16 September, 2014
Plans are well underway for a major development which will bring up to 3,500 new homes to Berkshire, as well as two new schools, shops and a district centre with a community hub.
The Arborfield Garrison, south west of Wokingham, will rejuvenate what is currently barracks and a training base for the army, after the MOD moves out of the location in 2015. The development will incorporate extensive landscape and recreational green space to reflect a 'garden village' design principle. The aim, according to arborfieldgarrison.co.uk, is for the area to create a 'great place to live, underpinned by the best range of local facilities that can be achieved, set in a high quality 'green' environment.'
Gauging local opinion
Three exhibition events at the end of August and beginning of September showcased the updated plans by the Arborfield Garrison Landowners Consortium (AGLC), allowing the local community to be involved in the process and offer feedback of their own.
Following concerns raised by members of the community on the initial plan, the new plans have been amended to take in to account a number of potential issues. One of the main changes was the location of the new secondary school, which current residents felt would cause congestion problems in its proposed location. It has been moved to the south of the site, adjacent to the District Centre, whilst the primary school will be situated in the northern section.
Other concerns also centred around traffic, mainly the impact that so many new residents would have on the area's roads. The developers have responded by confirming the commissioning of a major new assessment programme, and discussions have taken place with local bus operators to ensure that the area will be well served by public transport.
As well as this, questions over flooding and trees were also addressed; a new flood survey was carried out at the beginning of the year and the Environment Agency consulted extensively upon it. Now, AGLC has proposed no new building in the flood zone. Following fears that many mature trees and hedges will be destroyed, the developers have responded by undertaking a new tree and hedgerow survey. The updated plans show that the majority will be retained and developers also intend to carry out additional new planting.
More opinions to come?
Developers have been working closely with the local community, including the parish and local borough councils. However, some residents still feel that the proposed development has not taken into account their views. There remain concerns over the volume of traffic, but developers are keen to stress that they are continuing to take on board the local residents' opinions. Hugh Reeve of Crest Nicholson said to getreading.co.uk "The overall concerns are traffic and how that is resolved. It's good to hear everybody's experience and stories about how they drive to work rather than what the traffic model is telling you."
AGLC intends to submit a planning application to Wokingham Borough Council in early October if all goes well, with the first homes then expected to be completed by July 2016.