Category Archives: News

Wokingham Borough Council Unrepentant

The fallout from the tumultuous council meeting where Gary Cowan resigned rolls on. This week in the Wokingham Paper Wokingham Borough Council were unrepentant over the secret resurrection of plans to build significant numbers of houses at Grazeley.

As Gary said in his resignation statement, whether or not the plans for Grazeley go ahead, Arborfield is still significantly in the frame thanks in particular to the large university owned Hall Farm site between Arborfield and the river. The battle lines are already being drawn with a long letter on housing targets from the Great Langborough Residents Association who represent residents in the centre of Wokingham, and are looking at focusing development outside Wokingham to meet the borough housing targets, trying to protect the small market town feel of Wokingham. Sadly even if they succeed in having the housing placed elsewhere, in places like Grazeley or Arborfield, significantly more residents in the area surrounding Wokingham will still adversely affect the character of the town.

The letters page also includes a letter from ourselves in support of Gary following his resignation. The text of the letter is as follows:

I am writing as a representative of the Arborfield Garrison Residents Action group over the “shock” resignation of Cllr Gary Cowan last week. Put simply having worked, and often argued with councillors such as Gary over the years, it wasn’t a shock, indeed it wasn’t really much of a surprise.

We as a country are supposed to be electing people to be councillors, MPs or whatever, not parties. However, in most cases those people need the backing of a party organisation to get elected. If they are the kind of person who is in the job to serve the public, that sometimes brings them into conflict when what their electors want is different from what the party wants. We have seen this first hand with a number of councillors, not just Gary over the years as housing plans have moved forward.

For many years the Wokingham Conservatives portrayed themselves as the party who would keep housing under control, most notably when they stopped the original plans to build houses at Grazeley. Now they are the party who secretly restarted the Grazeley plans, and secretly bumped up the amount of housing we as a borough will take over the coming years.

As the Liberal Democrats highlighted on the night Gary resigned, he has always been “Mr Arborfield”, putting the concerns of the people in our village above the party line – most notably voting against the rest of the executive on which he sat over adopting the Arborfield SDL when safeguards for the existing residents were not, in his opinion, up to scratch. Take a look back at how often the Executive doesn’t vote unanimously on critical issues and you realise what a brave position he took on that night. He paid for that disloyalty to the party shortly after when he lost his executive seat.

Now Gary, and one other as yet unnamed councillor have voted against retrospectively supporting Grazeley. The party, we now know reacted by deselecting him. If you dig through all the bluster and comments in the press and social media from Cllr Baker, and Cllr Jorgensen, ultimately that is what it comes down to, if you vote against the party line in Wokingham Conservatives you get punished, if you continue to do it you’re out. Gary voted against Grazeley, and has expressed concern over the third of Arborfield Parish that is under threat of development, something that greatly concerns Arborfield residents, and the party has deselected him, we assume in favour of a new Conservative puppet who will dutifully do what they are told.

This is perhaps a question for other Wokingham residents, when it comes down to it, will your local councillor stand up for you as residents, or will they do what the leaders of their party tell them. In Arborfield we now have an independent who is answerable only to us the electorate, what about where you live?

Richard Peat
Arborfield Garrison Residents Action Group

Christmas at St Eligius

Garrison Church of St Eligius, ArborfieldOne question that often comes up with the closure of the Garrison is what happens to the Army buildings that the wider community makes use of, buildings like the Community Centre, and the Garrison Church.

The Community Centre continues to operate, albeit with differences in how it is managed, however the MoD decided they had no further need of the Garrison Church as a new REME chapel was being built on their new base in Wiltshire. The MoD took the REME stained glass, many of the plaques and memorials along with the war memorial that stood outside the church, but that left a congregation of retired military personnel who weren’t going to move to Wiltshire, personnel who are still housed in the remaining military houses around Arborfield, along with civilians who had joined the congregation at the Garrison Church over the years all of whom wanted to continue to hold services here. The congregation petitioned the local Church of England Bishop, Andrew Proud, the Bishop of Reading who agreed to take responsibility for the congregation and the building.

img_6311The Bishop of Reading visited in the summer for a special service to mark formally the church moving from being the Garrison Church of St Eligius, to a new role as St Eligius Arborfield Green, which you may have seen reported in the Wokingham Paper. The Parish of Finchampstead and California are providing help with running the services, but St Eligius retains a separate identity in the new role serving both the former Garrison community and the new residents starting to move into the houses in the Arborfield Green development.

As we approach Christmas the church has a series of special services for the festive season, and are introducing new services aimed at families starting in 2017. The church is extending a warm welcome to everybody in the former Garrison area to join them over the festive season and beyond.

