Firstly, thanks to everybody who made the time to come along to the Community Forum on Thursday. Even if you didn’t manage to make it, everybody should now have received a letter from the council with details of the two planning applications and details of how to comment. Just to clarify, as from a couple of conversations we have had some people are still confused, these two applications together cover the whole of the Arborfield Garrison SDL giving in total 3,500 houses, two primary schools, one secondary school, two neighbourhood centres, one district centre plus shops and community facilities. They are not some sort of either/or proposition.
Quickly summarising the presentations, the Marino application is little changed from what was presented earlier in the summer, the most significant change probably being for residents of Park Lane in that the stretch from the entrance of the industrial estate down all the way to the A327 will have restricted access, and a new road will be built taking HGV traffic straight onto the Nine Mile Ride Extension. We then (once they’d sorted the IT) had a more slick presentation from Crest Nicholson highlighting the changes made since the previous withdrawn planning application last year. These include a lowering of the density of the development from between 14 and 15 houses per acre to about 13 houses per acre, unfortunately at the expense of green space. There was a good deal of garden village marketing fluff again, but as always it is worth remembering that the garden village and garden city movement of a century ago that they are harking back to built to an absolute maximum of 12 houses per acre, and often at lower densities. In the intervening time housing average densities have increased, and what they are proposing is not going to be noticeably less dense than estates anywhere else around the area. Fundamentally there is not enough room to fit in 3,500 houses at the density residents would like in the space available to the developers, but that headline figure is what the council core strategy has designated this area to provide.
Thanks to those members who have already offered some feedback on the plans. Traffic and transport issues are once again topping the concerns. Whilst this application is avoiding the liberal sprinkling of traffic lights across the locality that we were presented with last year, the solutions this time around were neatly summed up by one comment we heard “it’s amazing what they can do with paint these days” – basically we’re looking at traffic calming as a primary tool to deal with the increase in traffic. The usual problem areas of the Tally Ho corner, California Crossroads, Barkham Bridge and the others are again featuring in comments, with people not exactly convinced.
The forum started with a presentation from the council giving the headlines with regards to the new school. The council line is absolutely adamant that the school will be delivered on time in September 2016, however in response to a question from the floor it became clear that is not the case. The school will be delivered on time if, and only if the AGLC planning application is approved on time. If that planning application is not approved, even if it is for some reason totally unrelated to the school or the school site, the school planning application cannot be approved, and the school will not be delivered.
It is also worth remembering at this point that for an application of this size it is not the planning professionals who approve, it is our elected representatives, and they can and do disagree with the official advice, so they can refuse an application recommend for approval by their officers, or alternatively they can approve an application over a recommendation for refusal by the officers. Recently the committee has approved a new gateway development for Wokingham, despite it being recommended for refusal for not fitting it with the surroundings. Also lets not forget that Curtin & Co the consultants employed by Crest Nicholson proudly promote how they have persuaded councillors to approve a number of contentious developments over recommendations for refusal from officers, and that a number of councillors have staked their reputations on delivering a school.
As a result it is very important that we let our councillors, in particular the planning committee themselves what we as residents regard as most important. Whilst there is a group of parents who are understandably concerned over the provision of school places, is the provision of a school for 2016 so overwhelmingly important that we are willing to make significant compromises over the larger planning application. The council guarantee of the school puts Crest Nicholson and the Arborfield Garrison Landowners Consortium in a powerful position to push for a development that will make them more money at the expense of local residents because they know that to achieve the goal of a school in 2016 the council has to pass their application. What is important is that as we put in our comments we let our councillors know whether we are happy for them to refuse the application, even if it means we won’t get the school in 2016, in order to achieve a better overall development.
We are continuing to go through the extensive planning applications, and will post more comments as we do. Please also continue to share any comments and concerns or questions that you may have.
Both the outline planning applications for the two parts of the Arborfield Garrison Strategic Development Location are now in and published on the Wokingham Borough Council website. As previously we cannot link directly to the applications because of the way the council website is set up. To find the applications go to http://www.wokingham.gov.uk/planning/services/search/ and there put O/2014/2280 into the application number box for the Crest Nicholson/Arborfield Garrison Landowners Consortium application under Arborfield parish, or O/2014/2179 for the Marino Family development of Hogwood Farm under Finchampstead parish.
