Thursday, 22 December 2016

What next for Arthur Hill swimming pool?

Sadly, Arthur Hill swimming pool is now closed. But there is still hope.

We have managed to get it listed as an asset of community value. This means the council can't just sell it off, but they have to hold fire for 6 months to give the community time to put in an offer.

Also, the crowdfunding campaign to raise money for things like a robust business plan has raised £10,000!

If you haven't donated yet there is still time as we have set a stretch target of £12,000. The more we raise, the more we can do.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Christmas carol services in Reading

Reading Minster Church of St. Mary the Virgin
15th December 6.30pm
Civic Carol Service

Reading Minster Church of St. Mary the Virgin
St. Mary's Gate
Chain Street
Reading RG1 2XH

A traditional service of lesson and carols, retelling the story of the Nativity


Park United Reformed Church
Sunday 18th December at 6.00pm
Candlelit Service

Park United Reformed Church
Palmer Park Avenue
Reading, RG6 1DN

One of the special services during Advent at Park United Reformed Church, is the Festival of Lessons and Carols by candlelight, accompanied by our Festival Choir. In 2016 this service will be on Sunday 18th December at 6.00pm. Everyone is welcome to join us for this special service.


Christ Church
Sunday 18 December 6pm
Nine Lessons and Carols

Christ Church
Christchurch Rd
Reading RG2 7AG


St Luke's Church
Sunday 18 December 6:30pm
Carols by Candlelight

St Luke's Church
Erleigh Road,
Reading, RG1 5LH

The sight of candles flickering in the windows, the sound of carols being sung with a choir and pipe organ, the smell of mulled cider and mince pies: can you imagine a better way to start the week leading up to Christmas Day? Come and sing all of the festive favourites, listen to the readings and choir, and know that Christmas is nearly here.


Wycliffe Baptist Church
24 December 2016 6.00pm
Family Carol Service

Wycliffe Baptist Church
233 Kings Rd
Reading RG1 4LS

Come and celebrate Christmas Eve with the whole family as we enjoy traditional carols


A longer list of services in the Reading area (which includes many of those above) can be found here. Feel free to add other services in the comments - thank you.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Demonstration against East Reading park-and-ride tonight

Guest blog post:

Tonight (Wednesday November 9) the Wokingham Borough Council planning committee will decide on plans to build a destructive new park-and-ride carpark near to the River Thames near the Wokingham waterside centre. A demonstration will be taking place before the meeting protesting against the park-and-ride – details below.

Over 2000 Reading residents have signed a petition stating “No park-and-ride on the Thameside”. The signatures reflect the concerns over the impact the park-and-ride will have on the surrounding areas.

The proposed park-and-ride will be floodlit in the evening. This will have an impact on the nearby river environment. Campaigners are also concerned about the loss of green space and that this scheme won’t tackle congestion and air pollution problems on London Road. At the council meeting alternatives to the new park-and-ride will be raised by campaigners, such as building a second level on the existing Winnersh triangle park-and-ride.

The demonstration against the park-and-ride will take place at 6:30 PM outside Wokingham Borough Council’s offices ahead of the planning meeting which starts at 7 PM. Join the Don't Trash The Thames Protest Facebook group to find out more.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Whiteknights Road single lane closure

The council has informed us that due to the works on Whiteknights Dam, there will be a single lane closure along Whiteknights Road, in the vicinity of the dam, managed by temporary traffic signals, from approximately the 4th November until the 20th December 2016.

During peak travel times there will be some delays. Please let us know how this goes and we can feed this back to the council.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Palmer Park library to close temporarily

See below for an update from the council about Palmer Park library closing temporarily so repair works can be done. When I get more information I will post it here.

"Palmer Park Library will temporarily close in November for five weeks for essential maintenance work following a routine inspection from the Council’s property services team. An issue has been identified with plaster coming away from the walls in several areas around the library, necessitating its removal and replacement.  Affected areas inside the library have been cordoned off since July whilst the nature of the problem was assessed.

It is expected that the library will close at 4pm on November 12th and re open at 9am on Monday 19th December 2016 – we will confirm this by Thursday 20 October. The work is expected to take approximately 5 weeks during which time the library will not be available for use by the public. The site will need to be emptied of books due to the nature of the works and the likely dust created by plaster being stripped back from an unstable position. Staff will be redeployed elsewhere in the service for the closure period. Property Services colleagues are aware of the imperative to complete works to the agreed timescales and to re-open as published.

To keep customers informed we will clearly publicise the reasons for the temporary closure and the anticipated timescales for reopening.  Please note that:

*We will extend return dates on borrowed items so that none are due back during the period of the works - this will commence from 3 weeks in advance of the works so public awareness will be raised (fairly soon).
*Books can be returned to any of the other Reading libraries as at all times.
*We are looking to see if any local venues are able to host our popular Rhymetime sessions whilst the library is unavailable.
*Dates at present are still subject to confirmation, however, if there is further delay it is likely to happen in 2017, due to the Christmas period.

We are still working with Reading College on a partnership model for the provision of library services from Palmer Park from the spring, as per the Policy Committee report which was approved on 18 July."

