Drafting the Plan
The Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group are now engrossed in writing the detailed policies and drafting the Plan document itself, using all the evidence gathered during the process so far, including the residents’ survey, focus group outputs, research papers, and the recent ‘Call for Views’ which produced some first rate submissions.
There are a number of plans already in place in areas that are quite similar to us, and where the same challenges of development pressure are being faced. We have been discussing those documents with the people who wrote them, and we are adapting elements of these ‘tried and tested’ plans to our particular needs where we can.
We have been keeping officers at Wokingham Borough Council abreast of our work as it has progressed, so that, when the draft plan emerges, there won’t be any surprises about what it contains.
The next key stage is to have the draft plan undergo a ‘health check’, probably using someone from the panel of planning inspectors working directly with us, so that we can be happy that it is ready to be released as a draft for consultation or, alternatively, to highlight any further work needed. We currently expect the consultation draft to be issued early in the summer.
Call for Views
When considering possible future development across Arborfield and Barkham Parishes we must take full account of how any such developments will impact views of our countryside. Views reflect the geography, geology, natural environment and man-made features of the landscape. Development should blend in to the landscape, not to impose on it.
We would like to hear about the views that are important to you, those that may be enhanced and those you fear may be jeopardised by development. There are many important and much loved views around the two parishes and we have begun by listing some of them:
Please suggest others.
Respond toand attach any photographs if you wish.
Arborfield and Barkham residents have their say
Pop-up events are also being held at Henry Street Garden Centre 10:00am to 1:00pm on Saturday 14, 21 and 28 October 2017 and there will be another display at the Community Centre 12.00 noon to 3pm on 14 October. Everyone who missed the original event is welcome to attend and ask questions.
The Steering Group is seeking feedback on the ideas presented. Comment forms, in the form of a flyer, have been distributed to households and businesses and there is an online version on this website.
The final date for comments is 5th November and the exhibition boards can also be viewed here on this website.
We would particularly like comments on the Vision and Objectives (see below).
Many thanks to those residents who attended the “Shaping Our Future” event held on 30 September where there was a plenty of intense discussion about the Neighbourhood Plan, and a range of related issues, by residents of the two parishes.
Development was a hot topic, particularly following the recent announcement that Barkham Square is being assessed by the planners when the building of Arborfield Green is only in the early stages. “Why is Barkham being targeted again?” asked one resident while another said he had “moved here to be in the country and soon it will be part of Reading”.
There was concern that all this development was progressing without WBC listening to the residents. One resident, citing a recent appeal in Barkham Road, questioned if the effort was worthwhile as “wasn’t Barkham Square already a done deal?”.
Meanwhile there were worries about the loss of countryside and building on flood plains.
Traffic congestion, inevitably, was another hot topic, especially following the number of road works around the area. “Will it ever end? The building has only just begun” was a typical comment.
There was criticism that developers seem to focus on building the more expensive types of houses and that there is still a lack of housing for first time buyers. Older people complained that they were unlikely to downsize as there were no suitable properties being built – “no bungalows” said one.
There was a lot of irritation that there is still no firm plan for a medical centre at Arborfield Green. Residents feel short changed about this: “We were told that redeveloping the garrison would provide facilities for the local community. It is not happening” was one comment.
There was more a more upbeat response to the new Bohunt School but this was tempered by many complaints about access routes. There are still not safe routes for pupils living in Arborfield Green, let alone for more distant parts of the parishes. Timings of the buses and poor punctuality were also criticised.
The new greenway from Finchampstead and the expansion of the network across Arborfield Green was welcomed as a means of creating safe cycling and walking routes. Some specific problems emerged about crossings on main roads and gates that were difficult to negotiate.
Some other issues raised included the slow roll out of fast broadband and concerns about maintenance of sports pitches. There was impatience to learn more about what is proposed for the new District Centre at Arborfield Green.
“It was a very successful event” said Laurence Heath, Chairman of the NP Steering Group “and there will be a lot of challenges ahead. It is not helped that government housing policy is incoherent, allowing land owners and their agents to make money out of land, while failing to address the key issues of providing the right kind of houses in the right places at the right prices.”