On Sunday 4th December at 11am they have a special service to mark St Eligius day, so come along to hear about St Eligius who is not only the patron saint of REME, but is also the patron saint of horses and the people who work with them.

The next week on Sunday 11th December at 11am the church is holding a Family Christingle Service. Many churches hold a Christingle service at this time of year supporting the work of the Children’s Society, telling the Christmas Story, and each child gets a Christingle to take home with them.

On Thursday 15th December at 6:30pm the church is holding their traditional Carols by Candlelight, which many locals will have attended previously. This is a great opportunity to come along and sing your favourite Christmas Carols and also hear music from the Arborfield Military Wives Choir.

Christmas Day itself is celebrated both at 11:30pm on Saturday 24th December, with a traditional Midnight Mass, and there is also a special service for on 25th December at 11am on Sunday 25th December.

On the 8th January, the church launches a new monthly service at 9:30am aimed at families that will subsequently run on the first Sunday of every month. The church also holds services every Sunday at 11am, and 12:15pm on Tuesdays.

The church continues to honour its military heritage, and for many will always be remembered as the Garrison Church, enquiries about baptisms, weddings and other special services can be directed to the Parish of Finchampstead and California office on 0118 973 0133.

Front Page News

img_6563The tumultuous council meeting which culminated in Arborfield Councillor Gary Cowan resigning from the Conservatives and was swiftly followed by the resignation of the entire independent renumeration committee is covered extensively in the latest issue of the Wokingham Paper out today. Certainly go pick up a copy not only to get the full story, but also to support a valuable local independent voice in the Wokingham community.

Gary himself has released a further more detailed statement alongside his interview with the paper highlighting more details about what led him to resign, in particular that following his refusal to retrospectively support the Grazeley development the local Conservative Party was taking disciplinary action against him and had deselected him as candidate for Arborfield. It seems obvious from their behaviour that the local Conservatives want their councillor for Arborfield to be a puppet who toes the party line rather than represents the interests of the people of Arborfield. With almost a third of Arborfield on the list as possible housing development sites, more than ever we need to continue to have a councillor who puts the interests of the village first and foremost.

Gary’s full statement is below – we print it here in full because it highlights a number of areas of concern – for those who are not in Arborfield, it is perhaps worth asking your councillors where their priorities are. If they are a Conservative councillor we know that all bar Gary and one other voted to retrospectively back Grazeley, have not spoken out over the increase in yearly housing allocation, and many voted in favour of the controversial renumeration package at the meeting last week (the full list is in the Wokingham Paper).

Last Thursday (17TH November 2016) I resigned the Conservative whip at Wokingham Borough Council.

I informed the Council that with immediate effect I was resigning the Conservative whip at Wokingham Borough Council after 20 years of loyal service.

The main reason for this is that I deeply opposed the ‘Grazeley Expression of interest’ secretly submitted to Government by this Council for more than 15,000 houses without the public or even elected councillors being informed.

Cllr. Keith Baker, the Leader of the Council subsequently got every conservative councillor present at a secret conservative group meeting to retrospectively agree to the application with the exception of two councillors who voted against it – of which I was one.

The council only admitted to this when a leaked document came into the public arena. Cllr Baker claimed it had been kept a secret as he did not want to alarm local residents. I now understand that officers with some senior Councillors had been working on this for about 18 months.

In addition to this, Wokingham Borough Council has from the 1st of April 2013 secretly been using a new report called the ‘Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA)’ which recommends a housing number of 856 houses per year which was based on a dubious technical survey.

They also added 10 years to the existing local plan life based on these new housing numbers – again without any public consultation or public inquiry.

The existing local plan was valid to 2026 and it had a housing number of 661 per year which was agreed by public consultation, debate in the council chamber and a formal public Inquiry. The Council now see the 856 houses a year as the starting figure for the new evolving local plan to be introduced in 2019 yet no one was told or consulted.

With Arborfield now threatened by 29% of its green space being developed and the whole borough at risk to being concreted over I cannot support a Conservative administration that seems to want to pile on such damage to the Borough.

Also at risk to massive development is Hurst, Barkham and the Northern parishes all because of a misguided belief that if you build 15000 houses in Grazeley all the other developers will up stumps and go away. It is naivety in the extreme and something I cannot be part of.

On Grazeley, Mark Ashwell the Executive member for planning, said for the Western Berkshire area (comprising Bracknell, Reading, West Berkshire and Wokingham) there was a need for 65,665 new homes and the four authorities are working together to explore how to achieve this.