Bad news on Arthur Hill but the fight goes on

Disappointing news, at the council meeting on Tuesday all Labour councillors voted for closing Arthur Hill swimming pool in December. However, all is not lost...

Labour councillors also voted down the Green amendment, to keep the pool open until the end of the financial year so a rescue plan could be developed – the amendment was supported by the Lib Dems and Conservatives.

Well done to everyone who has been part of the campaign and especially those that Labour made wait a very long time at the meeting until the debate on Arthur Hill swimming pool started. It was a shame Labour ignored my request to move it up the agenda.

The swimming pool isn’t closed yet though. We have put the council on notice about a legal challenge. Our asset of community value application is in, as is the community right to challenge form.

As Peter Burt said at the meeting “this isn’t over. You will be hearing from us again.”

Best wishes
Rob and the Friends’ of Arthur Hill

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Tackling speeding on London Road by the hospital

Green councillors are often contacted by people raising speeding on London Road in the Cemetery Junction/hospital area. We have been working with police on this for a while. Update below. The headline is that they are now enforcing this area. Let us know what you think.

"Thank you for your recent letter about speed enforcement. I have taken the liberty of emailing you in reply to make sure you get a timely reply.

We deploy safety cameras and officers to tackle road safety issues. We  focus them mainly on enforcement of the so called “fatal 4” offences of speed, mobile phone use, drink/drug driving and seatbelt offences. This is because it I shown that targeted enforcement of these offences can positively impact on reducing the volume of killed or seriously injured collisions.

Clearly catching offenders is an important part of our role as without this there would be no deterrent, nor a route to educating drivers (through diversion courses where applicable).

In relation to the stretch of the A4 which you mention, we have a mobile camera enforcement site there. The site was approved in August 2014 and runs from Cemetery junction to the junction with Eldon Road which is just prior to the Royal Berkshire Hospital. I understand that you were supportive of the initial request for enforcement there.

In the last 12 months there have been 34 visits by the mobile camera van which have detected 1040 offences. These were supplemented by officer led enforcement on both an ad-hoc and targeted basis.

In the last 5 years (01/07/2016 to 30/06/2016) there have been 9 reported personal injury collisions along this section of the A4, 2 of which were serious injury collisions."

Monday, 10 October 2016

Help with tree planting in Palmer Park...

See below for a message from Kate about tree planting in Palmer Park:

Cultivation Field is planting 420 Woodland Trust tree saplings in Palmer Park, Reading, on the weekend of 12th-13th November 2016. RBC has given permission to plant the Woodland Trust trees. This project incorporates the local community, artists and groups including Transition Town Reading and the Green Party. We will be continuing a line of trees planted a few years ago along the fence next to the railway line.
For the tree planting on 12th November, we will start at 11am. Meet either in front of the sports centre or find us at the fence next to the railway line behind the back sports centre, (close to Palmer Park Avenue). Please bring your own digging tools, (spade, fork or trowel). If you would like to participate in this project please contact Cultivation Field through our contact page.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Community meeting to save Arthur Hill pool

Well done again to Peter for presenting the petition to the council, Kizzi for asking a question and everyone for coming to the demo and signing the petition. We now have a public meeting to discuss how we can save Arthur Hill swimming pool.

Customers and friends of Arthur Hill Pool are invited to a Community Meeting to discuss the future of Arthur Hill Swimming Pool and Reading Borough Council plans to close the pool.

7.30 – 9.30 pm, Thursday 6th October
The Warehouse Centre, 1A Cumberland Road, Reading, RG1 3LB

Come along and have your say.

Bring your ideas to keep the pool open!

All welcome – admission free

Best wishes
Rob White and the Friends’ of Arthur Hill

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Palmer Park Astroturf court closures

I got the following update from the council about works to the Palmer Park Astroturf lights meaning that the Astroturf pitches will be closed for 3 weeks at the start of October. See below for more detail:

"Following a safety inspection of the lighting at Palmer Park we need to replace the power supply and columns around the Astro-turf at Palmer Park.    This does NOT relate to concerns over lamp column structures but degradation of electrical supply. This was identified during regular routine inspection of electrical services. We are taking the opportunity to re-site the columns and replace the lamp fittings with a much more efficient arrangement. This will provide energy savings in comparison to the existing lamps and will also allow one court at a time to be illuminated rather than an all or nothing arrangement as present.

The work includes laying new power cables from the stadium building. Since the original lighting was installed trees have been planted over the cable runs or immediately adjacent to the columns.  Three trees will therefore need to be felled as part of this process. The trees are planted mainly as screening around the courts, and we are aware that if we encounter similar problems again in the future we may need to repeat the process if we replant trees in similar positions. On balance we feel it is worth maintaining this vegetative screen even if this means the trees have a limited period they can be grown before potential replacement. One tree to be felled is a large ornamental tree called a Catalpa. We will be planting 4 replacement trees this autumn.

This electrical work is scheduled to be undertaken from 3rd October and will mean the courts will be closed for 3 weeks. The tree works will precede this."

