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History - Woosehill Inquiry, Summer 1973
Berkshire County Council Minutes:
Wokingham Times Articles, 1968-9, by subject:
Wokingham Times Articles, 1971-5, by subject:
The Public Inquiry into planning applications for Woosehill went ahead on 16th
July 1973, and lasted six weeks. The Wokingham Times reported each day's
activity as transcribed below.
Note: Until Local Government re-organisation was complete in April 1974, the old Wokingham Borough Council and Wokingham Rural District Council existed side-by-side with the 'shadow' Wokingham District Council.
This map shows Woosehill as it was on an old 6" Ordnance Survey map from 1931. In the 1960s, housing estates had been completed in 'north Woosehill' between Chestnut Avenue and Simons Lane, but the main bulk of Woosehill was still surprisingly rural, as described by many objectors during the Inquiry.
‘Woosehill Inquiry Evidence – Day by Day’
There is no real reason why the character of Wokingham should be spoilt by a development plan like the consortium’s, a surveyor told the inquiry last Wednesday. Mr. Michael Beaman, a partner in Gerald Eve and Company, the surveyors who drew up the plan, spent the whole day giving evidence and being cross examined.
Mr. Beaman, who said he had more than 20 years’ experience in town and country planning, set out seven reasons why he supported the development. He said there was a pressing need for housing both locally and regionally. Wokingham’s supply of land for housing has been at a low ebb for four or five years. He said the location of the site was just right for development. It was near road and rail services, there was a demand for labour nearby and it would “round off” the town.
The land, he added, was physically suitable for the development and all main services were available or could be made available. Roads, he said, were congested but no more so than in the rest of the South East. He also said that the population of Wokingham would be increased by 30 per cent but the amount of open space would increase by 56 per cent.
It would not, said Mr. Beaman, have any bad effect on Wokingham or its amenities and in many ways would enhance the area. He said he believed there were advantages in releasing a large amount of land, such as the consortium’s, for development in one go.
And finally he emphasised the urgency of releasing more land for housing. “I can well understand the views of those who oppose the release of Woosehill but I believe that they have exaggerated the likely effect of the development on the town”.
If the suggested density of 10 dwellings per acre was reduced, it would either result in a greater spread of development, with a consequent loss of open space, or an inefficient one which would increase the pressures for development elsewhere ion the area. This was the opinion put forward by Mr. John Peacock, chartered architect and town planner, when he started giving evidence to the inquiry on Friday.
The housing on the site is divided into 12 self-contained areas which vary in character, layout and density according to the requirements of their setting in the overall structure. Mr. Peacock said the 12 areas would be further sub-divided by internal pedestrian routes and roads. The areas would contain 2,276 dwellings plus a further 33 flats located in the neighbourhood centre.
This neighbourhood shopping centre with its adjoining school library and health centre is sited on the most attractive site within the development. “It faces south over the fine landscape of the Emm Valley and is highlighted by the river. The location is sheltered from the prevailing south-west wind by the steep valley and the double hedgerows of Woosehill Lane”. Mr. Peacock added that the master plan included a lake which was fed by Emmbrook.
Mr. Peacock said the total area of open space within the boundaries of the outline planning application was 93.7 acres. This included 19.9 acres of existing riverside park owned by the Borough Council and 2.6 acres of a private recreation ground on Chestnut Avenue. With a total population of 7,000 this would work out at 13.4 acres of open space per 1,000 people.
Laughter broke out at lunchtime on Thursday [sic] as Mr. William Stewart, representing Meadow Residents’ Association and farmer Jim Mattinson, cross-examined Mr. Beaman about his evidence. Mr. Beaman had said there was a shortage of labour – particularly of office and clerical workers – in Wokingham, Bracknell and Reading – and two major companies were moving into the area, trying to recruit labour.
He told the inquiry that the growth of population in Wokingham would help to reduce the labour shortage in the area, saying people who came to live in the new houses would find plenty of jobs at the employment exchange. But Mr. Stewart had already made the point – that many of the houses would probably cost £15,000 to £25,000 based on figures quoted at the Dobinson enquiry earlier in the year.
Mr. Beaman said he could not comment on the prices – many houses would not be finished until 1983 and they would cost the market price at that time. But, Mr. Stewart replied: “Do you honestly think that people who are going to live in these houses are going to find their jobs through an employment exchange? Did you find your job through an employment exchange?” he asked. “Did any of these fellows (indicating the lawyers and solicitors on the two front rows) find their jobs through an employment exchange?” The audience – about 30 strong – laughed.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Beaman had been cross-examined by Mr. R. M. K. Gray, representing the borough council. Mr. Gray went through the whole of Mr. Beaman’s evidence, questioning him closely. One of Mr. Gray’s arguments was that there was not such an urgent need for housing as Mr. Beaman had indicated in his evidence.
Mr. Gray said that since April 1971 – after studies had been made of the need for housing – 1,314 “ad hoc” planning applications had been granted on appeal. “And these are the most recent figures available,” said Mr. Gray. “They may have been added to. Wokingham has done its stuff as far as providing new houses is concerned”.
In supplementary evidence, Mr. Beaman described on Tuesday how Wokingham’s shopping centre will be well able to absorb the additional population to be generated by Woosehill. He spoke of two major sopping developments which, he said, were likely to take place in the near future, involving part of Denmark Street including the Drill Hall, and an area bounded by Rose Street, Wiltshire Road and Peach Street. These schemes, which have already been granted planning permission by the council, would yield a total of 13 shops, 18 new houses and two new flats, a supermarket, several offices and a multi-storey car park with spaces for 400 cars.
With the 826 car parking spaces already available in the town for shoppers, Mr. Beaman said that Wokingham would have above-average parking facilities by comparison with most shopping centres. In addition to the number quoted, there was a current proposal to have a 500 space multi-story car park to the east of Montague House.
Cross-examining the witness, Mr. William Stewart, representing various residents associations, said that Mr. Beaman was looking through “rose-coloured spectacles again”. “It’s all very well to tell us that there are going to be all these parking spaces at an unspecified time in the future, but while this development is taking place we will lose several car parks which are being used now.”
The proceedings on Tuesday morning had opened with Mr. Alan Reed, a civil engineer, explaining the details of drainage and sewage systems to be used on the Woosehill site. Rainwater would drain into the two tributary valleys of the Emm Brook, he said, and at the foot of each of these valleys there would be dry ponds for recreational or amenity purposes. Sewage flows from the estate could be adequately catered for by local sewers, but an additional diversion scheme was envisaged to take the extra flow from the major Woosehill developments.
Wokingham Times 2nd August; Days 6 - 9:
The massive probe into the development of more than 350 acres at Woosehill, near Wokingham, moved into its second week on Tuesday. The inquiry, the biggest Wokingham has ever seen, could last until the end of this month. Department of the Environment Inspector Mr. Philip Maynard, the man with the mammoth task of conducting the inquiry, is listening to several different cases at one time.
By far the biggest plan for the Woosehill area has been prepared by a consortium of developers. Their plan, which was “called in” for appraisal by Environment Minister Mr. Geoffrey Rippon earlier this year, included a dual carriageway spine road, homes for over 7,000 people, a shopping centre and four schools. Berkshire County Council, in a separate case, wants to build two schools if the consortium’s plan fails.
D. J. Hands of Reading want to build more than 200 houses and there is also to be an appeal by P. H. Smith. Wokingham Borough Council, many of the town’s residents’ associations and many local people are objecting to development on the site.
The inquiry, which had a very rowdy opening, is being held at the town’s Youth Centre until next Tuesday, when it will move to the rural council offices in Shute End.
The dual carriageway spine road giving access to the consortium’s development would be linked to the A329 Reading Road by a “mini roundabout”, a senior planner told the inquiry on Wednesday last week. Mr. Roger Purcell, the consortium’s transport and roads expert, spent some of Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning explaining the design of road junctions on the plan, the internal road layout, bus routes and emergency access to the site.
Mr. Purcell also told of the surveys carried out to determine the volume of traffic on the various roads. He told the inquiry a mini-roundabout was proposed because it would reduce the size of the junction with Reading Road and to reduce encroachment on to the flood plain of the Emmbrook. It would be sited nearly opposite the Emmbrook filling station and the Reading Road would be made a four-lane road.
Signal controls, he said, had been looked at, but the only satisfactory solution would involve widening Reading Road and the provision of turning lanes. This would result in a large junction “out of scale with its surroundings”. “Mini roundabouts are becoming established as an acceptable form of rotary junction, combining high capacity and compactness.”
Access to Reading Road from the site, he said, was available via Simons Lane and Woosehill Lane, But both roads are minor residential roads with limited reserve capacity at the junctions with Reading Road, and neither is suitable to serve as the primary access to the site. Other locations for the junction would result in the acquisition of land and the demolition of property. In order to avoid any conflict between the two junctions the consortium proposes to close Woosehill Lane.
A new junction east of Limmerhill Road would be built to give access on to Barkham Road.
Mr. Purcell also told the inquiry about bus services on the development. He said Alder Valley Bus Company thought the development could be served by a single-decker one-man operated local service from Woosehill to Wokingham and a limited stop service to Reading. It was thought that the site could support a half-hourly service with extra buses at peak times.
Emergency access to the development, he said, could be provided by linking some of the secondary road systems. These links could be by paved pedestrian areas normally closed to traffic by locked “barriers” or “street furniture” that could be removed in an emergency.
As many as 1,100 pupils could be accommodated by each of Wokingham’s four secondary schools when the comprehensive system comes into being in the town in 1974. And the county council has plans for a fifth school in the Finchampstead area to serve the southern part of Wokingham and adjoining rural areas. This was revealed by Mr. A. J. Beecham, an assistant education officer, who opened Thursday’s proceedings as the first witness for Berkshire County Council.
Planning permission is being sought by the council to build two primary schools, one a Roman Catholic School, on either side of Chestnut Avenue. These two schools, said Mr. Beecham in his evidence, will clearly be required whether or not the Woosehill area as a whole is developed. At present there is a deficit of 346 primary school places which, it is estimated, will increase to 854 by 1976. The deficit is coped with at present by the addition of temporary classrooms to most schools. Nursery schools for pre-school children, he continued, are likely to be provided in the future on existing primary school sites.
Mr. John Taylor, Q.C., counsel for Mr. D. J. Hands who owns 51 acres of land in the Woosehill area, opened his case by saying that there were no compelling reasons why his client’s land should not be released for housing development. “If there is to be a strategy for release, every site of no positive use which can be released should be.”
He said that if the 51 acres were developed, Woosehill would have the advantage of another access – on to the Bearwood Road. If an accident blocked the road at the mini roundabout, the junction of Barkham Road and the Reading Road, then Woosehill residents would be effectively cut off. He urged that permission be given for the land’s development so that the spine road could be extended through Mr. Hands’ property to a junction with the Bearwood Road. “This would give a proper transition from Woosehill, through the appeal site, and into the country beyond”, he said.
There was laughter during Friday’s hearing of the Woosehill Inquiry when Mr. David Eve said the spine road through the estate to the A329 was like the Severn Bridge. Dr. Harry N. Carey, traffic engineer, was being cross-examined by Mr. Paul Hay from Wokingham Society. He said a ten to 20 per cent growth was expected on the roads by 1982.
Mr. Eve said a one in eight gradient was too high in an estate. Dr. Carey said that he would try and make it one in ten. Dr. Carey was asked if a link road from Simons Lane towards the B3349 [Barkham Road] would encourage traffic to go through the estate. He said he didn’t think so. Mrs. Pam Oliver from Winnersh Parish Council said she thought that the number of cars using Bearwood Road would be too great for it to carry.
In the afternoon Mr. Peter Garthwaite, a forestry expert, gave evidence on the use of the woodland in the site. He said the trees would provide excellent screening for the houses on the estate. Large amounts of woodland would be incorporated into the proposed motel and golf course.
The houses which are proposed for the Hands site on Woosehill if development is allowed, are likely to be of the ‘town house’ design, built in terraces of between four and six dwellings to each block. No individual or detached houses are envisaged in the plan. They will vary between two and four bedrooms, and there will be no enclosed gardens, so that the entire development will merge with the “magnificent scenery” of the landscape. These details were given by Mr. Derek Lovejoy, a senior architect who appeared on Tuesday morning to give evidence as a witness for the Hands site.
Mr. Lovejoy described the proposed development, which will take up 22 acres, as being “not monotonous in any way”. He said that the areas of very fine trees would not be threatened, and that it was proposed to leave 29 acres of land for open space, to be controlled either by the local authority, or a residents’ association. The 22 acres to be developed, all of which are covered in birch scrub, would contain 11 houses per acre, and there would be adequate spaces for children’s play, including special play areas. “If additional land is to be found to relieve the serious housing shortage, what better area than scrub woodland of low fertility”, he said.
Cross-examining Mr. Lovejoy, Mr. William Stewart, representing various residents’ associations and the Wokingham Society, asked if the system of open gardens and play areas would not endanger the lives of small children who would be free to wander at will. Mr. Lovejoy replied that the plan had been tried and tested in other developments, and because the roads were well away from the areas where children would play, there could be no danger.
Mr. Robert Gray, solicitor for Wokingham Borough Council, told Mr. Lovejoy that if the development of the Hands site goes ahead, the open space area of 29 acres from the developers would be gladly accepted.
Further dates for the Inquiry are as follows. From Tuesday, August 7, the hearings will be at Wokingham RDC offices, Shute End. Wednesday, August 22, there will be no morning session, but there will be an afternoon one. An evening session will be held for individual residents to be heard. This will probably be at St. Crispin’s School, from 6.30 to 9.00. Individual residents ill also be heard on Friday, August 17. Anyone who cannot get there during the day will be heard in the evening session the following week.
Wokingham Times 9th August; Days 10 - 13:
The massive probe into the proposed development of more than 350 acres of land at Woosehill, near Wokingham, has been continuing this week and is expected to last at least until the end of the month. Department of the Environment Inspector Mr. Philip Maynard is the man with the mammoth job of conducting the inquiry, the biggest Wokingham has ever seen. He is listening to several cases at once.
By far the biggest plan for the Woosehill area has been prepared by a consortium of landowners. Their plan, which was “called in” for appraisal by the Department of the Environment earlier this year includes a dual carriageway spine road, homes for over 7,000 people, a shopping centre and four schools. Berkshire County Council, who are part of the consortium, want, in a separate case, to build two schools if the consortium plan fails. D. J. Hands of Reading want to build more than 200 houses and there is also an appeal by P. H. Smith.
Wokingham Borough Council, many of the town’s residents’ associations and many local people are objecting to development on the site. The inquiry has now moved away from the town’s youth centre and is now in the rural council offices in Shute End.
Berkshire County Council is determined to make sure that any development at Woosehill is carried out comprehensively, one of the council’s principal planning officers said last Wednesday. Mr. Edward Harris, who works in the Local Plans section of the County Planning Department, was the first witness for the council’s case.
Mr. Harris outlined all the applications taking place at the inquiry, gave the history of the site and gave his own conclusions. “They intend to ensure that the sequence of development on the site and its timing is not left in the hands of individual owners of land, because the great risk of that resulting in piecemeal or part development to the disadvantage of the community.”
But he added that Woosehill would be largely self-contained with its own shops, open space, library, schools and health centre which in addition will partly serve the existing population of Wokingham. He went on: “Woosehill will not be fully developed within two or three years. It will be seven or eight. This puts the likely completion date in 1983 to 1984, some nine or ten years after the completion of the Planning Area Eight study and seven or eight years after the completion of the Structure Plan for Central Berkshire”.
He urged the Secretary of State for the Environment to support the local authorities in resisting the piecemeal development of Woosehill and the surrounding area. This could be done, he said, if the application submitted by the consortium together with the application for school sites by the county council were approved. “So far as the remaining appeals are concerned”, said Mr. Harris, “the county council consider that permission should be refused.”
Earlier in the day, one of the QCs, Mr. George Dobry, accused local people of “Repetitious and totally unnecessary” cross-examinations of all the witnesses. His accusation was sparked off when Mrs. F. M. J. MacPhail, representing the Council for the Protection of Rural England, was cross-examining Mr. Jack Montague, one of the witnesses for D. J. Hands. She produced several documents and after a while Inspector Mr. Philip Maynard said she was straying into points already made in the consortium’s case.
Then Mr. George Dobry, who is representing D. J. Hands, got up and said his clients were making a relatively small appeal and local people were asking the same questions over and over again to every witness. Often the questions were outside the scope of the witness’s experience. “We cannot stay here week after week while repetitious and totally unnecessary questions are asked”, he said.
“Woosehill must be developed comprehensively. Piecemeal development cannot be accepted as it does not enable access arrangements to be achieved”, it was stated at Thursday’s hearing.
Mr. Robert Foreman, a chartered surveyor with Berkshire County Council, was giving evidence. He added: “The local highway authority favours the application site and proposal by the consortium for its development, subject to the necessary road works being provided. “The mini-roundabout and the first leg of the spine road should be constructed before any major development commences.”
Mr. Foreman said he was against the proposals by D. J. Hands, P. H. Smith and Watson “because they would increase the loading on King Street Lane and the traffic signals at Winnersh cross-roads. Barkham Road is already at its maximum capacity, so that any more traffic would overload it possibly by 50 per cent”.
Mr. Foreman also commented on Dr. H. Carey’s evidence. He refused Dr. Carey’s claim that more than one access road was necessary, giving examples of development with only one access road, notably the City of Portsmouth which has one access road linking Portsea Island with the mainland.
He suggested that gated or barriered emergency access routes should be provided for the development and that improvements at Winnersh crossroads could entail another mini-roundabout. Mr. Harmes from North Woosehill Residents’ Association said that a mini-roundabout was not the solution to the problem at the crossroads.
The first residents of the proposed Woosehill Development could find themselves without a doctor, the public inquiry was told on Friday. Dr. H. P. Merrick gave evidence on behalf of himself and the other eight doctors in partnership in Wokingham. He said that at the moment they share almost 26,000 patients among them. Shortly they will be up to 27,000 patients and that each will have over 3,000 patients. “Then we will become a designated area, which is under-doctored”, he said.
He added there was another doctor coming to the town, but he already had nearly 2,000 patients, and it would not be long before he, too, reached 3,000. Dr. Merrick said when that happened the quality of the National Health Service in Wokingham would deteriorate.
Plans approved and others in the pipelines would bring another 8,500 people into the area. “We just could not cope with these numbers. We do not want any more partners because we have reached the limits of our accommodation”.
Dr. Merrick said because of high prices there was an urgent need for doctors to be able to rent accommodation for a surgery. He said the proposed health centre on the Woosehill development would provide this accommodation. But it was not scheduled to be built until the third year of development. “By then 2,500 humans will be there without a doctor”, he said. He suggested it might help if the centre was built earlier.
Ald. W. Smith pointed out that public transport was already inadequate to serve the population of the town. “Commuter trains to London are already overcrowded and people have to stand all the way to Waterloo. If we get another 7,000 people in the town it is going to seriously over-burden our public transport”. Ald. Smith also added that good agricultural land would be taken over to provide the houses. “We are always being told that this country must increase its output of food”.
He asked if the developers had given any consideration to the question of disposing of the dead. He said St. Paul’s churchyard was full and All Saints could continue for a few more years, but what of all the extra people in the town?
Mr. Robert Gray, counsel for Wokingham Borough Council, opened the proceedings in the fourth week of the Inquiry by introducing four witnesses.
First to give evidence was Mr. Ronald Gwynn, Borough Engineer, who said that although there was an acute shortage of recreational and open space land amounting to 161 acres within the Borough, the advent of Woosehill would neither help nor detract from the situation. The proposed population of 7,000 would necessitate 42 acres of playing fields and 28 acres of open space. But since 59 acres were to be used for these purposes, Woosehill would be self-sufficient. Cross-examined by Mr. C. H. Morgan, for the Residents’ Associations, Mr. Gwynn was asked if the Woosehill site would not be the most likely place for the 161 acres of recreational land to be found. He said he thought not, since playing fields were nearly always adjacent to residential areas.
The next witness, Mr. Leslie Burt, borough treasurer, said the drastic cut-back in local government spending made it impossible for land to be acquired by the Borough for recreation.
The third witness for the Borough Council, Mr. Robert Reynolds, planning officer, said that land released as a result of appeals to the Department of the Environment amounted to the building of 1,314 houses.
Mr. Nigel Moor [the fourth witness] outlined population censuses relating to land for housing and recreational purposes in England.
Wokingham Times 16th August; Days 14 - 17:
The biggest public inquiry Wokingham has ever seen, the massive probe into the development of more than 350 acres at Woosehill, moved into its fourth week last week. Department of the Environment Inspector Mr. Philip Maynard is the man with the task of conducting the inquiry. He is listening to several different cases at once.
By far the biggest plan for the Woosehill area has been prepared by a consortium of landowners. Their plan, which was “called in” for appraisal by the Department of the Environment earlier this year, includes a dual carriageway spine road, homes for over 7,000 people, a shopping centre and four schools.
Berkshire County Council, which is part of the consortium, wants, if the consortium plan fails, to build two schools. D. J. Hands of Reading wants to build 200 houses and there is also an appeal by P. H. Smith, who wants to redevelop the Folly Court site, near Woosehill, with 120 homes.
Wokingham Borough Council, many of the town’s residents’ associations and many local people are objecting – sometimes strongly - to development on the site. The inquiry is taking place at the rural council’s offices in Shute End and is expected to last until the end of this month.
Wokingham and Woosehill could end up little more than suburbs of a greatly expanded Reading if the necessary services for everyday life are not provided in the area. This was the view of the Liberals’ prospective parliamentary candidate for Wokingham, Max Cuff, as he gave evidence to the inquiry on Wednesday. He came out entirely against the proposed developments – and added that all development in and around Wokingham should be “severely restricted” until there is a new Town and District map to replace the current Town Map.
And he said that the plans for the area, rather than being designed to ease the housing shortage, were in fact a “financial speculation” which could take builders away from people who want to construct badly-needed homes to rent. “It is my submission,” he said, “that the proposed developments would not only stretch the town’s present services to beyond the limits” – despite even the proposed town centre complex – but would also kill of its present character.
“There is a danger that if the inhabitants of the proposed Woosehill development are frustrated in their efforts to obtain the necessary services required for everyday life they will be tempted to turn to nearby Reading, this causing the town’s present independent character to be destroyed”. In producing the town and district plan, he said, two separate steps should be taken. The local amenity groups and political parties should first be sounded out and, in consultation with the county council, the objectives of the plan could be worked out. Then, when the details had been worked out and finally agreed on, the plan could be used as a guideline for prospective developers.
On house prices, he said that houses would probably be £25,000 or £30,000 each, - and since a buyer would have to earn £10,000 a year to qualify for a 90 per cent mortgage, it is doubtful if many young people or people in lower paid jobs could afford to buy the properties. He had already told the inquiry the site had drainage problems, development would place a strain on the already busy Reading Road, the land was thought to be some of the most fertile in the country, a strain would be placed on the town’s present traffic system, and the county had already turned down development on the site in 1970.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Richard Dadd, of 21 Emmbrook Road, warned that one of the consequences of pushing more traffic on to the main A329 would be a higher rate of accidents. And he said that many people had formed the impression that the consortium’s chosen access point on to the road was chosen “as the least [un]desirable, rather than as a positively satisfactory one”. He criticised Mr. Michael Beaman, one of the partners in the surveying firm which drew up the consortium plan, for saying that the town centre would be able to absorb the extra population generated by development.
“I wonder if Mr. Beaman has tried shopping in Wokingham on a Saturday and experienced the congestion, particularly in Peach Street where a constant flow of vehicles passes within inches of the pedestrians thronging the narrow pavements? Leaving aside all other considerations”, he said, “I maintain that in the absence of any plans to accommodate the traffic that would arise from the development of Woosehill, development should not proceed”.
Members of North Woosehill Residents’ Association – which has about 600 people on its books – also doubted whether housing for the “average young married couple” would be available. The association lodged many objections to the development proposals put forward, mainly on the traffic and drainage details. They added also that the proposals were premature, would place an “intolerable” financial burden on the borough and would destroy the visual amenities of all those living in the association’s area.
By being so insular in its design the Woosehill development would remain a separate part of the town, the Inquiry was told on Thursday. Mr. J. Puttock of 81, Arthur Road, Wokingham, said he had lived in Slough until recent years. There the same thing had happened which was in danger of happening in Wokingham. “There you have a number of large separate communities which retain and develop their own identities. And I feel that Woosehill will be the same. It will not be integrated with Wokingham – it will become a separate mini-town”, he said.
Mr. M. S. Morgan of Westwood Road was more concerned about the proposed three roads which would skirt his property. He said he was worried about the effects of lead and carbon monoxide poisoning on his children. The toxic fumes would come from the vehicles using the three roads adjoining his home. “Our property will drop in value, our peace disturbed for ever, and our children endangered”, he told the Inquiry.
According to Mr. R. F. Scribbens of Quest Cottage, Highland Avenue, Woosehill is one of the largest speculative applications for this area. And he prophesied there would also be one of the largest land auctions ever, with land changing hands more than once. When this happened, prices would increase, and he said the developers would have to re-apply later for approval to increase the density of the housing.
Mr. Henry Parris of 15 Murdock Road, asked if these particular houses were needed. He said there were families on the Council’s housing list, but there was nothing promised to help them. If they wanted to buy a house, there were sufficient houses available. He also asked if Woosehill was to be in the right place. The development of Maplin would see the shift of development to the east of London. And the Channel Tunnel would also shift development away from Wokingham.
