Thursday, 9 November 2017

More trees for Cemetery Junction


More trees are going to be planted at Cemetery Junction.

For a long time now we have been lobbying the Council on the state of the new beds at Cemetery Junction. The contractor has failed to maintain these beds and trees as promised and they have become overrun with weeds and some of the trees have died.

The council has clawed back money from the contractor and will be planting approximately 6 green pillar oak trees. You might have seen people on site today clearing the beds in preparation for planting later in the year.

I will post more information when I have it. If you'd like to get email updates from the local Green Party sign up here: http://greenparty.org.uk/signup

Friday, 6 October 2017

Improving Crescent Road roadsafety


We know that roadsafety on Crescent Road is a priority for residents and we are working to improve the situation. Below is a (slightly updated version of a) street letter we delivered to Crescent Road recently.

Re: Improving Crescent Road roadsafety

Dear resident,

We know that unfortunately the parking congestion on Crescent Road has worsened causing traffic congestion and further dangerous behaviour such as driving on the pavement. We were also very alarmed by the car which turned over! Your Green Party councillors remain committed to tackling this problem as a priority to keep our community and especially our children safe.

As you know this situation stems from the introduction of the nearby hospital and university parking scheme and it has worsened with term starting at the University. We lobbied for a Park Ward scheme to be introduced at the same time or shortly after the nearby scheme but this has not been prioritised by the council.

In the short term we have requested an increase in the number of traffic warden and police visits (call 101). We are also helping with getting a crossing patrol at Alfred Sutton back. Finally, the yellow line passing places are still progressing.

You may be interested in getting a white access protection marking to protect your drive access – visit www.reading.gov.uk/maintenanceandroadworks for more information.

We will continue to press for a combined permit parking and yellow line scheme for the area, as well as measures to cut rat running. If you are not currently getting emails from us on this subject let Rob know and he can add you to the list.

We care about the area and will keep working with you to improve it and tackle problems.

Yours faithfully

Rob White, Josh Williams and Brenda McGonigle

Green Party councillors, Reading

PS: we produce a monthly email newsletter with more general information about what is going on in the area. If you want to sign up you can do so here: http://greenparty.org.uk/signup.html


Thursday, 5 October 2017

Pothole repair trial in Reading


We have been lobbying for a long time for shallow potholes – which the council doesn’t currently patch if they are less than 5 cm deep – to be fixed.  These potholes are a hazard for all road users especially cyclists. It is great to hear that the council has just conducted a trial on fixing these potholes. Let us know how this trial goes if you use one of the roads mentioned below.

If you want to get email updates from us about issues like these sign up here: http://greenparty.org.uk/signup

From the council:

“Please be advised that Streetcare Services Highway Maintenance Team will commence a week’s trial of an alternate pot hole repair solution that uses a pressure injection system on pothole defects. We are proposing to use the trial on roads where the depth of defects are below our current 50 mm depth investigatory level.

The trial will target roads of different construction make up, from concrete roads with very thin bituminous / surfacing layers that have scabbed off, to roads where the thin micro asphalt material has worn away. The repair system is a quick / speedy solution that will seal the road in advance of the coming winter, which will provide us with an ideal trail period to evaluate whether this would be an appropriate and durable solution to consider for future use.

Velocity UK Ltd will commence work on Monday 2nd October and are expected to complete by Friday 6th October.

The roads that are scheduled for repair during this trial are:

1.    Whiteknights Road
2.    Redlands Road (Addington to London Road)
3.    The Meadway
4.    Southcote Lane
5.    Portman Road
6.    Trafford Road
7.    St Marys Butts, junction with Castle Street
8.    Kiln Road
9.    Peppard Road service road by no 335
10. Valpy Street
11. Minster Street
12. George Street (Reading)
13. Northumberland (Hartland roundabout to Honiton Road roundabout)

The roads were selected to provide a good spread of roads with different construction makeup, vehicle type and volume use, presence of defects which currently fall below our 50 mm investigatory level criteria for repair, are ordered to provide a reasonable route for the contractor to follow and will be completed subject to available time and weather constraints. The work will be carried out under localise rolling traffic management by RBC Highways & Drainage Team and the working hours will be between 8 am and 5 pm.


