LOCAL PLAN UPDATE

November 2018

The long-awaited next step in the Wokingham Local Plan has started – and many of us will have seen press or received materials announcing the public consultation process which will run until mid February 2019. It will carry more weight if the section on the Green Belt is met with a consistent public response, so our planning experts are currently studying the documentation in detail and will draft a suggested response with the next couple of weeks.

WHAT IS THE LOCAL PLAN UPDATE?
To recap, the Local Plan Update will shape the future of Wokingham Borough. It must comply with overall government planning policy but the local consultation will help to determine how the borough will manage development, including where it will and will not go. Up until now WBC has initiated studies and consultation including a call for sites, engagement with town/parish councils, and evidence studies. But no decisions have been made, so it is vital that we take this opportunity to voice our views.

WHICH ISSUES CAN WE GIVE OUR OPINION ON?
Key issues that we can give our opinions on will include:
* Role of different places, e.g. town centres, towns, villages
* Development density
* Building heights
* Views on the promoted land
* Views on which land which should be promoted

WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
You may have already received the brochure “Homes for the Future” which WBC are sending to every household in the borough. The contents are also online.

A drop-in event organised by WBC is planned for 7-9pm on Thursday 10th January 2019 at Loddon Hall, Twyford.

HOW CAN I RESPOND TO THE CONSULTATION?
You can respond online, by email or by letter – it is not essential to use the forms. You do not have to respond to the entire document, your views will still count if you choose just to respond to sections.

CPRW will provide a suggested response to the relevant section of the document, and we will publish this by mid December.

The closing date is Friday 15th February 2019.

The online survey is here.

Campaign Update and Changes at WBC

We’ve emailed supporters with a quick update on the campaign to let everyone know what’s been happening and to reassure you that despite everything going a little quiet we have been meeting regularly and are very much still on the case!

Everything in the email is posted here, as well as on our Facebook page, but do encourage friends and neighbours to sign up to our mailing list so we can send updates directly to your mailbox.

The main reason for the pause in activity is of course the major changes in Wokingham Borough Council after May’s elections, which have affected some timetables that everyone had anticipated. The election saw David Lee – Executive Member for Strategic Highways and Planning who was in charge of much of the development strategy – lose his seat, and he has been replaced by Stuart Munro (Swallowfield) who also oversees Business and Economic Development with Wayne Smith (Hurst) as his deputy. These changes have meant that there has been something of a hiatus while new arrangements are put in place, and we hope that it gives the Council the opportunity for fresh thinking on policy for the Local Plan.

Can You Help Us to Raise the Campaign Profile?

Over the summer we want to get the campaign visible and demonstrate its importance for WBC residents, especially in the immediate area of the Ruscombe/Twyford/Wargrave Green Belt – so we need your help!

We’ve developed a range of materials from car stickers to 3-metre banners, along with A1 size “estate agent” posts for front gardens and A4 window posters, all with the distinctive campaign logo and message. Can you display something on your house/garden/car? Please drop us an email to let us know what you can use, and we will deliver!

Petition Debate – 20th September

Our petition gained sufficient signatures to trigger a debate in Council – thank you everyone for signing! We’ve just been given the date which is Thursday 20th September, at Shute End in Wokingham (we had asked for a local venue without success).

This is our chance to show how much support the campaign has locally, please make every effort to come along. The press will be there so we need to be seen! Please save the date and we will send you more info nearer the time.

New National Planning Policy Imminent

We are all awaiting the new National Planning Policy Framework (which sets out the guidelines for all matters concerning planning, including of course Green Belt policy) which we understand is to be published imminently. The CPRW’s Planning Advisor, Andy Meader, will analyse and report to campaign supporters once it is published. We very much hope that it will strengthen our case.

BANNERS – CAN YOU HELP?

Could you display one of our banners? We’re looking for prominent sites around the area to raise awareness of the campaign and encourage people to sign up to the mailing list. If you have a road-facing wall or fence that would take a 3 metre banner please email us. We’re also producing smaller posters and car stickers with the campaign message.

