Thursday, 17 December 2020

Palmer Park swimming pool planning application submitted

It's 4 years since Reading Labour councillors closed Arthur Hill swimming pool. Still no swimming pool in east Reading, but a planning application has now gone in.

Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) the organisation that Reading Labour Council were planning on outsourcing leisure to – before the pandemic – have put in for planning permission for a swimming pool in Palmer Park. You can view all of the documents and respond here.

At the moment there is still no contract between the council and GLL (Green councillors have been concerned about plans to outsource leisure rather than running it in-house).

A large number of documents make up the planning application and it will take us a while to get through them. I have had a quick look though as I know many residents are concerned about the loss of green space. We share these concerns and have lobbied for no green space to be lost. I have posted some plans from the planning application below.

Please let us know what you think.

This is the current footprint with 209 spaces in the car park is:

Below is the worst option from when the council consulted on council plans (development framework) a little while ago showing an expanded car park with 230 parking spaces:

This is the current planning application showing a reduced car park with 131 parking spaces:

When we have read through and got to grips with the application I will post some more detail here. In the meantime have a look and let me know what you think.

UPDATE 1: the planning documents clarify that "...992 square metres...0.6% of the overall greenspace provision at the park" will be lost to the development.

UPDATE 2: It looked like one of the large limes on the Palmer Park Avenue side of the park was going to be removed, but thanks to residents raising it and Greens lobbying on this the plans will be amended to save the tree.

UPDATE 3: Planning permission has been granted.

Friday, 11 December 2020

Morgan Road Playing Fields sell off consultation

Guest post from David McElroy, Redlands Green campaigner (above right with Cllr Jamie Whitham):

UPDATE: Abbey school have said that they are interested in buying the playing fields.

Lots of residents have contacted me recently about Reading School’s proposal to sell off part of its playing fields on Morgan Road and then convert some of the remaining to an artificial pitch.

I know that Redlands Cllr Jamie Whitham and myself share many of those concerns, and we will continue to support local residents through any future Planning process. Any new sports buildings, and likely the 3G pitch, would need their own planning permission, as would any future development based on the land.

Below is some very dry planning related stuff, but I know that a lot of residents just don’t want to lose an amazing green resource in the community, great views, great history, and replace all that with posh flats and a plastic pitch.

Let the school know what you think by Tuesday, December 22.

Now for the dry planning bit.

The Planning process rests on the Council’s Local Plan, and the playing fields fall into the local Conservation Area – although residents have already spotted that there are two conflicting maps used at the end of the Conservation Area appraisal!

But the new Local Plan

(Map F) shows the playing fields included in the Conservation Area, and this is the primary document so my understanding would be that they are included. Eagle-eyed readers of those documents (who zoom in) will also see larger green dots over the playing fields denoting an existing or proposed Green Link (policy EN12).

I would also argue that the declared Climate Emergency is very real and very valid in a material sense in Planning terms (including at least one adjudication from the Inspectorate to back this up.)

Additionally, the local plan says: "playing fields ... should only be developed where: a) an assessment clearly shows the area to be surplus to requirements; or b) the loss would be replaced by equivalent or better provision in terms of quantity and quality in a suitable location; or c) the development is for alternative sports and recreational provision, the needs for which clearly outweigh the loss." (Policy OU1) It also notes the: "national policy presumption against loss of playing fields in the NPPF."

Remember to respond to the consultation and we will keep working with you to protect and improve the local area.

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Update on Henley Road Cemetery Muslim graves section

I have been contacted by residents concerned about council plans to grass over graves at the Henley Road cemetery in the Muslim graves section. I raised this with the council and got the following response which is being sent out to families with relatives buried there. Let me know if there is anything else I can do to help.

“Further to previous correspondence regarding your [mother/father’s] grave and the intention for the section where [she/he] is buried to be laid to lawn, I can now confirm that Reading Borough Council will be writing to all grave owners with loved ones buried in that section, with an option to change the grave type to a traditional grave. The decision to change grave type will only be able to be approved by the grave owner and the costs associated with this change will also be their responsibility.