Vision and Objectives
These have been developed from the responses to the Residents’ Survey and we need to check with you that we’re heading in the right direction before we write the detailed policies.
Many may seem to be largely self-evident but, when the plan gets to Public Examination, it will be necessary to demonstrate that we have consulted on them.
A sustainable future for Arborfield and Barkham as a thriving and accessible community, managing development to be inclusive for all age groups and enhancing the identity and rural setting of the villages.
Protecting identity and rural setting of the villages
Thriving community (includes community facilities and recreation)
Accessibility (transport and greenways)
Managing development (housing, design and parking)
News - May 2017
A summary of the residents survey results is included on the Progress page while a more detailed analysis is included on the Documents page. Some interesting background papers are also now included on the Documents page, including an extensive Biodiversity Report which will interest the bird watchers and naturalists amongst you.
A number of Focus Groups have been reviewing key topics including sustainability, the natural environment, heritage assets, open spaces and community assets. Some of the papers written by these groups will be posted on the website shortly.
The Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group would like to thank all the volunteers who have assisted with the Focus Groups : it is important that as many people as possible have been able to participate in the process as the plan is intended to reflect the views of the whole community.
A topic which has been added to the agenda relatively late in the day is the village centre at Arborfield Cross. With the new relief road in the planning stage, there is scope to devise traffic management and land use solutions which make for a better environment to be enjoyed by residents. A Focus Group has been looking at this and the proposition has now received some support from the Borough Council.
The Steering Group has commissioned some professional assistance to consider housing issues and a housing needs analysis is also being prepared. As ever, there is enormous development pressure in the area: the objective of the Neighbourhood Plan is to ensure that only a sensible number of the right kinds of houses are built in the right places.
The draft plan is now taking shape. To help the process along, there will be a need for further consultation, probably in the form of a public exhibition on the lines of those held last October at Arborfield and Barkham Village Halls. The consultation will be advertised to residents once we have a final timetable of events.
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.
New Year Update
The survey has now closed. The final numbers are being checked, including gathering in all the paper copies. It looks as though over 500 were completed, which is a very satisfactory response. Thank you again for taking the time to complete them.
The next step will be analyse the results. Hopefully it will be possible to circulate a summary before long.
In the meantime, it is necessary to press on with other work to prepare the Neighbourhood Plan. The Steering Group is looking for volunteers to join Focus Groups which will assist us in developing our thoughts on a number of topics that it is intended to include in the Neighbourhood Plan.
It is expected that this will involve attending one or two meetings and reviewing some written material. The objective will be to work towards developing planning policies that are based on evidence of local issues and which can be supported by local residents.
Focus Group topics are as follows;
If you are willing to participate in any one of these groups, please contact us here and a member of the Steering Group will get in touch with you.
Drop in events
Barkham and Arborfield held two successful drop in events with over 100 people attending.
You can still view the information boards that were on display here:
Wokingham Borough Council Local Plan Update
– list of submitted sites 21st September 2016
WBC issued two ‘Calls for Sites’ earlier this year and has recently published the results.
Barkham has 106.04 hectares identified and the whole parish (based on the 2011 census) is 677 hectares, so this represents about one sixth of the total area. Main sites identified include Barkham Square, land between Langley Common Road and School Road, between Barkham Road and Edneys Hill and east of Bearwood Road. A number of smaller sites are also included.
Arborfield has 324.53 hectares identified and the whole parish (based on the 2011 census) is 1116 hectares, so this represents about one third of the total area. The largest site includes 242 hectares of land along the northern edge of the parish, stretching from the A327 to Sindlesham. Other main submissions include land to the north and south of School Road and Duck’s Nest Farm.
The inclusion of land on the list does not necessarily mean that it is suitable for development, nor that it will be allocated in the Local Plan Update. It simply means that the land has been proposed to the Borough Council as a site that should be considered.
Information on the submitted sites can be viewed using the following link.
The following PDFs relate to the sites in our parishes
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