CPRW Petition Hit Target – Now Awaiting Debate

Thank you all for signing the Green Belt petition which was presented on 22nd March at Council. The good news is that the council have validated the signatures, and we successfully achieved the total of Wokingham Borough residents required to trigger a debate. Once the new mayor is chosen they will decide where and when this takes place – we are pressing for Loddon Hall so that it’s local to those most affected. We will keep you posted!

Green Belt Petition Launched

We’ve just launched our first campaign petition “Protect Wokingham Borough’s Green Belt” which is ready to sign online at CPRW Green Belt Petition – and there will be paper alternatives too (but please sign only one or the other!). It’s absolutely vital that we get 1500+ signatures from people who live, work or study in Wokingham Borough, which will generate a debate in full Council and help to defeat this proposal. Please alert friends and neighbours – for those on our email list we will also be sending an e-news announcement which is ideal to forward.

 

For the background to the petition please read the following by our Planning Consultant Andy Meader, Regional Director of Pegasus Group:

“This petition relates to work undertaken by the Council in connection with the potential development of the above site, lying within the Parishes of Ruscombe and Wargrave. Concern is raised with the Council’s actions for the following reasons;

 

It is well established in planning law that in order to justify the amendment of Green Belt boundaries to allocate future development in Local Plans, exceptional circumstances need to be proven. Such exceptional circumstances are not present within Wokingham Borough, due largely to the considerable opportunity to develop sites that are not constrained by the Green Belt designation (which only relates to 16% of the Borough).

 

The Council’s decision to give detailed consideration to the development of Green Belt land at Ruscombe and Wargrave, through the current Master planning exercise, therefore runs contrary to national planning guidance, relevant case law, ministerial statements and the Council’s own Green Belt Assessment.

 

Given the above, it is strongly questioned if the Council’s expenditure on the master planning exercise to date (relating to Ruscombe and Wargrave) can be justified.

 

Moving forward, the identification of land at Ruscombe and Wargrave for strategic scale development within the emerging Local Plan would be found unsound by a Local Plan Inspector, for the reasons set out above. This would be on a matter of principle, due to the Green Belt location, before any detailed impacts of the development itself are assessed.

 

If the emerging Local Plan is found not to be sound, this would result in considerable delays to the Local Plan timetable, meaning additional expense to the Council and other parties. It would also lead to ongoing problems for the Council in addressing their housing land supply requirements, with the associated cost implications of ‘planning by appeal’.

 

It is acknowledged that the Council will need to assess representations made by landowners and developers with an interest in the site. However, given the above, and in order to minimise Council time and expenditure being spent on a site that stands no likelihood of being included as an allocation in the adopted Local Plan, this petition requests that the Council do not undertake any further work on progressing proposals for strategic scale development at Ruscombe and Wargrave.”

UPDATE! EXTRA DATE FOR FEBRUARY MEETINGS – ALL WELCOME

All are welcome at our upcoming Campaign Update and Q&A meetings designed to let you know what’s been happening with the campaign, both on the Green Belt question and wider concerns. We’ve just added an extra date so there are now three meetings and we hope that you will be able to join us for one (the meetings will cover the same agenda). All meetings are at Loddon Hall, Twyford.
• Wednesday 14th February, 7pm in the Ruscombe Room
• Saturday 17th February, 10am in the Hall
• Wednesday 21st February, 7pm in the Twyford Room
If anyone is able to help put out chairs for the Saturday meeting, please let us know – we need 3 or 4 people who’d be able to come at 9 if poss. Drop us an email if you’re able to help.
We look forward to seeing you there! Obviously the Wednesday evening meetings are in smaller rooms but the Hall is large so we hope to accommodate everyone over the three dates.

CAMPAIGN TOPS 1000+ FOLLOWERS ON FACEBOOK

We’re updating supporters via our CPRW Facebook page, so do please follow our page to get all the news. Most of the same information will also appear on the website, so if you are not a Facebook user do please bookmark the CPRW website. Please also ask friends and family to follow us – numbers will be crucial to demonstrate the depth of local feeling about this campaign.