Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Sun Street gardening follow-up session

Thanks to everyone who helped with gardening at Sun Street at the weekend. We managed to clear the vegetable patch, ready to plant, as well as other weeding activities.

We will be doing a follow-up session on Sunday, July 8 from 10 AM to 12 noon. We will be sowing seeds and doing some more weeding.

Please bring gloves and useful tools.

Let me know if you are coming to help me plan.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Park and ride goes into reverse #rdg

Following pressure from residents, local groups, opposition councillors – pretty much everyone – Labour is quite rightly pausing and starting talking to local people. See below for press release:

Reading Borough Council Press Release

Revised proposals for the operation of two possible micro park and ride sites at Palmer Park and Clayfield Copse are being drawn up by Reading Borough Council following a period of public consultation.

The Council's Cabinet agreed earlier this month to consult on the micro park and ride proposals, aimed at reducing traffic levels in Reading town centre by encouraging commuters to park outside the town centre and continue their journeys by bus.

Final decisions will not be taken until the consultation process has been completed. However, following feedback from local sports groups and regular park users, the Council has decided to act now to amend the proposals, making it clear that if the schemes go ahead, they would only apply between Monday and Friday during the day and not at weekends.

Tony Page, the Council's Lead Member for Transport, has also instructed council officers to investigate further the capacity issues at both sites and also to indentify how to ensure that the proposed schemes contribute to the Council's sustainable transport policies, whilst not discouraging people from making use of the facilities for leisure and sporting activities or creating parking problems elsewhere. A report, setting out a variety of options for the schemes, will then be brought to the Council's Cabinet in July.

Transport officers will be making direct contact with the various users groups at the two parks over the next fortnight to ensure the options they bring forward to Cabinet take account of their views, alongside the statutory consultation, which continues until July 5.

Councillor Page said: 'Although this consultation is scheduled to run until July 5, it is already clear from the responses we have received to date that not only is there a lot of misunderstanding about what was being suggested, but that people have raised a number of issues which need to be clarified. We need to ensure these proposals if they are to work not only contribute to sustainable transport policies but at the same time continue to encourage people to make use of these important sport and leisure facilities.

'I am particularly keen that Council officers engage directly with user groups both to explain the important contribution that these schemes could make to the sustainability of our local transport systems, and to listen carefully to any concerns they have regarding their use of the parks' facilities.'

Transport officers will be making contact with users groups at both parks over the next two weeks. People can also continue to pass the Council their comments by phoning 0118 937 4832 or 0118 937 2451 and by emailing

Monday, 25 June 2012

Grass #rdg

If like me you have been noticing that some of our grass verges are slowly turning into woodland, here is the explanation:

Dear Councillor
You may have received a number of enquiries about the grass cutting within the Borough.  I thought it would be helpful to provide some background information. 
Please accept my apologies if you have already received this information. 
Approximately 18 months ago the frequency of grass cutting was reduced from 10 to 5 cuts per year, with each cut taking between 6-7 weeks to complete. 
This year the timings of the cuts are as follows:
Cut 1 = 19 March to 27 April
Cut 2 = 30 April to 15 June
Cut 3 = 18 June to 27 July
Cut 4 = 30 July to 7 September
Cut 5 = 10 September to 19 October
On occasions, the timing of some of the cuts may vary a little depending upon the weather conditions.  Last year we had very little rain at the start of the growing season and as a result the grass was slow in growing.  This season however, the prolonged periods of rain after the dry early spring, have not only hugely speeded up the grass growth, but has also made cutting much slower and when the grass is wet, the quality of the finish will be poorer.  
The reduction in cuts meant we went from 4 ride-on machines to 2, but we also keep a 3rd machine as a spare so that we could introduce this if we started to slip behind schedule.   We reintroduced this 3rd machine a few weeks ago which has allowed us to largely keep up with the schedule of cutting.  However, even with the additional machinery, we are still running 3-4 days behind schedule.  We have also engaged a contractor to ensure we remain on schedule.
The running order of cutting by ward is:
Whitley, Church, Katesgrove, Redlands, Park, Abbey, Caversham, Peppard, Thames, Mapledurham, Battle, Tilehurst, Kentwood, Norcot, Southcote, Minster.
Sometimes, it is necessary to review these schedules, but we expect to be working to this order for the remainder of the season.
We have just commmenced our 3rd round of cuts (Cut 3) and our teams are currently working in Whitley and Southcote. 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Palmer Park micro park-and-ride #rdg

As you may have read in the papers Labour are planning on introducing a micro park-and-ride at Palmer Park using existing car parking. Today I finally got my briefing note which is copied and pasted at the bottom of this post.

As I have said before, this is definitely not a done deal. At Cabinet I asked that Ward councillors be involved in the decision-making – to start off with it was just the lead councillor and officers. Please let me, Jamie or Mel know your thoughts on this issue.

