19,500 homes for Graze­ley, Twyford and Barkham Square?

Leaked doc­u­ments re­veal bomb­shell

The Wokingham Paper - - FRONT PAGE - By JAMES HAST­INGS news@wok­ing­ham­pa­per.co.uk

THREE ru­ral parishes will be ‘wiped off the map’ if plans for a mas­sive house­build­ing scheme get the go-ahead.

Fu­ri­ous cam­paign­ers claim

Twyford, Barkham and Graze­ley will be smoth­ered un­der al­most 20,000 homes, schools, new roads and rail­way sta­tions.

They warned the vil­lages will be ‘oblit­er­ated’ and turned into a sprawl­ing ur­ban set­tle­ment that will com­pletely trans­form the area.

And they claim lo­cal peo­ple will be forced out of the new de­vel­op­ments due to high rent and house prices.

But the cam­paign­ers have vowed to fight the pro­pos­als which have been re­vealed in doc­u­ments leaked to The Wok­ing­ham Pa­per.

FOR many peo­ple, Wok­ing­ham’s ru­ral parishes are a pic­ture-post­card piece of Eng­land.

Its quaint vil­lages and rolling green fields are home to a close knit com­mu­nity of fam­i­lies and farm­ers who have lived there for gen­er­a­tions.

But a leaked doc­u­ment re­veals Wok­ing­ham Bor­ough Coun­cil has a fu­ture vi­sion that would, in the words of one lo­cal, “com­pletely dev­as­tate” three lo­cal ar­eas.

Al­most 20,000 new houses could be built in Twyford and Rus­combe, Barkham Square and Graze­ley along with a mas­sive in­fra­struc­ture which would in­clude new roads, schools and rail­way sta­tions.

Coun­cil bosses say they are merely ex­plor­ing op­tions and no firm de­ci­sions have been taken.

But Jane Holmes, one of those cam­paign­ing against the plans, has called on the coun­cil to rule out build­ing on green­belt and agri­cul­tural land.

“I am very wor­ried,” she told The Wok­ing­ham Pa­per.

“We have been told be­fore there are no plans to build on the green belt or agri­cul­tural land, but that is not enough. We need the leader of Wok­ing­ham Bor­ough Coun­cil and the lead of strate­gic plan­ning to give a guar­an­tee that there will be no build­ing al­lowed on th­ese ar­eas.

“With­out that as­sur­ance, we can­not be cer­tain.”

Doc­u­ments sent to The Wok­ing­ham Pa­per re­veal the coun­cil is seek­ing to ap­point con­sul­tants to “de­liver a strate­gic frame­work mas­ter­plan for the three sites. It will in­clude in­te­grated transport as­sess­ments as well as phas­ing and in­fra­struc­ture de­liv­ery plans”.

In a state­ment, Wok­ing­ham Bor­ough Coun­cil leader Cllr Char­lotte Haitham Taylor said: “We are re­quired by law to ac­cept ex­tra hous­ing and it is our job is to plan for it as best we can.”

The coun­cil said that re­sponses it has re­ceived cited the need for early im­ple­men­ta­tion of in­fra­struc­ture along­side the legally-re­quired hous­ing, and it is tak­ing steps to en­sure the early plan­ning re­quired to sup­port this is in place.

But op­po­nents have poured scorn on the coun­cil’s state­ment.

Jane Holmes added: “We are go­ing to fight this and we prom­ise a very strong cam­paign.

“I don’t want to give away too much at this stage, but we have a very high and prom­i­nent level of sup­port. We are de­ter­mined.”

Cllr John Hal­sall who rep­re­sents Re­men­ham, War­grave and Rus­combe said huge hous­ing de­vel­op­ments were “not the an­swer”.

“This is the wrong sort of hous­ing. Build­ing mas­sive de­vel­op­ments would oblit­er­ate a vil­lage like Rus­combe,” he stressed.

“We need houses for lo­cal peo­ple on the av­er­age wage who could sim­ply not af­ford the high rents or prices of th­ese kind of de­vel­op­ments.

“At least a third of new hous­ing should be priced around £500 per month and oth­ers for sale at a price that peo­ple on the av­er­age salary can af­ford to buy.

“Build­ing mas­sive de­vel­op­ments would ruin the char­ac­ter of the area. We can solve the prob­lem if we ap­ply dif­fer­ent so­lu­tions.”

Cllr Gary Cowan, the in­de­pen­dent Bor­ough Coun­cil­lor for Ar­bor­field at Wok­ing­ham Bor­ough Coun­cil, also crit­i­cised the plans.

“By com­mis­sion­ing mas­ter plan­ning work in Graze­ley, Twyford and Barkham Square and the sig­nif­i­cant cost that en­tails to be paid of course by you the coun­cil tax payer says it all,” he claimed.

