This is what plan­ning in­spec­tors think res­i­dents want as a park

The Wokingham Paper - - FRONT PAGE - By JESS WAR­REN jwar­ren@wok­ing­ham­pa­

EAR­LIER this year it was a lake, now land in Shin­field has been re­clas­si­fied as nat­u­ral greenspace. But res­i­dents may need to find their waders if they want to have a pic­nic.

Lan­g­ley Mead — owned and man­aged by the Univer­sity of Read­ing — has been ex­tended north from 18 to 39 hectares, after neigh­bour­ing land was re­clas­si­fied as a Suit­able Al­ter­na­tive Nat­u­ral Greenspace (SANG).

The area, which sits on the banks of the River Lod­don, was heav­ily af­fected by flood­ing in Jan­uary this year.

It sits within Flood Zones 2 and 3, but this isn’t a prob­lem for Pa­trick

Hanna, the plan­ning in­spec­tor ap­pointed by the Secretary of State to man­age the ap­peal after it was ini­tially re­jected.

In his rea­sons for ap­proval, he wrote: “Many third par­ties have com­mented that the flooded and wa­ter­logged ground con­di­tions af­fect the us­abil­ity of the ex­ist­ing SANG.

“How­ever, the pur­pose of the ex­ist­ing and pro­posed fa­cil­i­ties is not to pro­vide an ur­ban or sani­tised out­door ex­pe­ri­ence, but to al­low walk­ers to en­joy the out­doors in a semi-nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.

“To my mind, this could in­clude nav­i­gat­ing wa­ter­logged fields and foot­paths after heavy rain­fall, rerout­ing walks from fa­mil­iar routes which are cut-off by flood wa­ters, and ne­go­ti­at­ing cow dung and graz­ing cat­tle.”

Mr Hanna also said that: “Fre­quency, du­ra­tion and depth of flood events across the en­tirety of the pro­posed SANG have not been fully mod­elled.”

But in­de­pen­dent coun­cil­lor for Shin­field South, Cllr Jim Frewin, said the change of use is be­ing used strate­gi­cally by the Univer­sity of Read­ing.

He told Wok­ing­ham.To­day: “They need the SANG to jus­tify build­ing more houses after­wards.

“I’d be happy to have a SANG if it’s us­able. But for three or four months of the year it floods.

“Wok­ing­ham Bor­ough Coun­cil turned the ap­pli­ca­tion down on the premise it was un­us­able. That’s not what a SANG is for.”

In Jan­uary, Bell­way Homes, act­ing on be­half of the univer­sity stated its in­tent to build homes on land within walk­ing dis­tance to the newly ex­panded SANG. This would be on top of the 126 homes al­ready built on be­half of the univer­sity.

In a let­ter sent to Read­ing ar­chi­tec­ture firm Bar­ton Will­more, Bell­way Homes said: “The pro­vi­sion of nearby SANG” will “off­set the im­pacts of po­ten­tial fu­ture res­i­dents” on the area.

The let­ter noted: “It is the in­ten­tion of Bell­way Homes to sub­mit a plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion seek­ing res­i­den­tial use” of land north of Ar­bor­field Road “within this cur­rent cal­en­dar year.”

In June last year, Bell­way sub­mit­ted an ap­pli­ca­tion to build 249 homes on land south of Cut­bush Lane. This was re­jected by the bor­ough coun­cil, but ap­proved through an ap­peal on Tues­day, March 10.

Cllr Frewin is ex­pect­ing to be pre­sented with the sec­ond plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion soon.

“They want to build north of Ar­bor­field Road all the way to the Black­boy Round­about,” he said. “They know they’re sell­ing homes that’ll re­tain sur­face wa­ter in the win­ter.

“In one of the meet­ings, some­one from the Univer­sity of Read­ing said ‘res­i­dents will just have to get used to flood­ing’ in Shin­field.”

Cllr Frewin added: “Be­cause we’re do­ing vir­tual plan­ning meet­ings at the mo­ment, the meet­ings are for of­fi­cers and com­mit­tee mem­bers only.

“Lo­cal coun­cil­lors and res­i­dents are shut out— it means we get no say in the plan­ning process.”

Chang­ing the land’s use from agri­cul­tural land to the SANG in­cludes build­ing 12 park­ing spa­ces and a net­work of foot­paths on site.

A spokesper­son from the Univer­sity of Read­ing said: “The ex­ten­sion of Lan­g­ley Mead will al­low the Univer­sity of Read­ing to fur­ther im­prove con­di­tions for wildlife, with an em­pha­sis on cre­at­ing a highly con­nected, con­tin­u­ous habi­tat that brings tra­di­tional man­age­ment prac­tices back to the land­scape.”

Ben Kite, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of eco­log­i­cal con­sul­tancy, EPR, said: “We are de­lighted to have played a cen­tral role in see­ing the Lan­g­ley Mead ex­ten­sion through to ap­proval.

“Through ac­tions such as hedgerow plant­ing, wild­flower meadow man­age­ment, and pond cre­ation, the Univer­sity of Read­ing are set to en­cour­age wildlife to flour­ish, while in­cen­tivis­ing peo­ple to spend more time out­side in their lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment.

“The Univer­sity is con­tin­u­ing to pro­vide a shin­ing ex­am­ple to landown­ers look­ing to im­prove the qual­ity of the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.”

(From left) Lan­g­ley Mead, Shin­field was flooded in Oc­to­ber, De­cem­ber, Fe­bru­ary and March.

Pic­tures: cour­tesy of Jim Frewin

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