Friday, 28 December 2012

Pictures of the flooding at Horseshoe bridge where the Kennet meets the Thames #rdg

By popular demand I donned my wellies and got a few photos down at the Horseshoe bridge – where the Kennet meets the Thames at the boundary of Reading and Wokingham.

It is still pretty bad down there. I saw a few people wading through the water in trainers heading to Tesco, but I definitely wouldn't recommend this!

Fortunately in this neck of the woods the flooding is not anywhere near houses at the moment. I popped into the Jolly Anglers on Boxing Day – which is on the Kennet Side – but they seem pretty relaxed about the situation.

One of the things that contributes to flooding is people concreting over their front gardens. In 2008 the Council changed the planning rules on this to persuade people to use materials which will absorb water rather than causing run-off, overloading the storm drains and worsening flooding. Still more to do, but this is a step in the right direction.

Anyway, enough of me, here are a few pictures.

Rob and floodingIMAG0011IMAG0012IMAG0015IMAG0008

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Loans4logbooks at cemetery junction Reading #rdg

I have had a number of residents enquire about Loans4logbooks at cemetery junction – inappropriate fluorescent signs, illegal parking on the pavement and questionable business model. I recently got the following update from planning:

"The investigation has identified two potential issues with the site, firstly the unauthorised change of use from A1 retail to A2 financial services and secondly the separate item of unauthorised advertising. The case officer wrote to the company in August 2012 requiring them to take the necessary action.
"No action has been taken but we have recently heard from solicitors appointed by the owners/operators of “Loans 4 Logbooks” who have made a case that firstly no change of use has in fact occurred (supported by decisions made by other planning authorities for other such stores in this national chain) and secondly that the advertising is indeed lawful having deemed consent under the Advertisement Regulations. We do not necessarily agree with this claim and may still choose to take enforcement action but it has been necessary to refer the case to the Council’s legal advisers for advice as to how to proceed."

I would strongly recommend that anyone with debt problems in east Reading seeks independent advice from someone like Communicare – also at cemetery junction – CAB etc.

Draught busting workshop by Transition Town Reading #rdg

Transition Town Reading are running this interesting and useful workshop on draught proofing your house. This project is aimed at the general public and specifically the most vulnerable in the town.

"As you may already be aware Transition Town Reading, a small special interest group interested in the environment and community, has recently been awarded a grant from Reading BC to fund materials for a draught busting project and to help with some internal thermal imaging surveys. We are running an information seminar on Saturday 12th January at RISC from 13:00 til 15:00. This will be useful to all who have problems with draughts in their homes but of much more interest to those who are in severe energy poverty and qualify for assistance under this scheme.

"The basic philosophy of the project is to enable some of the most vulnerable in our town who are in the worst energy poverty to live in draught free homes. Draught proofing is by far the most cost effective thing to do yet virtually no funding is available for it. The materials will be paid for by the grant and the labour will be provided by volunteers, initially this will be us, but as homes are done some of the beneficiaries will be invited to assist on the next couple of projects expanding the skills base and driving forward a community based self help programme. The idea is that the project will be self propelling and community driven. As the necessary materials are fairly cheap progress can be made in the general community where people can afford the materials but haven't done their draught proofing for lac of know-how or enthusiasm. There may even be a green business opportunity for cooperative purchasing of draught proofing products here too."

Monday, 24 December 2012

Action against the forest of estate agent boards in some parts of Reading #rdg

Some parts of Reading are unfortunately blighted by the forest of estate agent boards which go up every year and are up for a large part of the year. Here is an update on progress to tackle the problem by banning the boards – as has been done elsewhere.

"As a result of the Redlands & Uni NAG’s petition I was tasked with putting together a case to go to members to decide whether or not we apply to the Secretary of State for a Regulation 7 Direction to ban such boards. In order to make the case to members it was deemed necessary to provide one year’s worth of data to prove the extent of the problem so we have been carrying out monthly surveys since January this year to do just that. Our December survey will be completed this week and, depending upon the results, the case will be put to members in the New Year (though I anticipate that we will actually need to continue the surveys until April to fully prove the regular and cyclical nature of the problem).
If (and it’s still a big if) members decide to make the application to S of S, we will do so later next year. It will then (based on other Council’s experiences) take about a year for the Planning Inspectorate to carry out their investigation and report to the Secretary of State and a further six months for the S of S to make a decision. If (and that’s an even bigger if) the Regulation 7 is granted it will come into force sometime thereafter (I’m not sure what the notice period actually is – in the case of an article 4 direction its 12 months!). Realistically we are looking at the direction coming into force in late 2014 at the very earliest - if indeed it is granted.
Similar applications by other authorities have had various levels of success but the common factor when Directions have been granted seems to have been that the application relates to a Conservation Area. This does not bode well for us as the majority of the area to which we would wish the direction applied is not within a CA.
Anyway, the bottom line is that we are still working towards making the application but are still a long way from doing so.  If you need any more information give me a call and we’ll go through it in more detail."