Thursday, 22 September 2016

4 ways to save Arthur Hill baths

Thanks for signing the petition to save Arthur Hill swimming pool ( As I write this email 873 people have currently signed it online and we have another 200 signatures on paper! If we can get to 1500 petition signatures (online and paper combined) this will force a debate on the issue at Council and buy us some time.

Here are 4 ways we can reach this target:

1. Promote the online petition using social media such as Facebook and Twitter (share from this Facebook page
2. Collect signatures on paper from family members, at schools and at work. Print out a petition sheet here:
3. Put up a poster promoting the petition and upcoming council meeting:
4. Come to the demo before the council meeting on Monday, September 26, 6 PM outside the new Civic Centre on Bridge Street. Just turn up or bring a sign

Thanks everyone in advance. Together we can make a difference on this.

Best wishes
Rob White

And the Friends of Arthur Hill Baths team

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

NEW Redlands parking proposals published, what do you think?

Part of the Redlands parking proposals, see the appendices in the report linked to below for the full plans (you will need to zoom in!)

The Traffic Committee agenda is out and it contains Labour’s new parking proposals for Old Redlands. Green campaigner Kizzi Murtagh and the team have been working with residents to tackle parking problems in Redlands for the last few years. This proposal is better than the last few. Email us letting us know what you think:

The report and plans can be found by following the link below.

A few quick observations:

– apart from the comments below the residents' parking and pay-and-display proposals around the hospital to the west of Alexandra Road remain unchanged:
– all side roads in the block to the east of Alexandra Road between Lydford Road and London Road are proposed to have permit holders only beyond this point signs. This means no marked out parking bays and no loss of spaces. However also no visitors' hours (where people without a permit can park for free between certain hours)
– yellow lines proposed for Lancaster, Whitby and Avebury but no residents' parking. As these roads are on the edge of a large zone this will worsen parking problems in these roads
– do De Beauvoir, Carnarvon and Granby Gardens want to change to this form of residents’ parking which may tackle some of the parking problems in their roads?
– if this scheme goes ahead then it will worsen parking problems at its edges and the Park Ward consultation and scheme will be needed as soon as possible. But unfortunately the council has yet to commit to a timescale for this
– this scheme doesn't improve the situation for staff and visitors at the hospital

What do you think? Better or worse?

Friday, 12 August 2016

Crescent Road emergency closure

Crescent Road will be closed tomorrow (Saturday) so a void underneath the road can be investigated and repaired. See below for more information from the council.

"A void has been discovered under the carriageway in Crescent Road near the junction with Wokingham Road. A metal plate has been placed over the defect to make it safe. In order for the repair to be completed the road will have to be closed. A Temporary Traffic Regulation Order has been sent to the emergency services effective from today. The Council will be closing the road from tomorrow morning when an investigation will be carried out. Our expectation is that the work will be completed early next week and the road re-opened as soon as it is safe to do so."

We will do what we can to make sure the road is reopened as soon as it is safe to do so.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Progress on a Real Living Wage for Reading school cooks

Following Green councillors getting Reading Council to sign up to paying a Living Wage we have been continuing to keep up the pressure on this issue. As well as people who work directly for the council the policy also applies to people working on contracts with the council. The school meals contract is one of the larger contracts and following our continued lobbying on this issue the council has committed to doing the groundwork necessary to move us towards getting a Living Wage for all cooks.

We will keep working for a fairer, more caring town.

Briefing below:

The Council is an accredited living wage employer by the Living Wage Foundation (LWF) and seeks to ensure that all Council staff are paid a living wage currently set at £8.25 per hour as opposed to the lesser National Living Wage currently set at £7.20 per hour.

In April, Chartwells increased all of their employee’s wages to match this National Living Wage. They also increased the rate of pay for other members of staff to match the increment as before. So now the average rate of pay of cooks is £8.53 per hour and Assistant Cooks is £7.30 per hour.
The current school meals contract with Chartwells was originally entered into in 2012, prior to the council agreeing to being accredited as a living wage employer, currently operating on the basis of the National Living wage as a minimum payment to staff. This does not impact on the council’s accreditation with the LWF as the employees are not directly employed by the Council but by Chartwells.

The Chartwells contract is to be extended by 2 years in September 2016, and there is an option to extend for a further 2 years in 2018, subject to the continued support of schools buying in. During the next several months the school meals team will be engaging with Chartwells to explore the implications of a potential alignment of pay with the LWF rate. Chartwells have previously indicated their willingness to engage in discussion. The most obvious concern for schools and parents would be the impact of wage inflation on the cost of a meal currently being held by Chartwells at £2.10 for the duration of the extension period.

Following these exploratory discussions officers will report back on options and implications. 

Monday, 20 June 2016

Purple flower at large in Newtown...

Another guest post from Debbie cousins about local wildlife:

Many Newtown gardens are currently bursting into life in a purple haze, thanks to this common garden plant. It is a type of Campanula or Bellflower and although it isn’t a native plant, bees and other insects love it. Recently I was tidying up my front garden and two people stopped to remark on this plant: one said how lovely the purple plant was, while a neighbour asked if it was a weed or whether it was meant to be there? There are a number of definitions for what a weed is, but the most popular is probably ‘A wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants’. So it’s not a ‘weed’ as it isn’t a wild plant, but rather it is a cultivated plant that can get a bit rampant!