Signs will also be placed near this section so that all loved ones are aware of this option. Grave owners will have a 6 months notification period to confirm their preferred grave type and a further 6 months for stone sets to be implemented. Upon receipt of the request to change to the traditional grave type, a letter will be sent you the grave owner by Reading Borough Council confirming the fees payable. These fees only cover the licence costs for RBC, they do not cover the cost of the headstone and traditional grave itself. Quotations will need to be obtained by the grave owner from licenced stone masons approved by Reading Borough Council. We will send you a list of approved stone masons.

I am also writing to the Chair of each of the mosques in Reading with this message to confirm the position. Additionally, I will share with them my hope that families who cannot afford to cover expenses but wish for a traditional grave should be duly supported by the mosque communities.

It is clear that information pertaining to the graves in this cemetery section was not properly conveyed by community representatives. To mitigate against communication lapses occurring again, I am committed to the following:-

• Community engagement sessions to be arranged to ensure the decision above and all future relevant information is also communicated to the wider Muslim community. All of these sessions will include Muslim councillors, representatives from each of the Reading mosques, representation from the Pakistani Community Centre and the Lead Councillor for Corporate and Consumer Services (or pertinent portfolio Councillor) and a representative from the Council’s Bereavement Services management team.

• Commitment to clear communication (via website and leaflets) with bereaved families. Leaflets are to be prepared in English and an appropriate second language providing:
o A clear description of what a Lawn grave is, how they are maintained, and the costs involved.
o A clear description of what a Traditional grave is, the conditions regarding requirement for a stone set and the costs involved.
o The Terms & Conditions for both grave types in respect of size, planting and use of adornments.

• Burial Notices to be shared with grave owners as well as the Licensee acting on behalf of the family.

• Written agreements to be introduced between Reading Borough Council and mosques with full details as above.

I would like to thank you for your representations and hope that you find this to be an amicable position.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me should you have any further queries about this specific issue or contact the Bereavement Team for general enquiries and to make arrangements for your loved one’s grave. Grave owners can expect to receive letters from Reading Borough Council in [the coming weeks].”

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Black History Mural and sign Central Club petition - preserving our community heritage

Guest post by Louise Keane - Green campaigner for Katesgrove who finished in second place last time:

More protection needed for Reading's Black History Mural
At a recent council meeting, I was able to ask a public question about the fate of the Black History Mural at the bottom of London Street. This iconic image on the side of the Central Club is so important to the Black Diaspora, to Katesgrove and to Reading, and I fully support the initiative from the community to apply to Historic England to have it nationally listed. I also think the flawed bidding process for Central Club should be reopened - petition here and more below.

But we don’t know how long that process will take, and the building is unused and unloved by the Council. So, in the meantime, I asked the Council to Locally List the mural as a stopgap. Sadly, Labour Councillors say that this won’t happen as it isn’t needed – that because it falls inside a ‘Conservation Area’ it has protection anyway.

But the Conservation Area doesn't even mention the Mural, or list it as having any merit whatsoever, and goes so far as to say that modern development at the end of London Street actually spoils the appearance of the area. That doesn’t feel very protected at all.

The Council could have locally listed the mural, and perhaps it should look at Historic England’s advice that "Heritage assets can be added to a local heritage list regardless of whether they are in conservation areas." They even say that one thing you should look at is “unlisted buildings that make a ‘positive contribution’ to the character of a conservation area." The Conservation Area needs urgently updating to show what a positive contribution the Mural makes!

Sign Petition for Central Club bidding process to be reopened
The fate of Central Club building on the side of which the mural is located is now more uncertain than ever. Labour have unfortunately agreed to sell it to a developer primarily to build flats for profit. Now the developer has come back with a reduced offer, which the Council has accepted without even talking to the community bidder - Aspire. That isn’t right.

Green councillors supported the Aspire African Caribbean proposal for the Central Club which was knocked back by the council. If you agree that community should be before profit, you can sign our petition for the Central Club bidding process to be reopened

Thursday, 8 October 2020

What’s going on by the Thames?