We do not anticipate much disruption using this solution as it is quick process and moves along the length of the road fairly quickly. The Highways & Drainage operatives are on hand to provide traffic management and assist local residents who may be affected for a short period of time when any work is directly outside their homes.”

Monday, 31 July 2017

Object to the East Reading MRT planning application



The proposed East Reading MRT is a destructive road that Reading and Wokingham councils propose to build beside the River Thames, linking the Napier Road carpark at Tesco to the proposed Park and Ride site in Wokingham by the Waterside Centre. This is planned to be used by buses, pedestrians and cyclists, not by cars and other traffic. You can see details on the Council website http://www.reading.gov.uk/east-reading-mrt

The road itself won’t be very accessible to residents of Redlands or Newtown, as access will be via the Napier Road Tesco carpark, or a new path through the Coal Wood (by Tesco) or at the Park and Ride site (beyond the Wokingham Waterside Centre.)

Despite many thousands of people signing a petition against the use of green space beside the river as a carpark, Wokingham Borough Council recently gave planning permission to the proposed Park and Ride.

Reading Borough Council has now applied for planning permission for the road, which they are calling an ‘MRT’. You can see the RBC Planning application, and object, here:
http://planning.reading.gov.uk/fastweb_PL/detail.asp?AltRef=171108&ApplicationNumber=171108&AddressPrefix=&Postcode=&Submit=Search

If you don’t have time to respond to the planning application, then sign the petition here: http://bit.ly/soarpetition


FAQ
What can I do now I know what’s proposed?
If you want to, you can comment through the planning website, as all comments through that route will be formally logged. Emails to the planner may or may not be logged and responded to.

Who is formally applying for this planning permission?
RBC Transport is the applicant, with Peter Brett the agents. Pre-application discussions have been held with RBC Planning officers and it is now a valid application.

Has a planner therefore already assessed it?
No, Reading Borough Council Planning officers have so far helped with some ‘pre-app’ advice only.

So, when will planners assess this application?
Planners will start to get to grips with the application (in all its 125 documents) in late July, early August, and will start by ensuring that all statutory consultations are requested and chased. During that time they will also receive comments and objections from the public. After the consultation phase is finished, the full assessment will take place.

How long is the consultation phase?
This isn’t entirely clear – statutory period is 21 days from when you as a resident were informed about the application – ie. Saw the sign or read the paper, but in practise RBC will accept any comments and objections right up to the committee meeting. However, note that the earlier it comes in, the more time and detail will be spent on it. However, all will be dealt with. The application covers land in two separate authorities and so the application is going to both RBC and WBC.
A ‘16 week consultation’ is also being mentioned by the Council – and it’s not clear what this means. Target dates for officers’ reports and recommendations are that Wokingham Council receive their report first, probably in September and RBC Planning Authority would then receive the report to Committee in either October or November.
It is very possible that details of the plans could change, or be tweaked a little, along the way and these will be allowed where they are done to overcome an objection – unless in the Planning Officer’s mind they are fundamental and therefore require a re-consultation.
This means the overall consultation phase could be July – October or November.

What if the plan doesn’t fulfil its stated purpose? Is this relevant to planning?
Yes. That is a material consideration. But note that there are multiple stated purposes, and each one is a material consideration within the overall assessment.
So if the plan claims to improve walking and cycling along the route, it should be shown that it does that, and an objection would ideally show that it does not.
So if the plan claims to improve congestion and therefore improve air quality, it should be shown that it does that, and an objection would ideally show that it does not.

