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FROM THE CHAMBER: Concerns for residents mental wellbeing

Building work
Building work Picture: Phil Creighton
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Jim Frewin

It might be difficult to see how a local plan can be a mental health risk but yet again Shinfield residents are being targeted by Wokingham’s unequal planning process.

Another few thousand houses being already indicated as directed towards the Shinfield area via the latest local plan update.

This on top of the already thousands of houses over and above the original agreed strategic plans, a huge British Museum warehouse and a film studio.

The vast majority of this on working farm land owned by a single land owner and being built by a single development consortium.

The local plan ‘call for sites’ gathered over 300 site proposals, yet it would appear there are only two options.

How has that been achieved?

What due diligence has been applied to all the other landowners and sites? 

It is already being indicated that there is no choice. Just like Grazeley, no transparency and decided behind closed doors.

So how does this impact resident’s mental well-being?

There are currently multiple simultaneous large developments, across Shinfield, all in progress at the same time with more to be squeezed in this year.

Imagine how it must feel to finally see a possible end to lockdown only to find you cannot sit in your garden, due to constant developer noise and disruption.

Not just from one site but from multiple sites, all within earshot of each other.

Imagine construction traffic from multiple sites, using the same local roads, morning and night.

Not just this summer or even this year but for the next five, six or seven or more years.

It is little wonder that residents are feeling the strain.

Once planning is approved, agreements from approved plans are subject to subsequent non-consulted changes or simply  ignored.

Residents simply cannot trust what is approved.

Add to these multiple examples of  inconsiderate developer practices such as working outside of agreed hours, removing trees shown as retained, not installing things like noise reduction fencing, contractors being verbally aggressive or antisocial towards residents, parking of huge machinery and vehicles across existing driveways or footpaths etc.

Plus, issues such as repeated sewerage flooding, inconsistent water pressures, power cuts etc and perhaps you can understand resident’s anxiety levels. 

What support do residents get with these issues?

The answer is very little is available. 

Enforcement is almost non-existent.

It would appear responsibility for residents after planning approval is anywhere other than the local planning authority.

Officers tell me they are limited in what they can do, that it takes a lot of time  and effort to investigate breaches and, even if developers are found in breach, the minimal fines are not a deterrent. 

I actually believe this frustrates Officers as much as residents

Wokingham’s planning appears to be unbalanced and not transparent.

It continues to focus on southern wards and appears to prioritise
on a few landowners and developers.

It continues to focus the stresses of development on a few communities. It approves and then leaves residents with little support.

Is it time for a complete review of Wokingham’s planning system to get greater transparency, fairness

and balance into local planning?

If for no other reason than to protect the mental well-being of Shinfield and Wokingham residents..

Cllr Jim Frewin is an independent councillor for Shinfield South at Wokingham Borough Council

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