There is a significant volume of documentation for each of the proposals, so we will not be making any comment on the content until we have had a chance to go through the applications in detail ourselves. As previously, if you have any comments or feedback on the applications from your own reading, please share it. These are complex documents so the more pairs of eyes we have reading them the better view of the overall picture and any issues we will be able to get.
Also, don’t forget that the rescheduled Arborfield Community Forum takes place on this Thursday, 23rd October, from 7pm at Henry Street Garden Centre, and includes an update on the school, along with presentations on both planning applications. Both applications are only open for comment for a few weeks (although we understand the council may try to extend this) and this will probably be the main chance us as residents will have to quiz both councillors and council officials, and also the applicants. Once these applications are approved certain aspects of what is going to happen to Arborfield Garrison are locked in, so it is critical that the applications are got right at this stage.
As a little bit of other news, you may have seen the comment piece we published last week having spotted Tom Curtin, CEO of Curtin & Co the consultancy hired by Crest Nicholson to push through the application, taking a leading role in a group called Caversham Residents Against Inappropriate Development, something we thought was at the very least rather ironic, perhaps hypocritical considering that his company specialises in pushing through just the kind of contentious planning applications that local residents close to them consider inappropriate. Things over in Caversham have taken a rather interesting turn in that the names of Tom Curtin and his wife disappeared off the CRAID site at the weekend, at about the same time as an anonymous newsletter was pushed through doors all across Caversham causing much anger amongst residents. One of those residents investigated who produced the newsletter via the delivery company that delivered them and traced it back not to Tom Curtin, but to Curtin & Co themselves, and he has now passed this on to Reading Trading Standards who have opened an investigation as the newsletter committed a “criminal breach” in the areas of data protection, unsolicited mail and not providing right of reply on the document/providing details of the sender. Needless to say we have highlighted this behaviour to Wokingham Borough Council and expressed our concern at such unprofessional and possibly illegal behaviour from a company that is so closely involved with the Arborfield Garrison SDL. You can keep up to date with what is going on over in Caversham on the Heights Primary School Facebook page. There is a report about the ongoing events in Caversham including comments from Tom Curtin on the anonymous newsletter in the Reading Chronicle.
You may remember just over a year ago, Crest Nicholson the developers appointed by the Arborfield Garrison Landowners Consortium to bring forward the northern part of the strategic development location appointed a consultancy called Curtin & Co to handle the consultation with local residents and interested parties. We were less than impressed as the reputation of Curtin & Co precedes them, and they are specialists in getting contentious developments through often over the objections of local residents, who like in Arborfield and Finchampstead consider the scale of what is proposed to be inappropriate, with poor mitigation for the obvious traffic problems that will be generated, and as we have discovered, existing community amenities being lost. The head of the consultancy Tom Curtin and one of his colleagues had even penned an essay discussing localism and rural “NIMBY’s”. You can read our thoughts at the time here.
Moving forward, over in Caversham, much like here in Wokingham there is a crisis over school places, and there is a long running battle over the location of a desperately needed new school, a school which for the moment has had to open over two miles away from it’s intended catchment area. The education authorities have considered other sites but eventually settled on a 1 acre residential site, that has been thrown up in the air again, but with big names like Sir John Madjeski defending other potential sites.
The campaign against the free school location is spearheaded by an organisation called Caversham Residents Against Inappropriate Development, whose aims are pretty similar to ours – basically residents are frustrated at the apparent lack of consultation, the selection of what they regard as an inappropriate site, and a clear failure to consider traffic impacts and numerous other issues related to the proposed site. However things get a bit more interesting when you take a look at the list of people behind the group. Second on the list is Tom Curtin who “runs a public relations consultancy in London”…
Watching Meridian News last night there was a report with campaigners outside the proposed school site, and about 38 seconds in a local resident is interviewed. Take a look and then look at the staff at Curtin & Co the specialists in getting contentious developments through, in particular Tom Curtin himself…
At the very least it’s quite ironic, that the man in charge of an organisation that is hired by housing developers across the country to push through contentious and inappropriate developments, and has clearly expressed his views on “NIMBY’s” in the past is now doing much the same thing he has criticised residents elsewhere for in the past.
