This week, Wokingham Borough Council’s (WBC’s) Local Plan team started their tour of the Borough to bring the Local Plan to the people and the first stop was introducing Grazeley Garden Town to 148 people living in and around Grazeley village.
What follows is a selection of their concerns. Thank you to those who shared them.
There may be flooding ahead
After storms Ciara and Dennis last month, the Environment Agency put out a flood warning for Grazeley Village on February 17.
A local resident combined the EA’s flood map with the Local Plan map, showing that most of residential areas 1, 4, 5 and 10 would be underwater when Foundry Brook floods; likewise parts of eight other residential areas and a park and ride.
Perhaps the new houses might be better off being sold ‘pre-flooded’ then, or at least ‘flood-ready’ as Boris might say.
Get me to the work on time
There’s no doubting that Grazeley is accessible, after all it’s right by the A33 dual carriageway just south of the recently rebuilt M4 junction 11 at Mereoak.
Google travel data for February 18 showed that you could drive to work in Green Park in just 10 minutes.
Provided you’d left home at 6am.
At 8.30am the journey time was 35 minutes – and that’s with less than 300 Grazeley residents. When there’s 3,000 (let alone 30,000) then that journey’s going to take well over an hour.
But there’s good news. Google’s data showed you could walk to work in just 63 minutes – in the rain, in the cold and in winter, in the dark too.
As WBC’s proposal for a new station at Grazeley didn’t get included in the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) bid, if you needed to get to Reading Station to travel further afield, by car that’s 55 minutes to cover just six miles.
Regrettably, the HIF bid documents are still secret and the draft Local Plan has no mention of a new bridge over the M4 at Grazeley to ease the pain.
Red flags anyone?
Let’s break the M4
I know it’s stating the obvious, but the M4 is part of the UK’s strategic road network. It’s the highway that keeps food, fuel and freight getting to Wokingham Borough so that the goods you want are available to buy every day of the year.
While the developer-friendly travel assumptions in WBC’s Local Plan shows that all’s well, neighbouring West Berkshire Council isn’t quite as optimistic. As to suitability, their Assessment of Sites for “Land at Grazeley” (site WOK4) says:
“Highways England have commented that there could be significant impacts to the Strategic Road Network from proposals for the Grazeley site without an appropriate package of mitigation which will likely require significant infrastructure improvements.”
That’s the same Highways England whose work to improve M4 J10 already delivered ‘significant impacts’ on Wokingham’s Motorway (the A329M) which still haven’t been fixed. It sounds like they’re right to be concerned.
Shine on you crazy diamond
The Local Plan is strangely silent on the subject of providing a new hospital.
Over at tautology central, the Local Plan says “We want the borough to feel like a healthier place, because it will be a healthier place”.
Meanwhile, neighbouring Hampshire recently chucked out a new £150 million mini-hospital due to costs and planning objections, and Wokingham’s Local Plan gives no clues as to a new hospital and supporting medical centres being set up to share the load from the over-stretched Royal Berks.
But there’s going to be a health hub, whatever that is.
The Last Word
Goes to a Grazeley resident: They were told that Sir John Redwood (MP for the constituency of Wokingham – including both the WBC and West Berks bits of Grazeley), couldn’t attend the Local Plan meeting at the Village Hall as “There is a very important vote in the House on Wednesday and all MPs are required to be there – it is a three-line whip”.
Hansard’s record for divisions (votes) on February 26, shows there was jam yesterday (25th) and jam tomorrow (27th) but no jam today. Likewise, Hansard’s record of debate on the 26th on things like the “Prelegislative scrutiny of the Draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill” has no record of Sir John’s contribution that day.
So the resident offered to return the oak tree that Sir John planted in Grazeley 20 years ago, in opposition to development there, asking where he’d like it put?
The Acton Diet
Closer study of the draft Local Plan shows 940 houses being allocated across 18 sites in ten of the Borough’s 25 wards.
Seven Conservative wards have been allocated 360 houses – an average of 51 houses each, while one Liberal Democrat ward has been allocated 250 houses alone – five times as many.
Of the Borough’s remaining wards with available space, twelve wards have been allocated zero houses.
Is this the behaviour that the Borough wishes to be known for?