Woodley and Whitegates Lib Dems are furious that Wokingham Borough Council has abandoned their defence of the green gap between Woodley and Earley, just days after Woodley was announced as the second best place to bring up children in the country, at least in part due to its open spaces.
Last night (Weds 3rd October) Wokingham Borough Council’s Planning Committee approved the building of a massive new housing development on the Bulmershe campus of Reading University. Although Woodley Town Council, Earley Town Council and all local ward councillors spoke up against some elements of the development the committee approved the application without any real debate.
Beth Rowland, Lib Dem member for South Lake said “The committee cast aside Wokingham Borough Council’s policy to defend the Site of Urban Landscape Value – they could have insisted that the development remained within the existing boundaries of the built area, but they chose to approve University plans to build on the playing fields”
Lesley Hayward, Lib Dem member for Bulmershe and Whitegates asked the committee “Why does the university need to be so greedy and build houses into the SULV- is it simply to make more money?” Later Lesley added “Any desire of the University to make more money should not justify the further destruction of the SULV. I feel that residents of Woodley and Whitegates have yet again been let down by Wokingham Borough Council.”
Sam Rahmouni, Lib Dem member for Bulmershe and Whitegates said “The report from the Wokingham Borough Highway Officers made everyone at the meeting laugh, when he said that a development of 300 houses will generate 400 less cars leaving or entering the site between 8 and 9 in the morning than the university – most students and lecturers aren’t even awake at that time!”
Jenny Lissaman, Lib Dem Earley Town Councillor for Whitegates said “I was appalled by the lack of debate by members of the planning committee; it felt as if they had already decided to approve this application before the Planning Committee was even held. What is the point of spending years developing a policy to protect the SULV in the new core strategy and planning policies if officers and councillors ignore it at the first opportunity? The committee has sent a message to developers that Wokingham Borough Council’s policies are not worth the paper they are written on”
Coling Lawley, Lib Dem Town Councillor for South Lake said “The council members put this valued green area between Woodley and Earley into the District Plan as a “Site of Urban Landscape Value” to protect the area and prevent the urbanisation of the entire Bulmershe area. If the Borough Council wishes to see the entire area concreted over then they are going the right way about it.”
Phil Challis, Lib Dem chair of Woodley Town Council’s Leisure committee said “Sports England objected on principle to the University building on a playing field. However it would appear that Wokingham Borough do not share the same values and are quite prepared to see houses built on playing fields even though the land was protected by their own SULV policy. What an Olympic Legacy! Although the University have said they would allow community use of the remaining pitches we wait to see how this will work out, as their guarantee is for less that 2 hours a week on one pitch averaged over a whole year”
Kay Gilder Lib Dem Councillor for South Lake ward said “The chairman of the planning committee said that residents should trust Wokingham Borough Council to look after High Wood and the ancient heath land. Unfortunately after the impact already felt on High Wood following other developments in the area that were approved by Wokingham Borough Council and the casual way in which the SULV policy has been cast aside, residents no longer have a lot of trust in the Borough Council’s ability to look after Woodley and Whitegates”