The Wokingham Paper

READERS’ LETTERS: As seen in Wokingham.Today of October 15, 2020

In this week's Readers' Letters, the borough community talk about the Government white paper on housing Picture: Jess Warren

Remembering Joan Penrose

Here, is another letter, on a subject, which has nothing to do – either with coronavirus, or with Wokingham Borough Council’s policies.

I was sorry that my friend, the late Joan Penrose, who died in 2019, didn’t live to receive the latest news. Joan was a great mental health campaigner, and we worked together, for years, in the National Schizophrenia Fellowship.

She was an ardent supporter of, and a regular visitor to, the Wokingham Crisis House.

She attended the 25th aniversary celebration, of our Association, with one of her sons, and all three of her sons visited the crisis house.

They are all formidably intelligent, and very good at Maths. Joan also attended our Book Launch, for Triumph and Tragedy in 2016, and thereafter, promoted this book,among the people whom she knew in the mental health world – as she always had promoted the crisis house, as a model of mental health excellence.

She would have been so proudand her sons must be so proud, of their father Sir Roger Penrose.

I fear that ‘black holes’ remain a mystery to me, and are not my scene, at all – any more than they are for any man in the street.

There is a story – probably apocryphal – that, on one occasion, Albert Einstein, was so absorbed with his Theory of Relativity, that he forgot to put his trousers on, and someone had to run down the street after him,to make sure that he became fully clothed.

They are, rarely practical – these, absent minded professors. Nevertheless, I take my hat off, to Sir Roger Penrose – the Nobel Prize, for Physics – what a wonderful success!

I have written an Obituary, for Joan Penrose, in my 30 year history of the Wokingham Crisis House, There’s A Place For Us, which I am currently in the process of completing.

Pam Jenkinson, The Wokingham Crisis House, Station Approach

Democracy is dead locally – so is Wokingham

I respond in horror to the government’s white paper on housing as outlined in Wokingham.Today of October 1. This is another technical consultation by algorithm – one can only look back at the exam results fiasco to see what that did!

There will be nothing short of a revolution when these houses are built in Wokingham, increasing the yearly build from 800 to 1,600. Residents will have no say, giving the developers freedom to build and do what they like. Wokingham cannot cope with any more over-development to our existing structure.

Welcome to the world of Robert Jenrick, Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings.

A recent quote by David Dimbleby says that they are like a machine gun wanting to massacre institutions, destroy democracy and people at a moment’s notice.

Reg Clifton’s letter on October 8 says that he has never seen such a disastrous Conservative government and until it is removed Britain will continue to go downhill. I agree with this.

There is nothing right with the white paper on housing. The type of housing proposed will not meet the needs of the current generation. Brownfield sites need to be used not greenfield.

The new legislation begs the question what is the use of local councillors?

Most residents don’t know who their local councillor is as they only emerge at election time. They promise the earth and then nothing happens.

Leader councillor Halsall will have you believe he is fighting for the residents over the housing proposals. He has certainly contacted a lot of people and made his name known in Westminster over the quantity of houses to be built in Wokingham. He and his officers have tried in previous years over 700 houses which is still too high.

Local councils should be run by a Residents Association or an independent one free from party politics.
What on earth has been going on in recent council meetings? Who is in charge?

It appears that the algorithm is at the forefront of why our road surfaces are in continual bad condition and are never repaired especially around Woodley.

I do understand that two roads in Woodley are earmarked for repair. It is all down to the council’s scoring system in the borough. This is so antiquated.

When one complains that the surface in your road is uneven and dangerous they come and inspect it – if you are lucky – and give it a score. If you road scores higher than another in the borough then you don’t get a repair.

I read in Wokingham.Today that Cllr Jorgensen is ensuring that residents have a smooth journey on safe roads. I suggest she drives along the section of Reading Road from Headley Road to Western Avenue. A smooth, safe journey that certainly isn’t!

Money should be spent on residents needs. We pay enough council tax.

All residents need to be notified of latest housing developments. If you want to save your area it is well worth paying for planning consultants and a barrister to challenge the contents of this bill and to protect your rights.

Cedric Lander, Woodley

Our MP strongly supporting us

A message from the Conservative leader of Wokingham Borough Council saying thanks to Theresa May MP for her support in Parliament on the indecent housing numbers his Conservative Government wants to dump on Wokingham Borough. It’s worth a watch on YouTube: youtu.be/_gM-9n7MwiY

I did notice Sir John Redwood did not contribute to the debate.

I welcome Theresa May’s support which goes on to mention Charvil, Remenham, Ruscombe, Hurst, Sonning and Twyford but not a mention of the likely location of these obscene 1,635 houses a year her Conservative Government are proposing.

I have no doubt they will be south of the borough (Mainly Sir John’s territory) in Grazeley, Shinfield, Swallowfield, Arborfield, Barkham, Winnersh. Maybe one could add Finchampstead to that list.

Although Theresa May MP is against the numbers one wonder’s if that is as long as they are not in her back yard as her three-page objection to a Wokingham Borough Council Planning application for 57 retirement homes in Sonning might suggest.

What confidence can one have in housing secretary of state Robert Jenrick the architect of the 1,635 houses a year in Wokingham when one reads of his ‘cash-for access’ scandal involving a Tory donor and Tower Hamlets developer who he dined with.

