Borough Cllr Lesley Hayward (Bulmershe & Whitegates) and Woodley Town Cllr Amanda Downes (Bulmershe)
Woodley and Whitegates Liberal Democrats are disappointed to find out that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has declined to stop the controversial move by Wokingham Borough to grant planning permission to Reading University to build houses on playing fields in Bulmershe and within the area designated as a Site of Urban Landscape Value (SULV).
The letter confirming this decision says “The Government is committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decision on planning issues, and believes that planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible”
However Beth Rowland, Lib Dem leader of Woodley Town Council and Wokingham Borough Councillor for South Lake said ” They don’t really believe in Localism – Eric Pickles and Wokingham Borough council have now ridden rough shod over the wishes of our local communities”
Beth Rowland further comments that “Both Earley Town Council and Woodley Town Council objected strongly to the extension of the universities plans onto this land that was designated a SULV by Wokingham Borough Council to protect it from development. If planning decisions were truly taken at a local level then this application would have been refused. Earley Town Council and Woodley Town Council have recently agreed to form a Joint Group to try to fight to protect what is left of the SULV”
Kay Gilder, Lib Dem Wokingham Borough Councillor for South Lake said “I blame the Development Control department at Wokingham Borough Council, no sooner had they had written a new policy to protect this area than they buckled under pressure from Reading University and recommended approval of a scheme that drives a horse and cart through that new policy – before the ink was even dry – I believe that Reading University are bullying the local councils by flexing their considerable commercial muscle in the area”
Woodley and Whitegates Lib Dems were pleasantly surprised by the headline in this week’s Woodley Chronicle (7 Feb) indicating that Wokingham Borough Council is to fund a new public toilet in Woodley Town Centre within a few months(“Relief as battle won for new toilets is won”)”.
Lesley Hayward Lib Dem Wokingham Borough Councillor for Bulmershe and Whitegates said “If true, this announcement does indeed come as a relief – Lib Dems have been campaigning hard to achieve this result. There is a very strong demand for a proper public toilet in Woodley town centre and I feel that as Wokingham Borough Council stole our public toilets in the first place that they do have a moral obligation to give them back as soon as possible to meet resident’s demands”.
Lesley went on to say “So why were Lib Dems surprised by the article? Well, when I asked Cllr Ross a question, only last week, at the council’s Executive Meeting he would only tell me that a decision would be made in “due course”, but here he is announcing a firm decision to the press just a few days later – I feel that he has treated elected representatives with utter contempt”
Beth Rowland Lib Dem leader of Woodley Town Council said “Woodley Town Council has already offered to maintain public toilets in Woodley town centre once built. We are pleased that Wokingham Borough has now so publicly announced that the borough council is going to fund the construction. To date the town council have not been contacted by the borough about Cllr Ross’ announcement and I look forward to hearing more details about the funding and firming up on Cllr Ross’ hope that the money would be available in a few months because”.
Beth Rowland added “If true, I will be very pleased with this announcement. If Wokingham Borough does meet Cllr Ross’ public commitment to fund new toilets out of Section 106 money, then Woodley will have new toilets without the need to increase the precept as has happened elsewhere in the borough”.
Phil Challis Lib Dem Deputy leader of Woodley Town Council said “It is very annoying that S106 money from a new development will have to be used for the toilets. When LIDL were planning their building they offered to build new public toilets at no cost to the borough, which the borough refused and also the fact that LIDL also acquired the old toilet site from the borough and gave them significant S106 contributions towards “toilet provision” which the borough spent on new toilets in the library – I feel that the Conservative leadership of Wokingham Borough have completely bungled their handling of public toilets over the last few years – Wokingham Borough residents deserve better leadership in their council!”
Wokingham’s Lib Dems are very concerned that their calls for public toilets to be reinstalled in Woodley are slipping to the bottom of the Conservative Agenda.
At last night’s Executive meeting, Liberal Democrat Councillor Lesley Hayward (Bulmershe & Whitegates ward) reminded Cllr Angus Ross of his agreement to publish a Review of the Local Loos scheme in November. Lesley said “I am very disappointed that this review is not on tonight’s Executive Agenda. The Conservatives are not prepared to consider future plans for public toilets until after this review. However, I am committed to representing the residents of Woodley – they want public toilets and the Lib Dems will do everything they can to ensure they get them.”