Many people have contacted us about the works going on by the Thames – between the Thames Valley business Park and the Kennet Mouth – which look very similar to Reading Labour’s attempt to build a road here. I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear that this isn’t a road, but a large electricity cable that SSE is putting in underground.

This cable will increase the supply of electricity into Reading – with all of the new development going on. This is different from the overhead power cables which will remain. The land that is being worked on mainly belongs to Reading University.

The electricity company says that the main works to dig the tunnel will be done by mid December and then the other works to lay the cable will be finished by March/April 2021.

A tunnel is being created under the Kennet Mouth and under the Coal Wood for the cable to go in so no trees will be lost and the Horseshoe Bridge won’t need to be closed.

Seeing the devastation is a good reminder of the value of this green space and why we must protect it. SSE say that they will be putting it back to how it was before. There is an opportunity to improve the value of this area though. Maybe it could be managed for wildflowers rather than a rough lawn. Let me know what you think on this

If you have any other questions you can email them at and if you have any other concerns on this feel free to get in contact. 

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Tackling road safety and parking problems on the Wokingham Road

We (Green councillors Brenda McGonigle, Josh Williams and I) have been working for number of years to try and tackle road safety and parking problems on the Wokingham Road opposite Alfred Sutton school. Still some way to go! Let me know if you can help.

The Council's proposed solution was of course the double-red lines - these can be enforced by car (with camera) and so don't require an enforcement person on foot. Plenty of tickets have been issued but this obviously hasn't done enough. 

We've had the Council confirm that the camera car can issue tickets for parking in the hatched areas and double parking, so hopefully the message will get across to repeat offenders as they receive tickets. Enforcement stopped during lockdown, but has started again now.

But this also isn't enough - the camera car travels the whole section of the red-route and so is only at that stretch of road every so often for a minute or so. So we have requested a permanent enforcement camera to be located at that site, which the Council has said is an option, but is on hold during Covid, as so many things are. When things become more normal again, we can lobby again for this.

Finally, there will be new pay & display machines by the bays at the shops (although implementation of these is also on hold during Covid) which will make enforcement much easier - no parking ticket will be a fine. At the moment, the bays are 30 minutes free, which means officers have to come back 30 minutes later, by which time cars have moved around.

The pay & display machines could also work with a free period – which we have asked for. You would still need a ticket from the machine for the free period – which as above means only one traffic warden pass is needed to issue tickets whereas at the moment 2 passes are needed.

Hopefully the combination of pay & display, with the car and perhaps the permanent camera we will see significant improvement. We will keep lobbying on this issue. Send me an email if you have time to help with campaigning on improving road safety in this area

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Black history mural listing update from Historic England

Louise Keane (Katesgrove Green Party candidate)
campaigning to save the central club and the mural.

I wrote to Historic England on behalf of Green councillors and campaigners in support of listing the Black History Mural. They got back to me with a few more details about what they plan to do. See below and let me know what you think. We will keep working with the black community to give the mural the protection it deserves.

"Many thanks for your email. We will be reviewing some of the listings in Reading as part of the upcoming High Streets Heritage Action Zone project, and this will include assessing the Black History Mural in London Street for listing. We took the view that considering the mural for listing as part of the HSHAZ would be appropriate because the cultural programme will enable working closely with local communities to understand the significance of the mural (and other candidates for listing) ensuring their input into the town’s listing project as a whole. You can find more information on that project here;

The assessment process itself can take around 6 months, although it is not clear exactly when we will begin, given the current circumstances. But please rest assured that we will be assessing the mural for listing over the coming months, and we will engage with the community as part of this process."

Saturday, 16 May 2020

Still working on clearing fly-tipping at Woodley Arms site

A few weeks ago Louise Keane (Katesgrove Green Party campaigner) let me know that the Woodley Arms site still hadn't been cleared (when we raised it last we were told it would be by the owner, but COVID-19 has slowed things down) so I raised it with planning enforcement again - response below. I've had reports from residents that workers have been on site. Let Louise Keane and I know how things go We'll keep up the pressure!

