Action group’s housing fears for Arborfield GarrisonBy Victoria Corbett
May 06, 2010
Fears thousands of new homes at Arborfield Garrison will lead to traffic chaos were made clear to candidates vying for votes in the general and council elections last week.
Members of Arborfield Garrison Residents Action Group (AG-RAG) invited Parliamentary and borough council candidates to attend a public meeting last Monday on plans for 3,500 homes at the Army base.
AG-RAG reports there were several heated exchanges between members of the group and Councillor David Lee, leader of Wokingham Borough Council.
Key issues included the impact on local roads, building on green belt land and the differences between what the council has proposed for Arborfield Garrison and blueprints being put forward by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
AG-RAG is concerned roads around Arborfield already suffer from severe congestion problems at peak times, but is “shocked” a traffic survey carried out to assess the impact of new development was done five years ago.
Gill Purchase, one of the residents at the meeting, said: “It beggars belief the council is even considering such out-of-date information to predict what traffic will be like in the area in the next five to 10 years with a few thousand more homes in the area.
“Once again, it shows the council is more interested in meeting the needs of greedy developers rather than looking after the interests of its residents.”
Candidates standing in the borough council elections also put forward statements on what they believe needs to be done on the housing issue.
Steve Bacon, the Liberal Democrat candidate, told AG-RAG there should be no housing development at the garrison unless the Army has completely vacated the site.
He believes the first phase of housing should be on brownfield and road infrastructure should be in place before work begins.
Councillor Gary Cowan, who is hoping to remain as the Conservative member for Arborfield after the election tomorrow, said he is against the early plans that have been submitted on behalf of the MoD for the garrison and wants the site to be looked at as a whole.
Cllr Cowan, who is executive member for local and regional planning, told AG-RAG the homes have to be built under proposals from the government in the South East Plan that demand Wokingham builds 12,500 homes by 2026.
Arborfield Garrison is one of four main sites for development in the borough proposed in the council’s Core Strategy document.
AG-RAG was formed in response to the Core Strategy and design process for the garrison development.
Last week’s meeting was an opportunity to quiz Cllr Lee about the development.
Martin Rutter, chairman of AG-RAG, said: “Residents clearly have strong views about this and hopefully the leader of the council now has a clear understanding of the concerns we have over the proposals.
“It was clear from the meeting that residents do not oppose the overall proposal to develop new homes in the area, however, this should be done on brownfield sites behind the fence and all infrastructure issues, like traffic congestion and the building of new roads, are dealt with first to minimise the impact on residents in Arborfield and the surrounding villages.”
Cllr Lee said he welcomed the fact residents are engaging with the council and wanted to put forward opinions, however said the traffic modelling process was standard for authorities.
The Tories have said they will tear up the South East Plan and start again with housing numbers if they win the General Election, however Cllr Lee said it would be difficult to reduce housing numbers and still secure the amount of funding needed to improve roads and schools.