Due to its open flower structure, it is popular with pollinating insects such as bees and I recently photographed a female red-tailed bumblebee busy collecting pollen from the flowers. She seemed to be weighed down by the pollen baskets on her hind legs that she uses to collect the pollen.

So while this Bellflower might need keeping under control so that it doesn’t swamp all of your other plants, please retain some of the cheerful blooms for people and wildlife to enjoy!

Friday, 10 June 2016

Areawide permit parking for Park Ward and Crescent Road safety?

Above: map showing current residents’ parking situation in the south of Park Ward. A bigger version can be found at the end of the council report linked to below.

Following a number of petitions from residents in Park Ward asking the council to look into permit parking, the council is proposing developing and consulting on an areawide scheme. These petitions (and the survey for Holmes Road down to Green Road which isn't indicated on the map) have been prompted by existing parking problems, the general creep of residents’ parking and the prospect of a large residents’ parking scheme in the Redlands area.

More information can be found in the council report here:

As the report says there are a number of schemes ahead of this one in the queue, so unfortunately I suspect it will be a while until the scheme is developed, and consulted upon but we will keep up the pressure.

We don’t believe residents’ parking on its own will solve our parking congestion problems. We will keep up the pressure for better walking and cycling facilities, cheaper public transport and car sharing schemes.

The same report splits out Crescent Road safety measures into a separate stream of work which will hopefully get going as soon as possible. As there are now three large schools on this stretch of road, usage has increased and so have issues.

We will keep working to improve the area. We will also keep you informed (email me if you want to get updates on schemes in your road: Let us know what you think.

Tackling Palmer Park puddles

This was from a while ago, but we have made a bit of progress tackling some of the puddles in Palmer Park. Still some way to go though. Where is the worst puddle at the moment?

Dear Cllr Williams

Thank you for your enquiry about the drainage problems in Palmer Park. I can advise the following in relation to the actions we discussed:

The drain on the corner of the footpath outside the football courts (D1 on your original plan) has now been cleaned and connected into the nearby soakaway (SA). The adjacent footpath (F3) has also been re-profiled to prevent puddling. This work was completed a week ago and we expect to see a significant benefit when it next rains.

The drain on the main driveway that was blocked (D3) has been cleaned. I will now put all of these drains onto the twice annual cleaning programme.

I have not yet received quotations for installing soakaways at the two other areas of footpath that flood (F1 and F2). I will arrange for these and let you know the likely costs as soon as possible.

Please let me now if you have any further questions about this matter.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Redlands parking meeting June 2016...progress

Kizzi and I attended the Redlands parking scheme meeting. I had to leave the meeting early to help put James to bed, but just before I left, after a bumpy start, things were looking promising for putting the scheme on pause – as we have been asking for.

One of the Labour councillors backing the scheme said that if there was lots of opposition to the scheme, as there was at the meeting, through the public consultation which finishes on Friday then the scheme could be put on hold.

So please respond to the consultation. We are also delivering a letter updating residents. If you have time to deliver a road let us know (

Together we can make a difference and pause the scheme so a better one can be developed with residents, hospital staff and visitors to the hospital.

Finally, well done to John for organising the meeting and well done everyone for turning up.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Have your say on pay-and-display around the hospital...

A council consultation is now running on the plans from Labour councillors to introduce a large pay-and-display and residents’ parking scheme around the hospital. This consultation is your opportunity to respond to the Council and register your views.

We have concerns about this scheme – plans of which can be found overleaf and more detailed plans online here:

Our main concern is that it will displace parking to other areas around its edge (e.g. east of Alexandra Road, Avebury Square and Whitby Drive). We think most of this scheme should be paused now, so it can be improved for all residents in Redlands.

Comments can be sent by email to quoting ref: CA/4562 and CA/4748 . Transport Planner Jim Chen can answer any questions on 0118 9372198. Alternatively you can write to:

C J Brooks, Head of Legal and Democratic Services
Reading Borough Council, Civic Offices, Bridge Street, Reading, RG1 2LU

The consultation ends on June 9th and the results will go to a future Traffic Committee which will decide to go ahead or not. Email us if you would like to be kept updated.

We will keep working with residents for fair and sustainable transport solutions.

UPDATE: a public meeting on this issue has been organised by a resident concerned about the impact of this scheme for Monday, June 6, 6 PM until 8 PM at St Luke’s Church. Everyone welcome.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Getting the Green Road recreation site into use

I have been doing a bit more digging around on plans to bring the old Green Road tennis courts back into use for football and hockey. See below for some questions from me (based on what residents have been asking me) and summarised answers from the council. What do people think about the best way to forward from here?

Q. Why football and hockey?
A. Because that is what the schools and other users want.

Q. What about having some tennis courts there?
A. See above. Having spoken to colleagues in Leisure they advise that for tennis the nearest RBC provision is at Cintra Park, where a new free court is available, and the University also has tennis facilities presumably for hire to the public.

