Annual Report 2008
2008 Annual General Meeting
The AGM was held on Thursday 22nd May 2008 and was attended by over 70 Binfield Parish residents.
Following the main business of the meeting the floor was given to our guest speakers from Bracknell Forest Borough Council’s Planning Department:
John Waterton, Development Plan Team Manager, set the scene by explaining the historical growth of Bracknell and how sites for development had been identified. In 1946, the need for new housing was such that the Government of the time planned for seven new towns to be built around London. Apparently, White Waltham was the site identified for development at that time but, due to the high quality farm land in that area, the accolade went to Bracknell instead. Initially, the housing development process was driven by central Government, but subsequently it was agreed to devolve planning and initial decision making to local authorities.
John showed a series of slides which identified the different parcels of land that had been selected for development over the years to make Bracknell what it is today. He also explained that by selecting larger parcels of land for development, the need for schools, shops and associated infrastructure would be taken into account when the development plans were submitted and agreed.
Bev Hindle, Head of Spatial Planning, then took over the presentation. Bev explained the current and future development plans for the Borough and the rationale behind BFBC’s thought processes. Bev explained how the local development framework was drawn up by each Borough Council in response to the needs for housing in each area identified by central Government. He showed the projected growth in the population of Bracknell over the next 20 years. What was interesting about the figures was how much BFBC projections differed from the Government’s. For example, from 2006 – 2026, BFBC project that the population of Bracknell will increase from 110,451 to 126,150. However, for the same period, the Government anticipate that the population for this area will only increase from 110,900 to 116,300. This makes sense when you realise that the Government’s allocation to BFBC will be based on their population numbers, even if the BFBC figures are correct!
The housing numbers for the area are decided by the South East Plan Panel, made up of delegates from the regions local authorities and from interest groups in the region. In the original plans, by 2026 the Government expects there to be a need for 578,000 new houses in the South East. From that figure, the SE Plan Panel decided that the Western Corridor and Blackwater Valley (of which we are part) must provide 89,520 house. In turn, from that figure, by 2026, BFBC must provide 11,139 houses. However, those figures were revised upwards so that the new figures are 640,000 houses in SE England and BFBC must provide 13,139 of those.
“There is an evident need for additional housing at, and well related to, Bracknell in order to balance employment in the locality. Given its status as a sub-regional hub with reasonable rail connections, we believe that higher housing levels would be justified though challenging".
SE Plan Panel
According to Government information, these extra houses are needed because:
Bev made the point that BFBC are planning for the future. They have had to carry out a Strategic Housing Land Availability assessment in which the Borough must identify 5 years supply of Deliverable land and 6 -10 years supply of Developable land. If they do not do this, then there is the risk of developer led applications, rather than plan led development.
For the future, there is more work ahead for BVPS. The Government amended version of the SE Plan is due out in July 2008 (the above figures could change again!) The Amen Corner Area Action Plan is due out in June / July 2008 and the Housing Policy and Sited Document in October 2008. Bev made the point that the work and comments from BVPS were registered and always considered. He spoke encouragingly of the need to keep questioning the Council’s plans and fighting for modifications.
However, his final point was that, given the recent changes to the economy, the dip in house prices and the halt to house building that some developers have made, who knows what is going to happen to these best laid plans……..?
2008 Annual Report
April 22nd, 2008
The society has a history, since its inception, of giving responsible and constructive comments on planning matters. We are supported entirely by a small annual membership fee and any further voluntary contributions each household chooses to make. Membership is open to all residents of the Parish. The Committee meets monthly, holds occasional exhibitions, attends Planning Inquiries and distributes newsletters to inform residents of important matters affecting the village. This website is regularly updated and contains and wealth of information.
The 33rd Annual General Meeting of the Binfield Village Protection Society will take place on Thursday 22nd May at 8pm. (doors open 7.30pm) The meeting will be held in the Memorial Hall, Terrace Road South ad all residents of Binfield Parish, members of BVPS past and present, guests and visitors are all welcome.
After the business of the AGM has been completed, our guests speakers
Mr Bev Hindle and Mr John Waterton
from Bracknell Forest Borough Council will give a joint presentation entitled:
“Where will all the new flats and houses go?”
Local Development Framework
A lot of the committee’s time on the last 18 months has been taken up with responding to the LDF Core Strategy consultation documents and attending the Examination in Public. This was completed two days before last year’s AGM and a summary was reported to the meeting at that time.
In October 2007, the out come from the LDF hearing was published. A meeting was arranged by the Senior Planning Officers for BFBC to impart the findings from the hearings. Three members of BVPS were able to attend. They were not surprised, but perhaps disappointed to be told that the Inspector had found the Core Strategy of BFBC’s LDF to be “sound”.
Subsequently, in the draft S.E. Plan, the Government has asked BFBC to find land for an additional 2000 homes in the Borough, over and above the 11,000 originally designated for the borough and considered in the LDF. The news is that this number should be regarded as a floor and not a ceiling and the final version of the plan is not expected until the summer.
