Published January 22nd, 2013
Just a reminder that you have until 12th February to comment on the application to build a one-form entry primary school at Winnersh Farm.
Rachelle and I have been out today – yes, in the ice and snow – delivering a leaflet to people in Woodward Close and Winnersh Gate about the planning application. We had a careful look at the walking routes to get to the school site and we think that there are some things that need to be done to improve pedestrian safety over and above what is in the planning application. I will be sending comments in about that to the Council. I will post them up here when I do it.
Published January 17th, 2013
The council has submitted its planning application for the new primary school at Winnersh Farm. You can find the documents relating to it by searching for F/2013/0017 here: http://tinyurl.com/WBCplans
The Planning Statement F20130017ot Winnersh Farm Primary School.pdf explains how the council decided it needed a new school at Winnersh Farm. It also lays out the planning context, which is, in summary, that the government thinks the need to provide primary school places is so important that there would have to be very major planning concerns indeed for the planning application to be refused.
The Planning Statement also explains the school will start with 30 Reception pupils and 7 staff in 2013/14, and add one class every year until there are 210 pupils and 23 staff in 2019/20.
32 parking spaces are planned for the school site itself, of which two are disabled parking. By the time the school is full, in 2019, some of the area of scrub land on the other side of the road will have been used to provide an additional 40 parking spaces.
The site plan showing the layout and proposed additional parking – F20130017pl 002 Rev6.pdf
The floor plans for the building – F20130017pl 010 Rev1.pdf
The external appearance of the building – F20130017pl 020 Rev4.pdf
The other documents include the transport assessment and travel plan. The issues around transport and travel are too big to do justice to in this post, so look out for another post next week. If you would like to receive more detailed information about this issue, you can sign up to email updates from me and Cllr Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey - just leave a comment beneath this post and we will add you to our email list.
Published January 4th, 2013
Over Christmas there were changes to the waste collection days - I want to find out whether the message got across to residents.
In previous years, a leaflet was dropped off to residents to tell them what the arrangements would be for the bin collections over Christmas. This year, the Borough Council relied on a piece in the Wokingham Borough News and the council website to tell people what was happening.
I don’t think the message got through to everybody – it didn’t get through to me, even though I am a councillor – and I would like your help in finding out how effective the council was at communicating.
Please let me know whether your collection day was different over Christmas and whether you knew what to expect.
You can find out what was on the Council website by clicking http://www.wokingham.gov.uk/council/news-and-events/christmas-information/#Waste-and-recycling
Published December 24th, 2012
Just a quick note to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
I will be posting more about Winnersh Farm, Taylor Wimpey, and the new primary school in the new year. Meanwhile, if you would like to be added to our email list for updates on these issues, get in touch.
Published December 11th, 2012
If you live around Watmore Lane or Woodward Close, you will be aware by now of two issues – the council’s plans for additional primary school places, and Taylor Wimpey’s plans for 150 – or more – houses.
The council wants more primary school places so has enough for the children they know will be starting school in September. Adding them to the existing site of Winnersh Primary School is turning out to be difficult because of traffic and parking issues. It looks as though the council will opt to build a new school near the British Legion instead.
At the same time, Taylor Wimpey have announced plans for 150 houses off Maidensfield. They held an exhibition at the Holiday Inn about their plans today. I gave them a bit of an earbashing.
Both these issues are major ones for people living nearby. If you would like to be kept updated, send an email to email@example.com with the subject line “Taylor Wimpey Maidensfield” or “Primary School Places” and we will make sure we keep you informed.
Published November 9th, 2012
In the past month the Conservatives who are running Wokingham Borough have u-turned so many times they must be getting dizzy.
First on 22nd October they mothballed Wokingham Enterprises Ltd, the council-owned company that was supposed to be overseeing the regeneration of Wokingham town centre. The Lib Dems had opposed the set-up of WEL from the start. Time taken for the Tories to realise we were right and execute a u-turn: approximately 2 years.
Then on 25th October they decided to abandon the idea of outsourcing the running of the libraries to a commercial company. The Lib Dems had campaigned vigorously against it. Time taken for the Tories to realise we were right and execute a u-turn: approximately 18 months.
This week they have announced they are no longer planning to move Emmbrook School from Emmbrook to Arborfield. The Lib Dems were fighting the relocation as long ago as 2005, as you can see from this photo, taken in December 2005, which features members of the action group, with Lib Dem MEP Sharon Bowles (fourth from left), then Lib Dem group leader at Wokingham Coling Lawley (third from right) and me, on Coling’s left.
Time taken for the Tories to realise we were right and execute a u-turn: approximately 7 years.
Just think of all the time and effort – and not least, all the MONEY – that could have been saved if the Conservatives had only listened to the Lib Dems in the first place!
Published November 6th, 2012
Now the Executive have approved a primary school strategy, Wokingham Borough Council is now working towards deciding which sites will be chosen for new primary school buildings.
In Winnersh there are two options on the table – further expansion on the site of Winnersh Primary School, or a new site for a small school on land next to the British Legion at Winnersh Farm. The new buildings need to be ready to take children in September 2013, and that will be quite a challenge!
The next drop-in is Tuesday 13th November, at the Parish Council Community Centre (Bearwood Rec, Sindlesham) from 3pm-7pm.
