Residents in Emmbrook North may have noticed a new feature on the landscape at Toutley Depot. This is a three storey tall Cement Batching Plant that appeared suddenly in May.
It seems that the owner of this plant, didn’t think they needed permission to put this here. Thankfully, Wokingham Borough Council now disagrees. Planning Enforcement is normally taken against the land owner, but in this case that is Wokingham Borough Council, who see it as a pointless response to take action against themselves.
Toutley depot is leased it to Sita and Sita have sub-let some space to a third party owner. The terms of the lease do require Sita to comply with the planning rules. We are now at the mercy of Wokingham Borough Council chasing a breach of lease involving a third party who have signed no agreement with them.
In the mean time, four months on, residents are not seeing any movement of this ‘blot on the landscape’. The depot has the rights to operate 24 hours a day and it means there extra trucks in the neighbourhood. I am pretty sure the residents of the new houses that are being built won’t appreciate its presence either.
I raised this as a ward issue at Full Council on Thursday 21st September. Lets see if we can get some movement.
I sent the following letter to the Wokingham paper:
With all of the millions that the Wokingham Borough Council is spending on Wokingham Town Centre regeneration, there is one important group that seems to be being overlooked.
That is bus users, especially those with mobility problems. The bus stops on Broad Street are central to the town and are a vital service for accessing local services, such as the doctor’s surgery on Rose Street, local banks and shops.
The kerbs in Broad Street are well below the national standard and are largely only one or two inches tall. This makes the step up into the bus quite high, even when the bus is ‘kneeling’ and many of our less able passengers find that step very high, especially when they are carrying shopping.
With wheelchair users it is possible to deploy a ramp, but that is quite steep, it takes time to operate and it causes a significant delay to the bus departure.
If the kerbs were raised to meet the bus, wheelchair users could roll right onto the bus with everyone else along with prams, shopping trolleys and people with heavy suitcases and it could be done quickly and without a fuss or any special treatment for anyone.
These raised kerbs are being deployed everywhere to meet this need, except in our Town Centre bus stops.
I was told in the Executive last week by Cllr Chris Bowring, the Wokingham Borough Council executive member for highways, that to raise the kerbs in Broad Street would be physically impossible.
This is because of the entrance thresholds into the properties are quite low and drainage would be a problem.
I disagree – difficult, yes – impossible, no – this is a ROAD we are talking about. If we can send people to the moon are we suggesting this could never be sorted out on Broad Street?
If our Council is serious about complying with its Equality Duty and meeting the obligations of the Equality Act, it needs people who can think through these problems and make it work for all of our community and it should not be overlooked when we are spending so much money on regenerating the Town Centre.
I am now the new kid on the block at Wokingham Borough Council and part of the challenge is figuring who do I speak to and what can I actually do for the residents of Emmbrook.
I’ve started with some of the easier challenges,such as getting potholes fixed, getting streetlights repaired or replaced, getting grass cut when it has been left to long, getting pavements repaired and road signs replaced. Wow, there have been a lot of them. Emmbrook has been left to put up with these simple problems for far too long.
Some examples are below:
Some may think of these small tasks as trivial things, but they are far from it. It is the little things that blight the lives of our residents. Over the years, I have reported numerous potholes, leaks, graffiti, streetlights, broken equipment, and missing signs. The most severe being escalated and followed up directly to get them fixed or replaced as quickly as possible.
No man is an island.
I don’t know if Zac Goldsmith learned that from his election defeat, but what is clear is that we need
the support of many to succeed in this game, at all levels of politics. The Richmond Park by-election was supported by armies of Liberal Democrats from all over the country, who helped out voluntarily. Whether it involved knocking on doors,making phone calls or baking cakes to feed the army of volunteers.
Although, I went only a few times – delivered leaflets, folded letters, stuffed envelopes and made some tea, I feel that the greatest thing of all in these elections is the company we keep and the huge number of people doing what they can to follow their beliefs and ideals. In this case, we backed a great candidate who has her feet firmly planted on the ground and collectively we won.
Since I started as a Wokingham Town Councillor one of the things I felt was missing was an accessible War Memorial. We have a war memorial, in the town hall where few people see it. I sure it was a lovely peaceful place when the names had people who remembered them, but now we are more than 100 years on from the death of the first name, what function does this memorial serve in its current location?
These War Memorials act as a reminder or a link to our past and deserve to be respected. They remind us of the sacrifices that people have made for our freedom. But, they should also pay respect to the people who have fought for those freedoms and lived to tell the tale. We have had many conflicts since the second world war, Korea, Aden, Cyprus, the Falklands, former Yugoslavia, Afganistan etc, etc. Where do we pay respect to those individuals?
So, we started a petition, which has gained some attention. With the centenary of the armistice in 2018, we have time to get something together to commemorate that date too and with Wokingham rebuilding itself in the regeneration, I can see no better time to ask for a space, where we can build something that adds to what we have.
If you’d like to see my BBC South Today video, it can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XStjggct1Q
Even better, if you’d like to sign our petition and show your support, it can be found here: https://www.change.org/p/wokingham-borough-council-wokingham-public-war-memorial
Anyone in who lives in the Northern part of Emmbrook will be aware of the new developments that are starting there this year.
The most worrying thing is that Wokingham Borough Council had a consultation with the residents, but appears to be ignoring the results and doing exactly what people in the area don’t want. I,e adding extra housing and construction traffic to Old Forest and Toutley Road.
I challenged the Wokingham Borough Council Executive on their decision and got a response from the deputy for Highways(Philip Mirfin). You can read mine and his response here: Question to the Executive on the Northern Distributor road
The questions we now ask are why were the options presented, if they were not sure they were feasible? On what basis are they not feasible?
The main problem is that Toutley road is quite rural and is not really suitable for the traffic that will want to use it. It also has a number of residential areas located off the route and a school at the bottom of the hill. There are no plans to improve this road or mitigate the effect that the extra traffic will have.
Once more I feel that developers are being allowed to do what they please at the expense of the local people who live there.
Many people will have seen the modern housing estates that are being built around Wokingham. Once people move in we have cars stacked on the pavements and parked in unusual places, making it unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists. In Wokingham we have the highest car ownership of any council around us. This is as a result of where people work vs the lack of good public transport to get you there. But, yet the ‘Wokingham Plan’ allocates only 0.5 car parking spaces per single bedroom flat and of course this is the standard that developers will work to.
The reality is, even a single bedroom flat will probably have one working person in it and quite likely two. It often takes two incomes to get a mortgage or pay the rent. These residents will quite reasonably want as space for their own car and they may even want people to visit, especially if the live on the edges of the town. I really don’t think our developers care that much about the long term quality of life for the people in these places.
At this point I am not able to do very much to protect the Green spaces that have already been allocated for development, but I can do my best to make things better for the people who will live there and those that have to live with the consequences. Good parking provision is up there, high on my list.
Last Sunday sadly marked the last time the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers will be marching through the town of Wokingham, as they will be moving out of Arborfield.
It took some persuasion to get me to wear the Town Councillor Civic Attire as I am not convinced that the Civic duties are the best way to support our residents, but I am glad that I went along with it and I was able to witness this fantastic event and celebrate it along with everyone else. It was good to see so many people turning out to watch us all.
Here is a link to a video of the: Civic Parade which includes all of the Wokingham Town Councillors.
Our town is due to have a lot of changes over the coming years and there will be a lot of major planning decisions. I am only getting started, but I want to ensure that whatever happens that it will be thought through properly and that we ensure that there is room for all of our community.