READERS’ LETTERS: As seen in The Wokingham Paper of April 11, 2019

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We will miss you Bob

It is with great sadness that we in the Great Langborough Residents Association learnt of Bob Wyatt’s death.

He had been such a popular person and effective councillor for the Westcott Ward for so many years and his absence from Sturges Road over the past six months had been sad to witness.

He supported our Residents’ Association, of which he was a member through advice to us, promoting our concerns, and contributing to our Annual General Meetings.

His long service to Wokingham Borough and Town Councils and to Wescott and Westende schools as a governor, was described in detail in last week’s Wokingham Paper and highlights his immense commitment and service to our community.

We offer our condolences to his family and to everyone who knew him.

Pat Smith, Chair of and on behalf of Great Langborough Residents Association

Regeneration facts

It has become apparent over the past month when l have been presenting the facts about the Town Centre regeneration to such bodies as the Finchampstead Society and the Wokingham Society to name but two that a degree of misinformation has been peddled by the Liberal Democrats about the benefits of our Town Centre regeneration.

I would like to set out the facts for your readers as l feel it important to ensure they know just what regeneration gives them.

Firstly, not many weeks ago, Lib Dem Imogen Shepherd-Dubey was quoted as saying “Regeneration is a vanity project of the Conservatives”

My reply to that is ABSOLUTE NONESENSE. Then the Leader of the Lib Dems was quoted as saying that the effect of Dawnus going into administration would be an additional cost of £1m. My answer is below.

So here are the realities, factually presented below for your readers:

  • 900 new jobs created over the project – 525 permanent jobs after completion
  • No cost to residents, funded by long-term low-cost public loans
  • From 2024 after borrowing costs £2.8m per year minimum to help pay to maintain council services such as weekly bin collections across the Borough
  • After the sales of the residential properties, remaining value of property £95m
  • Peach Place will be finished by the summer this year with minimal additional costs NOT £1m extra suggested by Lib Dems. All budgeted for in our contingency funding
  • Minimal delays on fit outs as a result of Dawnus going into administration
  • All but two retail units not currently going through acquisition discussions or fit out!
  • 22 Key worker apartments for Doctors, nurses and care workers at Peach Place
  • New CCTV systems being installed at Peach Place and Elms
  • New town toilets and water bottle filling points plus air pumps for cyclists.
  • Aldi Supermarket at Elms Field opens in late June this year with an extra 85 spaces car park
  • Premier Inn opens by autumn 2019
  • The new Everyman cinema opens early 2020
  • The new town park will be managed on a long lease by Wokingham Town Council
  • New town park opens in time for summer school holidays this year with a large new play area
  • The Carnival Pool being demolished 2020 and rebuilt by 2022
  • Large single level new town library, new swimming pool, splash pool and training pool, extended gyms, studio rooms and spa
  • New sports halls convert to a 400-seat performance space for concerts
  • 55 additional apartments ideally for Key workers.

Plans in Denmark Street Car Park are NOT SUPPORTED by Regeneration or WBC it is a speculative private developer application.

Some vanity project?

These are the reasons why l am seeking another term as Borough Councillor for Emmbrook to see the project finished.

Philip Mirfin, Conservative candidate for Emmbrook ward

Too much is too much

Councillor McGhee-Sumner has opposed government housing targets saying ‘Enough is Enough’  – but surely Wokingham Councillors should have been saying ‘Too Much is Too Much’ many years ago!

Last month’s warning from the head of the Environment Agency that England is facing an “existential crisis” and will not have enough water to meet demand within 25 years, unless severe action is taken now, is the latest evidence that the future won’t see ‘business as usual’ as climate change and population growth impact cost of living and quality of life.

The coalition government abolished Regional Plans and County Structure Plans – where at least housing numbers were debated in a strategic context – and introduced the requirement for local authorities to meet ‘objectively assessed need’ based on continuation of recent local trends.

It’s becoming accepted that we can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet but this lesson needs to be applied nationally, locally, and fast, if Wokingham is going to keep any space for agriculture, forestry, wildlife and rural recreation.

I hope Councillors and others will attend a free conference on ‘Planning for a low carbon economy’ in Reading on 24th April – find it on Eventbrite.

John Booth, Earley

Not a done deal? Pffft!

It’s so interesting how Cllr Julian McGhee-Sumner has said it’s not a done deal on 15,000 new homes in Grazeley.  It’s so obvious that he wants them built.

