locality of the overbridge. This raises further concern about the attractiveness of using motorised private transport for journeys that will put further pressure on the already congested local highway network.
There are no existing bus services within or close to the development. The nearest operate through the centre of Winnersh on the A329 Reading Road. Therefore, any sustainable travel would need to be cycling as walking is significantly outside of the CIHT guidance of 500m or 1KM (max).
Within Winnersh ward there is a lack of safe cycling infrastructure for ‘short journeys’. For example, this would mean that it would be difficult to safely access the development to go to Winnersh or Winnersh Triangle rail stations or core bus services (4/X4 Reading-Wokingham/Bracknell) by cycle.
Bus services towards Twyford (station for Elizabeth Line and GWR services) from Sainsbury’s are poor during core hours (7am to 7pm) with no peak time weekday service between 07:10 and 09:10 and non-existent outside of those times.
Evidence from the existing SDL’s in Arborfield and Shinfield have shown that planned infrastructure has not been delivered or has been late. This has had a significant impact on how residents have had to travel, turning to the private car as the only suitable mode.
Some examples are that there has been insufficient school capacity prior to housing occupations leading to new residents adopting unsustainable travel arrangements and children traveling to distant schools.
A lack of retail and employment infrastructure leading to residents creating excessive journeys to shops and work.
The lack of a coherent and joined up sustainable walking and cycling transport network. The delays in creating walking and cycling routes has led to increased traffic that has impacted for example, in the South of M4 SDL quiet roads that were assumed to remain walkable/cyclable became major traffic routes.
Therefore, I am extremely sceptical about whether the proposals of infrastructure set out for this SDL in the policy at Appendix G will even be achieved in a timely way.
Planning application 201346
This was an outline application for the proposed redevelopment of existing buildings to provide 87 residential dwellings, neighbourhood centre, public open space, access into the site and highway alterations along Mill Lane and landscaping, with Access and Layout to be determined.
The application was made in June 2020 and has been withdrawn. As a ward councillor I strongly objected to this development and this land is included within the Hall Farm/Loddon Valley proposals.
Site 2 69 King Street Lane Sindlesham – 25 dwellings
I object to this proposal.
During the initial consultation document this site was promoted and I raised an objection. It was not included in the sites proposed in the draft LPU (February 2020).
The site is located off King Street Lane which is a narrow ‘B’ classified road and already congested at peak times. The cumulative impact of the under-construction SDL’s has yet to show their overall impact.
There is no public transport within the CIHT guidance of 500m but just within the maximum of 1km at Sainsbury’s/Winnersh station. However, there is a lack of safe cycling infrastructure from the site.
I am also concerned about the impact that this proposal will have on the adjacent conservation area of Sindlesham and that this development could also ‘open up’ the land south of the motorway for further development.
Site 3 Winnersh Plant Hire Reading Road Winnersh – increase from 20 to 85 dwellings
I object to the proposal to extend this site from the original 20 dwellings to the proposed 85.
I did not raise any objections to the original proposal for 20 dwellings on this brownfield site. However, increasing it to 85 I do object to. The site regularly floods at the ‘southern end’ being in flood zone 3 and the rest of the site is within flood zone 2.
The increased units will significantly generate additional traffic movements onto the already busy (even with the Winnersh Relief Road) A329 Reading Road. A potential additional junction onto Reading Road located very close to the existing toucan crossing and near a bus stop will bring further issues with the possible relocation of both facilities.
Furthermore, more right-turning traffic movements into and out of this site will bring about more risks on this busy road.
There also appears to be a shortfall in the number of visitor spaces provided. This would lead to inappropriate parking on the site or in nearby residential roads.
Site 14 Winnersh Farms – increase from SEND school plus 150 dwellings to SEND school (approved) plus 287 dwellings
I strongly object to this proposal.
The original site allocation of 250 units or a SEND school with 150 units I objected to but did not raise objections in principle to the SEND school at that time. Since then, the SEND school has been approved and construction is due to commence with the school opening for students in September 2023.
The revised proposal is for 287 dwellings plus the approved SEND school an overall increase of 137 dwellings. It should also be noted that Wokingham Borough Council submitted an outline planning application for 87 dwellings to the east of the proposed SEND school which included a ‘spur road’ to the north off the planned SEND school access road to ‘unlock’ the Winnersh Farms site that previously had been the subject of two Planning Applications by Taylor Wimpey. The first being refused following many objections by local residents, Borough ward councillors and the Parish Council and the second application withdrawn by the developer.
