Protests over Bulmershe plan fall on deaf ears
October 11, 2012
Calls to reject plans for almost 300 homes at Bulmershe campus which will erode an ‘important green lung’ between Woodley and Earley fell on deaf ears.
The University of Reading was granted permission to redevelop empty academic buildings and convert six student halls into 287 homes, including a care home, by Wokingham Borough Council’s planning committee last Wednesday despite ward councillors’ strong objections.Calls to reject plans for almost 300 homes at Bulmershe campus which will erode an ‘important green lung’ between Woodley and Earley fell on deaf ears.
The University of Reading was granted permission to redevelop empty academic buildings and convert six student halls into 287 homes, including a care home, by Wokingham Borough Council’s planning committee last Wednesday despite ward councillors’ strong objections.
The homes will ‘eat into’ around 10 per cent of a Site of Urban Landscape Value (SULV) – separating Woodley and Earley, and fears were also raised about the site’s density, future school places, the area’s water supply and traffic.
In a statement to the committee meeting Southlake Cllr Kay Gilder said: “This development wants an infringement larger than a football pitch and shouldn’t be allowed.
“While I accept housing is probably the best use for this site, I feel any development should be to the footprint of the existing development.”
Neil Rowley of Savills, for the university, said: “Now is a hard time for the higher education sector and this [sale and development] allows us to follow teaching and research more effectively.
“We recognise it impacts a SULV and we take that seriously. The area is clearly separated by a thick tree line and part is already a floodlit car park.”
Committee member Cllr Lindsay Ferris warned losing the gap would blur the identity between the towns and tried to defer the proposal, drawing applause from the floor, but his move was not seconded.
The committee approved the application for the 17-hectare site by six votes to one, subject to a developer contributions agreement (Section 106) and it being referred to the National Planning Casework Unit to consider whether it wants to call in the plans.
The proposals include a sports pavilion and enhanced playing fields which are to be made available to the public for around 50 hours a month.
Bulmershe and Whitegates Cllr Sam Rahmouni added: “Residents are very worried about the number of cars this proposal will generate. Those of us who live in the area know how much congestion there is already.”
Council officer Alan Greenwood insisted he believed traffic levels would be reduced significantly.
After the meeting university vice chancellor David Bell said: “We are delighted Wokingham Borough Council has given the go-ahead for a high quality development on the site.
“This decision paves the way for the previously developed area to be regenerated with much needed new housing, while securing and improving the playing fields for university and community sports use.”
Phil Challis, Lib Dem chairman of Woodley Town Council’s leisure committee, added: “Sports England objected on principle to the university building on a playing field.
“However it would appear that Wokingham borough do not share the same values and are prepared to see houses built on playing fields even though the land was protected by their own SULV policy. What an Olympic legacy!”