Q. What is happening with the access to the playing fields promised years ago?
A. Recent discussions with colleagues in planning will result in us engaging Taylor Wimpey with a view to creating a link path from the Regis Rd Flats along the eastern boundary of the playing field. You will recall there was a section 106 requirement upon them to do so. School use of the field will require management by the user schools to ensure safeguarding , but it is better than making a new opening to the Wokingham Rd. They have been consulted on the proposal.

Q. Will a council officer meet with residents to discuss this issue further?
A. No

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Park and ride car parks increase car usage

A guest blog post from Green councillor Josh Williams on park-and-ride car parks:

What’s the evidence on park and ride car parks?

A quick look around the web shows that there is now a growing body of evidence for the impact of a ‘park and ride’ carpark in or near a town.

You can look at the Wikipedia entry if you like, where one study notes that ‘the survival of local politicians is dependent upon [a car park's] continuation, irrespective of its actual success.’

Or if you don’t trust Wikipedia you could look at blogs written by actual people like this one about how park and rides encourage car use:

Or if you prefer a more academic study, you could have a longer read showing that two thirds of park and rides have no effect or increase car journeys:

Perhaps it’s worth considering how one of our fairly close neighbours, Bath, have been looking at a proposed park and ride recently, where they note that ‘Academic evidence seriously questions the assumption that Park and Rides reduce vehicle use’:

How does it increase use? More journeys are made as people make a car trip to the new car park that they otherwise wouldn't have. More bus journeys are taken from the car park, and as more people consider that congestion into town might have eased, they too make a new car journey into town that they otherwise wouldn't have. Traffic into town remains in the same awful congested state, plus the park and ride traffic.

What do we think about the East Reading park-and-ride (and link road into Reading town centre)?

We think that the evidence shows that it is possible to use a limited park and ride scheme in a really integrated transport solution. That solution needs great cycling infrastructure. It needs cheap, reliable, frequent public transport (both buses and trains). It needs 20mph limits across town to encourage walking and cycling in relative safety, and it needs a whole host of other measures like closing town centre parking (in an ideal world this would make way for good quality social housing) that the Labour administration for some reason refuse to implement. 

Without that; it’s just another car park, just more congestion, and just more pollution in our already polluted air. Any car park mustn't just tarmac over our precious green space. We need to preserve the space by the Thames as a natural resource for our children and our children’s children. Even in a well-integrated scheme, location is everything. 

Instead of putting a park-and-ride on the Thames-side and a link road over Kennet Mouth into the town centre, surely a more sensible option would be to introduce an integrated transport system as described above. Then we could put another level on the new Winnersh park and ride (meaning no loss of green space), and removing that number of parking spaces from Reading town centre would truly cut car journeys into town.

The Labour party in Reading call all of this evidence the ‘big lie’. We call it the ‘big question’: why do they think it’s a good idea to cover over our precious green space with tarmac and increase car journeys to and through Reading? This is a question they have yet to answer.

What do you think?

Unlike Labour, we’re listening. Let us know what you think.


PS: if you’re interested, a news item on this appeared on the getreading website in November 2015 and a petition has been raised by concerned local residents here:

Monday, 25 April 2016

Sand martins back in East Reading

Another guest blog post from Debbie on East Reading wildlife. This time, the sand martins are back...

If you go down to Kennetside now, you will be able to see the sand martin colony that returns to this area every spring to breed. Their normal nesting habitat would be in burrows that they excavate in places like sandy river banks and quarry faces, but in East Reading these resourceful birds utilise old drainage pipes in walls and bridges in which to build their nests. One of the best places to spot them is on the Newtown side of the railway bridge that the Horseshoe Bridge is attached to. Look up at the drainage pipes and you will see them flying in and out. They also sometimes use the old drainage pipes in the walls of the Kennet as you walk into town and also near to Bel and the Dragon.

They are small birds with short, forked tails. They are very similar to house martins, which can also be seen nesting in Newtown, but these make mud nest under the eaves of buildings.

Sand martins have brown wings and a pale underside with a distinctive brown band under their chin. House martins are bluey black with a pale underside and a distinctive white rump. These features can be difficult to spot when they fly so fast, but if you see birds flying in and out of these old drainage pipes then you can be sure that these are the sand martins. They also give fantastic aerial displays over the water as they hunt for insects.

The other bird species that martins are sometimes confused with, are:
Swallows – these are small birds with glossy blue backs, red throats and pale underparts, but their really distinguishing feature is their long, tapering forked tail, the forks often described as ‘streamers’. You may see them feeding over the Thames.

Swifts – these are larger than martins and swallows, are uniformly dark brown (although they appear black in the sky) and with short forked tails. They have distinctive scythe-shaped wings and can be seen every summer flying very fast around Newtown (often very high in the sky) in small flocks with a piercing ‘scream’. They tend to arrive a bit later than the sand martins and are usually the first to leave as well.

Follow these links for more information, including photographs and comparisons between each species described above:

Friday, 22 April 2016

Council says yes to alternative Big Lunch date avoiding Ramadan

The Big Lunch is a nationwide street party. The council will let you close your street for free (subject to approval). As Reading is a diverse place I was contacted by one street wanting to organise a Big Lunch street party a week early to avoid Ramadan...and the council says yes. See below for more information.