What if the plan ignores alternatives that would also meet that stated purpose? Perhaps in a superior way. Is this relevant to planning?
Yes, in this case that is a material consideration. In planning it usually isn’t a consideration (planning to build a house on location A doesn’t usually involve proving that the site is superior to other options at locations B and C), however, it has been determined that this application must contain an Environmental Impact Assessment and that means that alternatives are now a specific material consideration. Could the stated aims of the project be met in better ways, with less impact on the environment now matters in approving the application.

What if the plan breaches any specific RBC policies? Eg. Listed buildings? Eg. Protected areas? Eg. Loss of amenity?
Yes, these will all be part of the assessment and will all be part of the planning balance in approving or refusing.

It has been repeatedly and often claimed that the bridge segment of the plan couldn’t operate as a carriageway for all traffic in the future as it is too narrow at only one lane – but it is over 10 meters wide. (Sonning Bridge is only half that.) So this statement is obviously factually incorrect both in terms of traffic moving on a single lane via traffic lights or a future adaptation of the bridge into two lanes, by removing or reducing the cycle and pedestrian element. Is this relevant to planning?
Yes, there will need to be specific and robust legal requirements that the road and bridge are never to be converted to full traffic use. We don’t yet know what those are, but without them the application would likely be refused, because it is being assessed as a bus use only application.
Although it should be noted that it will probably be bus use plus coach use (RailAir / TVP shuttle) plus emergency services use (should they require it), plus potentially breakdown/recovery use.

Resident are concerned that access to the river from NewTown is via the Kennetmouth – and it appears from plans that this access would be lost for large periods of time during construction. Residents object strongly to this. Is that a planning consideration?
Yes, there would need to be robust phasing plans for the construction and details of access for the public, but of course some disruption is going to occur if approved and funded.

Could I access the planned bridge or road as a pedestrian or cyclist at the Kennet Mouth? If not, surely this application is fundamentally flawed?
No, there is no access planned at the Kennet Mouth, but there is an access ramp planned in the Coal Wood area near Tesco. Access is restricted by construction being in a flood zone, and by minimising the impact on the riverside. Ramps for access could be fairly large. So this is a consideration, but again, just one in the overall planning balance.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Update on fire safety in Reading following Grenfell


Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower Green councillor Brenda McGonigle asked for an update on fire safety in Reading at a recent council committee. Response below:

In the last six months there have been two major fires in high rise blocks of flats in other areas - one in Shepherds Bush and most recently the tragic incident at Grenfell Tower, Kensington.  The Grenfell Tower investigation is underway, but it will be some time before we fully understand how the fire started or why it took hold in the way it did.

Reading Borough Council has three 14-storey blocks of flats in Coley and four eight-storey blocks in Granville Road, Southcote, and we are confident they meet high levels of fire safety standards.

Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Services has audited 90 per cent of the Council’s blocks of flats, including our high rise blocks, with communal areas and have not raised any significant issues.  Where fires have broken out inside flats, none of them have spread outside the flat.

Formal fire risk assessments are carried out in our high rise blocks every other year by the Council using a qualified fire risk assessor.  A block inspector regularly checks all blocks and housing officers are on site most days to ensure constant monitoring.  From this year every flat within the blocks will have their smoke alarm tested every year and tenants are encouraged to check them weekly.

There has been much public concern and comment about potential flaws in the cladding that was on Grenfell Tower.  The Council can confirm that none of Reading Borough Council’s blocks have cladding systems comparable to those in the blocks where these fires occurred nor are any of the Council’s homes clad with the material which was used in the exterior refurbishment of Grenfell Tower.

The Coley high rise flats have very few cavities between any external cladding panels and the main concrete construction but on the limited elevations where they do occur fire breaks are in place to stop the spread of fire. None of the other flatted blocks have cavities.

The Coley high rise flats have fire exits at both ends of the blocks and have a call-point alarm system in communal areas which can be heard throughout the building when activated.  The Granville Road flats each have two communal staircases accessed via external balconies.  All flats have their own alarms which sound internally.  Smoke seals and intumescent strips are fitted on communal doors and the front doors of flats in all of our blocks to protect tenants from fire and reduce the risk of fire inside a flat spreading outside.

