Monday, 28 November 2011

Residents' parking in the east of Newtown

For a number of years now we have been working on tackling parking problems in the east of Newtown.

We have had a few successes such as getting non-essential yellow lines trimmed but this has only created a few spaces rather than fundamentally addressing the problem.

Following our sustained campaign – over five years – the Council will now be consulting residents on this issue – as they have already lost two Labour councillors and are in fear of losing another in 2012. People in Liverpool, Freshwater, Coventry, Norton, Filey, Manchester, Radstock and London roads will receive a consultation letter shortly after November 30.

The consultation includes three variations on residents' parking in the area. As well as the consultation letter there will be a display in Palmer Park library and the Kennet and Brunel Community Association are looking at organising a public meeting on this issue.

Earlier in the year we conducted an informal consultation on this issue. Approximately 60% of people were in favour of residents' parking, 10% against and the rest undecided.

Any scheme like this will have a knock-on effect and we will definitely be mindful of roads such as St Bartholomew's which may be impacted.

When the consultation goes public I will post more information here.

True Food Co-op wins BBC award

True Food won the award for 'Best Retail Initiative' at the BBC Food & Farming awards.

From their website:

"It was a very exciting day rubbing shoulders with the likes of Sheila Dillon, Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall and Rick Stein. Our category was almost the last to be announced so we were nervous wrecks by the time it got to us. It seemed to take for ever to watch the short film about the three finalists and wait for Stefan Gates to open the envelope. When he announced our name we all went up (Chris and Helens Wright and Warren). Winners don't have to make a speech, or thank their mothers, but Sheila Dillon did ask Chris about where the idea for the markets came from.
Afterwards there was a chance to have a drink and sample some of the food produced by some of the finalists.

Everyone was very impressed by True Food and we should all feel very proud to be part of this great organisation that now has national recognition."

A special programme on the awards be found here.

Friday, 25 November 2011

New Labour candidate in Park Ward?

I hear on the grapevine that Labour are about to go public that Councillor Jon Hartley will not be standing in Park Ward at the 2012 local elections and that Labour activist Rachael Chrisp will be the candidate.

She is listed on the Reading Labour Party website as the women's officer.

Has anyone met Rachael?

Thursday, 24 November 2011

St John's primary school expansion Q&A

Last night I attended a consultation meeting on expanding St John's primary school in Newtown. Whilst there are pros and cons to developing this site I absolutely support providing enough school places locally for Reading children. Here is some more information. In the next few weeks the plans will be going up on the St John's website.
Here is the Q&A:

"Question: Why do we need more primary school places in the East of Reading?

There are not enough primary school places in the East of Reading to meet the needs of the local community and for the last three years it has been necessary to send reception age children as far as Katesgrove School to enable them to have a school place.

Question: Why is St.John’s primary taking more children and not Alfred Sutton or Newtown Primary?

When the problem initially came to light an in depth analysis was done on which school to expand taking into account parental preference and the likelihood of maintaining the number of children going into the school.

Whilst it might appear to be easier to expand Alfred Sutton than St John’s the location of Alfred Sutton, right on the border with Wokingham, is a challenge because there tends to be an outflow into Earley St Peter’s meaning that the school regularly takes children from beyond its designated area. New Town Primary School has a site which is more challenging to develop than St John’s due to its listed buildings and limited play space.

It is much more sensible to spend public money on expanding a school where there is a continuing demand from the local community and where it is physically feasible to do so.

Question: Who agreed for the school to expand?

The Local Authority asked the school, the governing body and church if a temporary classroom could be put in place whilst plans for a permanent expansion could be developed and consulted upon.

The local community will be invited to participate in a statutory consultation process regarding the proposed expansion of the school.

Question: When will the statutory consultation on permanent expansion take place?

The Statutory process to permanently expand the school will be run by the Local Education Authority (Reading Borough Council) in the New Year when parents and the local community will be asked for their views on the proposed permanent expansion of the school places to 420. The consultation will last six weeks during term time and the proposals arising from that consultation, after taking into account any feedback, will be the subject of a statutory proposal published in the local press. A formal period for comment takes place for a second period of six weeks. A formal decision will be taken by Reading Borough Council after taking into account the feedback from proposal stage following the end of the statutory proposal period.

Question: What will the school look like when it’s finished?

The proposal is to build a two storey building in the centre of the site which will contain eight classrooms, the ICT suite, the school office, some of the Senior Leadership Team offices and associated facilities.

The main, existing building will remain the same but will receive a significant refurbishment to bring the classrooms up to a better standard for teaching.

The playground will be improved to make use of the change in levels on site and will include marked out areas for netball and basketball. The synthetic turf pitch will be re orientated and upgraded to bring it up to current regulations.

Question: Will the children still be able to use the playing field?

The playing field will still be useable but will have areas which will be out of bounds at times when specific works take place on them or very close to them.

Question: When will work start?