"I have been forwarded your enquiry regarding whether the residents could hold their ‘Big Lunch’ street party on 5 June as opposed to the weekend of 11/12 June which is the official weekend designated for Big Lunch/Queen’s 90th Birthday celebrations.

"I have spoken with colleagues in Network Management, and they have checked and  said that they would be able to include the  street party if  it took place  on 5th June.  The residents still  need to go through the application process at  - but if approved the street closure fee will be waived as with those approved parties taking place on 11/12 June."

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Reading council needs to be more transparent over education

At a recent education committee I was disappointed that there was no breakdown of A-level (Key stage 5) performance separating out the selective (grammar) schools. So I asked the council to provide me with this information – see the bar chart above showing average points score (APS) per examination entry.

Key to the bar chart:
LA = local authority (Reading)
LA non-selective = how we do if you remove the selective (grammar) schools
SN average = how our statistical neighbours are doing (Brighton, Bristol, Southampton and so on)

Because the selective schools take academic high achievers from across an area which goes far beyond Reading's boundaries, including them in our overall results distorts things massively as you can see from the graph.

As you can see when the selective schools are removed the Local Authority goes from being one of the best local authorities in the country to worse than our statistical neighbours, and worse than the England average.

Last week OFSTED slammed the council over the performance of Reading schools with regards to GCSE results and students on free school meals. Again this was another area that was mentioned in the report, but the scale of the problem was not.

If the council is going to improve its performance at working with schools to better educate our young people, first of all it needs to be transparent about what the current situation is and recognise the scale of the challenge ahead of it.

Now that many schools in Reading are academies and following government cuts to council education improvement budgets, the council is less able to support schools. But along with the regional school commissioners the council is still accountable and responsible for making sure Reading children receive a great education. Green councillors will keep lobbying the Council to make this a reality.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Now is a good time to see the Loddon Lily

Now is the perfect time to spot one of the Thames Valley's special native plants, the Loddon Lily, right on East Reading's doorstep.

From Newtown, cross over the Horseshoe Bridge and just as you turn the corner to head towards town, you will see clumps of this beautiful plant just on your right, growing beside the River Thames. It looks like a giant snowdrop with its nodding white flowers and delicate green dots on the tips of the petals. It is a nationally rare plant but is locally common in the Thames Valley, being found on river banks and in wet woodlands. It is also known as the Summer Snowflake, but this is a misnomer as it flowers in early spring, which gives it a head start over competitive, invasive species such as Himalayan balsam which also grows in this location but which emerges later in the year.

So why not pop down to admire this rare plant on our doorstep?

Here is what it looks like.

Thanks to Debbie for the heads up and putting this text together!

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Extra swimming lessons at Arthur Hill baths on the way

Just got this from the council on extra swimming lessons at Arthur Hill baths. Great to see more progress following our work with residents a little while ago. I will post more information when I have it.

"From the 1st of April 2016 there will be a slight amendment to the swimming timetable at Arthur Hills Swimming Baths to accommodate extra swimming lessons. Swimming lessons were reintroduced onsite last year and we are reaching the point where we need to provide additional stages of lessons for those who first started and are completing their initial stages. Providing this progression ensures that new participants can access the earlier stages of lessons as learners move on.

Following careful consideration, Fridays are the favoured option as there is opportunity to adjust the times of the current general swim and adult lanes session to be slightly later in the day, continuing to accommodate both without need for cancellation. Practically this will mean that the general swim hours will decrease slightly whilst the adult lane session increases slightly. We have found that the adult lane swimming session is more popular and this option therefore presents minimal disruption. Timetable change:

                                       Current                              New
General Swim                  3.15pm – 6pm (2.75 hrs)     5pm – 6.30pm (1.5 hrs)
Adult Lanes                     6pm – 7.30pm (1.5 hrs)       6.30pm – 8.45pm (2.25 hrs)

Customers will be notified of upcoming changes on site and through the new activity brochure and marketing material in development for April.

We view these changes as minimal in nature and essentially ‘business as usual’, adapting to accommodate changing demand for services, please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like any additional information."

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

RESCUE community litter picks across Reading this week and weekend

Reading RESCUE – a community litter pick – is here again.

Our group - Newtown Globe - will be meeting to tidy up!

Where: outside The Jolly Anglers pub 314-316 Kennetside RG1 3EA
When: 2 PM on Saturday, 5th March
Who: you and why not bring a friend

We have some gloves and litter pickers, but if you have your own feel free to bring them. We will spend a couple of hours tidying up the area and then the council will take it away for us.

If you can't make this event have a look here at others going on across Reading – our comrades in Redlands GLOBE usually organise a good one for example:

It would be handy to know if you are coming for planning purposes.

Any problems on the day give me a call on my mobile phone: 07985 923 938

Best wishes

Rob White

Sunday, 7 February 2016

What next for the Green Road old tennis courts?

Green Road old tennis courts
Since the council decided to turn the old Green Road tennis courts over to recreation use, we have been encouraging them to get on with this.