Fire risk is taken very seriously and the Council operates a zero-tolerance policy regarding items left in communal areas by tenants, as this poses a fire risk.  The Council enforces this policy strictly.

Every block of flats also has a fire notice board with an evacuation plan and factsheet giving advice regarding what to do in the event of a fire.  Following the Grenfell Tower fire, the Council wrote to all tenants in our high rise flats to reassure them of the fire safety measures in place and to urge them to regularly check their flat’s alarms and provide guidance on how to reduce the risk of a fire occurring and what to do if a fire does occur.  If any resident had any health and safety concerns about electrical appliances inside their flat, the Council also offered to visit and carry out testing to check that there were no issues. A fire safety briefing was also provided to all Councillors.

The Council takes fire safety extremely seriously and reviews measures as new information arises or updated guidance is issued.  This includes learning from major incidents in other areas, including the findings which will come out of the investigation into the Grenfell Tower fire.  Despite Reading Council’s blocks differing in design to Grenfell Tower, in order to provide residents with complete confidence and assurance, the Council is appointing an external organisation with specific expertise on fire safety in high rise blocks.  The organisation will carry out a review of our practice in the areas of management, fire safety measures and safety advice to tenants.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Reading Council and fire safety



Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, Reading Council has clarified the situation in Reading. See below. We will keep up the pressure to ensure that all Reading residents live in decent, safe homes.

"Following this week’s horrific fire at Grenfell Tower in West London, I am sure like us your thoughts quickly turned to fire safety at tower blocks in Reading. This note is to provide you with a level of reassurance around existing fire safety measures in place. We hope it will help to answer any initial questions or concerns you may have.

The Council has three 14-storey blocks of flats in Coley, and four eight-storey blocks in Granville Road, Southcote. We are confident they meet high levels of fire safety standards. None of Reading Borough Council’s blocks have cladding systems comparable to those in Grenfell Tower Block.

The Coley high rise flats do not have a panel system. The blocks have limited, enclosed cavities between external cladding and the main concrete construction. On the limited elevations where they do occur, fire breaks are in place to stop the spread of fire. None of the other flatted blocks have cavities.

Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Services has audited 90 per cent of the Council’s blocks of flats - including our high rise blocks - and have not raised any significant issues.

The Council takes fire safety very seriously.  While tower blocks in Reading differ in design to Grenfell Tower, we are nonetheless appointing an external organisation with specific expertise on high rise blocks to review management practice, fire safety measures and construction and safety advice to tenants. We hope this additional external review will provide a further level of reassurance to you.

The Council is this week writing to all tenants in the Coley and Granville Road high rise flats to reassure them of the fire safety measures in place. The letter is attached - this includes a reissue of the fire safety information which we provide to all tenants."

Monday, 12 June 2017

Red Route consultation in Reading



UPDATE: I have now had a briefing from a transport planner and can confirm that contrary to what the council's press release says the parking bays on the Wokingham Road are being changed subtly to white marked bays as part of a Red Route. This means that anyone parking outside of the bay (double parking for example) should hopefully get a ticket. However pay-and-display machines (with a free 30 minutes) will still be needed to make sure people don't stay in the bays for too long.

The council has started consulting on a Red Route along the number 17 bus route. We think this is generally a good thing for creating a more reliable bus service. We also think that if done right it could tackle the Wokingham Road parking problems in the vicinity of Alfred Sutton school.

As you can see from the plans – linked to from the consultation page – the Red Route won't impact on the majority of the parking in the Wokingham Road shopping area. This means that the double parking would continue.

We think the council needs to introduce pay-and-display machines in this area at the same time as the Red Route. The pay-and-display machines could have a free first half hour so the free parking would be the same as it is now. However it would be easier for the traffic wardens to issue tickets as they would only need to do one pass – as opposed to the situation at the moment where what they need to do one pass to see who is parked there and a second pass to issue tickets, by which time everyone has seen them and moved.

Please respond to the consultation with your thoughts.