PLANS TO redraw the settlement boundary in Winnersh have been dubbed as “devious” by one of the ward councillors.
Last month, the borough council launched a planning application so it could seek public opinion for up to 100 new homes on Winnersh Farm.
But Cllr Prue Bray, Liberal Democrat councillor, said the application falls outside of the Winnersh settlement boundary.
“It’s not very principled to be manipulating the system to suit themselves,” she said. “The council would be redrawing the boundary simply to allow themselves to build there — it’s very poor from them.”
The opinion-gathering application is used to decide whether an environmental impact assessment is needed. But Cllr Bray said it would “look bad” if the council decided not to complete one, considering the build is on its own land.
She said there are added complications for the site, including land contamination, and noise and pollution from the neighbouring M4.
“Many years ago, when Wokingham was part of Berkshire County Council, stuff was dumped and buried on the land,” she said. “We don’t know what it is, or how much of it is there. It could be waste and rubble from building the M4, it could be chemical, it could be anything.”
When it was initially discovered, an impermeable membrane was installed to stop any spread to the allotments.
But Cllr Bray would like the area analysed before any homes are considered for the site.
She is also concerned that a housing developer is looking to build in the area.
“They’re now looking at the whole area for housing,” she said. “Over my dead body. I wouldn’t be adverse to a dozen homes, perhaps bungalows for older people wouldn’t be problematic.
“If they have to build, it would be better to create affordable homes rather than market price.”
Also concerning residents and councillors is how any new homes would impact local traffic.
As part of the Winnersh Relief Road, the Woodward Close exit is being redesigned as a left turn only. With two roundabouts added to Reading Road to link to the distributor routes, there is concern this would create unnecessary congestion.
Also planned for the site is a new SEND school for children with additional learning needs.
Cllr Bray, who is also the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for children’s services, said this would be a useful facility for the community, and is not disputing the need.
“Funding for the school has already been secured,” she added.
A spokesperson for the council confirmed that the draft local plan update, published in January 2020, proposed changes to the Winnersh settlement boundary for housing development.
They said that environmental assessments would be carried out to accompany any planning application for this site and the current screening request, is part of the formal planning process.
Planning applications for the SEND school and houses are expected in spring 2021.