We got an update last week. The council says it is going to convert the space to seven aside football and hockey use. They say there is demand for this and that it would complement the existing use of playing fields. They hope to have this done within nine months.

The council are also continuing to look into access onto the playing fields from Regis Park Road. This could be done within a few months.

What do you think?

When we have more information we will post it here.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Work day in Reading Old Cemetery, get involved...

Reading Borough Council, working in partnership with Friends of Reading Old Cemetery, Reading Tree Wardens and other community groups are organising a workday at Reading Old Cemetery, Cemetery Junction, Reading, the event will take place on Saturday 6th February, starting 8.30am ready to work at 9am, through till around 3pm.

The work will involve cutting back brambles and vegetation as per the Cemetery management plan, cutting self-seeders, creating sight lines and clearing some graves that are visually interesting.

Reading Borough Council will provide hand tools for the work, the Tree Gang will be on site to carry out some of the heavier work.

If they are interested in attending the event please contact Bridget Hickey on mobile 07720040009.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

How to stop parking in Redlands getting worse...

Labour councillors are planning to go ahead with pay-and-display (which will make the council £100,000 per year) and residents’ parking but only around the hospital area (green on map above) and have dropped plans for residents’ parking to the east of Alexandra Road (red on map above). The next step is a formal consultation with residents – we will send out details of this when we have them – unfortunately this will be in May after the elections (register your interest by emailing me:

Campaigner Kizzi Murtagh thinks this approach to parking is a bad idea and urges people to respond to the consultation when it happens. We think pressure needs to be put on the hospital and university to be good neighbours, and the council needs to do more to promote walking, cycling and public transport.

We believe that solutions are needed to the parking problems in Old Redlands and close to the hospital. But we think these must be done sensitively, with the communities affected, not by drastically reducing the amount of parking (which the previous scheme did), and not by shifting problems from one road to the next (which this scheme will do).

We will be lobbying for the Council to properly consider residents’ parking bays on both sides of the road in the St Luke’s Church area (and beyond where appropriate). Cars would park a little on the pavement, as they do now, but a residents’ parking scheme would reduce the number of cars in the area and make it easier for people to park and get around.

The formal consultation will happen in the next few months, we will let you know when it starts and how you can respond as soon as we have the information. Please share this with your friends and family in the area and get them to email us back registering their interest ( as the more people that respond to this consultation the better.

Traffic Committee report here:

Saturday, 9 January 2016

New Town primary and St John's consulting on becoming academies

New Town primary school and St John's have announced some consultation meetings on becoming academies. I am sceptical about this and about what the benefits are especially as the latest communication doesn't seem to give any. What do you think? Full details of consultation meetings near the bottom.

"Two [consultation] meetings will take place on Tuesday 12th January, one at 2:00pm at New Town Primary School and one at 7:00pm at St John’s Primary School. Both meetings will be the same and they will consist of informal discussion, a formal presentation and the start of the formal consultation process. 

We wrote to you on 10th December to tell you about the governors’ plans to form a new multi academy trust with St John’s Primary School and New Town Primary School. I would now like to share some further information with you, answer some of the questions you have asked and invite you to a meeting to hear more about these plans.

The Academies programme is a central feature of government policy, and also of previous governments. The purpose of the Academies programme is to give every school the opportunity to decide if it wants to continue under the umbrella of the local authority or to become an independent autonomous body.

Over recent years there have been on-going financial constraints and cuts faced by local government and many services traditionally provided to schools by the Local Authority have been either reduced or completely phased out.
Both New Town and St John’s have had to consider whether or not to convert to an academy. In considering the various possibilities open to each school, the staff and governors have at all times kept the following two matters at the forefront of their thinking:

1.  What is in the best interests of the children of St John’s Primary School and New Town Primary School, both now and looking ahead to those who will attend either school in the years to come?
2.  How can we best preserve the distinctive ethos in each school and continue to adhere to our vision statements?

What is an Academy?
An academy is a government funded school that is independent of the Local Authority. Whilst academy status gives schools additional responsibilities, and greater freedoms, in terms of the day to day functioning, an academy school will not be noticeably different to a Local Authority maintained school.

Responsibility for funding an academy school, monitoring performance and any capital projects will fall to central government rather than to local government.
If the decision is made to transfer to become an academy, the school and governing body will join an academy trust, which is a charitable company.  In this way, no one can make any money from the company. The company is limited by guarantee. It does not pay dividends and makes no profit but is a legal entity.

Schools have the option to stay as they are, to convert as stand-alone academies, or to convert as part of a Multi-Academy Trust.  The governors of both schools have looked in detail at the options available and have agreed that becoming academies, as part of the Royal Berkshire Schools Trust (RBST), should be explored in detail in order to establish whether or not this would be the best way to safeguard the distinctive education offered by each school.  Sustaining the character and ethos of each school was central to every discussion that took place.

