Ever since it was reformed in September 2004 the ERA has taken a keen interest in planning issues that affect the residents of our area. In the early days this consisted mainly of taking part in the planning process, including planning appeals, for the various back garden developments that were common at the time. Here, we feel that we had some success in curbing the worst excesses of the developers, and helped to reduce the impact of these developments on Emmbrook and improved the amenity they provided to their residents. We have also taken a wider view in that we have taken an active interest in the Council’s Local Development Framework and the Town Centre Regeneration and have taken part in the Council run consultations and workshops and the public examination of the Core Strategy by the Planning Inspectorate. Latterly, of course, the big issues have been, and continue to be, the Matthewsgreen development and the North Wokingham Distributor Road (NWDR). For more details about these subjects, please read on.
Anyone can take part in the planning process by commenting on planning applications. More details of this can be found on the Council’s website. From here there are links to a planning application search, commenting on an application via the Council’s online form – although this can be done via e-mail or post if desired, examples of what are considered to be valid and invalid grounds for objecting to an application, as well as many other aspects of planning. All the documents relating to an application can normally be viewed on the website by using the planning search facility, but paper copies of them can also be viewed by request at the Development Management Department of the Council at Shute End. If you wish to comment on an application please remember that there is normally a deadline for comments which is shown in the application details found by using the planning search facility, and that your response will be shown on the website.
TWO OF THE MORE RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN EMMBROOK
EMMBROOK SPORTS AND SOCIAL CLUB – DEVELOPMENT OF SPORTS GROUND
Following the public meeting in February the Club eventually submitted an amendment to their application which removed the erection of a 1.85m high close boarded fence on the Lowther Road boundary. This amended application was considered at the Planning Committee Meeting on the 20th July. The planning officer recommended approval of the application with a set of conditions which were aimed at reducing the impact of the proposal on residents and the area in general, such as limiting the use of the flood lights. The Committee approved the application as recommended by four votes to one, so we will have to wait to see just how effective these conditions will be. Anyone interested in seeing the conditions can do so via WBC’s “Search Planning Applications” web page by entering Application Number 153382, clicking on “See the plans and documents”, scrolling down to the “Decision Notice” and opening file 153382dn.pdf.
EMMBROOK SPORTS AND SOCIAL CLUB – LICENSING APPLICATION
We reported that the Sports and Social Club had applied for a licence to extend their club house activities, but that due to errors and omissions in the application it had been rejected by Licensing Services at Wokingham Borough Council.
The club then submitted a revised application which was accepted by Licensing Services, and you can view the complete document by clicking here. ERA made a formal submission in respect of this application. To see our letter to the Council, please click here.
The application was heard by a sub-committee composed of three members of the full licencing committee on 19th July. The general public were allowed to speak at the hearing by prior arrangement, as was the applicant. A resident spoke against the application on behalf of a group of residents who live adjacent to the Club’s grounds, as did a representative of the ERA. The ERA made a case for the imposition of additional conditions that, if the sub-committee was minded to approve the application, would stop the Club holding the types of activities that would be most likely to cause disturbance to residents. After hearing all from all parties present the sub-committee went into a closed session in order to make their decision. Unsurprisingly, they allowed the application with no additional conditions, although the Club did make one concession in that they withdrew the application to carry out the licensable activities (i.e. the playing of music, dancing, etc) out of doors.
MATTHEWSGREEN FARM DEVELOPMENT
FOR THE LATEST NEWS ON THIS SUBJECT GO TO THE MGF NEWS PAGE
Developers have shown an interest in developing Matthewsgreen Farm since at least 2006. This interest was given the green light when the Council included Matthewsgreen Farm in the North Wokingham Strategic Development Location, one of four locations around the Borough earmarked for major developments in its Core Strategy. Although there were originally four developers interested in this development two have dropped out leaving Bovis Homes and Gleeson Homes, although it is Bovis who are making all the running here as they are the major stakeholder. The sequence of the more significant planning applications is given below, where the ERA response to them can be seen by clicking on the reference number:-
- Bovis started the application process in May 2014 with an application (ref F/2014/1216) to use land to the south of Monkey Mates for the parkland for the development as required by planning regulations. This was approved in September 2014.
- This was followed by an outline application (ref O/2014/2242) to build 760 dwellings on Matthewsgreen Farm in October 2014 which was approved by the Council in February 2015 with numerous conditions.
- Reserved matters application (ref 150093) submitted in June 2015 for the first phase of the development of 100 dwellings plus an application to cover some of the conditions required by the outline approval. The reserved matters application was approved in October 2015.