On his profile on his own website he says he is most proud of this:
Consistently delivering some great successes for our clients often on very difficult and contentious projects.
The current problems have been building over years and years of inappropriate development, the kind of developments that his organisation helps push through. Caversham is just another area that has had loads of housing developments over the years but without a similar investment in required infrastructure. So is it ironic that he’s now fighting what he sees as inappropriate development in his own community – or is it just blatant hypocrisy?
It has been a little while since we have issued a news update, so we have a few important items to update everybody about.
Firstly, anybody who made specific comments about the building on the existing green space around the junction of Sheerlands Road and Baird Road, and the buffer between the existing houses on Badgers Mount and the new houses that will be built in the field adjacent, both of which were parts of the Wokingham Borough Council Supplementary Planning Document for the strategic development location should have received a letter from Crest Nicholson detailing proposed changes to their plans in light of the feedback. Alongside the comments from residents both Gary Cowan as our local councillor and the Parish Council made similar representation.
Their proposal is to remove areas BB1 and CC from the plans which are the parcels adjacent to Whitehall Drive. This of course means that half of the area will still be built on. The justification for this is that they need to build on this land in order to achieve the density requirement laid down by the council across the rest of the development, and also achieve the target of 2000 houses for the consortium part of the SDL again laid down by the council. If the council were willing to relax the density requirements slightly then perhaps parcels BB2 and K could also be preserved, but sadly it seems that the council is much more concerned to ensure the developers achieve the density requirements than preserve the amenity land used by the existing residents.
One other point that has come up, and was raised again by the Parish Council with the developers is that the land they are proposing to build on was thought to have been protected from development as it was designated as public open space to balance the previous developments on MoD land, most notably Penrose Park, however the developers are pleading ignorance of this commitment and have insisted that the land was passed to them with no restrictions on it at all. This highlights an important point, that we need to ensure that the commitment made by Crest Nicholson over BB1 and CC is properly recorded so that we’re not fighting another attempt to build on the land after 2026. Firstly the letter from Crest Nicholson has no legal basis, so it is important that the commitment is reflected in their planning application. Secondly the letter makes no commitment over the long term protection of those areas, so it is important that Crest Nicholson show a real commitment to preserving the green space for current and future residents by officially designating and registering the land as a village green which will give it legal protection from future development. This is especially important considering that they are not honouring the commitments made by the MoD over that land in the past.
The council has also shared with us the tree survey prepared by Crest Nicholson for their part of the SDL. If you remember residents have been repeatedly assured by the council that all the trees on the site had been protected, sadly it seems that they are not quite as protected as residents may have assumed. The tree survey is a complex document, but the headline is that Crest Nicholson is proposing to remove or replace almost half of the existing trees. In some places trees are going to be removed to make way for houses – the trees currently in development parcel K for example. After raising a query with the council over some of the proposed removals the council officers confirmed that they did not put tree protection orders on any trees that they thought it would be likely that a developer could challenge and win. Having shown the report to a specialist who writes similar reports he has highlighted a number of errors and mistakes in the tree report, but also added that the report is quite clearly designed to make things easier for Crest Nicholson to remove the trees they want to.
As yet, the council is not totally sure when the Crest Nicholson planning application will be submitted, however you will now find that the planning application for the Marino part of the SDL has been submitted and is available online under application number O/2014/2179. Residents should be getting an official letter from the council highlighting that the application has been submitted. As yet the documents relating to the application are not available online, but as with previous planning applications there is a lot of paperwork for the staff at the council to scan in and make available. The closing date for comments on the Marino application is currently set as 20th November 2014.
Finally, progress is being made by the council parental reference group over the new school, and members of the reference group are asking for ideas about the name – if you have any suggestions over a name, please let us know and we can pass them on to the parents on the group.