The outcome was Tower Hamlets Council lost lots of developer contributions so their residents and the council will just have to pay the price. He is the same Robert Jenrick who blocked a plan for 514 flats on Boris Johnsons Constituency but 1,635 houses a year in Wokingham is okay.

The leader of Wokingham Borough Council is a Conservative as his administration. So also is Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Robert Jenrick. All have the same ideology which is ‘only if it’s good for Conservatives and their developer mates’ it would seem but certainly not the rest of us.

What confidence can Wokingham’s residents have in a Conservative run Council who are glued to their masters at Westminster?

Whatever the final numbers are be sure that their flagship plan of 15,000 houses at Grazeley along with thousands more in Shinfield, Arborfield, Barkham and Winnersh, but not a house in Theresa May’s northern strongholds will be the final outcome.

Cllr Gary Cowan, Independent Borough Councillor for Arborfield at Wokingham Borough Council

Christmas immunity

Ignoring the Covid-19 threat to us oldies, I wonder if we should applaud youngsters in universities – that many are intent on catching the virus ASAP, in order to build up immunity ready for Christmas. We cannot object to the ‘bright young things of the future’ getting good ideas – this very technique was discussed months ago – except that they are ignoring contamination of others in the community. I suggest they are ‘educated’ in their duties, then left to it.

In regard to universities, they must refund any monies they have taken, for which they not providing the education expected by students.

A major issue we now face in this country, is the threat to our farmers and their produce – all possibly due to Boris wanting to become the official 51st State of the US.

A ‘Great Trade Agreement’ (as called by Donald) will not be in our interests – nor will any agreement with anyone that lowers our valued and vital quality of farm produce.

Lastly, be careful not to get caught out by supermarkets reducing their prices on ‘things we buy all the time’ but fail to list things we do buy regularly such as coffee, pet food etc., that they mark-up excessively. A 200-gram jar of coffee I regularly buy, went up from £4 to £6.

Shop around and risk catching the virus is not good advice, but it is what I have to do.

Reg Clifton, Wokingham

Pie in the sky

Your article in last week’s paper starting with the statement that the ‘Gorse Ride plan is something we should all be proud of’ by Cllr John Kaiser is yet another example of the pie in the sky marketing regularly spewed forth by WBC.

£100 million to build 249 housing units, at £401,606 for mostly one- and two-bed flats seems a bit pricey. How can any council, who we are led to believe is short of funds, justify that?

Looking at it another way the building industry uses a cost per square metre as a standard for comparing costs. That works out at £4,496 per sq m and when compared to a 2020 UK average of £1,750-£3,000 per sqm it’s more than double the cost for the majority of builders. Either WBC are spending over the odds or providing truly luxurious affordable homes.

Are the council proud of over spending their taxpayer’s hard earned money in this way?

Moving on to social cleansing councillor Kaiser says that “It’s the furthest thing from my mind,” he said.

“If any officer or any of my colleagues suggested that we should do something like that, I would leave the council, I feel that strongly about it.”

He cited the council’s redevelopment of Phoenix Avenue in Norreys as example of the standard the council aspires to – and what Gorse Ride residents can expect.

Firstly, according to the Head of Housing not a single tenant from the old Eustace Crescent was offered a new build property in Phoenix Avenue, confirmed by a councillor who stated that “they wanted a better class of tenant”. None of the properties are council properties but owned by Berry Brook Homes Ltd, a FOR profit company.

At a meeting in Gorse Ride we were told that it was supposed to be 50% social housing but a senior officer who was responsible for the lettings said no they were all let at affordable rent.

Secondly the Phoenix Avenue development was hardly inspiring, late completion, residents installed in unfinished homes, pavements incomplete or non-existent and street lights that didn’t work, to name but a few of the problems. Then to cap all that the management were in total chaos with Berry Brook, WBC and Hills all blaming each other and no one willing or able to sort out the problems.

Is that really the standard that WBC strives to achieve for their residents?

As the number quoted and the quality expectation must be correct, after all the Executive Member for Finance and Housing, couldn’t possibly be wrong, then we can look forward to sitting in our black clad prison cells, on our gold-plated thrones at JK Towers trying to phone the council to find a plumber to actually connect it up to the sewers.

I hope you’ll still be proud then.

Chris Wallace, Finchampstead

Talking shop

In September, we joined 22 of the UK’s major retailers and associations in publishing an open letter in The Sunday Times to the Prime Minister calling for more effective legal protection for our colleagues from an ever-rising tide of abuse, threats and violence.

We now need your support to keep this momentum going.

Our store colleagues have been working tirelessly to protect customers during the pandemic.

Despite their hard work, violence and threats have become part of the job — they do not deserve this.

As a regional, independent co-operative, we’ve been tackling crime from every angle – causes, prevention, reporting and justice. Although there have been some positive steps forward, more needs to be done.

Please consider writing to your MP, signing the national petition or viewing the film we put together of our colleagues’ experiences. This is a hard-hitting video we felt was essential to highlight the severity of the issue. Information on all of these actions can be found here: coop.ly/2GmP0MB.

If we all play our part and we all work together then we can stop this wave of violence which has been getting progressively worse over the last few years.

We need politicians, police and the rest of society to remember these crimes are not victimless. They affect real people.

Mark Smith, Chief Executive, Southern Co-op

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