TWELVE mobile homes in Winnersh will be replaced with 11 two storey pre-fabricated temporary accommodation units following a vote by the planning committee.
The units will be self-contained two-bedroom homes on each floor, and one single mobile home – 23 in total.
They will be built in Grovelands Park, off Grovelands Avenue and be wood-cladded.
At the meeting, held virtually on Wednesday, February 10, the council said that these are much-needed temporary emergency accom-modation to households, often including children or vulnerable people. As such, there would be a constant turnover of people moving into them.
It hopes that its redevelopment would ensure a better environment while the occupants wait to be re-housed.
A condition of the application is it would include electric vehicle charging points.
Although the project was approved, Winnersh Parish Council objected as they felt that the new pre-fab units would be out of character for the park, the sewage system is not fit for purpose and could therefore not cope with a further 11 homes.
They also had concerns that there would be a potential fire risk caused by the homes having a single access point.
However, Wokingham Borough Council’s drainage officer said that the drainage assessment submitted with the application raised no concerns.
Clinton Taylor from Winnersh Parish Council said: “We would like to object to this application”, reiterating the objections to the height and the sewage system.
Simon Price, from Wokingham Borough Council, said that the proposal improved existing facilities at Grovelands and would help homelessness pressures on the other side of the pandemic. It would mean that that more families would be able to stay within the borough.
He also sought to assure councillors that the drainage system would be upgraded.
Cllr Prue Bray (Lib Dem, Winnersh) said that she supported the application as there was a need for temporary accommodation within the borough, it would help keep families with young children living within the borough and away from B&B accommodation. She also felt that the units that exist are in poor condition.
“I know people have concerns about the application,” she added, “but these have been addressed.”
The officers’ report noted that existing residents had raised fears of anti-social behaviour as a result of the increased number of homes, “there is no evidence that the occupants of the development would cause a rise in incidents”.
Cllr Bray said: “I know there are concerns about anti-social behaviour, there have been some in the past, we have to deal with it better, but those problems already exist.”
Cllr Paul Fishwick (Lib Dem, Winnersh) said he wished to strongly object as the site was for a mobile home use only. The replacements would have inadequate screening, are out of character, and it would be a huge ugly wall that would block sunlight for residents.
Cllr Rachelle Shepherd-Dubey (Lib Dem, Winnersh) said that she had no problem with single storey homes, but didn’t feel that double storey homes was the answer.
Cllr Andrew Mickleburgh (Hawkedon, Lib Dem) wanted to know if 23 parking spaces were more than current, and whether there were enough spaces for existing residents and the incoming tenants. Officers said 16 spaces were recommended, and there would be a better layout as a result.
Cllr Mickleburgh pointed out that the average time limit for temporary accommodation was between nine and 12 months and, in light of that, what affect that had on legislation on amenities.
Cllr Weeks said that the accommodation would be more spacious than a B&B.
Cllr Carl Doran said that he understood the pressing need for this accommodation and had seen first-hand the problems faced by people living in B&B accommodation.
The need for this type of accommodation was highlighted by Cllr Abdul Loyes (Con, Loddon) who supported the application.
Cllr Malcolm Richards (Con, Norreys) wanted to know if the area would be lit up in any way. Officers said there were existing street lamps and each unit would have motion sensitive lighting.
Cllr Stephen Conway (Lib Dem, Twyford) said it was a difficult application due to conflicting considerations, including the need for housing for homeless people, with B&Bs are unsuitable for families. And in that sense, he wanted to support the application.
He also felt that the needs of the existing residents needed to be considered.
“We’ve got to strike a balance,” he said. “If we approve this application, we have to try and do everything we can to mitigate its impact” He said that what he had heard was encouraging.
Cllr Rachelle Shepherd-Dubey voted for a single-storey application.
Her objection was supported by Cllr Gary Cowan, but this was voted down by the rest of the committee, who then approved the original application