Local Green Space for Winnersh

by Prue Bray on 2 February, 2022

Apart from housing sites, the Local Plan Update also proposes some sites for designation as “Local Green Space”. If land is given that designation, it gets more protection from development. To get the designation, it needs to fit certain criteria, including that it has special significance for the community. Four areas in Winnersh and Sindlesham were proposed: Winnersh Meadows and Bearwood Rec, and then two pieces of land off the new North Wokingham Distributor Road by Old Forest Road. These are good choices – except that there are problems with the maps showing the extent of the land to be included. So my responses on all are that I support the principle but the maps need correcting. Here’s what I said.

Winnersh Meadows

There is a problem with this proposal, although I support the principle that the public open space known as Winnersh Meadows be designated as a Local Green Space.  In commenting on it, I need to declare that I am a governor of Forest School.

The map on page 178 of the Revised Growth Strategy Consultation document showing the extent of the land to be designated does not just include the public open space.  It covers the Forest School playing field off Arbor Lane.  This land is not accessible to the community, and is in fact fenced off and not readily visible to anyone from any direction.  It should not be included as it does not meet the tests for Local Green Space designation laid out in Paragraph 102 a) and b) of the NPPF which says that the Local Green Space designation should only be used for green space which is

  1. in reasonably close proximity to the community it serves.  This land does not serve the community.  There is no public access.  It is a school playing field.  It does not even have the benefit of offering the local community a view of green space, as it is largely invisible.
  2. Demonstrably special to a local community and holds a particular local significance, for example because of its beauty, historic significance, recreational value (including as a playing field), tranquillity or richness of its wildlife   The land has no particular significance at all for the community, nor is it of historic value, tranquil or rich in wildlife.  Although it is a playing field, it is not available to the public for recreation, as it belongs to the school. 

In addition, paragraph 101 of the NPPF states that Local Green Space must be capable of enduring beyond the end of a plan period – which may not be the case with land which is part of a school site and may be needed for other educational purposes at some point.  Designation could affect the school’s ability to reconfigure the pitches or to use the land for valid educational purposes.   Because of that it is inappropriate to designate a school playing field as Local Green Space.

Therefore, while the public open space at Winnersh Meadows is suitable for designation as Local Green Space, the area to be designated needs to be altered so as not to include the school playing field.

Bearwood Recreation Ground

There is a problem with this proposal, although I support the principle that the green space at Bearwood Recreation Ground be designated as a Local Green Space.  In commenting on it, I need to declare that I am a councillor on Winnersh Parish Council, to whom Bearwood Recreation Ground belongs.

The map on page 179 of the Revised Growth Strategy Consultation document showing the extent of the land to be designated includes the buildings of the Winnersh Parish Council community centre and the parish council car park, as well as the green space itself.  If these buildings and the car park are included, the additional restrictions on development imposed as a result of the designation could prevent the Parish Council maintaining and developing its facilities for the benefit of the community.  The map therefore needs to be redrawn to exclude the land occupied by the community centre and car park.   Other planning policies, including those resulting from the Conservation Area designation, adequately protect this part of the site from inappropriate development. 

The recreation ground itself most certainly qualifies as Local Green Space, holding special significance for the community by virtue of being the location of a number of events, including the Winnersh Fete.

West of Old Forest Road (North) and West of Old Forest Road (South)

There is a problem with these proposals, although I support the principle that the green space west of Old Forest Road be designated as a Local Green Space. 

The maps showing these two sites on pages 180 and 181 of the Revised Growth Strategy Consultation document do not show the North Wokingham Distributor Road, which runs between the North and South sections of the proposed Local Green Space.  Although this road is not yet open, it is almost completed and will be open by the time the new Local Plan is adopted.  Without the road being shown, it is impossible to see what the relationship is of the proposed Local Green Space to the road, or to the two housing sites that are proposed for allocation in the Local Plan (Land behind Toutley Hall and Land to the North West side of Old Forest Road).  Evaluating the suitability of the sites as drawn on the map is therefore very difficult.

In addition, when the Winnersh Fuel Allotment Trust (of which I am a trustee) sold land for the North Wokingham Distributor Road to the council, there was an in principle agreement that space would be found on the land not used for the road itself for a scout hut for the Emmbrook Scouts, who need a permanent home.  If all the land West of Old Forest Road both North and South were to be designated as Local Green Space, it would be very difficult to locate a new scout hut anywhere in that area.

Therefore, while I support the principle of designating at least part of these two sites as Local Green Space, I would ask that the map is redrawn so that it accommodates a location for the Emmbrook Scouts to have a scout hut.

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