Development Watch Alert 05/12/2018 Barkham Square Update
This mail is being sent to the Barkham Development Watch email list but is from Barkham Parish Council and Barkham Village Residents' Association. There is a separate mailing list for petition updates and if you are on both lists you may receive this report twice. Apologies if this is so, but we have endevoured to minimize any such duplication.
REPORT ON THE DEBATE OF THE BARKHAM SQUARE PETITION AND NEWS OF THE CONSULTATION ON THE LOCAL PLAN UPDATE.
We would like to take this opportunity to update you on the Petition that you signed in the Summer against over-development in Barkham which was debated at the full Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) meeting on 22 November 2018. To set the scene a copy of our 5 minute presentation just prior to the debate is attached. We also give below a "Heads-up" on an important Consultation on the Local Plan update, which WBC is now running.
At the debate, several Councillors spoke in strong support of the petition including John Kaiser, the Ward Councillor for Barkham. The main exception was Cllr Stuart Munro (Executive Member for Business, Economic Development and Strategic Planning) who complained that the timing of the Petition was premature owing to the current Local Plan Consultation. It was formally pointed out during our closing address that the Petition, which was in response to your concerns about what you had heard was concluded mid-August well in advance of any mention of the Consultation that was only launched in November!
At the end of the debate, Cllr Munro moved a motion prepared by the Officers of the Council, which appears to suggest that WBC would just plough on with the Local Plan Update rather than address your concerns.
It must be stressed that we know Cllr Munro was aware of an alternative motion agreed by John Kaiser and the Petition organisers, requesting the Council to resist development of unsustainable and unsuitable sites such as Barkham Square and also to challenge hard the unrealistic housing targets being imposed on Wokingham by Central Government. We consider this to be a clear demonstration of an unwillingness on the part of the Council to listen to voters and thus address the concerns expressed by residents who signed the Petition. It also shows that the current Council is not up to heeding the wishes of its residents.
Regrettably, the alternative motion never saw the light of day, even though copies were available to be passed around. When the acting chair called for motions he immediately called on Cllr Munro to speak, although when reviewing the video recording of the proceedings, it is evident that before the Motion was put to the vote another Councillor informed the acting chair "I thought you would have first asked John Kaiser, as Ward Member for the petition, as he had his hand up first" In response to that the acting chair said "I did not see his hand". This was neither fair nor democratic, as summed up by a ward member at the debate who was overheard saying “so much for local democracy” We have made a formal complaint to the Leader of the Council about the way the motion was handled. While the vote was being taken, a Councillor was heard to say “We’re voting to do nothing”. The Council seems to have clearly failed to recognise the strength of feeling by those who signed the petition and around the Borough as a whole. With the 'Call for Sites' listing of about 300 possible development locations, voters in all parts of the Borough will feel under threat and it should therefore be no surprise if the Conservatives lose a lot more seats in the elections in May.
It should also be mentioned in passing that most of the Councillors in the chamber appeared to give little attention to the public questions or the debate. They seemed more focused on chatting with each other, fetching drinks and checking their phones.
Rest assured this is clearly not going to be the end of the story!
CONSULTATION ON THE LOCAL PLAN UPDATE (LPU)
WBC has now launched the LPU consultation on the "Call for Sites" which runs from 15 November 2018 until 15 February 2019. This is designed to allow you to express your views, as you have already done, on where and how growth will take place in the Borough up to 2036. It is very important that as many residents as possible respond to the Council in order to maintain the momentum of the recent Petition. In the next week or so, we will write again with further information and comment on the mass of information that will be provided.