For the latest status please visit our home page, the below provides a summary of previous activities
Neighbourhood Plan timetable for the New Year – December 2018
The Steering group is in discussion with Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) regarding the Submission Plan. The purpose of the discussion is to ensure compliance with national and local planning policies. Some detailed changes to the Neighbourhood Plan are anticipated and it is hoped that amendments can be completed by the end of January.
It had been anticipated that the Plan would go to the WBC Executive in February for approval as a consultation document. However, WBC have reviewed this in the light of local elections in May, and the associated purdah period that starts on 26 March. There is a long lead-time on Executive meetings, and we would need to have the plan and supporting documents ready before Christmas to meet the deadline for the February meeting.
WBC have therefore proposed that the plan be considered by their Executive in June, with consultation in July / August (perhaps lengthened in view of timing), and an Examiner appointed concurrently with the consultation. It would then be possible to furnish the Examiner with all documents shortly after the consultation ends.
It is disappointing that the timetable has become so prolonged, but this is outside the control of the Steering Group.
Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year
Neighbourhood Plan submitted to Wokingham Borough Council – September 2018
The Arborfield and Barkham Neighbourhood Plan has been submitted to Wokingham Borough Council for their review. The updated ‘Submission Plan’ can now be viewed here. In addition a ‘Basic Conditions’ statement can also be viewed here. The Consultation Statement and Appendices will also be added shortly.
Following the consultation the plan was further reviewed by the Steering Group to take account of comments received from residents, statutory consultees and landowners. An important theme of this review was to demonstrate how the plan reflected national and local government planning policies and to interpret how these can address specific local issues.
It has always been the intention throughout the process of preparing the Neighbourhood Plan to encourage participation by residents of the two parishes, hence the strap line ‘A plan for the community by the community’ which has been widely used in publicity material. Participation has been achieved through a number of channels: focus groups, a dedicated web site, e-mail updates, social media postings, parish newsletters and three public events. Along the way, a number of topic papers were produced by the focus groups and professional assistance was brought in.
The Steering Group would particularly like to thank the large number of residents who have participated in the preparation of this plan, including around 50 who contributed to focus groups and the many who responded to surveys and completed response forms at various stages of the process.
Neighbourhood Plan consultation: residents’ opinions no surprise! - September 2018
Many thanks to everyone who responded to the recent Neighbourhood Plan Consultation. The consultation provided the opportunity for residents to put their feelings into words. And many residents took the trouble to do so. Their comments provided some useful food for thought. The main themes were no great surprise: over-development, the pressure on roads, protection of the countryside and the failure to provide infrastructure. Here is a small selection of the comments:
“With all the building at Arborfield Garrison, the existing communities should benefit from some facilities. There is not even a shop yet.”
“I bought an existing house in this area so that I could enjoy the countryside which provides habitat for animals, a peaceful setting and great walks.”
“Where's the infrastructure, where are the new GP practices, where are the schools (doubling the size of a town and then throwing in one extra school does not cut the mustard), where are the cycle lanes?”
“I would not support any further development as we are already at saturation point. Affordable housing and key worker homes should have already been included surely?”
“The local roads have not changed since we came here (40 years ago)”
“Protect the Coombes. We are so lucky to have such a special natural area which is also a habitat for wildlife. Please add a clause to the Neighbourhood Plan to preserve it and totally restrict any development there.”
Various responses were received from “statutory consultees” such as the Environment Agency. In general these were quite neutral, but an interesting response was received from Historic England which outlined how specific local assets – such as The Coombes, to name but one, could be better recognised in the planning process, even if this falls short of full protection (which unfortunately cannot be within the scope of the Plan).
Three responses from a planning consultant were also received, representing three different landowners and developers. Unsurprisingly they were opposed to tightening of planning rules and sought more freedom for development.
The Steering Group is now busy amending the plan to take account of the feedback received. It is intended that the Neighbourhood Plan will be submitted to the Borough Council before the end of September.
Pre-Submission Draft Plan Consultation - June 2018
A consultation on the Pre-Submission Draft Plan ran for 6 weeks until the 3rd August 2018.
The Plan helps provide protection for our rural communities from all kinds of developments, large or small, and the consequent traffic and infrastructure issues.
Only through resident participation in this process can we be confident that the Plan’s key polices reflect the messages we have been getting so far.
Residents were asked to simply provide ‘Yes / No’ responses to 16 identified polices and add comments if they so wished.
Plan & Policy Information
The consultation started with an exhibition held at the Arborfield Green Community Centre on 23 June.
Why Is This Important?
Once it has been adopted, the Neighbourhood Plan must be taken into account in the determination of all planning applications in Arborfield and Barkham. It will immediately become an important consideration in the planning process.
The draft Plan has been prepared as ‘a plan for the community, by the community’ and a large number of people have been involved in the work to date. What is important now, is to ensure that the draft Plan is a proper representation of the messages that we have been getting throughout the process.
Drafting the Plan - March 2018
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 - November 2017
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 - October 2017
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 - March 2017
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 2017 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 - October 2016
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:
Public Event Boards
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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