Currently, legally a "to let" board can be left up for as long as it takes to let the property, but once it has been let, the board must be taken down within a few weeks. Please let me know about any long-term boards and I will happily pass this information on to planning.

Merry Christmas and a happy – clean-shaven – New Year

With the economy flatlining, unemployment high and many people worrying about cuts to benefits, this year has been a pretty tough one for lots of people.

But I still have hope that things can be improved. My hope is fuelled by the little acts of kindness, such as the Pakistani community centre Christmas lunch, which brought a diverse section of the community together in a positive way. It might take a few years – and a bit of hard work – for things to start get better, but I'm sure through working together we can do it.

For me Christmas is about people. I have caught up with lots of friends over the festive period and will be going to see my family in Congleton, Cheshire before the year is out.

As one or two people have commented I still have my Movember – where men grow a moustache to raise awareness of men's health issues – moustache. My plan, after seeing one of the Movember promotional videos is to get a photo of my dad and I both with moustaches. Then I will shave it off.

So, merry Christmas and happy New Year.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Road works at Three Tuns junction #rdg #earley

In case you missed the press release about the roadworks at the junction of Wokingham road and Church road see below. Unfortunately Wokingham didn't inform Reading councillors of this work. From the press release, if things are running to plan then they should be finished by the end of next week – Friday, December 14.

"Work is due to start this week (November 12) making significant improvements to the traffic lights and highway at the busy Three Tuns junction on the A329.

The work, which is due to last five weeks, is one of the first schemes to be rolled out as part of Wokingham Borough Council’s £2.75million grant from the government’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF).

The scheme will help to ease traffic congestion and improve walking and cycling access through the junction.

This will include the installation of an ‘intelligent’ traffic light system to replace the older less efficient equipment. The new traffic lights react to real time traffic flows and automatically adjust to reduce congestion through the junction; ultimately cutting journey times and C02 emissions. The lights themselves use the latest energy technology - low energy LEDs – requiring less maintenance and are therefore cheaper to operate.

The A329 Wokingham Road eastern approach to the junction will be resurfaced under the scheme, as well as improved facilities installed for cyclists and pedestrians.

Where possible the works have been planned to cause minimal disruption to traffic, and will be carried out during off-peak periods. However 24-hour four-way traffic lights will be needed – sometimes manually operated - during the morning and evening peak periods. Some of the lanes approaching the junction will also be restricted as a safety measure.

Works will also be carried during the first two weekends to minimise the risk of the work timetable overrunning."

Friday, 7 December 2012

A new secondary school in East Reading? #rdg

A few months ago Reading East MP Rob Wilson announced plans for another secondary school in the east of Reading. At the time not much detail was available. I asked to meet him on the subject, but didn't hear anything back.

More positively, a public meeting has recently been organised on the subject. See below for a post taken from the PEER Facebook group.

It is a shame that the local community haven't been involved with shaping this proposal at an earlier stage, but hopefully this opportunity will be the start of a more positive relationship.

"Secondary School Places

Do you have a child in Year 5 or below? Are you concerned about what the secondary school options in East Reading are for your child?

If so come and join other parents and members of East Reading community at a meeting to hear about and discuss an opportunity to create a new school in East Reading in 2014 that meets your needs. All members of the community welcome.

The meeting will be hosted by Rob Wilson MP On Tuesday 11th December at Reading College on the King’s Road, RG1 4HJ, starting at 7pm and ending at 8:30pm.

If you can’t come but would like to get involved then please email us below.

Please complete the questionnaire at:



Tuesday, 4 December 2012

This year's council tax freeze grant is the meanest yet

In recent years the Tory-led government has been offering councils money to freeze council tax. Unfortunately the money offered has not been at a level which has offset cuts in government funding. This has therefore shrunk council budgets and meant devastating cuts to back-office and frontline council services across the country.

The freeze grant deals have not all been the same. They have been getting less and less attractive. The first one (2011/12) was equivalent to a 2.5% council tax increase and was over a number of years. The second one (2012/13) was for the same amount, but for one year only – and so 10% of councils, both Labour and Conservative, rejected it and put council tax up. This year's offer is the meanest yet at 1%. It is over two years though – to lessen the financial cliff we will drop off – but is still the worse deal yet.

As was said by the administration last year, public services have already been cut back to the bone. Taking that as your starting position and then having to make £16 million worth of cuts – as Reading is predicted to have to make – despite Labour councillors unwillingness to say it surely means more cuts to frontline services.

Council’s that rejected the freeze grant last year did so to stop the council tax base being further eroded so that they would be able to fund decent public services for residents especially the vulnerable. Unfortunately in Reading we accepted the freeze, have eroded our council tax base and will have to make more cuts than necessary because of this.

Reading's budget hasn't been published by the administration yet, but rest assured it won't be pretty.