The Council’s own traffic modelling suggested issues at the King Street Lane junction with the Winnersh Relief Road in the SEND school application. This traffic modelling omitted the 60 dwellings located on the first section of Woodward Close that can only access onto the Reading Road. Therefore, the trip generation is lower in the modelling than in reality.
Previous applications have indicated Maidensfield for access to Winnersh Farms but this is a small single access residential road onto similar residential roads namely Watmore Lane and Danywern Drive and these are unsuitable.
Pre-covid the access of Woodward Close with Reading Road queued every peak-time and utilising the ‘spur’ road shown in the outline planning proposal for 87 units will significantly exacerbate the congestion on the surrounding network that has not seen yet the full impact from the nearby still under construction SDL’s.
The traffic impact from additional dwellings at this location on the surrounding local road network in Winnersh is completely unacceptable.
The site also suffers from noise and air pollution due to proximity to A329(M) M4, which is designated an AQMA. Part of the site is located within flood zones 2 or 3 which makes the land unsuitable for development and unclear how this has informed capacity assumptions for this site.
It currently forms part of the countryside where wild animals such as deer are observed on a regular basis.
The site is located outside of CIHT walking guidelines and therefore has poor accessibility to public transport links and services and facilities, notably Winnersh station and Winnersh Triangle Business Park. Safe cycling network is poor in the area.
In the previous refused application for this site Thames Water commented that the scale of development in this catchment is likely to require upgrades to the existing water supply and wastewater.
Site 15 Land to the rear of Bulldog Garage, Reading Road, Wokingham – 25 dwellings
I object to this proposal.
The site appears to be ‘landlocked’ with no vehicular access. An access track exists to the site currently, for use in the construction of the North Wokingham Distribution Road. This will become a maintenance track to access the service facilities associated with the new road.
Without a suitable access. This site is not appropriate for housing and should be turned into a Local Green Space.
Site 16 Land to the rear of Toutley Hall, north west of Old Forest Road, Winnersh – 15 dwellings
The site is within walking distance of CIHT walking guidelines for public transport (Reading Road and Old Forest Road). However, vehicular access to the site may be difficult without using part of site 17.
Site 17 Land on the Northwest side of Old Forest Road – increase from 35 to 36 dwellings
This was included within the original consultation but planned for an allocation of 35 units, now revised to an allocation of 36 units.
The site is currently occupied by the contractors working on the North Wokingham Distribution Road.
The site is within the 500m walking range of bus stops on the Wokingham Town service on Old Forest Road and towards the limits of CIHT guidelines for the Reading Road.
Land off Wheatsheaf Close Sindlesham – 24 dwellings
This was included within the original consultation and the planned site allocation of 24 units has remained the same. I have no further comments.
Local Green Space Proposals
Bearwood Recreation Ground
Firstly, I must declare that I am Winnersh Parish Councillor and therefore my comments related to Bearwood Recreation Ground align with the submission by the Parish Council set out below.
“The map for Bearwood Recreation Ground includes the car park and Parish Council buildings. These are not green space and must be removed from the Local Green Space proposals including a 20 metre ‘buffer’ around the existing buildings to ensure that any future alterations are not impacted by the designated Local Green Space proposals.”
It has been noted that the Winnersh Meadows plan includes part of the playing fields of The Forest School which are not open to the public and must be removed from the Local Green Space proposals.
West of Old Forest Road (of North) and West of Old Forest Road (South)
The plan for the designated Local Green Space has omitted the North Wokingham Distribution Road and the site of the Emmbrook Scouts scout hut. These areas need to be removed from the designated map for Local Green Space.
I suggest the following additional areas are included within the Local Green Space proposals.
- Land to the rear of Bulldog Garage, Reading Road, Winnersh (site 15)
- Hatch Farm Way Country Park - recreational value, tranquillity, or richness of its wildlife
- Winnersh Farms (including parcel of land between Allotments and new access road) - tranquillity and richness of its wildlife
- Land between King Street Lane, Sadlers lane/End and Bearwood Road – tranquillity and richness of its wildlife
- Land between Sadlers End/Lane, Wokingham Cricket Club /St Catherines Church and Simons Lane - tranquillity and richness of its wildlife
- Jersey Drive playing field – recreational value