The developers make a lot of money but how does Wokingham Borough Council benefit? Oh, of course, they get 15,000 households paying council tax.

Now, I recognise that we do need more housing but 15,000 is a lot and in an area that is beautiful. Developers and council don’t plan much infrastructure. Why? Because they don’t benefit financially. They do for the 15,000 new homes though.

Not a done deal? What do you think? I think it is a deal done in secret. A deal made worse by greed. Otherwise, why would a Conservative councillor resign as a Conservative to become an independent?

Wokingham Borough Council seems to be run on corrupt practices. 15,000 homes in an area of natural beauty. Now if 15,000 houses are built where will the schools be built and the new roads and what about the GP service? Where will the 15,000 new houses putt pressure on the environment and what will be the number of cars per head?

Nowadays, households have two, if not three, cars per household. I think it’s a done deal and any so-called consultation will be a cynical sham by a council run on unethical and underhand practices.

Shame on the leader and shame on his Executive who are allowing this to happen.  Cllr Gary Cowan was right to resign. Another has recently resigned as a Conservative and become an Independent on principle, but that’s another story.

Readers, take note, the Conservative council in the borough is sleazy and unethical. Use your vote wisely in May.

Greg Bello, Woodley

The wrath of the electorate

Whether you supported Brexit or not but when one looks at our Conservative Government I despair as by their betrayal, selfishness and sheer incompetence they have failed us all. Chaos and confusion still reigns as the various groups within the Conservative Government put cynical personal interests above their duty of responsibility to us the citizens.

Moving on to the second tier of Government I see a very different model. Yes, it has also failed us all as well but in quite a different and more cynical, dangerous way and less democratic way. Their model is a controlling Executive who use a three-line whip and the threat of expulsion to keep the minions (sorry other Conservative backbenchers) in check. They then just use them as lobby fodder.

The backbenchers let us all down by accepting this type of control. By law the Council has to have an Overview and Scrutiny Committee whose job it is to investigate the executive’s policies and draw attention to their shortcomings, but the only problem is that in general if its controversial the Conservative Executive makes sure its steered well away from scrutiny.

There are many examples such as a scheme proposed by Cllr Anthony Pollock which was designed to take money away from some of the poorest in our community, yet every Conservative councillor present voted for it and every opposition Councillor opposed it. This type of Pied Piper politics where the Conservative Councillors just follow the leader is the most damaging of all to us the residents but they don’t seem to care one iota.

Sheep and a cliff also comes to mind.

The losers in both these models of dictatorial control is us the residents so it will be interesting to see if the wrath of the residents manifests itself on May 2 in the local elections. I sincerely hope it does.

Cllr Gary Cowan, Independent Borough Councillor for Arborfield and not a candidate in the elections on May 2

Stabbing shock

I refer to previous reports and correspondence, and to your report –‘Shock after man stabbed near Wokingham Station’ – [4th April].

I didn’t realise that I was becoming prophetic in my old age, but have I not said that the area around the Crisis House needs more policing?

Now, I come into Wokingham, with apprehension. What will I find today? Broken windows? Graffiti? Or a murder on our doorstep? Am I in Wokingham – or in pre-Giuliani New York?

Appositely enough, Giuliani’s crackdown on crime, derived from the ‘Broken Windows’ theory – that minor incidents, going unchecked, lead inevitably to more serious crimes!

Detective Inspector Ash Momood stated – of April 1’s stabbing, ‘I believe this to be an isolated incident.’ But it isn’t, is it? There was a previous serious attack on a man, in Station Road – less than a month ago, in March!

After this latest incident, we helped the Police clean up outside the Crisis House – once the forensics were complete – and we were told that the Police Recruitment Budget had been slashed, and that they were having trouble recruiting people – now that a degree or a four-year apprenticeship is required for entry to the Force.

The new entry requirements, I can understand. Nowadays, a degree, or an apprenticeship, are only what five ‘O’ Levels, or an apprenticeship, were in my young days – the passport to any skilled job. All the other skilled jobs now require this, so why should the Police Force be any different?

We were also told that other parts of Berkshire do have lots of Special Constables patrolling their streets – so this is what should be done in Wokingham, as a matter of urgency.