The complicating factor in all this is the Special Protection Area in the South of the Borough, which has increased pressure on land in the north of the Borough i.e. Binfield Parish. BFBC are currently carrying out a housing / land availability assessment. The Borough has over 200 possible sites to review, of which 20 are in Binfield. At the meeting in October, we asked if land currently occupied by the Road Transport Research Laboratories could be utilised in some way for housing. It was thought that 1000 homes could be accommodated on a site of that size. At that time, the suggestion was dismissed by the Planning Officer who stated that the site had to be “for offices”.
It is hoped that the presentation at the AGM by the BFBC Officers will throw light on the Borough Council’s plans.
One major consultation finishes – another starts! Last autumn, BFBC started the consultation process for the development of Amen Corner.
BVPS has completed the questionnaires presented to the public and suggested a mixed development of flats, houses, shops, small business units etc. One major concern is the access to major roads and the impact of the increased number of vehicles on the current infrastructure.
This process is still on-going and a new document is expected for public discussion by the end of May.
Airtrack Railways Ltd
Once more, Airtrack Railways Ltd has made the local press with their offer of a 6000 home eco-town to the north of Binfield. Their plan was to build these new homes on the field opposite the Coppid Beach Hotel, all the way along the A329M to the M4. They also planned to build on the other, Wokingham, side of the A329M. The Government did not give eco-town status to this plan, but Airtrack Railways Ltd are still adamant that they will continue to submit proposals to develop housing on this land. According to quotes in the local press, elected members of BFBC are not in favour of this development. BVPS will continue to monitor this threat to the green fields in Binfield Parish.
Binfield Conservation Area
BVPS made representation to BFBC to include Wicks Green and Monks Alley as a Conservation Area within the Borough. Acknowledgement was received but we have been told that nothing will be done until the new financial year (starting April 2008) and until the review of proposed Conservation Areas in Sandhurst/Crowthorne has been completed.
Last year, the owners of Binfield Place, a grade II* listed building, applied for planning permission to knock down the adjacent Coach House and replace it with a detached dwelling in the countryside behind Binfield Place. BVPS objected to the plan. Bracknell Forest Borough Council (BFBC) turned down the original application, so the owners, Windsor Homes, took it to appeal. At an appeal hearing, attended by BVPS volunteers, the Inspector dismissed the appeal on the basis that he did not consider that the new dwelling would be a one-for-one replacement, agreed with BVPS that the new building would have a negative impact on the countryside and damage the rural character and appearance of the setting.
In March 2008 a further application was made to replace the old coach house with a 2 storey office block, also providing a new entrance onto Wicks Green. BVPS raised an objection to this application, based on the fact that it would be development outside the settlement boundaries, but feel sure this will not be the end of it.
Website and Alerts
BVPS are very proud of our website. Figures show that over the last year, on average, 13 different people per day visit our website and they each look at 2-3 pages of information. During the past 12 months, we have had almost 4,600 visits to our website and have delivered over 560 million bytes of information. It came as quite a surprise to find that some visitors came from near Cardiff in Wales. It turns out that a local Action Group were fighting to save Bronpadarn Mansion Woods and had suggested that local people access the BVPS website for advice on fighting developers and to download sample letters and valid objections. The good news is that they won and the Planning Application has been rejected by the Planning Inspectorate in Cardiff!!!
We recently introduced a fast way of alerting all Binfield residents to development threats to Binfield, with our “Alert” system. We alert subscribers to any major development threats to our village and tell them where to send a quick email to object to the plans. Valid objections are very much taken into account by the Council in deciding whether to approve or refuse planning applications. We hope that by working together as a community, and utilising email, we will be able to respond quickly and more effectively to inappropriate planning applications in and around Binfield.”
During the year, BVPS asked BFBC to consider implementing the Government’s Quiet Lane scheme within Binfield. We asked interested residents to nominate lanes that the borough could consider.
Unfortunately, our initial suggestions of Tilehurst Lane and Wicks Green, was rejected . It seems that Quiet Lanes need to be a network of lanes and there must be an alternative route to the Quiet Lanes. We requested that BFBC included Quiet Lanes in their Travel Plan, but without success. The village of Bucklebury in West Berkshire has Quiet Lanes in place and the council set aside £10,000 but that was exceeded. It would appear that councils are now reluctant to spend on what they clearly regard as non-essentials and we have decided to concentrate on other activities for the time being.
Thank you for taking the time to read this Annual Report. We welcome all new members and would request all well established members of the Society to continue to support our efforts on behalf of the Village by renewing their membership as soon as possible. The money is used to pay for plans, policy documents, postage and other day to day expenses in running the Society. All additional monies are gratefully received, as Committee Members give their time voluntarily and freely and only occasionally recover expenses.
Margaret Foster, Chair