Cllr  Keith Baker calls the SHMA a technical survey etc. but he omits to say without any public or council consultation and in addition Officers are also saying this is just the starting figure for the new evolving local plan so expect that to rise.

If you add 15,000 houses destined for Grazeley to the new housing figures the council are using and the Governments National Planning Policy Framework where there is a legal responsibility to help out your neighbouring councils housing needs the combination of all of these decisions is the likelihood of very large tracts of Wokingham’s Greenfields green fields will be concreted over. All this supported retrospectively by Wokingham’s Conservative Administration. It’s a tsunami of housing waiting to engulf us all!

In addition, the independent remuneration panel that advised Wokingham Borough Councillors on expenses have resigned.
In their resignation letter, they warn the decision made by councillors sets a “dangerous precedent” that is not in the interest of Wokingham’s council tax payers after Cllr Keith Baker asked councillors to ignore their recommendation by the Independent Remuneration Panel to curb ‘Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs)’ – which is given to councillors who sit on additional committees. This is the same conservative administration that seems to want to concrete over all our green fields and make sure they are properly rewarded for it.

The outcome (to my practically one man fight against these outrageous suggestions) was that I was called into the Wokingham Conservative Offices – for what was meant to be a re selection process – only to be de selected by four Wokingham Councillors and one Councillors Wife. They refused to give a reason for this and I have no right to appeal their decision.

When I said I would stand at the next election in 18 months time as an Independent Conservative – as they had not nominated a replacement – they upped the stakes and suspended me from the Party with a view to expel me permanently.

From their actions, it appears that Wokingham has an autocratic council – if you don’t ‘toe the party line’ you are sacked!
I put my integrity and my responsibility to residents above all such threats.

Cllr Gary Cowan
Borough Councillor for Arborfield at Wokingham Borough Council.
1 Barker Close
tel 0118 976 0281
email [email protected]

Gary Cowan Becomes an Independent

At the end of the regular Wokingham Borough Council meeting last night, Cllr Gary Cowan, long standing borough councillor for Arborfield made the following statement:

It is with regret I must inform Council that with immediate effect I am resigning the Conservative whip at Wokingham Borough Council after 20 years of loyal service.

It is on a matter of conscience as I oppose the Grazeley Expression of interest secretly submitted to Government by this Council for more than 15000 houses submitted to the government without the public or even members of this council being informed and which the leader of the council subsequently got conservative group agreement retrospectively with the exception of two councillors voting against it of which I was one.

In addition the councils adoption of the new housing number of 856 per year which was based on as I see it a dubious technical Survey but which is not in use by the Council. It is extended up to 2036 introduced again by this administration without any public consultation or public inquiry so overruling the formal agreed existing local plan number of 661 agreed by public consultation, debate in this chamber and a formal public Inquiry. The Council also see the 856 houses a year as the starting figure for the new evolving local plan.

With Arborfield now threatened by 29% of its green space being built on and the whole borough at risk to being concreted over I cannot support a Conservative administration that seems to want to pile such damage to our Borough at large.

I am quite happy to continue in my role as Chairman of Lodden Home Limited as it’s an honourable vehicle designed to deliver affordable housing to our residents. As the Homes and Community Agency require registered providers which Lodden Homes are to have boards that function as independent bodies as an independent councillor I am quite capable of continuing to fulfil that role.

Thank you.

Cllr Gary Cowan [email protected] 0118 976 0281

As with his decision to vote against the adoption of the Arborfield SDL when concerns raised by residents were not properly addressed, despite obvious pressure from other executive members to deliver a unanimous decision, Gary has again put his conscience above following the party line. As his statement makes clear the Conservative Group were asked to retrospectively approve the already well advanced plans for Grazeley, and it seems rather a coincidence that the front page of the Wokingham Paper recently included Arborfield, almost a third of which is on the potential site list for new development, was then indicated as a possible location if Grazeley does not go ahead.

We would like to offer our support to Gary as he becomes an independent councillor, and are sure that this new independence will allow him to better and more publicly support and represent the people of Arborfield without the conflict of having to follow the Conservative party line.

Refreshing the No Cold Calling Zone

As you might have seen, there has been some discussion locally about setting up No Cold Calling Zones in Arborfield, triggered by a push by the local Trading Standards to increase the number of zones across the area.

If you are a resident of the Garrison area, you may well be aware that we are already in a No Cold Calling Zone, as one was set up under the auspices of the MoD Project Home Front way back in 2007 – you can read some details of the setting up of the zone in this Project Home Front posting – however the most recent circular from the people at West Berkshire Trading Standards who are now responsible for trading standards in the Wokingham area did not include any of the roads in the Garrison on their list, nor mention the Garrison area.

