Monday, 21 June 2021

‘I’m proud of new facilities and halting developments’

THE chairwoman of Sonning Common Parish Council has stepped down after four years.

Carole Lewis will stay on as a member of the council, which she joined in 2011.

She is succeeded by Michael Cann, who was unanimously elected at the council’s annual meeting on Monday.

Councillor Lewis, of Woodlands Road, said she felt it was time for some “new blood and new ideas”.

She said: “Like in all progressive organisations, a change of leadership after a period of such intense activity is invariably a good thing. I recognise there is a need for new thinking and ideas to channel the needs of the residents.

“In my time as chairman, the parish council has been faced with major challenges which the team has taken head on and, in my view, achieved a great deal of success and, hence, benefit.  I am confident that the new chairman will rise to the challenge and provide the vision and actions required.”

Cllr Lewis said some of her proudest moments as chairwoman were preventing two proposed developments.

In July 2018 Gallagher Estates lose an appeal against planning permission being refused for 95 new homes in Kennylands Road.

This followed a campaign led by the council, which raised more than £9,000 to pay for representation at a planning inquiry.

In the same year, Gladman Homes lost an appeal after being refused planning permission for 245 homes on three fields between Peppard Road and Kiln Road in Emmer Green. It was feared the development could lead to Sonning Common becoming part of Reading.

Cllr Lewis said: “This was a vindication for Sonning Common’s neighbourhood plan and the extraordinary amount of hard work carried out by those involved.

“Regrettably, the village is still under threat from unrestrained development and we continue to face expensive challenges to protect the integrity of the village.

“As a member of the parish council, I will continue to play my part in such continuing activities.” Cllr Lewis said she was also proud of the Sonning Common skate park committee behind the new £100,000 facility at Bishopswood Sports Ground, which was built in 2015, eight years after the idea was first suggested.

She said: “If I leave any legacy from my service, I hope it will be the skate park. Clearly, it was not a solo effort and would not have happened without the support from fellow parish council members and the parish office — and Lafarge Tarmac for their generous grant of £60,000.

“Currently, the council’s most exciting project is the new recreational facility to be known as the Memorial Park. Nearly four years in the making, I am delighted that it has come to fruition during my tenure. I hope that the residents will take full advantage of what will be offered when it’s complete and that the hard work of the working party will be rewarded.”

Cllr Lewis proposed Councillor Cann, who joined the council in August, as her replacement.

Cllr Cann, who has lived in Grove Road since 2007, said he was delighted to become chairman at an important time in the village’s development.

He said: “The council has adapted to the needs of the community with the introduction of two new committees. We need to protect the integrity of our neighbourhood plan from threats, such as inappropriate development and the proposed Reading third bridge, considering that we live in an area surrounded by outstanding natural beauty.

“The Memorial Park development is an example of a project where the community has been fully engaged and as we move forward we will continue to engage the residents.”

Deputy chairman John Stoves also stepped down after about six years in the role and 10 on the council. He will be succeeded by Vicky Boorman.

Councillor Stoves, who will stay on as a councillor, said he wanted to give an opportunity to younger people.

“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for about a year,” he said. “There comes a time where we want to see younger people having the opportunity to step up otherwise they will think, ‘What am I doing here?’”

Councillor Boorman, who has been on the council for two years, said: “I’m excited to provide a fresh perspective. I have a particular interest in the environment and climate change and I am hoping to use that to help.”

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