Being part of the RBST will enable school leaders and governors to take control of the future of both schools and lead forward with clear vision, as well as enable school staff to concentrate on continuing to deliver the highest standards of teaching and care to all pupils.  This support is given through central services which are funded through a 5% top slice from the academies’ income.  RBST academies will automatically be provided with a Service Level Agreement that includes support with the curriculum, school improvement, HR advice, finance software, training and advice, governance, premises and admissions appeals.

Why are we exploring conversion as part of RBST?
At the heart of the RBST vision is the commitment to educational excellence.  The RBST has at its core a calling to serve pupils, staff, parents and the local community by providing academies with the highest levels of academic rigour and pastoral care.  Academies are places where children and young people develop and thrive intellectually, socially, culturally and spiritually.

Both schools in the RBST will teach a broad and balanced curriculum within national guidelines.  Focusing on core skills, this is designed to ensure that all pupils reach their academic potential and seeks to enrich their experience along the way.  Pupils are enabled to succeed in an atmosphere of high expectation, aspiring to educational excellence with a firm commitment to Christian values.

RBST is committed to sustaining St John’s as an outstanding school, as well as supporting New Town which is in need of specific improvement.  The Trust will set out to recruit and retain staff of the highest quality and to offer them the working conditions they need to give of their best as they serve the pupils in their care.  It will work in partnership with families so that children can be engaged and effective learners.

RBST will seek to embody the Christian experience of community, where gifts are shared without counting the cost, where the emphasis is on what can be contributed, rather than on what might be received, and where each is given according to need.

As a limited company operating within the family of the Diocese of Oxford, the Trust is motivated by Christian values to serve local communities, but it will not impose those values.  RBST welcomes those of all faiths and none, and is proud of the ethnic diversity within its schools.

Being part of RBST will change some things behind the scenes but otherwise you and your children will see very little difference when we make this change.  We will continue to work closely with our school community, other local primary and secondary schools.  The names of the schools will not change, the uniforms will not change and we will not change term dates or the school’s admissions policies.  The differing religious characteristics of each school will remain unaffected.

Being part of the Trust allows both schools to maintain their unique ethos and character, allows for the partnership to develop further with the same management and leadership currently in place and most importantly allows us to take control of our future and make decisions based on what is right for the children of each school.  The Board of Trustees will be leaders and governors who are currently leading both schools.

RBST is being established with just two schools initially which  allows for strength to remain in the individual schools in the East Reading community as well as united strength together.  Other Multi- Academy Trusts set up by the Oxford Diocese have been able to maintain the individual ethos of each school, whether community schools or voluntary aided. The Oxford Diocese therefore knows and understands what it means to preserve the ethos of a school and is totally committed to sustaining the character and ethos of each Primary School.  RBST will not make any central curriculum decisions though it will help schools to respond to new developments and enable a collaborative approach to finding suitable solutions.

In every discussion that has been had and every decision that has been made, we want to assure you that our focus remains wholly on your children’s learning, and ensuring each school retains its community identity, distinctiveness, autonomy and drive to improve. We are committed to providing the best possible education, both now and in the future; any decision to convert to an academy will have these values at its core.

Next steps for St John’s Primary School and New Town Primary School
There will be several opportunities for you to receive more information in the New Year as well as share your views formally and informally.  Two meetings will take place on Tuesday 12th January, one at 2:00pm at New Town Primary School and one at 7:00pm at St John’s Primary School. Both meetings will be the same and they will consist of informal discussion, a formal presentation and the start of the formal consultation process.  At the consultation meetings on 12th January, the governors and school leaders will be present, as well as Anne Davey, Director of Schools for the Oxford Diocese and Mark Jones, HR Adviser, who will provide an opportunity for you to find out what academy status would mean for our schools and to ask questions, as it is important that we receive your views before a final decision is taken.
The Governing Bodies of each school make the decision on whether or not each school becomes part of the Multi-Academy Trust; however, the consultation process seeks the views of parents and other stakeholders to inform that decision.

We hope that you can attend one of the meetings next term and that you continue to give the governors and the staff your support in driving our schools forward.
If you have any questions, please email the Clerk to the governing body of St John’s on clearly stating who your question or comment is for.  A full list of governors at each school is overleaf.



St John’s CE (Aided) Primary School

Ex Officio Foundation Governor

Rev V Gardner (Vicar of St John’s & St Stephen’s Church)

Foundation Governor appointed by the Diocese of Oxford

Mr D Langshaw (Chair of the Governing Body)
Mr G Buick
Foundation Governors appointed by the Parochial Church Council of St John’s & St Stephen’s Church
Mrs M. Harwood
Mr S Hodgson (Vice Chairman of the Governing Body)
Mrs N Stevenson
Dr R Penny
Dr L Methven
Mrs A Reilly
Governors appointed by the Local Education Authority (Reading Borough Council)

Parent Governors

Mrs C Burges
Mr N Hooley
Mr L Pullen


Mrs A Brackstone

Staff Governors

Mrs M Pett (School Business Manager)
Co-opted Governor
Mrs J Kitching (Year One Teacher)
Associate Governor
Mr D Bickford

New Town Primary School

Mr Michael Lambden (Chair of the IEB)

Dr Asif Butt

Ms Siobhan Egan

Mrs Angie Kay