Please Support our Campain to Save Blagrow Meadows

You may be aware that Berkeley Homes has recently submitted a planning application for 350 houses which you can find on the Wokingham Planning Portal here:

The development is proposed on the rural southwest edge of Wokingham in the countryside outside Wokingham Borough Council’s local development plan and is purely speculative.

It would remove any boundary between Wokingham and Barkham and destroy the rural character of this area. There are many issues with the application, which our volunteers are recording at the moment. It comprises over 100 documents, many of which run to over a hundred pages, so it is a complex job, made more difficult by Berkeley Homes’s cynical decision to submit it on the first day of the school holidays.

There is a sizeable local groundswell of public opinion against this in Wokingham, as shown by the two community walks around the development site we held in the last fortnight, which attracted over 250 people. There are over 100 objections on the planning portal, just a week since WBC delivered notifications to residents. As we increase our campaigning activity, with banners, leaflets and drop-in sessions, we expect this to increase considerably.

We were interested to read our local MP John Redwood’s comments regarding the Planning Bill. In particular, it is heartening to hear that you want to ensure that residents have a much greater say about planning applications which impact their communities. Your proposal of a new clause to introduce a community right of appeal against the granting of planning permission would be very welcome. I also note that you want to stop developers gaming the system, which is happening here.

Wokingham has over delivered on housing supply in the last three years to the point where there is currently some doubt about the five-year housing land supply, as developers have used up the supply faster than envisaged. WBC is revising next year’s land supply figures, and Berkeley Homes has seen this temporary window as an opportunity to put in a speculative application.

This site has never been designated a Strategic Development Location (CP18 to CP21) in the Core Strategy 2010 for housing, and in the past multiple applications have been refused by WBC. In their documents, Berkeley state that the land will be included, but this is not true, and WBC have confirmed this.

We are hopeful that Wokingham Borough Council will reject this application as it breaches so many of their planning policies . Still, given the activities of the developer so far, we expect them to appeal it, which will then put the matter in the hands of the Planning Inspectorate, and effectively remove community representatives from the decision.

At this stage, we would very much like your support at any level you may be able to give it in the process. If you go to our website our volunteers are working to identify weaknesses in the application, which residents can use to object to the proposal. New points are being constantly added and there are already many which can be used. It would be great if you could add your voice as an objector on the council’s planning portal (link detailed above), showing your support for this community campaign.

Many thanks for your support.

Ian Andrews