Over the last week I have talked to a good number of people about the scheme and have yet to find a supporter who isn't an officer or a Labour councillor.

My default position is against park-and-ride. They normally get sold along the lines of reducing congestion, pollution etc. However, the Council is obsessed with getting more and more people into the town centre and attracting them away from their local town centre e.g. Wokingham or district shopping centre e.g. Woodley. This means more people getting into their car and coming to Reading. The Council isn't going to close any town centre car parks, this is additional car parking, for additional travel by additional cars. This won't tackle congestion in the medium term but will worsen it with more cars driving to Reading – same congestion in the town centre, additional congestion on the outer roads.

Getting onto the proposed scheme. As others have pointed out the Palmer Park car park can already be used as an informal park-and-ride for free? And I can see the time limit creating problems for both residents and Park users.

The officer who I spoke to on the phone informed me that this scheme would make a profit. And said he would send me the figures. Happy to post the figures when I have them.

As things stand at the moment I will be objecting to this scheme.

However, as Labour have a majority, unfortunately they may simply press ahead with it. If they do the length of the free parking period, charges and start time/day and end time/day etc will be key to how much of a pain this is for residents and park users.

Please get in contact with your views.

Below is the briefing:

Micro Park and Ride

Briefing note for Park and Peppard Ward Councillors

The principle of Micro park and ride is to support travel options and make most efficient use of existing car parking facilities, whilst also promoting use of public transport for the onward journey to central Reading, thereby contributing to managing the overall use of the highway network. 

Funding is available from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) grant that has been awarded to RBC to promote more sustainable travel options, and one of the element includes micro park and ride (alongside the wider aim of improved larger strategic park and ride). The initial two locations for micro park and ride are based on the location of available Council owned parking facilities that are also adjacent to existing public transport provision.

In terms of Palmer Park the Traffic Regulation Order sets out the charging period as Monday to Saturday, 7am to 10pm, with the first two hour period being free and 2-16 hours charged at £4 (including the return bus trip).  We have undertaken car park occupancy survey that indicated that approximately 90% of users park for less than 2 hours. During the working day the observed maximum number of cars parked was 47, hence a residual capacity of 150 spaces available (from a total of 200 spaces).

For Clayfield Copse the same Traffic Regulation Order sets out the charging period as Monday to Saturday, 7am to 10pm, with the first two hour period being free and 2-16 hours charged at £4 (including the return bus trip).  It is proposed to upgrade the surface of the car park and install lighting and CCTV upgrades. There is an estimated capacity of 50 spaces.

As set out in the Cabinet report of 11 June 2012 the policy context is “The current parking strategy is a core element of the Local Transport Plan.  The strategy essentially aims to manage the level of long stay/commuter parking in the Town Centre.  A key feature of the strategy is pricing of Town Centre parking to reflect the availability of alternatives, especially long stay parking provided by park and ride.”  “Micro park & ride is a component of our Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) programme that includes improvements to park and ride provision and ‘micro park and ride’ refers to the use of smaller scale existing car parks within the Council’s ownership that are available for mini park and ride sites that also take advantage of the nearby bus services”.

As stated at Cabinet there is a commitment to reviewing the free period and the hours of operation, and this will be considered in the July Cabinet report.

The TRO has now been published for the statutory consultation to be undertaken with the aim of taking a further report to July Cabinet.  The end date for the statutory consultation is no later than the 5 July 2012 and written comments and objections should be made in writing to the Head of Legal and Democratic Services.

If people have comments to make, the Transport Planning team can be contacted on 0118 937 4832 and a record will be kept of the comments made and will be taken into account when the statutory consultation is reported back to the forthcoming Cabinet meeting.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Sun Street community garden tidy up #rdg

I have at least one volunteer who would like to help with a tidy up of the Sun Street community garden next weekend, Saturday, June 23 at 10 AM.

It is looking quite weedy, so the more the merrier. If you have any gloves and useful tools for weeding please bring them along.

Let me know if you are coming so I have an idea of numbers.

Once we get it tidy we could grow some vegetables there.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Bridges Hall update meeting #rdg

I attended the Bridges Hall development update meeting this afternoon. Reading Council had objected to this planning application, but unfortunately Wokingham granted it.

At the meeting there was a reasonable amount of information on how the development will be carried out. Unfortunately this isn't online at the moment, but I asked that it be put there. Here is some information from the meeting.

Building will commence in July 2012 and will be finished by August 2014.

The main contractor is Brookfield Multiplex and the single point of contact for residents who have issues is Ron Allen: 07802 688 5469.

They had a fairly long list of measures that they will take to reduce the impact of this development on residents – dust, light, noise etc – but I guess we will have to wait and see as the proof will be in the making of the pudding!

Please get in contact and let me know how things are going.