Curtin & Co the professional Community Politics organisation taken on by Crest Nicholson for the past year or so to help with community engagement to produce more acceptable plans this time around have the following statement on their website:
Communities and their representatives are at the heart of planning. By listening carefully to them and understanding their issues, acceptance of proposals is greatly improved.
We’d probably agree with them on that, but I wonder how you thought the recent exhibition showed they understood your issues?
Certainly from the feedback we have received so far, the answer seems to be that they didn’t seem to understand at all, and that the entire exhibition was a major disappointment.
Over the years this development has been discussed, there have been a couple of common points. Firstly the preservation of green space used by existing residents has been a major concern – right from the start AG-RAG has been in favour of a development “behind the wire” highlighting that public areas outside the boundary wire of the Garrison should remain public areas, and that the effect on existing residents should be minimised. Secondly the mitigation of the traffic effects of the new development needs to be taken seriously for all the surrounding villages.
If you take a look at the supplementary planning document adopted by Wokingham Borough Council the “behind the wire” principle is clear. Crest Nicholson helpfully include this plan on their “Story so far” panel, all of the formal playing fields along with the informal space around the top of Sheerlands Road is maintained, and there is a clearly marked buffer alongside the existing homes on Badger’s Mount. The withdrawn plans from 2013 which were modified from the original design as part of the community planning workshops in January 2013 largely maintained that, with only building on one side of Sheerlands Road on the Garrison Church Car Park. These new plans however discard the green buffer behind Badger’s Mount, and fill all of the informal space with houses, requiring the felling of a number of trees that are supposed to have tree protection orders on them to achieve this, and even putting houses on the access road to Gerring Road and the whole of the Badger’s Mount estate. Hardly listening carefully to the local community and understanding their issues. Not surprisingly we are aware of a number of local residents who visited the exhibition and expressed pretty forcefully their opinion of the latest plans.
Looking at the other hot button issue, that of traffic mitigation, whereas the consultation exhibition for the withdrawn plans recognised the importance of this and included proposed plans for many critical junctions, there was nothing like this at the recent exhibition. We can’t even comment on how good or bad their plans might be, because there was basically no detail at all, we are no clearer now as to what they are proposing as to where we were a month ago.
So what has gone wrong? Curtin & Co have been engaging with community representatives such as the parish councils and local borough councillors, but they have noticeably failed to engage with the community itself. We had a Community Planning Weekend where a number of local residents sat and worked with the master planners, producing a plan that whilst it had some issues was still something that had clearly evolved as a result of the community engagement. Nobody on the new team was involved with the previous community engagement, and rather than organise a new round of engaging with the community, this team appears to have developed the plans in isolation, the result being that the masterplan is considered by many to be worse than the withdrawn plan.
Ironically the new plan is still being sold on the basis of green space, but comparing the plans from 2013 with the new plans there is clearly less green space. The existing space around the junction of Sheerlands Road and Baird Road is entirely gone, green space around the brook is reduced, the village common is significantly reduced, houses are built closer to the balancing lake and the SANG is reduced in size. What that has been traded for is personal green space, so the density of housing is reduced by putting them on larger plots. Certainly good for making the houses to sell more attractive, but it is the existing residents who are losing their green space, and there is less public green space for the new community.
As expected the secondary school has moved back to the original location, but since Reading Football Club are holding firm on Hogwood Park, it has all the same problems with access from outside the SDL. Whilst in fifteen years once the majority of students using the school will be fed from the SDL most students will be able to walk, in the early years most students will be coming from Finchampstead and will have to come through the whole southern part of the SDL into the town centre to get to the school. The school desperately needs direct access from Park Lane, rather than requiring all of the students to come in at the same time as all of the residents are heading out to work, and sending them in via a fairly roundabout route around the industrial estate and the football club.
If you didn’t get a chance to attend the exhibition, the boards are available on the Crest Nicholson Consultation Website. You’ll find that the previous Arborfield Vision site has been removed, however you can look back at the presentation and commitments that the previous masterplanners and the the Defence Infrastructure Organisation made on our site here, something that is probably a rather depressing experience when you realise quite how much of the previous community engagement has been squandered, and the good will that has been lost by Curtin & Co and Crest Nicholson. Please also feedback if you haven’t already using the Crest Nicholson Online Feedback Form.
