Arborfield and Barkham are working together to produce a Neighbourhood Plan.
Some residents may remember that this project was started about 4 years ago, but work on the Neighbourhood Plan at that time was overtaken by the uncertainties associated with development proposed at Arborfield Garrison and by the Arborfield Bypass consultation. Both these issues are now more settled, and work on the Neighbourhood Plan was restarted about 6 months ago.
With the Borough Council now in the process of developing the Local Plan Update, which will guide the future development of Wokingham Borough up to 2036, this is a very good time to be gathering our opinions and sharing them with the Borough Council.
Results of Residents’ Survey
The Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group would like to thank residents for responding to the Neighbourhood Plan questionnaire which was carried out at the end of 2016. In total there were 525 responses: this is a substantial number and confirms that there is a lot of interest in how the parishes evolve.
The Rural Location
A major theme to emerge is that residents have a strong attachment to the rural and village character of the area. There was strong support for the proposition that the rural setting makes Arborfield and Barkham good places to live, with 98% of respondents agreeing. Meanwhile 91% strongly agreed and a further 8% agreed that the unique identity of the area is best preserved by retaining open spaces around the villages. This is about as near unanimity as could be achieved!
Challenges facing Arborfield and Barkham
Concern about development related issues is widespread. The most important challenges faced by Arborfield and Barkham are traffic congestion (49%) and protecting open spaces (29%).
The vast majority of journeys to work were by car (86%) and so it is hardly surprising that there is congestion on the limited road network available to serve the community. The dependence on car transport is clearly explained by the complexity of commuting journeys with the vast majority of destinations not being readily accessible by public transport. Excluding the “not applicable” group (basically retirees) the distribution between the 12 destination areas is spread remarkably evenly. The two largest destination groups at 12% each were Wokingham (Other) and Hampshire/Surrey.
Commuting by bus covers a very low proportion of residents (3%) but nearly a quarter of residents (23%) use buses at least monthly. The proportion is higher for Arborfield residents which reflects the more frequent bus service to Reading. For Barkham residents the priority is frequency (41%) while more direct routes (29%) and fares (24%) are more of a factor in Arborfield.
There is a strong sense that nursery provision is adequate (72%) and also play facilities for children up to 12 years (60%). However a majority felt that there was a shortage of recreation facilities for teenagers (77%).
Satisfaction with local medical facilities is low (38%) but the result splits by parish. Arborfield residents have the benefit of a small doctor’s surgery facility which explains higher satisfaction at 45% compared with just 31% in Barkham. Parks and recreational spaces are considered adequate (68%) and also community centres (62%).
The proposition that there should be a policy to provide housing for first time buyers received strong support at 77% of responses. There was also even stronger support (91%) for life time homes (i.e. homes where people can continue to live independently when they become old or disabled). These two concepts clearly need to be addressed in the Neighbourhood Plan.
There are some interesting conclusions emerging which will help with writing the Neighbourhood Plan.
A more detailed summary (1.1Mb pdf) can be found here.