Sunday, 25 October 2020

More than 1,500 objections to housing development

More than 1,500 objections to housing development

MORE than 1,500 people have lodged their opposition to Reading Golf Club’s plans.

This is thought to be the highest ever number of objections to an application received by Reading Borough Council.

There have been more than 100 comments in favour of the application and 37 observations.

The club says it is working with developer Fairfax to deliver “family and affordable houses”.

The planning application says the development would include a new medical centre and public green space.

The club says the scheme is crucial to its survival as it is at risk of insolvency due to declining membership and rising maintenance costs. It has agreed to merge with Caversham Heath Golf Club in Mapledurham by March.

But the plans are opposed by residents, local campaign groups and Reading East MP Matt Rodda, who say it will cause more congestion, put pressure on local services and spoil a greenfield site.

About a third of the 109 acres of land has already been earmarked for 90 to 120 homes by the council and is included in its local plan. The other two-thirds of the course is in South Oxfordshire and has not been included in the district council’s local plan.

Fairfax says: “These proposals show that a predominantly housing-led scheme can be delivered, complete with affordable units and a healthcare facility, without having undue impact on the site’s immediate neighbours or the wider area.”

The developer says more than 65 per cent of the club’s land in Reading borough would be retained as green space and about 30 per cent would be designated as open or play space, with cycle paths and footpaths connecting to South Oxfordshire.

Campaign group Keep Emmer Green says the development would be “unsustainable” and “overload” local infrastructure.

Member Ian Morgan, of Highdown Hill Road, Emmer Green, said: “With more than 1,100 objections and counting, the local community has come together to oppose the development.

“The reasons cited by residents include destruction of green space and wildlife, the impact on traffic congestion and pollution and the precedent it sets for even further development on the South Oxfordshire border. These are sincere appeals to be listened to and taken seriously. The community has clearly demonstrated that it does not want another housing estate in Emmer Green.

“If there really is no future as a golf course we would encourage Reading Golf Club directors to engage with the community and offer the land at a fair price as an open space, which would truly be a proper and fitting legacy.”

Triveni Dave, also of Highdown Hill Road, said: “The air quality in the area would become much worse. The increase in traffic and its impact would be much larger than it says in the planning application.

“The roads in the area are simply not capable of absorbing such a large increase in traffic volumes. The safety and health of young children and elderly people would be compromised.”

Katie Burchell, of Woodcote Way, Caversham, said: “The golf course provided much-needed space for all residents during lockdown. The space should be left as it is for people to enjoy as and when needed. I am totally against building houses on such a precious piece of land for all who live around it.”

Golf club manager Gary Stangoe says it was unlikely the club would have survived if it had not been for the partnership with Fairfax and Caversham Heath Golf Club.

He said: “This was something we started on nearly four years ago when the industry was in massive decline and this is about the future of both Reading and Caversham Heath. Both golf clubs were losing six-figure sums.

“We consulted with our members and 83 per cent of them supported the move because they understood the long-term challenge the club was facing and the difficulty of survival.

“The funds from the developer have ensured that we can provide a quality facility for the community and will subsidise our operations for 12 months. Without that partnership, it is highly unlikely we would have survived to this stage.”

He said the new club, which would be known as The Caversham, would hopefully be financially sustainable with a worldwide reputation. It would have a new academy course and practice range and the clubhouse would be extended.

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