Tag Archives: Barkham

Gambling on Arborfield

Today I received what will be the first I’m sure of many notices shoved through my door asking for my support at the upcoming election. Whilst there are many national issues to be dealt with in the general election, on a local scale there are big decisions to be made. And what a decision, there has never been so much need for a “none of the above” option.

I’m sure I don’t need to highlight the massive housing plans that are currently being touted by our council, with the sitting Conservative administration having voted to buldoze swathes of the land around Three Mile Cross and Shinfield, both north and south of Wokingham, and development primarily in outlying areas of Finchampstead and Barkham around Arborfield Garrison. What is interesting from the point of view of a resident of Arborfield such as myself is that the last time our elected representative, Gary Cowan stood for re-election three years ago, he did so promising to try to minimise the housing that would be built – now he is standing for re-election again with his name on the planning documents that bring over ten thousand homes across the district, and three thousand five hundred on his own doorstep – although his election materials repeatedly highlight that the majority of the houses are to be built in Finchampstead and Barkham, not Arborfield.

It doesn’t take much digging around to find the flaws in the current housing proposals. Going through all the glossy pictures and grand plans, and talk of build dates, you’d think that there was a definite departure date for REME and the Arborfield Garrison. If you thought that you’d be wrong.

REME have been “about to move” for years, and the move keeps being pushed back. The original defence training review was over a decade ago and it still hasn’t been implemented. There are local protests against the scale of the new training site in Wales, and recently the government yet again has pushed back a definite decision on the move, now waiting on making the controversial decision until the summer, after the General Election. With tightening defence budgets concern is continuing to be expressed about the £13 billion price tag for the project, with some politicians already highlighting the plan as an ideal candidate to be cut. David Cameron has spoken out about the uncertainty for the people of Wales, but has noticeably refused to commit a possible incoming Conservative administration to the move, instead mentioning just the kind of defence review that could cut an expensive plan such as this. With the need to save billions from national budgets, why waste so much money on a move like this?

Whilst all of this is going on, the Arborfield SDL is still being pushed as a brownfield development by our unitary authority. However in order to make a “viable community” many homes need to be built on greenfield sites – sites that would still be available if the Garrison moves or not. If the plan goes ahead and is adopted but the Garrison fails to move, without the brownfield areas the developers will only have the greenfield sites – the adopted plan is tantamount to outline planning permission. Even building on all the planned greenfield areas there will be so many fewer houses such that key trigger levels for the desperately needed infrastructure improvements such as additional schools, the district centre and a bypass for Arborfield will not be met – the whole reason for focusing on strategic development locations in the first place.

But then what of the extra houses that then could not be put on the site at Arborfield? The council is committed to build over twelve thousand over the next fifteen years, and as many people may know, the SDL’s do not meet the total housing allocation for Wokingham anyway. Several thousand are going to be in unspecified small scale developments scattered across the borough – if the Garrison fails to move that will be several thousand more that will end up as infill and backyard development, just the kind of thing that is regularly rejected when the residents of the area are consulted on what development they would like because it doesn’t give the significant funds needed for the infrastructure we as a borough desperately need.

What was needed from the council were clear and realistic plans as to where new development was able to go, what we’ve got is our unitary authority taking a massive gamble on Arborfield Garrison moving to Wales and the brownfield site being able to take the largest proportion of the new housing in the borough. If that doesn’t happen – and concerns were being expressed in the national press in 2008 that it wouldn’t – all we’ll get is more piecemeal development, more lack of investment in infrastructure and more unsustainable communities.

So where was the opposition on our council when this was going ahead, plans that are obviously gambling on the future of our communities across the whole borough by picking a site that is increasingly unlikely to be available? Were they calling the governing body to account for potentially dooming Wokingham Borough to many more backyard developments? No. It seems the Liberal Democrat group abstained en-masse from the key vote.

Never has there been so much need for a “none of the above” option.

Whilst I’m sure what I’ve written above will be seen as NIMBYism, it is worth saying that as any resident of the Garrison area, we moved here in the full knowledge that the future of the Garrison was uncertain, whatever was said at elections, a look at proposals going back years always finds Arborfield touted as a potential development site. However what we have always been promised is a sustainable community, one that can accommodate the extra people the redevelopment of the base will bring. Sadly with the ongoing unrealistic attitude to the floundering plans for the move from our council, and with the planned locations of two of the three schools and the district centre sitting squarely on the Army owned land, that in such a scenario would not be released, it seems we will instead be left with hundreds of extra houses and none of the infrastructure such a new development would need, and a consequential impact that will be felt across the whole of the rest of the borough.