“Mas­ter plan­ners are not there to de­ter de­vel­op­ment but to find ways to make it work: Cam­paign to Pro­tect Ru­ral Wok­ing­ham.”

He poured scorn on the bor­ough’s plans, adding: “Say good­bye to the ex­ist­ing open spa­ces, green­belt, green fields and farm­land and wel­come grid­locked roads as the ce­ment mixer con­cretes over ev­ery­thing.

“Say hello to mean­ing­less pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion, mean­ing­less meet­ing with com­mu­nity rep­re­sen­ta­tives. We are all just lobby fod­der for this out­ra­geous 20-year-old Con­ser­va­tive-run coun­cil whose mantra is se­crecy and ‘do as we say’, not what res­i­dents want.

“Roll on lo­cal elec­tions next May and the fol­low­ing May.”

Seven par­ish coun­cil and the seven Ward mem­bers of the North­ern Parishes have sent a let­ter to Wok­ing­ham Bor­ough Coun­cil and to Maiden­head MP Theresa May in which they out­line ma­jor rea­sons why the plans should be re­jected.

They in­clude fears over flood­ing, the use of green belt land and a lack of transport and so­cial in­fra­struc­ture.

The let­ter states: “The North­ern Parishes are there­fore united in re­quest­ing you to take into ac­count the above se­ri­ous con­cerns dur­ing the on­go­ing as­sess­ment fol­low­ing the Lo­cal Plan Up­date Call for Sites, and to pro­vide the nec­es­sary sup­port to pre­vent the char­ac­ter of this area from be­ing ir­re­triev­ably harmed.”

Cllr Char­lotte Haitham Taylor said she un­der­stood lo­cal con­cerns adding no de­ci­sions had yet been made, but the work on th­ese ma­jor sites is nec­es­sary be­cause they have is­sues such as mul­ti­ple land own­er­ship as well as the need to con­sider dif­fer­ent parcels of land con­cur­rently.

And the coun­cil will be sub­mit­ting an Ex­pres­sion of In­ter­est for a grant of up to £250mil­lion from the Govern­ment’s £2.3bil­lion Hous­ing In­fra­struc­ture Fund. If suc­cess­ful, this fund­ing could help the early de­liv­ery of road, rail and other projects that would be needed if ma­jor de­vel­op­ment is to take place in the bor­ough.

Cllr Haitham Taylor added: “De­cid­ing where we can and can­not ac­cept de­vel­op­ment is a long process and fi­nal de­ci­sions will not be made un­til 2019 when the new Lo­cal Plan

will be adopted.

“There has been spec­u­la­tion about is­sues such as green­belt but it is vi­tal at this stage that res­i­dents recog­nise noth­ing has been de­cided and there will be a lot more pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion to come.

“For th­ese larger sites that have been sub­mit­ted it is nec­es­sary to have a closer look at what might be pos­si­ble be­fore a de­ci­sion is taken on them – that is why we are com­mis­sion­ing this work and ex­plor­ing for­ward fund­ing op­tions which mit­i­gate the im­pact on our res­i­dents.

“We are also seek­ing the Govern­ment fund­ing at this early stage be­cause the mes­sage we al­ways get from our res­i­dents is that they want good qual­ity in­fra­struc­ture built early dur­ing hous­ing de­vel­op­ments. We fully agree with that, which is why we are seek­ing the multi-mil­lion pound in­fra­struc­ture fund­ing from Cen­tral Govern­ment now.”

And de­spite the re­quire­ment to build the ex­tra hous­ing, the coun­cil added that it was do­ing what it could to mit­i­gate the im­pact.

Deputy leader of the coun­cil Cllr David Lee said: “We are con­tin­u­ing to lobby the Govern­ment for more sup­port against spec­u­la­tive devel­op­ers who sub­mit in­ap­pro­pri­ate plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tions in un­sus­tain­able locations.

“Those devel­op­ers force us to de­fend our po­si­tion (and in­cur sig­nif­i­cant costs) at ap­peals de­spite the fact that we are ac­com­mo­dat­ing an un­prece­dented vol­ume of new homes.

“I want res­i­dents to un­der­stand that we are fight­ing to pro­tect them from ex­ces­sive in­ap­pro­pri­ately lo­cated hous­ing ap­pli­ca­tions on land that is not al­lo­cated for homes and that we are call­ing on Govern­ment to back us in this.”

What do you think? Send your views to let­ters@wok­ing­ham­pa­per. co.uk

The plaque by an oak tree planted by John Red­wood in 1998 as a marker that Graze­ley would never be de­vel­oped on

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