Agenda item

Paul Stevens asked the Executive Member for Planning and Enforcement the following question:




Why have Wokingham Borough Council chosen to ignore the views of local residents as expressed in the Arborfield and Barkham Neighbourhood Plan regarding the site of a new "Garden Village" at Hall Farm?


I refer specifically to the following key policies: IRS1, IRS2, IRS3, but also the view that Arborfield and Barkham have no local need for further housing and we have already made significant contribution to the wider need for housing through the SDL at Arborfield Garrison, otherwise known as Arborfield Green.



The Government require all local authorities to create plans to manage development in their area.  A plan must enable land to come forward to meet development needs.  With regards to housing, the Government introduced a standard methodology, I appreciate that John has referred to this earlier, which calculates the housing need for each local authority and Wokingham Borough’s need calculates as 768 new homes each year.


Meeting this scale of development requires us to make some difficult decisions.  We must however make these decisions.  Not having an effective plan would mean less control over where development comes forward.  It is much harder to invest in improvements to infrastructure such as roads and schools if development is driven by developers in an ad-hoc and dispersed pattern.


Through previous consultation on the local plan, the most supported approach was for development needs to be met through large scale developments, where infrastructure could be planned, funded and provided alongside.


Experience has shown us that large scale developments are often the best solution to meeting development needs in a way that responds to sustainability challenges, including climate change.  They also allow us to respond to the lessons of Covid more fully.


To identify the most suitable sites for development, all areas of land promoted by landowners to us for potential development have been assessed.  This exceeds over 300 different areas.


The area of land at Hall Farm / Loddon Valley is one of three large scale opportunities we have considered, the others being:


  • land situated to the north of Wokingham (between the M4 and A329(M)) known as Ashridge; and
  • land to the east of Twyford in Ruscombe Parish.


At least one of these areas is required to meet the housing expectations.


Following technical appraisals by our Officers, with external support from AECOM, and discussions with the cross-party group of Councillors, the recommended strategy proposes the creation of a new sustainable community at land at Hall Farm / Loddon Valley.  This is considered to be the most deliverable and sustainable strategic option to meet the Borough needs required for our plan.


It offers the opportunity to provide homes alongside jobs with the area in proximity to the Thames Valley Science and Innovation Park, as well as the Creative Media Hub development that was approved at the Council’s Planning Committee meeting on 13th October 2021.


Given the potential scale of the opportunity, the vision is able to extend beyond merely the built development into the wider environment and social benefits of the community.  Integral to this vision would be the creation of a large publicly accessible green space or park along the River Loddon Valley, which is an area currently without public access.  The river corridor provides a significant opportunity for comprehensive habitat management, restoration and enhancement, improving biodiversity.


I accept that any development needs to lead to change, however the community we propose to create will be high quality.  Aspects highlighted in the proposed policy includes a requirement for development to draw on and enhance its context and the considerable natural assets, such as hedgerows, trees, woodland, and incorporate measures to protect and retain the permanent physical and visual sense of separation of Arborfield, Arborfield Cross and Shinfield.


Supplementary Question

The Core Strategy and the Arborfield and Barkham Neighbourhood Plan recognised the importance of restricting development outside the settlement boundaries, or development in the countryside.


Can the Executive Member confirm that the Local Plan Update will take account of the Arborfield and Barkham Neighbourhood Plan and will respect the existing settlement boundaries, and the boundary of the strategic development limits near Arborfield Green, and will not propose additional infill development between settlements or ribbon development along the Arborfield Cross relief road?


Supplementary Answer

Without having the actual Plan I cannot confirm that here now but I will give you a written statement as to the actual area that you are referring to.