All Home and Safe

Baird Road

Well we’re both home, and as of about 9:30pm tonight we managed to get the cars back too. Beth also managed to make it a short walk from home, but on the wrong side of this flood across the edge of the army base. At this point she just parked up and waded out. We then walked back down a couple of hours later to take a look to find this guy who had made it almost all the way through – it was over Beth’s knees wading through, so most of the onlookers thought he was lucky to have made it that far. Another car later on that had a go barely made it in before the car packed up – unfortunately that car had two mothers and toddlers and they were trying to get to the hospital. Luckily another car that was there helping out a friend who had also got stuck gave them a lift on to the hospital.

Anyway, about 9pm another one of our neighbours came home and said that they had both come across the bridge at Barkham without too much problem, and offered to give us a lift to go and collect the cars. Although the flood on the edge of the base was still there – and even crossed back across the road further up, there was no water at all over the bridge. The rumour that the bridge had washed away also proved to be wrong thankfully. So by going the slightly scenic route we were able to collect both cars – although the various cars stuck in this particular flood were still stranded.

It looks like although the flood at the bridge looked considerably more spectacular – as it is a river anyway, the water was able to clear pretty quickly. Places like this where there isn’t usually a river, all the water has collected.

According to the weather forecast the rain has moved north, so we’re a good deal better off than some other places in the country where it has rained continuously all day. We’re also a lot better off than Windsor, Maidenhead and Thatcham, all of which have significant numbers of houses under water – as can be seen on this BBC News Report. Although it was frustrating struggling to get home, it was certainly a relief to get home to a dry house and our thoughts are certainly with those people around the area who haven’t been so lucky.

And apparently all of this is because the jetstream is running further south than usual

Getting Your Feet Wet

Barkham Road

It’s all rather soggy around here…

The reason is that today we’ve had the equivalent of two months rainfall in about twenty-four hours – indeed most of it seems to have come in about two hours this morning. As a result all the drains are overflowing, and all the rivers have burst their banks.

At lunchtime we had news that the road had collapsed close to the entrance to the industrial estate on which my employer is based, as a result they took the decision to close the office, and sent us all home. The bottom of the road had a fountain of dirty water in the middle, and you could see the tarmac broken ahead, but luckily they were directing traffic around. However that wasn’t the worst of it.

The picture here is of the bridge over a little tributary of the River Loddon that I have to cross on my way home. As you can see, pretty well impassible, and apparently now the little bridge has collapsed under the weight of water (hopefully they’ll rebuild it wide enough for two cars to pass on it) rendering it impassible for a good deal of time to come.

After trying several other roads I eventually got closer to home by getting as far as Finchampstead, but again ran into problems with a couple of places close to the Reading training ground where the drains had blocked and water was knee deep. Eventually after several hours trying to find alternatives I parked up near the Hogwood Lane industrial estate and walked the last half mile or so.

At one point I bumped into a neighbour of ours, who had also spent about five hours driving around. He has just made it home, having found someone who opened the gate between the Hogwood Lane and Hogwood Farm industrial estates. Unfortunately that was just a one off – the gate was closed and locked immediately afterwards. Not sure how much luck Beth is going to have getting back from Wargrave…

Guilty

This afternoon, Thomas Palmer was convicted of the double murder of two of his friends in Finchampstead, that so shocked the village 18 months ago.

That Palmer killed Steven Bayliss and T.Wood Nadauld wasn’t in any doubt – he had pleaded guilty to manslaughter – however the prosecution maintained, and proved the charge of murder this afternoon.

The arguments that it was manslaughter were presented last week, firstly that they had been drinking, and had disagreed – Palmer saying that the alcohol had meant that he couldn’t think straight. However, medical tests indicated that he had no drink or drugs in his bloodstream at the time of the attack.

Later, there was evidence from a psychiatrist of Palmer’s mental state. He had reported symptoms of paranoia associated with the early stages of schizophrenia, and also with his use of cannabis – somewhat of a sad irony considering the front page of the Independent yesterday. He also had a fascination with knives, and according to his girlfriend a film about a serial killer had recently become a favourite.

Hopefully, Palmer being convicted will bring some sense of closure to the families, who from their statements after the verdict are still struggling to make sense of what has happened. According to her victim impact statement read at the trial, Steven’s mother has not even changed the sheets on her son’s bed. (Incidentally, there is a separate article exploring the impact of the murders on the BBC site.) However the life sentence with a recommended tariff of 20 years, of which Palmer has already served 2 years, has already sparked much discussion as being too lenient – certainly with all the talk of schizophrenia and paranoia I was expecting him to be sent somewhere like Broadmoor, whether he was found guilty of the murder charge or manslaughter.