As you may be aware, the catalyst for this group being formed was when Wokingham Borough Council published their SDL masterplan document for the Arborfield Garrison SDL. Whilst for everyone who lives in and around the Garrison the prospect of the Army moving out has always been on the cards, and replacement with housing the most likely possibility, pretty well everyone assumed that it would be a development of the land behind the wire, as had been shown on previous proposals. It was therefore rather a nasty surprise to find that Wokingham Borough Council had included parts of the playing fields that were, and still are well used by both the civilian and military families who live here – indeed before the inevitable Bank Holiday rain set in today there were families enjoying the open space near the tennis courts over the weekend, as there often is when it is sunny. This proposed development of “area B” served to bring home what was about to happen.
Over the intervening time we have had several assurances from various politicians over what will happen to “area B”, however the key thing that Wokingham Borough Council have not done, is to remove the contentious part of area B from their own document, as a result every time a new set of consultants come along and a new masterplan is issued, the same argument over “area B” comes up again.
Last week, members of the parental reference group working with the council on plans for the new school were shown a plan indicating the location. The plan was under a confidentiality agreement at that point, but following a request from the reference group the document has now been put in the public domain and can be found on a number of the Facebook pages discussing the school, or by clicking on the image here. Aside from interest over the school location, it is worth taking a look at what is happening elsewhere. Once again Crest Nicholson have kicked out John Thompson and Partners who ran the extensive community planning weekend in 2013, and brought in the Ian Darby Partnership (Northern) based in Newcastle to master plan the site once again. As always happens, if you look at the plan, “area B” is once again marked as residential developable area, although on this plan it’s areas BB1, BB2, CC and K. Granted this is labelled as the “Masterplan Diagram without Constraints”, but the area is clearly marked.
If you look at it from the point of view of the developers if you ignore all the marketing fluff around garden village principles into which an area like that fits really well, the area of parkland in those parts is pretty easy to develop, certainly compared to the building demolition they’ll need to undertake elsewhere on the site. If they take a chainsaw to the trees they’ve marked with blue dots – apparently only to mark the location of services – they can slap up a load of houses quickly and get them selling to finance the rest of the development, and stuff the existing residents. Since we’re already here, the garden village principles aren’t really for our benefit anyway, much better to build on the park used and enjoyed by the people who are already here in order to provide more SANG area and more open space in other parts of the development where they will be making their money.
Sadly that is the kind of short sighted view often taken by developers who are primarily interested in building and selling their houses for the maximum profit whatever the effect on the existing community, the kind of attitude that produced their previous planning application that suggested sprinkling a few traffic lights around the area would counteract the effect of thousands of extra new residents being dropped into a semi-rural area. What they miss is that the existing residents are the people who will form the basis of the new community their marketing department and the council keeps going on about. Surely if you are wanting these people to build this new community, repeatedly antagonising them by not addressing obvious traffic problems, and repeatedly proposing to build on parks used by the existing residents is exactly the opposite of what you want to be doing?
We’ll see in the coming week quite whether common sense has prevailed and the developers have been realistic about the traffic effects of their development, and about retaining amenities used by the existing residents, but given this plan, we won’t be surprised to find ourselves once again disappointed.
After a relatively quiet couple of weeks, over the past couple of days there have been two key announcements relating to the development.
Firstly, the Arborfield Garrison Landowners Consortium, headed up by Crest Nicholson, have announced the three dates for the exhibition of their revised proposals. These are as follows:
The first of these dates in Finchampstead is at the end of the last full week of the school holidays, whilst the other two dates in Arborfield are after the local schools have gone back. The consortium seems to have now abandoned their previous Arborfield Vision site and are instead setting up a new web site that will carry details of the proposals at www.arborfieldgarrison.co.uk which is due to go live on the day of the first exhibition.
We would urge everybody to try and attend the exhibition, and to ensure you give your feedback to the developers representatives who will be attending.
The other announcement, which came today from Wokingham Borough Council announcing that the potential site for the new school had been identified. To be fair the potential site they have identified is actually the same site that was proposed in some of the earliest layouts for the development, indeed you can go back to this posting from 2010 for an example, and which was actually revealed by the Marino Family Trust on the front cover of their Hogwood Garden Village brochure a few weeks back. The site still has all the same problems it did two years ago, when the previous group of AGLC consultants successfully argued to have it relocated to the edge of the development, the primary reason that it has moved back is that Wokingham Borough are now pushing for the school in 2016 and the site identified on the edge of the development just won’t be available in time.
The fundamental problems with the site remain, the biggest of which being that, as can be seen from the plan in the Marino document it will only be accessible via the new village centre. With the Reading Football Club training ground at Hogwood Park directly behind, and a large area of SANG and the existing industrial estate adjacent, the route for students from Finchampstead will be along the new Nine Mile Ride extension into the village centre. Students from Barkham will again be coming into the development right to the centre to get to the school. It would make significantly more sense from an accessibility point of view to turn the school around and access it from the Park Lane side, but unfortunately whilst Hogwood Park is there and occupied, this isn’t possible.
Whilst the schools may have broken up for the holidays, events around the development continue to move on.
Thanks to everybody for the steady stream of copies of feedback to the Marino Family Trust over their woeful exhibition. It is clear that rather than assuage any concerns about the development the lack of detail in the exhibition had much the opposite effect. There has been a good deal of press coverage with an article in both the Wokingham Times, and also an article published in the local papers over in Hampshire highlighting how Eversley residents were ignored in the limited promotion for the exhibition. It is interesting to note the disagreement between MFT and Wokingham over whether Eversley should have been included with MFT saying Wokingham asked them not to send details to addresses in Eversley, whereas Wokingham are saying that they were only asked for addresses in specific parishes.
The article that appeared in this weeks Wokingham Times, which has yet to appear online also asked Curtin and Co, the representatives of the Crest Nicholson led consortium developing the northern part of the SDL about their upcoming consultation. Disappointingly they told the paper that they are planning to mount their consultation during August at the height of the summer holidays when many people will be away, a decision that runs contrary to their supposed desire to consult as widely as possible. There are also comments from Arborfield councillor Gary Cowan highlighting concerns that the applications from the two groups must be considered together.
Much like Curtin and Co and Crest Nicholson, Wokingham Borough Council is also continuing to make key decisions during the holiday period. The agenda for the Executive Meeting this Thursday, 31st July contains a number of important issues. Firstly the new secondary school for the south comes up under item 31. The report amongst the agenda papers highlights the ambitious schedule the council has set themselves, and in the section on capital funding highlights this as a key challenge due to the school being brought forward well in advance of when the funding from developers will be available. Whilst there is now an enthusiastic parent reference group organised by the council in operation, it is fair to say that confidence amongst parents whose children fall into the critical period for secondary transfers is not high. We are aware of families moving out of the area purely because they do not believe the council will deliver, with other families that can afford to looking seriously at private education for their children because they know that their children will have no choice over which school they will go to. As a contingency we would urge Wokingham Borough Council to consider putting a fairer tie breaker in place for their four schools, perhaps based on the segmented Oakbank tie breaker, that would give parents in the southern parishes more confidence that they will have some choice over places should the council not manage to deliver a school as promised.
Also on the agenda for Thursday is designation of a combined neighbourhood plan area for Arborfield and Newland, and Barkham parish council areas. Ensuring we have a Neighbourhood Plan in place is very important as under the recent Localism Bill it provides additional funding to our local parishes from central government.
Whilst not directly related to our SDL, another interesting item is item 44, where it seems that Wokingham Borough Council is getting into the Pick Your Own Fruit and Veg business by buying Gray’s Farm over in Heathlands Road. Under the plan the farm, which was on the market anyway, will remain open until the end of the 2017 season, but then will close and become part of the South Wokingham SDL which abuts the farm to both the north and east. Following closure in 2017 it will be converted into the sports hub for the South Wokingham SDL. Whilst it is certainly sad to see a popular local business go, it is perhaps not surprising as the farm would not be nearly so attractive with thousands of houses surrounding it in a few years time, and with the council buying it that at least ensures that it will remain as open space rather than being picked up by a developer.
“Is that it?” about sums up the comments from a lot of residents who attended the two consultation afternoons put on by the Marino Family Trust and their representatives last Thursday and Saturday.
Things didn’t bode too well when we were given barely twenty-four hours notice of the first event. One of the first visitors e-mailed us shortly afterwards and said that he thought that the three display boards with identical content to the brochure we had received were the introduction, but when he asked he was told that was all there was. Another local resident who contacted us asked when the booking was made at Henry Street Garden Centre and was told it had been made three weeks previously. When he then asked why residents weren’t told at that point, the honest answer came back “We didn’t think we’d be ready”.
With regards to the Crest Nicholson/MoD consortium responsible for the other part of the Strategic Development Location the impression we’re getting is that after the embarrassment of withdrawing the planning application they are working hard on producing a good application this time around – they are certainly giving the impression of having upped their game. Given that the Marino Family Trust are local, and Roger Bullworthy their main representative is a familiar face at Community Forum meetings and also attended all of the consultation carried out by the MoD consortium last year it is a shame that the knowledge of key issues he would have built up didn’t translate into a better exhibition.
We are grateful to those residents who have shared their concerns with us, please also share your concerns with the Marino Family themselves using the contact details provided on the brochure. Unlike Crest Nicholson and the MoD who will build the houses and go, we understand that the Marino Family are going to continue to live locally, so up to now that has given us a level of confidence that they are aware of local issues and concerns – that confidence has taken rather a knock after this exhibition for many people.
A number of key points have been raised:
The brochure started with the line “We have the opportunity to create a high quality, well-designed and exemplary garden village at Hogwood Farm”, sentiments with which we’d agree. However as a first step in convincing us that the Marino Family have the plans to actually produce that, this exhibition left an awful lot to be desired.
After the short notice invitation to the Marino Family Trust exhibition of their development plans, we issued the following press release, and participated in a discussion on BBC Berkshire.
The second exhibition date and location is tomorrow from 2pm to 5:30pm at Henry Street Garden Centre in Arborfield. As Roger Bullworthy says in the interview below the Finchampstead afternoon was consistently busy, and they are there and happy to answer any questions you may have.
Arborfield and Finchampstead residents have slated developers over, what appears to be, a cynical ploy to discourage people from viewing plans for a 1,500 home mini-town proposed on local farm-land.
Arborfield Garrison Resident’s Action Group (AG RAG) says the number of people who have contacted them complaining that they have been given less than 24 hours’ notice to view plans put forward by the Finchampstead based Marino Family Trust for the mini-town, which includes a neighbourhood centre and school, is unprecedented.
A spokeswoman for AG RAG, Gill Purchase, explains.
‘Residents received a brochure with basic information about the proposals for the ‘Hogwood Garden Village’ on Wednesday. It invited residents to view and comment on the plans the following afternoon, with a further exhibition planned for just three and a half hours on Saturday at a further location in the area. It is the first time the plans have been made public and most people were not aware of the exhibition until AG RAG posted details on social media sites.
Ms Purchase says. ‘This highlights the fact there is no intention for any meaningful dialogue between these developers and the public. The MOD and Crest Nicholson showed similar complacency when they organised public meetings just prior to Christmas in 2010, so we are hoping that the next round of consultation they carry out will be arranged to ensure the maximum number of people can attend and voice their views’.
She adds. ‘The whole rushed process is just a cynical move to ensure they (developers) can tick the box for having conducted public consultation when they put the planning application in five days’ time. Any reputable organisation that is serious about getting the opinions of local residents would give adequate notice – weeks not hours – and would not plan to arrange the consultation period when significant numbers of people who would be interested and would like to comment are likely to be on holiday’.
The proposals for the 1,500 mini town are in addition to the 2,000 homes proposal being put forward by the MOD for the Arborfield Garrison.
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