Again it has been a bit of a busy week with regard to the Arborfield Strategic Development Location.
Firstly, some good news, following a superb response from local residents, and pressure from both the parish and borough council to the impending closure of the community centre, ESS who were managing the centre for the Ministry of Defence reversed their previous decision including the associated staff redundancies and the centre will now remain open. If the company name seems familiar, alongside the community centre ESS are also the company that ran the shops and post offices on the base, and are also the company who closed the shop and post office outside the wire at twenty-four hours notice a couple of years ago leaving Arborfield as a whole without a post office, a situation that still hasn’t been rectified. Alongside the now reversed community centre closure they have also closed the camp post office and shop that were behind the wire.
As we have known for a while, whilst the garrison has officially closed all the housing was transferred to Aldershot, and is now being used to house overspill from the garrison there. The community centre will now be retained under Ministry of Defence management for the moment but will ultimately be passed to Crest Nicholson. We also understand that whilst the majority of the garrison has closed the helicopter units will remain for another couple of years as well.
The remaining Ministry of Defence housing areas brings us to another subject that was briefly mentioned at the Community Forum by a questioner, the status of the gate across Baird Road. As longer term residents of Arborfield will know when Penrose Park was built the Ministry of Defence put a fence and locked gates across Baird Road between the new development and the existing housing, that gate has remained ever since. Several residents have raised concerns on what might happen should the Ministry of Defence stop using the housing and pass the estate over to civilian use. Enquiries have found that although the council is aware of the gate it has never been officially approved because the fence is on Ministry of Defence property, so once the Ministry of Defence release the land the fence should be removed and the road opened. Retaining the gates or some other form of block will obviously require official approval from the borough council. Councillor Cowan has raised the issue with the council, but an official approval to retain the barrier will require consultation with local residents. If you wish the barrier to remain, or if you would rather see the road reopened, please contact Gary to let him know your opinions.
This week was also supposed to have seen the plans for the remaining 1,500 houses in the strategic development location, Hogwood Garden Village, go before a special meeting of the Wokingham Borough Planning Committee. However in a major goof by the council they failed to issue the notification letter to all those who commented on the application inviting them to speak at the planning meeting. Those letters have now been issued, and the application is scheduled to go before the planning committee on October 14th at 7pm. As with the Crest Nicholson application it is a hybrid application covering the whole development, and includes the Nine Mile Ride extension that will be a key part of how students for the new school from Finchampstead will get to the site by road. Much as with the Crest Nicholson application council officers have worked hard on resolving problem areas so the application is recommended for approval, however it will be the councillors on the planning committee on the night that will vote to approve or reject the application. Members of the public are entitled to attend and address the planning committee on the night to raise matters of concern.