Both options present problems for residents in the affected areas, mainly to do with traffic and parking. There is no perfect solution. As your Lib Dem councillors, Rachelle and I will work to get the best outcome we can for the children, their parents and people living around the potential school sites. However, we will not have a vote when the decision on sites is made in December, as the body which makes the decision, the Executive, consists of 9 Conservative councillors.
Please let me have any comments – as usual, I am keen to hear what residents think!
Published October 26th, 2012
Wokingham Conservatives have decided NOT to proceed with outsourcing the running of the libraries to the private sector.
They first announced they were going to do it in May 2011. We collected signatures for a massive Lib Dem petition against it, which led to a debate in November 2011. And now finally they have accepted that it wasn’t the right thing to do either financially or for the service. Which was what we said at the start……
David Lee, Conservative Leader of the Council, described the Lib Dem campaign to save the libraries as “laughable” in the Reading Chronicle last year:
I bet he’s not laughing now.
Published September 26th, 2012
Health Warning: this blog entry contains some shameless self-promotion.
Earlier this month the coalition government announced plans to consult on some temporary changes to the planning laws. The idea – I believe – was to try and stimulate the construction industry, but the changes they proposed are absolutely terrible. Today at the Lib Dem conference we had a debate on an emergency motion which called for the proposals to be withdrawn. The motion was overwhelmingly supported.
I spoke in the debate, and the part of the proposals I attacked was the idea that people would be able to build extensions of up to 8 m in size without needing planning permission. You can read more about the debate and my contribution to it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19728083 you can hear a clip of my speech on Radio 4′s The World at One, 30 minutes in, here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/b01mwvkh/ and see a note on the BBC’s rolling conference blog at 1011 here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19727264
If you want to see my speech in full you can go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/b01n3dn1/ about 1 hour 3 mins in.
And if you don’t want to do any of that, here is what I said:
Good morning conference. I am speaking in favour of the motion, particularly the part dealing with extensions.
Relaxing the planning laws is NOT A GOOD IDEA.
Most people who want an extension are not put off by the need to get planning consent. If they don’t go ahead it’s usually because they haven’t got the money to pay for the building works. This won’t fix that. The people who ARE put off by the need to get planning consent are the ones who want to build monstrosities which wouldn’t be allowed. Once the rules are relaxed, there will be nothing councils can do to protect people from overbearing, overlooking, ugly, inappropriate building next door to them. Liberalism is about people being able to do what they want up to the point at which they harm others. A principle ignored by this proposed policy.
The relaxation would stop after 3 years – but it’s impact wouldn’t. Once these extensions are built they will be standing for 20, 30, 40, 50 years. The damage isn’t just environmental – it’s political. Because every day for those 20, 30, 40, 50 years people will look out of their windows onto their neighbour’s hideous extension and be reminded of a bad decision taken by a government in which the Lib Dems played a part.
In Wokingham, where I am from, they will particularly remember the Lib Dem involvement because the Conservative council put out a press release which branded this change as an announcement not by the coalition government but by Nick Clegg personally. Absolutely outrageous and we have complained, but the damage is done.
We all understand the need to boost construction and help small builders. I think a better way to do that is to provide greater incentives for repairing and renovating dilapidated properties. That has the added advantages of improving the housing stock and reducing the housing shortage by bringing properties back into use.
So why is a relaxation of the planning laws being proposed? What else was considered? Who was consulted and who was listened to? What was taken into account? Are our parliamentarians happy about it? What will they do if we pass this motion?
We don’t know the answers to any of those questions and that brings me to my final point.
This is not the first coalition policy to cause consternation in the party. We know that in coalition we can’t have everything we want. We understand that when you are in government there are things which have to remain confidential. But surely it is not beyond us as a party to come up with a way in which our parliamentarians and the grassroots of the party can work together better so we can avoid situations like this!
Conference, please support the motion. And parliamentarians, please not only take action to get the proposal withdrawn but tell us what you are doing!
Published September 3rd, 2012
Up until now, the money to pay Council Tax benefit for people on low incomes has been handed over to councils from the government. If there are 500 people receiving the benefit, then the government gives the council enough money to cover all 500 of them.
But from April next year, the government will no longer cover all the money. Councils have been told to expect about 10% less.. But the number of people on benefit won’t reduce, and may even go up. So how will council’s fill the hole in the finances?
They have some freedom to choose. But there are some restrictions. Pensioners cannot have their benefit reduced. So if you are a pensioner in receipt of Council Tax Benefit, you won’t lose it. Although it will be renamed, to Council Tax Discount.
What are the choices then?
Councils can decide to make up the difference by putting up Council Tax to cover the shortfall. Or they can change the amount of benefit people receive, in a multitude of different ways. Or they can change other discounts, such as charging more for second homes or empty properties.
Councils are consulting on their proposals at the moment. Wokingham is one of them. The gap in the funding in Wokingham is less than in many council areas. There is about £600,000 to make up. You can see the proposals and comment on them here: http://www.wokingham.gov.uk/council/consultations/counciltaxbenefit/
Personally, I think the ideas are broadly right, but I would prefer a bit of tweaking. For example, refusing to backdate the claim in any way seems overly punitive to me – and is not likely to save shedloads of money. But I’m interested in what you think. And so is the council. You have until 22nd October to respond.