RBC response: "As you may be aware, the above site has been the subject of various planning applications and is expected to be redeveloped soon.

Having previously contacted the developer and his ground works contractor it was hoped that the site would have been cleared by now.  However, the clearance date coincided with same time the country went into lockdown due to the Coronavirus. The effect of which caused, amongst other disruptions and difficulties, many development projects to go on hold. However, having contacted the developer again yesterday I have been assured that work to erect a secure wooden hoarding around the site will begin this week, therefore preventing any further rubbish from being dumped on site, after which work will then begin to tidy the land and start the redevelopment."

Friday, 3 April 2020

Royal Berkshire Hospital needs your help...

Dear all, please see below a message to Reading businesses and their employees sent on behalf of the Royal Berkshire Hospital by Reading Central and Abbey Quarter BIDs (Business Improvement District).

Many businesses in and around Reading have been forced to temporarily cease or restrict their operations due to coronavirus restrictions. At the same time many of you have been in touch with us to ask how you and your staff who are not able to work as normal can help with the response to the crisis.

The health and care system is facing particular pressure and the Royal Berkshire Hospital has identified a number of roles where help is urgently needed to provide additional resilience in the following areas:

Domestic (cleaning)
Catering staff
Welfare facilities
Management (operational and senior)

If you are a business or an individual in a position to help in these areas you can contact Covid.deployment& or call the hospital's coordinating team on 07500 835 565. The hospital is offering a range of paid casual working as well as volunteering opportunities.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Coronavirus: #rdguk council support on council tax

Green councillors have been lobbying for the council to take a caring approach to council tax at this tough time with Coronavirus at large. See below for the latest Reading Council position, correct on 2/4/2020 - web links at the bottom of the post:

"The Council’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme and the ability to spread payments over 12 rather than 10 months are measures already available in addition to statutory discounts, to assist residents who are experiencing difficulty with paying their Council Tax.

As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Government have announced a Hardship Fund of £500 million nationally which is available to support economically vulnerable individuals and households, Reading will receive £953k. The Government have stated that they expect billing authorities to use this to provide all recipients of working age Local Council Tax Support (LCTS) with a further reduction to their 2020/21 council tax bill of £150. We expect to be able to rebill these residents within the next 14 days, as soon as we have received the software scripting.

Reading has a working age Council Tax Support case load of approx. 4,400, equating to £660k of the funding. The remainder of the fund allocated to Reading, £292k, will be used to support residents through our Hardship Policy.

It should be noted the Hardship Fund is in addition to the packages already announced nationally to support businesses with employee remuneration costs, increases to national benefits and cuts to waiting times as well as support for the self-employed.

Residents who are worried about meeting their council tax payments during the pandemic are encouraged to seek financial assistance through our council tax reduction scheme and to contact us to agree payment plans. We will discuss options with residents based on their individual circumstances, these may include:
  • reduced payments for an agreed period, with the balance due over the remaining months of the financial year
  • payment breaks where appropriate, with the balance due over the remaining months of the financial year
The Council has temporarily suspended court action for anyone in council tax, business rates or rent arrears and all existing cases with our enforcement agents have been temporarily suspended to avoid any unnecessary distress at this time.

Bills and reminders will continue to be issued and our enforcement agents will contact residents that fall into arrears with their enforcement arrangements, to either revise or suspend payments. This will avoid a ‘bottleneck’ when the current crisis is over and residents falling further into arrears as well as assist the Council’s cashflow. The Council’s enforcement agents will also offer welfare benefit advice, which will assist in reducing pressure of calls to our customer services team at this time.

We would encourage residents to continue to make affordable payments and those that are facing financial difficulty to contact the Council to discuss their options and agree an affordable repayment plan so that debts do not mount up and become unmanageable in the longer term."

More information here:

Or from the One Reading Coronavirus Hub: