"The Ashridge Interchange Movement ('AIM') is a non-party
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History - The Land Commission and Woosehill
Berkshire County Council Minutes:
Wokingham Times Articles, 1968-9, by subject:
Wokingham Times Articles, 1971-5, by subject:
The Labour Government under Harold Wilson had set up the Land Commission in the late 1960s in order to increase the number of new dwellings. It proposed a site at Woosehill, which was vigorously opposed by the local Conservative M.P. William van Straubenzee, as recorded by the 'Wokingham Times'.
September 19th 1968:
Article headed: ‘Minister says "No houses on land near Woosehill Lane" ’.
February 13th 1969:
‘Wokingham M.P. warns of bid to grab more land’:
[…] Second round in an encounter which began in the autumn of last year and from which the Land Commission withdrew after opposition from residents, borough and county authorities. At that time some 95 acres in the Woosehill Lane area were involved. Today, it is understood that the L. C. is interested in parcels of land totalling some 200 acres. […] The Town Map, approved by the Minister of Housing and Local Government in 1966, provides for an estimated population by 1973 of 21,000 within the borough […] In August the population was 19,000 and increasing. […]
March 27th 1969:
‘Wokingham M.P. at centre of storm over Land Commission’
April 24th 1969:
‘Snub for Land Commission?’:
Tory-controlled Wokingham Borough Council is expected tonight to thumb its nose at the Land Commission. At its meeting it will consider the following motion: "That Wokingham Borough Council does not accept that any intervention of the Land Commission with respect to major developments within the Borough would be of real value. They consider that they, as the delegated planning authority, and Berkshire County Council, as the local planning authority, are in the best position to make the right planning decisions and they support the policy of the county council with respect to the regulation of future population growth". M.P. promises to continue fight against Land Commission – page 11.
May 1st 1969:
‘Land Commission Criticism "Silly and Immature" ’:
By a small majority, Wokingham Borough Council rejected a motion at their recent meeting criticising the Land Commission. […] Moving the resolution [was] Councillor Ian Crail. […]
‘Remember misery caused by Land Commission – Mr van Straubenzee’:
Speaking to Conservative Party workers on Saturday, Mr. William van Straubenzee, M.P. for Wokingham, said that August was traditionally a holiday month and many people, himself included, enjoyed it with happy days spent in relaxation.
"But while we are fortunate enough to enjoy relaxation, we should not forget upon whom this month, as in other months, administration is bearing heavily", he said.
"Remember, for example, Mr. and Mrs. S. H. Meller of Branksome Hill, College Town, Camberley, who are struggling to pay a levy of £290 and whose ‘sin’ is that they sold a small piece of garden to Berkshire County Council for an extension to a school. Remember also Mr. Frank Whitfield, of Bracknell, from who [sic] Bracknell Development Corporation compulsorily purchased Hope Cottage, who received a similar claim for £446.
"You may say you thought that opposition pressure had caused such injustices to be put right. It is perfectly true that they have been, sp long as the transaction took place on a date after April 5th 1969. But if it took place before then, there is no mercy on the unfortunate owner. Search as you will, you can find no justice in that proposition and only our present Government could have advanced it. Meanwhile, unfortunate constituents of mine like Mr. Mellor and Mr. Whitfield are being constantly harried by the Land Commission and their lives made a misery. That is why in this holiday month I ask that we should not forget them.
"Parliament has not been forgetting the Land Commission. We have there an extremely useful watchdog called the Public Accounts Committee and they have recently had a critical look at the Land Commission. They have found that an excessive number of staff have been recruited to the Commission. So much so that in the autumn of 1967 the Commission suspended recruitment, and in December 1968 reduced staff by a tenth. By February 1969 decisions had been taken for a further staff reduction of about 100.
"All this excess recruiting has been done at the cost of the taxpayer and is another example of squandering based on political dogma. As The Times commented: ‘Political myth was compounded with administrative error’."
November 13th 1969:
‘Land Commission bids for 360 acres in Wokingham: Purchase price could be £7 million’:
A bid to take over 360 acres in the Woosehill Lane area of Wokingham is being made by the Land Commission. Planning permission has been applied for – and the Commission is to make a draft compulsory purchase order. Purchase price is estimated in Wokingham to be between £6 million and £7 million.
The Commission’s fresh approach to what in the past has been termed a ‘land-grab’ is expected to spark off a new battle between it and Berkshire County Council and local residents’ associations. In August last year there was strong opposition from the same quarters to a similar interest by the Commission in 95 acres in the area.
The 360 acres are on the west side of Wokingham between Simons Lane and Barkham Road. The Commission says this is another area where it is considered that insufficient land is being made available for housing development. Its action follows its recent announcement that it intends to find land to supplement proposals put forward by the planning authority to enable more houses to be built in the Outer Metropolitan area.
Opposition was already being expressed yesterday in Wokingham. Its Member of Parliament, Mr. William van Straubenzee, told me: I remain strongly opposed to this being undertaken by a Government body. Planned development can always be controlled by the local authority who really knows local conditions and who, incidentally, are responsible for providing such things as schools. But there are several rounds still to go before the proposal sees the light of day.
A special meeting of Wokingham Action for Sane Progress Society (WASPS) has been called to discuss the new situation as it might affect the town and residents in the Woosehill Lane area. The secretary of the society, Mr. R. Dadd said: "We are in favour of development taking place, but believe it should be phase with improvements in town amenities. These are already lagging behind population growth, and it would be wrong to build vast numbers of houses in these circumstances".
The Commission says the area it hopes to acquire should provide some 3,000 houses together with new schools, community buildings, open spaces, roads and other services. By bringing the land into one ownership, the Commission will be able to control a carefully phased development and help to answer the Minister of Housing and Local Government’s call for more houses to be built in the Outer Metropolitan area.
The Commission has employed the Gregory Edwards Partnership of London as Project Management Consultants. The development is expected to be over a period of 10 years with smaller building firms invited to tender for the erection of buildings.
November 13th 1969:
‘Wokingham council turns down plan for homes on 136 acres’:
[Refers to an application to build houses at Woosehill, plus refusal for an application to turn another 21 acres into an estate between Wiltshire Road and Warren House Road by Laing Homes Ltd.]
Thanks are due to Surrey and Berkshire Media, owners of the 'Wokingham Times', for permission to reproduce these articles. Note that microfilm copies of these newspapers can be viewed at both Wokingham and Bracknell Libraries.
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