Reading means business on climate change #rdg

I thought people might be interested in this:    

Reading (Still) Means Business on Climate Change
June 27th, 4.45 – 7pm, Civic Centre, Kennet Room
Just a reminder about the event to progress the Reading Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan, following the launch of the consultation by the Reading Climate Change Partnership in January.

The Climate Change Strategy will influence which actions and projects are a priority for Reading over the next few years.
We are using the ideas from the January event, as well as those we’ve gathered since, and turning them into strategy and actions for each of the themes we have identified.
If you would like to see the ideas we have so far, and add some of your own, please have a look at the forums at
Please register for the event at
We look forward to hearing your views,
Sally Coble
Chair of Reading Climate Change Partnership

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Building capacity and community organising in #rdg

There isn't much I like about the current government – cuts agenda, tax breaks for the rich, undermining the NHS etc – but one of the things I think is good is their community organiser initiative.

I think community building is always a good thing, but especially when communities are under attack. In Newtown we are about to lose our community development worker – employed by the Council.

My basic understanding of this initiative is that an organisation in an area can apply to be a host for the community organisers. The organisation gets a small sum of money for this. They then recruit a small team of community organisers. There is a bursary for each community organiser of £20,000. Some of this pays a wage for the organiser, some of it is for training. The organisers work with communities to tackle problems and recruit volunteer community organisers.

So my question is are there any organisations in Reading who are interested in hosting the project? Maybe Reading Voluntary Action, Reading International Solidarity Centre or Reading Federation of Tenants and Residents' Associations?

More information on the project can be found here.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Youth bike club

A youth worker asked me to promote the bike club which takes place every Tuesday from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM leaving from the Hamilton centre, 135 Bulmershe Road and taking young people on the cycle rides across Reading. It runs through to October with extra sessions in the summer holidays.

They have a qualified bike ride leader.

Young people will learn about cycle safety, bike maintenance etc.

Young people can use their own bikes or book one.

No cost.

For more information give the East Area Youth Team a call on 0118 9373604

Thursday, 7 June 2012

9am Free Bus Travel Proposed for Elderly Reading Residents

We asked for this a year ago, and have been pushing since at Council meetings. I'm glad to see this partial reintroduction, but older people will still struggle getting to early hospital appointments for example. We will keep working for unrestricted bus travel at all times for pensioners.


Reading Borough Council Press Release

Elderly people in Reading will be able to travel for free on local buses from 9am on weekdays, if proposals are adopted next week.

The nationally funded concessionary fares scheme means that, at the moment, people over pensionable age in Reading can only make use of free bus travel from 9.30am, Monday to Friday.

Reading Borough Council is now planning to introduce free bus travel for the elderly from 9am onwards on weekdays. The cost of funding the extra half-an-hour's free travel _ estimated to be between £29,000 and £46,000 per year - would be paid for with income from bus lane fines in the town.

The move would also bring Reading into line with neighbouring Wokingham and West Berkshire, where concessionary pass holders are currently able to travel from 9am Monday to Friday. This has been the source of some complaints, in particular from those Reading Borough residents who live close to the administrative boundary.

The proposed change to free bus travel from 9am for the elderly follows the re-introduction of free unrestricted bus travel for disabled residents and their carers last year by the administration.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Plans to expand Alfred Sutton and Newtown

Following on from questions from residents here is some more information about plans to expand Alfred Sutton and Newtown primary schools. Let me know what you think.

"Dear Cllr White,

Thank you for your enquiry regarding the planned expansions of Alfred Sutton Primary School and New Town Primary School. We are currently looking to expand both schools with an additional intake of 30 Reception pupils at each school.

At Alfred Sutton Primary we are looking to install a 30 place modular building designed specifically for nursery aged children, on the playing field next to the school with the modular building aligned with the school’s current nursery and reception area. Boundary fence lines will be moved to incorporate the modular building and a specific external play area for the building will be included. The school will then be able to decant their nursery class into the modular building allowing the new Reception class to sit alongside their other two original reception classes. The modular classroom is due to be installed over the summer holidays ready for September’s intake.

At New Town Primary we are going to be moving one of the school’s Year 1 classes upstairs to a spare classroom within the main school building. This will free up a classroom downstairs which leads out directly on to the current external Foundation play area. The classroom will be renovated with a new set of Reception toilets and a disabled toilet will be added within the ground floor of the school’s more Easterly building in preparation of moving the school’s reception area next year.

The modifications will be made over the summer holidays ready for the new school year in September.

I do not have finalised plans to be able to send you just at this time, but hope to have them fully signed off ready for a series of open afternoons we are arranging with each of the expansion schools. We will be sending out letters to parents and local residents surrounding the schools by the end of the week inviting them to an open afternoon/evening to discuss the plans and any queries they have. Alfred Sutton’s open afternoon is scheduled for 4th July 3pm-7pm and New Town’s will be on 26th June 3pm-7pm. We will also send you a copy of the letter later this week.

Kindest Regards"