Mrs. Angela Stewart of Mansfield Road said the treatment of Jim Mattinson, the farmer, by the consortium went a long way to showing how the developers thought of this proposal. She said there were a large majority of people in the town who felt strongly about the proposed development, but had not gone to the Inquiry because they felt it was no good doing so because everything was already decided. Mrs. Stewart spoke of the problems already existing in the town. “Wokingham is a pleasant place, but living here is not a bed of roses”, she said.
“Blood will flow down Woosehill before I move out of that farm”, was the fighting cry from Mr. Jim Mattinson at the inquiry on Friday. Mr. Mattinson said he had “put every penny I’ve got into the farm” during the 14 years he has farmed Westward Ho farm on the proposed Woosehill development. He rented the farm from Mr. Hillman, a director of Calgary and Edmonton, part of the consortium who want to develop Woosehill. Over the years he built up a herd of 260 beef cattle and a flock of 150 sheep. Now the cattle have had to be sold or moved away when Mr. Hillman sold part of the land and the sheep will be there only a few more weeks.
Mr. Mattinson spoke of the land lying idle while the price of crops rockets because of scarcity. “It’s frightening to hear of all these people coming to Wokingham. Even with the money I got from selling the stock I can’t buy myself half an acre to build a house on”. In his final bombardment on the developers he called across the room: “Men will come with big arms, and I’m only a small man, and throw me out, chuck me down the road. But their blood will flow down Woosehill before I move out of that farm.”
Mr. Paul Haye, representing The Wokingham Society, condemned the choice of the site of new development at Wokingham and said: “We have heard little or no evidence to justify the choice of Wokingham as the site for such a large influx of population”. He suggested Maidenhead, Windsor or Twyford as suitable towns, but it is stated that “desirable limits” have been reached in the development of Maidenhead and Windsor. “Why does the county council not admit that the urban development at Wokingham has already reached ‘desirable limits’?” He pointed out that Wokingham has no representative on the county planning committee. “That is one reason why Wokingham’s population growth has expanded at a faster rate even than that of Bracknell New Town, and that, I submit, is why the county council is now willing to consider chucking in another 7,000 people”.
He suggested Bracknell could be an alternative to Wokingham, and he challenged Mr. Beaman’s argument that the character of Wokingham would [not] be lost if Woosehill went ahead. Mr. Beaman spoke earlier in the inquiry for the consortium as a surveyor and called the argument put forward by residents against Woosehill “irrational”. Said Mr. Haye: “I for one would hesitate to accuse as irrational such a substantial body of objectors as 45 or so individual speakers, a local amenity society of 600 members, four residents’ associations, The Council for the Protection of Rural England, Winnersh Parish Council and Wokingham Borough Council”.
Mr. Brian Wales-Smith, for Wokingham Joint Residents’ Association, said: “We oppose the further growth of this town because plans and proposals for such growth carry no Government guarantee of a town limit and of separation by open country from other towns. We are fighting to preserve town identity, character and community spirit. We fear choked roads, general pollution and over-large schools with over-large classes”.
The association had made a comprehensive survey of houses for sale in the Wokingham area. The conclusion that was reached was that 1050-1000 people were trying to leave Wokingham and that there was not very much demand by outsiders to take their places. “Wokingham has earned a rest. We contend that Woosehill and other similar proposals already made and waiting to be made are premature or not even necessary. We urge caution and ask that new proposals, however good they may be in themselves, be put in cold storage or at least allowed only in stages separated by re-examination of needs and efforts in public.”
“In the unhappy and unlikely event of the Woosehill appeal being refused, the re-development of Folly Court would not affect Wokingham in any way. And if the appeal is allowed, the extra houses which it is proposed should be built at Folly Court would not make any great difference to the overall size of that development”. So said Mr. George Dobry, Q.C., opening the case for his client, Mr. P. H. Smith, who owns the dilapidated Folly Court, standing in 16.5 acres of land along the Barkham Road.
He gave four reasons why the property should be developed, and explained that his client, who is a local builder, had given assurance that if permission was granted, he had the equipment and men to start work a year before it was due to begin at Woosehill (if permission was granted there too). The reasons for development were that although Folly Court was on the fringe of Wokingham, it is close to the station, and at the same time it is conveniently close to the town centre.
Wokingham Times 23rd August; Days 18 - 21:
The biggest public inquiry Wokingham has ever seen, the massive probe into the development of more than 350 acres at Woosehill, moved into its fifth week last week. Mr. Philip Maynard is the Department of the Environment Inspector with the job of conducting the inquiry. He is listening to several different cases at the same time.