As a result both ourselves and the Parish Council have chased this up with both the trading standards and Thames Valley Police contacts, and somewhere along the line details of the zone here were not passed on, perhaps when Wokingham Trading Standards closed and West Berkshire Trading Standards took over. However it happened it is now further complicated by the significant changes going on at the Garrison, so any sort of Project Home Front contact is now not available either.

The good news however is that West Berkshire Trading Standards are willing to adopt our No Cold Calling Zone, and will supply new signage and door stickers as part of a refresh of the scheme, the less good news is that because they structure the scheme on a road by road basis they do not want to adopt the Garrison as a complete area as was done before, especially as the existing zone crosses the parish boundary into Barkham.

Thanks to Alison in the Parish Office we have a list of streets that we believe were part of the original No Cold Calling Zone, so we need somebody from each street to confirm whether they were part of the original No Cold Calling Zone – if that can’t be confirmed the street can join, but the residents of the street will have to be canvassed again as part of the process to create a new zone. The list of streets we believe were covered by the original zone within Arborfield are as follows:

  • Arbery Way
  • Attwood Drive
  • Barker Close
  • Bentley Drive
  • Bushell Way
  • Gerring Road
  • Howell Close
  • Mabett Close
  • Milam Close
  • Rayner Drive
  • Tyler Drive
  • Faraday Close
  • Fleming Close
  • Kelvin Close
  • Sheerlands Road
  • Whitehall Mews
  • Bramshill Close

If you live on any of these roads and can confirm that the road was part of the No Cold Calling Zone please let us know – even better if you have an original sign or one of the window stickers – getting in touch will enable us to add your road to the confirmed list for West Berkshire Trading Standards and get updated signage and stickers despatched.

Planning Matters

We thought we would update everybody with a couple of recent planning applications which you might like to respond to. Both these applications can be viewed online using the Wokingham Borough Planning Portal at – enter the application number into the search box and the application and all relevant documents will be shown.

Firstly we have application 153358, which is a full planning application for a change of use of the old Spar and Post Office on Venning Road from a shop to become the new home for the local Army Cadet Force whose existing facilities are being closed along with the rest of the operational parts of the Garrison. If you recall the Spar and Post Office was closed at 24 hours notice back in the summer of 2013 leaving the village with no Post Office at all. Whilst on the one hand it is good that there are plans to reuse the building, which has become a bit of an eyesore since the sudden closure, reopening the shop and Post Office would be of much more benefit to the local community.

The application is factually inaccurate in a number of places, for example incorrectly describing the shop as being a branch of Londis rather than Spar, and suggesting that the shop was closed as part of the staggered closure of the Garrison as being commercially unviable which suggests a lot more forward planning than the no notice overnight closure that actually occurred when all operations were moved to a new site within the secure area of the Garrison, a site which again has now been closed. Comments on the application are open until February 1st.

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 20.41.48The other application is 153486, and is an application for a scoping opinion for a development of 200 houses from Reading Football Club for the Hogwood Park site. Whilst this is not any sort of application to build as yet, it clearly shows what the football club are wanting to do once they move to their new site on Mole Road.

As you may know, Hogwood Park is outside the SDL boundary, and whilst the football club tried to have the SDL boundary moved to include their land this was rejected by a planning inspector. However they’re trying again. This time proposing to swap part of the land in Hogwood Park with the land designated to be the playing fields of the new school which lies within the SDL boundary. Of course this isn’t some generous offer to allow Crest Nicholson to reduce the density of the existing housing plans, this is a cynical attempt to increase the proposed housing in the development by 10% and try to squeeze value out of the land Reading Football Club has been clearly told is not within the strategic development location. The site was proposed as one location for the new school, and for students from Finchampstead is much more accessible than the adjacent site selected, but Reading Football Club refused to play ball, now we know why. This area is already taking the largest of the four SDL’s, and with concerns already about increased traffic what will be the effect of increasing the number of houses on the Garrison development by 10% just to satisfy the greed of Reading Football Club and their owners?

As mentioned above, this is a scoping opinion, so the council does not normally take comments on such an application, however writing to the council about the proposal at this early stage will certainly give the council an indication of local feeling as and when Reading Football Club attempt a full application.

Hogwood Garden Village Approved

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.

Community Centre and Hogwood Planning Approval

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.

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.

Contamination Press Release

Following the statement yesterday from Wokingham Borough Council on the delay to the school being caused by site contamination being more extensive than was first declared by the Ministry of Defence, we have today issued the following press release to the media. As yet there has been no further official comment from Wokingham Borough Council, although we understand an official press release from them is due imminently.

AG RAG – NR – Kept in the Dark