Cllr Clare Grashoff addressed Reading Borough Council's Planning Committee on 11 January, voicing Peppard Ward residents' objections to Gladman's outline application to build 245 residential dwellings just over the borough border adjacent to Emmer Green in South Oxfordshire off the Peppard Road.
Clare said "Having done several surgeries in the area around the proposed development site and having been to a public meeting in September I feel that I can confidently say that I am representing the vast majority of our residents, local to the site, by coming here tonight and speaking out against the plans. I think out of the countless number of people myself and Cllrs Stanford-Beale & Robinson have spoken to only 3 people have been in favour of the development because of the mention in the plans of affordable housing. It is almost universally unpopular for a number of very practical reasons, chiefly based around education & GP services, unsuitable access, the adverse effect on traffic flow, the unsustainability of a new community in this location and the ecology of the proposed site.
1) Residents are deeply concerned about the developers’ casual attitude towards where children coming from the proposed estate would go to school. In a meeting with them in September Peppard Ward Councillors were informed that the expectation would be for them to come to Emmer Green schools. South Oxfordshire have come out and said that they “would not expect to expand primary or secondary schools within Oxfordshire to meet the needs of this development.” Further to that they have firmly pushed the onus for schooling onto Reading by listing the nearest local schools as Emmer Green, The Hill & Caversham Park Primary Schools. As we all know these schools are already full to capacity and groaning under the strain of applications from people who live in catchment and have every right to expect a place but won’t necessarily get one. Having spoken to our officers at RBC it is my understanding that while some of these primary schools may have scope to expand to accommodate more children they are under no obligation to do so; RBC are extremely unlikely to force them to do so and even if the schools did expand they would be expected to offer extra places to those children mentioned above who already live in catchment but can’t get a place.
2) In the same vein people are worried that the local GP’s surgeries are already overstretched and don’t currently have capacity to take on so many new residents.
3) The 2 planned access points to the site are completely unsuitable, with one on a blind bend coming out onto an extremely busy road which has seen many accidents over the years and currently has no pedestrian footpath. At the other end of the spectrum, the second access point comes out onto Kiln Road which is little more than a lane. It often has cars parked on the left hand side, resulting in single file traffic. Congestion at the junction between Kiln Road and Peppard Road is already bad at peak times but adding so many extra cars into the mix would cause traffic to stack back not just onto the new estate but also onto all the existing residential roads in that area.
Further to this, Kiln Road is bordered to the right by Clayfield Copse and there is concern over the impact that any necessary work on the road would have on the woodland. There is also a worry that, while not mentioned on the current plans, the idea might be put forward to open access to the development through Marchwood Avenue which would turn a currently quiet, safe residential road into a main and congested thoroughfare.
4) The forth issue is that this level of increased traffic will cause more congestion on the main roads throughout Emmer Green, down into Caversham and through Reading itself. The bottlenecks caused by traffic trying to cross the river are already often severe. If there are problems in Reading or on the motorway, traffic can be backed up all the way up through Emmer Green and out into the Oxfordshire countryside, not to mention the problems that can be caused in the South of Reading with cars trying to get back over the river. We simply don’t have the infrastructure to cope with another potential 500 cars on our doorstep using the roads as they are.
5) We question the sustainability of the community on the estate. If residents are not welcome at Oxfordshire schools and are not able to come to Reading schools because of overcapacity where is the community centre for these residents? They are a long walk from local shops, schools and Dr’s surgeries along extremely busy roads and buses along that route are currently sporadic. It feels like these poor residents may end up in limbo between two established communities neither of whom can practically accommodate them.
6) Finally, while the field where the development is proposed does not form part of the green belt, there are, nevertheless, extremely valid concerns over the local ecology and the impact that such a large development would have on wildlife in the area.
The strength of feeling on this issue has been overwhelming. Some councillors may question whether there is a large case of NIMBYISM going on on the outskirts of Emmer Green but in reality residents recognise and acknowledge the housing problems that Reading is facing. Many residents have children who are struggling to afford housing in the area and would welcome more affordable accommodation; however, this particular site is completely unsuitable for this purpose. There are no schools for residents’ children, the roads are inadequate and would be made unsafe if the development went ahead, the isolated community could only function with a heavy reliance on cars and that would increase congestion; combatting the effects of this congestion could have implications for our much-loved and well-used open spaces and 245 houses put onto this beautiful stretch of countryside will have unknown effects on the local ecology. In conclusion we warmly welcome the officers’ recommendations that Reading Borough Council objects to the application and hope that the committee agrees with the report’s findings."
RBC's Planning Committee unanimously supported the objections raised by Cllr Clare Grashoff, the public speakers including Annette Fairweather (EGRA's chairperson) and with the officer's recommendation. It was agreed therefore that RBC would send objections to South Oxfordshire District Council (the authority that will be deciding the application as it is within their area).