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Does Conservative u-turn mean all is not WEL?

At the Trading and Enterprises sub-committee of Wokingham Borough Council on 22nd October, Liberal Democrat councillors questioned the Conservatives over their sudden decision to place Wokingham Enterprises Ltd (WEL) into a dormant state. The Conservatives did not offer any explanation as to why their move came out of the blue.

Leader of the Lib Dem Group, Prue Bray said “Only a month ago John Pike (a director of WEL) and Cllr Alistair Corrie spoke to a meeting of the Wokingham Society. Nothing was said then about WEL ceasing its activities. At the last council meeting, also a month ago, the Lib Dems asked questions about the council-owned companies, including WEL. Nothing was said about WEL ceasing its activities at that meeting either.

“And it was only in August this year that – despite Lib Dem protests – the Conservatives insisted on paying fellow Conservative councillors £6,095 a year for being non-executive directors, for what they claimed was a very important job. It can’t have been that important if the company has been made dormant without a single word from any of the directors!”

The Liberal Democrats say the Conservatives must explain why they have brought WEL’s activities to so sudden a halt .

Prue Bray added “The activities of WEL have been shrouded in mystery from the start. WEL had control of over £9 million of council assets, but their finances have not been open to scrutiny in the same way that the council’s own finances are. Councillors have had to resort to paying Companies House to view copies of documents. The Conservatives spent a lot of money on setting the company up and paying directors, but we don’t really know what they have been doing.

“The Conservatives have made WEL dormant but we don’t know whether that is permanent. And they haven’t explained why it had to be done so suddenly. This is no way to treat taxpayers’ money.

“The whole thing has been unsatisfactory from start to finish, and the Lib Dems will be calling for a proper explanation.”

NOTE:

Alistair Corrie is the Conservative councillor responsible for the regeneration of Wokingham town centre. He is also a member of the Trading and Enterprises Sub-Committee (TESC).

Lib Dems United in Opposition to Relaxation of the Planning Laws

Liberal Democrats in Local Government everywhere – and especially in Wokingham – have called on the Coalition to listen to mounting criticism and scrap plans to force re-negotiation with developers of agreements to provide affordable housing.

As the Government closes its consultation on its proposals, Cllr Keith House, Lib Dem Environment Spokesperson, has called on the Government to listen carefully to the cross-party evidence submitted by the Local Government Association opposing the plans. “It’s not everyday you get all the political parties throwing their arms up in horror at a proposal”, he said, “but when this does happen, you need to stop and listen”.

Cllr Prue Bray leader of the Wokingham Borough Council Liberal Democrats said, “Wokingham has a huge shortage of affordable housing. The Lib Dems are united in opposing the idea of allowing developers to wriggle out of obligations they have already agreed to. Liberal Democrats in local government have also been making clear our opposition to the Government plans to allow larger extensions to be built without planning permission and look forward to sending back a similar response on that issue as well”

NOTES:

Cllr Prue Bray made a speech at the Liberal Democrat Conference about temporary changes to the planning laws. The full speech can be accessed via http://pruebray.mycouncillor.org.uk/

The response from all parties at the LGA is very clear in opposing this and the response can be found here:http://tinyurl.com/8c6ofc8

For a full copy of the opposition expressed by the Liberal Democrat Conference on housing and planning emailrob.banks@local.gov.uk

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Wokingham Borough Council lets down Woodley and Earley

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”

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Published by Woodley & Whitegates Liberal Democrats, 26 Farriers Close Woodley, Reading RG5 3DD.

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