by Prue Bray on 18 January, 2018
Many, many thanks to residents who organised a public meeting on Tuesday night to discuss the application by Taylor Wimpey to build 250 houses on land behind Maidensfield, off Watmore Lane in Winnersh (application number 173656). St Mary’s was full to overflowing and many people made excellent points and asked good questions.
Over 80 people have already sent in their comments and objections. The deadline for comments is 24th January. You can make your comments here https://tinyurl.com/twcomments by clicking on the word Comments in the blue box at the bottom of the page.
And here are my thoughts on the application.
1 It’s almost identical to the one they submitted in 2013 as O/2013/0434, which was refused by the council. There were 7 reasons for refusal at the time and they hold up pretty well now. Among them were: the fact that the site is in a gap between the settlements of Winnersh and Wokingham, and would amount to visual intrusion, problems with noise and air quality, and insufficient detail about the mix of housing. The information submitted on the housing mix appears to be exactly the same as that submitted last time, a rather meaningless statement that it will have 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 bedroom properties (well duh) and “up to”40% affordable housing.
2 There is one significant difference in the details of the scheme. In 2013 they applied for 150 houses, but flagged up that they wanted to apply for a further 100 houses afterwards. This time they have put the whole 250 in the same application. This does matter, because the traffic and highways implications are bigger for 250 houses than for 150.
3 Taylor Wimpey make out that the council’s Highways team would be quite happy with their proposals provided they coughed up some money towards the cost of the Winnersh Relief Road. That is not absolutely accurate. The officer report back in 2013 made it clear that in the absence of the Relief Road, the application definitely couldn’t go ahead, and added only that if a contribution to the cost of the road was made that “MAY” make a difference. Not WOULD make a difference. And of course going from 150 to 250 houses also makes a difference.
4 Taylor Wimpey have designed this scheme so that all 250 houses have one single access point for vehicles, cycling and pedestrians – Maidensfield, a road built to the standard needed for the roughly 60 houses that currently exist there. Effectively they want to build a giant cul-de-sac off an existing cul-de-sac, which is off a minor residential road. There is no possibility of another access point. This goes against the whole thrust of the council’s Borough Design Guide with regard to streets, which is looking for “connected networks”.
5 Taylor Wimpey argue – as they did in 2013 – that they should be allowed to build even though this is not a site allocated for housing, because the council can’t prove it has enough land allocated for the houses that have to built over the next 5 years. I could write a lot about this, but for the purposes of this piece, will just say that Taylor Wimpey’s consultant’s view of the shortfall in the supply of land is not a figure that I have seen confirmed anywhere else. And is of course, favourable to them. I should also add that there have been recent appeal decisions against refusal of planning permission in the borough which have accepted that there may be an issue with the land supply but have dismissed the appeal nonetheless, on the grounds that the harm that would be done by allowing the development outweighs everything else.
6 It is very unclear when they did their traffic surveys , which seem to have produced some remarkable results that show much less queuing at junctions than most of us experience on a daily basis. They cite “July 2017”. That’s a bit coy. Was this before or after the end of term? Do their extrapolations allow for the reduced traffic in the Summer Term anyway, due to their being no Year 11s or Year 13s at Forest? Strangely, I cannot find anything that acknowledges the impact of school traffic on the area around Maidensfield in the application.
7 Their parking surveys were also done in July – we have the two dates of those. They show a lot less parking than most of us are used to. Perhaps for the same reason their traffic surveys show less queuing?
8 As there were in 2013, there are still issues over water supply and waste water.
9 As in 2013, they are proposing a pedestrian crossing on Robin Hood Lane. Exactly where there was a crossing before that had to be taken out because it was dangerous.
10 They claim the pavement in Maidensfield is 2 m wide. We believe it is 1.8 m wide – which is the old standard, not the new one.
and so on, and so on and so on.
One final thing – Taylor Wimpey are saying the roads within the development will not be adopted i.e. that they won’t be taken over by the council. Anyone who buys a house there will have to pay a Taylor Wimpey organised management company a fee to maintain the roads, and do the street lighting. And they will not be able to have any parking enforcement either. Nice way for Taylor Wimpey to earn money in perpetuity. Whether the council would adopt the play areas, the open space, the flood mitigation or the sustainable drainage system is not entirely clear. Maybe residents will have to pay fees to maintain them as well. Not a good deal for the residents who live there. And maybe also not a good deal for the other nearby residents who depend on the drainage and flood mitigation being properly maintained?
Please, get your objections in by 24th January. You know where I am if you need to ask more questions. And let’s see if we can stop this ridiculous application.