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].”