This week has again been busy in and around the Strategic Development Location. Alongside the official departure of REME this week also saw the approval of the second outline planning application covering the Finchampstead part of the development location – Hogwood Garden Village on what is currently Hogwood Farm. The approval was not unexpected, but as before was voted through unanimously against the overwhelming view of those who responded to the planning application being to object. You can watch the planning committee discuss and approve the application, along with the contributions from members of the public and the parish and borough councillors on the Wokingham Borough Council YouTube channel.
Alongside the approval there were various mentions in local and regional media. The Wokingham Paper mentioned the approval on the front page this week and had a good article reporting the approval and talking to members of the public who spoke at the planning meeting. BBC Radio Berkshire were also on site at the Garrison early in the week and talked about the departure and approval on the Andrew Peach programme on Wednesday.
Unfortunately the BBC Berkshire item was confused at best, and whilst they sorted themselves out somewhat later in the morning the clear message they were giving out early on was that the Army were leaving Arborfield completely and the Garrison was going to be replaced by 1,500 houses that were going to be approved that night.
Just to be clear:
The Army is leaving Arborfield – WRONG
We cannot say this often enough, the Army is NOT leaving Arborfield. Most of the Garrison will be closed by January and REME who have been part of the village for many years will have moved to Lyneham. However some units currently on site will remain for a bit longer, and the housing here has been retained for at least the medium term and is now part of the Aldershot Super-Garrison. It is currently being used to house families stationed there who will now commute along the A327 like many of the rest of the residents. Being associated with Aldershot has already produced some issues, the most obvious of which was the situation recently with the community centre. This also means that the MoD has moved their boundary fences to keep their remaining holdings secure leading to issues such as the dog walking field being fenced off.
There will be 1,500 homes for the Garrison site – WRONG
Wokingham Borough Council has already approved 2,000 homes for the Garrison site as part of the Crest Nicholson planning approval earlier in the year. Work has already got underway following that approval with work on the school site moving forward, and demolition work on the site of the first houses to be built over on Biggs Lane near the lake having started this week. The total number of homes for the whole strategic development location has long been set at 3,500.
WBC is approving the plans to replace the Garrison tonight – WRONG
As mentioned above the plans for the Garrison had long since been approved by the council. The approval this week was a separate application from the Marino Family who own Hogwood Farm for an additional 1,500 homes on land to the south of the Garrison, bringing the total number of homes to the 3,500 set by Wokingham Borough Council in their core strategy.
A reporter from BBC South Today was also in the area during the week and filmed a number of interviews. Whilst the BBC ran a bare bones story about the approval in a lunch time bulletin, as yet they haven’t run the full story. As yet we haven’t heard why this is, but often for these items they would need to get comment from Wokingham Borough Council to ensure they are seen to be presented a balanced viewpoint.
Having got approval, the Hogwood development will proceed in a similar way to how Crest Nicholson are working in the northern part of the SDL with a series of reserved matters applications as each parcel of land is brought forward. An early part of their plans will be the Nine Mile Ride extension which is a critical part of the plans to allow children from Finchampstead to access the new school when it opens next year.
Whilst it is obviously disappointing that the council approved the development over local objections, we need to remember that with both the Crest Nicholson and the Marino applications these are only in outline. The actual detail of what is built will come forward over many years to come, and as we have found with the recent changes to the first application from Crest Nicholson the developers are keen to hear local opinions on what they are going to build.