- An application (ref 152642) in September 2015 to cover some more conditions including the submission of a Construction Environmental Management Plan. This plan is important as it governs the impact the construction will have on its neighbours including such aspects as construction accesses, construction traffic routing, hours of work, noise and dust. We have been in discussions with the Council over these issues and are pressing for the disruption construction work will cause to be minimised. Our main concerns here were over the construction accesses and we together with the JPRA and Ward Councillors were pressing for the Twyford Road to be used for this purpose from the very start of construction. The developers verbally agreed to this at a meeting between them, the Ward Councillors, the JPRA and us in December 2014. Unfortunately the developers reneged on this commitment at a later meeting and insisted that they would open an initial construction access from Toutley Road, which they would use until the one on Twyford Road was available. This later commitment was actual written into the CEMP they submitted as part of the planning application but, again, they have reneged on this later commitment as the later version of the CEMP approved by WBC in December 2015 now allows them to use the Toutley Road access for as long as they wish.
- Reserved matters application (ref 152649) for the section of the North Wokingham Distributor Road within the development showing its route through the development and where it joins onto the existing roads. This application was submitted immediately after the Council executive sanctioned the use of Toutley Road as part of the NWDR and reflects this solution. The application has subsequently been amended and ERA has responded to the amendments with this letter. For more on this please refer to the section on the North Wokingham Distributor Road.
NORTH WOKINGHAM DISTRIBUTOR ROAD
The NWDR is to be a new route linking the London Road near the Coppid Beech roundabout to the Reading Road to the east of the M4 bridge. It is to link the major developments to the north of Wokingham Town and will utilise existing roads where possible, which will be upgraded as necessary. The current proposed route for the western section from the Twyford Road to the Reading Road is shown in the plan below.
It is worthwhile here to have a brief resume of how this route was arrived at by the Council –
In 2013 the Council published a technical report on the NWDR which proposed using Toutley Road and Old Forest Road as part of the NWDR. This caused considerable concern among the residents of the area, a concern that was shared by the ERA. The Council’s response to this was to hold a consultation on the route, offering three alternatives.
The result of the consultation published in January 2014 was, unsurprisingly, that the route that took the NWDR as far away from the existing dwellings as possible, referred to as Alternative B, was overwhelmingly the first choice of residents. The Council accepted this choice and promised to go ahead with it provided it was technically feasible.
Since then the Council have withdrawn from this position, saying first, in June 2014, that Alternative B was too expensive and opting for the cheaper Alternative C instead. This was followed in August 2015 by the Council announcing at a North Wokingham Forum meeting that Alternative C was now not possible due to lack of funding and land availability and planning issues. The best they could offer now was that shown on the above plan. The Council executive have sanctioned this latest route and the plans for the whole of the NWDR outside of the new housing developments will be developed in order to submit a planning application for it before the end of 2016.
As can be seen, this routing does offer some amelioration from the NWDR for residents of the Old Forest Road but, on the face of it, those of Toutley Road and the properties off it will be as badly affected as they would have been with the route recommended by the original technical report. However, the head of the Council’s Highways Team has assured us that they are looking at moving the section of the Toutley Road that is to be used as part of the NWDR about 5 metres to the north east, away from the existing houses. This will offer some relief to the residents of these houses, although it will make little difference to the increase in traffic noise to which they will be subjected.
A newsletter that was published by Wokingham Borough Council in early February 2016 on the subject of the NWDR can be seen by clicking on this link. (Please note that this is quite a large file, and it might take a few seconds to appear on your screen).
The presentation that was given by Wokingham Borough Council at the meeting held at The Emmbrook School on Wednesday 17 February can be viewed by clicking here. This is actually the presentation that was given at the February meeting, although it was dated 25 August 2015 – it was previously presented at a meeting held at the Bradbury Centre in Wokingham in September 2015. This is another rather large file, which might take a few seconds to load depending on the speed of your internet connection.
TOWN CENTRE REGENERATION
Since the collapse of the Council’s original plans for the development of Elms Field in December 2013 due to the withdrawal of Sainsbury’s Supermarkets they have been working on a replacement scheme. These plans have now been submitted in November 2015 for planning approval under application ref 153125. The application is open to comment until the end of January 2016. We, in common with a large number of residents, felt that the original plans resulted in too much loss of open space to development, and will be examining the current ones to see if this loss has been reduced to an acceptable level as claimed by the Council.