Community Forum Update

Those people on the council mailing list should have received a revised agenda for the Arborfield Community Forum on Wednesday today. The agenda has expanded a little with confirmation that the Bohunt Educational Trust will be attending to talk about their plans for the school alongside the more practical update being given by councillor Ian Pittock who is chair of the Secondary School Delivery Board at Wokingham Borough Council. With the education provider, Crest Nicholson and the council in attendance, one of the few occasions all three will be in the same room at the same time, this will be an ideal opportunity to raise concerns about a number of issues. Safe routes to the school from the surrounding area is an area that many prospective parents are concerned about, and one that needs cooperation between all three. The name of the school has also raised some concerns, and again this will be a good opportunity to address this with the Education Provider who are solely responsible for choosing the name.

Whilst on the subject of names, the Crest Nicholson update on the development as a whole has been expanded to include the contentious subject of the name of the development. As we have mentioned previously, there is strong pressure coming from Barkham Parish Council to name the development anything but Arborfield. Our opinion has always been that whatever name is picked, with the numbers of people already here, if the existing residents within the SDL don’t use it, the name won’t stick, and whilst Barkham Parish Council may not like it, the vast majority of residents who are already living within the SDL live in Arborfield, and in the case of residents in the older houses along Bramshill Close and Sheerlands Road they have been living in Arborfield for many decades.

Alongside those items Matt Davey from Wokingham Borough Council will also be giving an update on the progress with local roads. There is clear progress on the new Shinfield bypass, and obviously many questions amongst residents over the Arborfield bypass which Councillor Kaiser has previously confirmed is no longer tied to a housing delivery level on the Arborfield SDL thanks to the council obtaining separate funding for the road.

We have had a couple of queries on other subjects. Firstly a couple of people have raised an issue with what is known locally as the dog walking field, which is the field over behind the Army Housing near the stables, and which Crest Nicholson have started to fence off. The field is outside the area the MoD is going to retain, however whilst on the plans much of it will be retained as open space around the restored stables, there is no detail as yet as to what the land will be used for in the interim. We’re raising the issue of the field with Crest Nicholson ourseleves, but obviously Wednesday would be a good opportunity for those concerned about the field to raise it directly as Hugo Reeve from Crest Nicholson will be in attendance.

The other query which we have had is as a result of news relating to the base at Lyneham where the personnel from Arborfield are moving to. As you may remember the reason why REME is being relocated was as part of a grand plan to unify training for the Army, Navy and RAF into a single technical college. Originally this was to be in South Wales, but after the coalition was elected this plan was abandoned, and instead the recently closed RAF Lyneham was chosen as none of the existing training bases were large enough to take all the personnel from the three services. Recently the Defence Secretary confirmed what had been rumoured for a while, and that is that the Navy and RAF have pulled out of the project, and will not be moving to Lyneham, so REME will end up on a much bigger base designed for significantly more personnel than will actually be there. There are of course a whole load of wider questions about the waste of public money in a time of austerity building brand new facilities in Wiltshire much of which will now not be used, along with the now unnecessary costs of decommissioning the base here to move everything to Wiltshire. As a group we have always been concerned about the possible effects of MoD changing plans, and have always insisted that work should not commence on the SDL until the MoD had fully vacated the site because by commencing building in one area with the possibility that the MoD might change their plans runs the risk of an incomplete development with incomplete infrastructure. Obviously the council allowed development to commence ahead of this in order to build the school. Whilst we have heard nothing one way or the other so far, and we’re quite sure Wokingham Borough Council and Crest Nicholson will confidently say nothing has changed, as always we’re at the mercy of the Ministry of Defence, who legally have only transferred a small part of the Garrison to Crest Nicholson. Until the MoD have actually left the site, they can still change their plans, and the news from Lyneham once again puts a question mark over what will happen.

The community forum takes place this Wednesday, 23rd September from 7pm at Henry Street Garden Centre, in Swallowfield Road, Arborfield.

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