Philip Mirfin may well pledge support for the Police to have special powers to restrict the consumption of alcohol in public places in Wokingham Town Centre, but to do so, you have to have the Officers there to enforce it.

I am currently in the process of writing a sequel to my 2016 book, Triumph and Tragedy – The Twenty-Five Year History of the Wokingham Crisis House. My new book, marking the 30year history – Deo volente – will be published in March 2021.

I hope that I won’t have to include ‘The Wokingham Crime Wave’ as part of this history.

Pam Jenkinson, The Wokingham Crisis House

Not a smart plan

I have read in the Wokingham Paper (April 4) that plans have been submitted to build flats on the Denmark Street car park, Seymour House and the former police station.

If the Wokingham Borough councillors pass these plans they will graduate from currently incompetent to lunatic.

Having (over)spent millions of pounds redeveloping the town centre with mainly retail outlets where will the potential customers park their cars? Not at the multi-storey car park in Wellington Road which is much too far to walk even for the fit and healthy.

The Borough elections will be held on May 2, which will give everyone the opportunity to let the councillors know exactly how the people of Wokingham feel about them.

Don’t miss this opportunity.

Patrick Allen, Wokingham

We need the car park

Last week’s Wokingham Paper finally confirmed that an application has been made to construct a ridiculous amount of residential accommodation in the centre of Wokingham, replacing one of our busy central town car parks

This was something of a surprise given that it is not even identified as a site for development in the Council’s plans.

As noted in the article (and like the Council) we feel that even if the space were to be available for development, the plans are totally inappropriate in density, height and appearance for the centre of town, not least as there will already be a large increase in residential accommodation through the regeneration process.

This development application also flies in the face of the statements made by the Council leader that he fully supports no more housing for Wokingham than already planned as we have reached our limit. Residents would certainly agree with that view.

On these grounds we oppose this development and trust that Planning permission will not be granted

Pat Smith, Chair of and on behalf of Great Langborough Residents Association

Staggering incompetence

Sorry to say I refer to Ministers, but today not the PM who I hope will soon go and live in France! Perhaps become their PM.

Among the most disgusting ‘failures of the day’ is the promised but never apparently delivered welcome of the Afghanistan translators who helped save our Soldiers’ lives in that futile war. That’s a ministerial failure.

HS2 goes on as if we are flushed with hoards of cash, as do rewards  for incompetence – it seems as if anyone taking public money for pay has a friend in the oft-hidden salaries review department. While I hate to suggest democracy is now obsolete in our country, I do wish ‘someone’ may appear above the parapet and reintroduce it.

This morning I watched an Ambulance on an emergency call, coming from the Shute End direction into the town centre, having to go around the one-way system to get into Denmark Street. Does everyone remember the link lane around the Old Town Hall?  It might have made sense to have left that for emergency services.

Life saving is frequently dependent on speed.

Another local matter, consider the new road alongside the council offices – there is no consideration for pedestrian protection against drivers entering the road from Shute End or conversely exiting into Shute End.

Where is the Risk Assessment? In the same place as the Station Approach traffic lighting assessment?

Just observe the traffic behaviour – interesting, but do not get in the way of vehicles intent on getting onto the main road.

Managed exit is required – which I will willingly define for any interested party. Safe entry is a different matter.

Reg Clifton, Wokingham

Those were the days

The local buzz phrase has, it would seem with good reason, become ‘Enough is enough’.

Enough unwarranted excessive housing development. Enough destruction of the local environment. Enough air pollution. Enough traffic congestion.

Enough smoke and mirrors from the inmates of Shute End Towers, who after years of making a mockery of so-called public consultation, ignoring the views of residents across the borough and profligate use of council tax payers’ money, pocketing while pleading poverty, siding with developers to obtain tens of thousands of pounds for each new property built, blundering ahead with an extravagant programme of regeneration, probably the most costly municipal ego trip in the town’s history and wiping out a population of oak trees, many of them hundreds of years old, from which the very name of Wokingham derived (town motto: ‘From the acorn, the oak’).

Having apparently experience something of a Damascene conversion along the way, councillors are now extolling the virtues of what they have been being told and chosen to ignore for too long: enough really is enough.

Amazing how the possibility, with local elections a few weeks away, of losing one’s seat and having to surrender “a nice little earner” to boot, can concentrate the mind.

‘Enough is enough’ may well come back to bite them.

J W Blaney,  Wokingham

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