Providing all approvals are in place we would like to carry out some enabling works at Easter time 2012. This will involve moving a gas main which currently runs across the site where we would like to build and moving it further onto to the playing field.

The work for the two storey extension would start in the summer next year should all be agreed.

Question: How will it be done?

The work will be undertaken in a phased approach. There would be enabling works initially, currently pencilled in for Easter 2012, the building works for the two storey extension would begin in the summer holidays with the refurbishment following it in Spring 2013.

Question: When will the work finish?

The work will be finished in the autumn of 2013."

Monday, 21 November 2011

November's Cabinet

There are a number of interesting items on the November Cabinet agenda including: solar panels, fees and charges, bulky waste collection, shopping trolleys, reimagining the high street etc etc.

The link above takes you to the agenda and the reports are linked to from the agenda items.

Friday, 18 November 2011


I think Movember – growing some facial hair in the month of November – is a great idea for raising money to improve men's health and to tackle prostate cancer.

I first learnt about this last year and noticed Gareth Epps sporting a rather jaunty goatee. I meant to get involved this year but only just realised that it is on.

Today is my first day of growing some facial hair for a while. Any suggestions as to what look I should go for? Here are a few ideas.

Please give generously.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

An orchard for Palmer Park?

Those nice people at Transition Town Reading asked me to circulate this. It sounds like a really positive project building community, helping create a more sustainable Reading and providing delicious local fruit – let me know if you want to be put in contact with Rich:

Hi there,

I'm writing on behalf of Transition Town Reading which, as you may know, is a Reading-based group devoted to taking practical action locally to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and to build community links. You can find some information about us here...

One of our projects is to plant fruit and nut trees on public land in the Reading area. We see it as a chance to provide tasty, free, healthy, local, organic food for local residents, while sequestering a little carbon, creating a pleasant atmosphere and promoting local community.

We've got permission in principle from Reading Borough Council to carry out edible tree planting projects at a number of park sites in the area, and we've just met with them to look at the first project - a large area behind the stadium in Palmer Park, where we're looking at putting in a community orchard. I've attached an aerial photo where I've marked the site we're discussing.

The next step is for us to pick the kinds of trees that we'd like to plant and to plan out the space. We thought that this would be a good time to reach out to local groups to get your input and to see if you'd like to help us carry out the project.

If you'd like to have your say as to the design of the site, FYI the council's requirements are that the site is open enough to have good visibility so as to discourage "anti-social behaviour". I know they'd also like design of the orchard to be attractive and to draw people in to that part of the park

Further down the line we could use some help with fundraising and sourcing the trees, bringing the project through the Council's consultation process, and finally planting and maintaining the orchard (not to mention with picking and eating ;oD ).

We think this can be a fun, positive and rewarding project which can help build community in Reading and we were wondering if your organisation and its members would like to be involved?

If so, please let us know and I'll add you to our project mailing list.

Many thanks for your time,

Rich Waring

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Hospital and University traffic and parking consultation meeting

"Reading Borough Council is conducting a study of traffic and parking in the area around the Royal Berkshire Hospital and University. This is to take account of the pressure on the roads in this area caused by the large numbers of people who work in or need to visit the area as well as the legitimate needs of residents.

The primary area under consideration is the set of roads between Eastern Avenue and Kendrick Road, bounded by London Road and Christchurch Road. This just touches on Park Ward, but there will obviously be a knock-on effect into Hamilton and Bulmershe roads.

If you live in the area you will of already had a survey leaflet. The drop-in session and workshops will consider a range of options to address the issues raised in the survey. For example, in which streets would you like to see residents' parking? Where would you put additional pedestrian crossings? Where would you put a cycle route through the area?

The drop-in session will run from 2:30 PM to 7:30 PM on Wednesday, November 30 at St Luke's Hall, Erleigh Road."

Thanks to the Redlands and University NAG for most of the text above.

Following Green pressure the next study to commence will be the Eastern Area Access Study looking at Cemetery Junction and the roads leading up to it. Hopefully this will have started by the New Year.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Labour worried that town will turn Green

Apparently, our hard work in Reading on local bread-and-butter issues combined with our effectiveness in Council meetings has Reading Labour worried of a Green takeover.

My Labour contact says they have enlisted the help of Labour MP John Spellar who specialises in telling the "truth" about the Green Party. I suspect this means that Labour will be trying to smear us more regularly than usual rather than doing anything positive. I wish them more luck than the Conservatives. Their recent attempt failed on two counts. Firstly people don't like negative campaigning. Second, their message was confused and helped us win support from disillusioned Labour voters.

Something "new" in Park Ward was confirmed to me a few weeks ago when a prominent Labour candidate said that they were going to be throwing a lot of resource into Park Ward this year. Interestingly when I pointed out that Labour hadn't done much so far he agreed.

So watch this space. And as always let me know if you come across Labour attempting to smear us either on the doorstep or in print.