Thursday, 23 November 2017

New housing could destroy green belt, warns councillor

BUILDING thousands of new homes could destroy the green belt, says Wargrave’s borough councillor.

John Halsall has started a campaign called Protect the Green Belt in response to concerns about land being earmarked for possible development in the new Wokingham local plan.

More than 200 sites, including seven in Wargrave and five in Charvil, are being considered for inclusion in the plan, which will propose where new housing, business and leisure developments should go over the next 20 years.

Councillor Halsall, who represents Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe on Wokingham Borough Council, says many of the sites are in the green belt.

He said: “If those sites are adopted it will mean something like 6,000 new houses in Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe ward, with more than 3,000 of those in Ruscombe parish.

“This will detrimentally affect the lives of everyone who lives in the parishes.

“There has recently been a green belt review at the council which said the green belt should not be enlarged or built on but there are thoughts that this could be challenged.

“Wokingham is very attractive for development because it has very little protection. The irony is that one of the few parts that is protected is the green belt around Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe and the consideration that it should be sacrificed to accommodate development is a complete mistake. It would remove some unique protected areas.”

Cllr Halsall also warned that the new houses would encourage people to relocate to the borough rather than helping local people.

“The policy is wrong,” he said. “What we need desperately is houses for people who don’t require vehicle access, for people who want to downsize, council houses and parents with children.

“At the moment, to buy a house in Wokingham costs £500,000 to £700,000. We need a mix of housing which permits key workers to rent and people on a limited income to buy homes.”

Cllr Halsall has started a Facebook group called Protect the Green Belt for those interested in supporting the campaign. He said: “It’s extremely wrong to sacrifice the green belt so I’m askingpeople to help me in opposing this policy when it comes to consultation.

“I’m sure sufficient public pressure can make the difference. We need to make our voices heard.”

Parish councillors in Wargrave and Charvil have already raised concerns about the proposed sites in their areas. In January they joined their counterparts in Sonning, Remenham, Ruscombe, Twyford and Hurst parishes in writing to the borough council and Prime Minister and Maidenhead MP Theresa May.

They criticised the number of proposed sites in the plan that are in the green belt as well as the impact of development on infrastructure and services such as roads, schools, hospitals and surgeries.

The letter said: “Wokingham borough is characterised by a series of villages and market towns surrounded by countryside and because of this Wokingham is an attractive place to live in and visit.

“The volume of additional housing suggested would severely impact this character and impose unacceptable pressures on already overstretched facilities.

“While it is accepted that some form of additional housing is required, we consider that the numbers proposed are wholly inconsistent with genuine ‘sustainability’ and would change the character and the maintenance of the borough in its current form.

“The northern parishes are therefore united in requesting you to take into account these serious concerns and to provide the necessary support to prevent the character of this area from being irretrievably harmed.”

The letter also expressed concerns about building on flood plains around the River Thames and River Loddon, saying that government guidelines advised against this.

The Wargrave sites are the Hare Hatch Sheeplands and Hare Hatch garden centres and two sites at the Primrose Nursery in London Road.

There is also a plot to the south of Bath Road, one at the junction of Bath Road and Wargrave Road and others at the eastern end of the Old House in Milley Lane, Hare Hatch, and Bear Cottage on the same road.

In Charvil, the sites are off Park View Drive North and Park Lane, Walleys mobile home park and Norris Green and near Oaktree Cottage, both off Beggars Hill Road.

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