By far the biggest plan for the Woosehill area has been prepared by a consortium of landowners. Their plan - “called in” for appraisal by the Department of the Environment earlier this year - includes homes for over 7,000 people, a dual carriageway spine road, four schools and a shopping centre. Berkshire County Council is part of the consortium, but if that plan fails, it wants to build two schools on the site.
D. J. Hands of Reading wants to build 200 houses and there is also an appeal by P. H. Smith who wants to redevelop the Folly Court site near Woosehill, with 120 homes.
Wokingham Borough Council, many of the town’s residents’ associations and many local people are objecting – sometimes strongly - to development on the site. The inquiry is taking place at the rural council offices in Shute End and is expected to finish tomorrow.
In the opinion of an agricultural expert who gave evidence at the inquiry on Wednesday last week, land at Folly Court could not reasonably be restored to use as a nursery garden, which was its function until 1968. Desmond Hampton, an agricultural surveyor, said that he had taken several bores of the soil and found it to be mostly sandy, and of no agricultural value. The crop yields on this type of soil would be well below average.
Mr. Hampton described the house as a derelict building whose interior had been severely damaged by vandals. “Unless the site is developed, it is likely to remain derelict and in its present unattractive condition for the foreseeable future”, he said. Cross-examined by Mr. Robert Gray, solicitor for the borough council, Mr. Hampton agreed that unless an eccentric millionaire or someone with plenty of money came along and restored the house and gardens to their original use, there was no future apart from in development.
A second witness, Mr. Richard Caws, stated that in his opinion as a surveyor, Folly Court did not contribute to the visual amenities of the area and unlike Woosehill, had become a derelict tract of wasteland. “In my opinion the development of Folly Court has a stronger visual and physical claim for development than Woosehill”.
Development at Woosehill must be contained within its proposed boundaries. It must not be allowed to ‘burst out’. That was the view of Berkshire County Council’s representative, Mr. John Gray, at the inquiry on Thursday. Mr. Gray was summing up the County Council’s objections to the Folly Court Appeal. P. H. Smith wants to build 120 houses on the 16½ acre site just off Woosehill. The County Council has endorsed the Woosehill development plans and is part of the consortium of owners there, but is not in favour of building at Folly Court.
Mr. Gray set out four reasons why development should not go ahead there:
1. It is on White Land not zoned for development except in special circumstances.
2. It is not in the programme for residential development for the area.
3. It is an unplanned spread into the local country, is detrimental to its rural character and would create a bad precedent.
4. It would interfere with the free flow and safety of Barkham Road.
“Any further development, whether it be Folly Court or not, is an explosion, a grafting on to Woosehill. One cannot take Folly Court in isolation. We should allow the area to digest Woosehill slowly”, he said. He quoted Mr. Brian Wales-Smith of Wokingham Joint Residents’ Association, who, in his evidence, had talked about the containment of development by roads, woodlands and railways.
Then Mr. Gray quoted Dr. H. P. Merrick who had talked about the shortage of doctors in the area. Mr. Gray said that Woosehill would help the situation because it would have a medical centre included in its plans, but the Folly Court proposals would only make matters worse as it was likely [that] development there would take place at once. “What it means is, if Folly Court were built immediately, nobody would be able to get on the doctors’ list”, he said.
In reply, Mr. George Dobry Q.C., representing P. H. Smith, asked the Inspector to reject the County Council’s approach to Woosehill. He said Woosehill should not be treated as a monopoly and there was no reason why the Folly Court proposals should be considered as the “Cinderella” of the local authority.
Earlier, Mr. Gray had said P. H. Smith and the other appeals were “jumping on the “Woosehill bandwagon”. Mr. Dobry commented: “We have been in the pipeline since 1968. We were knocking on the door rightly or wrongly five years ago. That was before the Ma and Pa of Woosehill had even met”.
Wokingham estate agent Miss Isobel Elliston Clifton called for at least part of the Woosehill site to be used as a public park. A partner in P. Chase Gardener and Co., she told the inquiry that a large park in Woosehill would “retain a useful and health-giving lung” in the midst of future development.
She said that wherever there are over 300 acres of land available for comprehensive development it can be made a “viable proposition” for about 100 acres to be laid out for a golf course and houses to be built around or beside it. She said if this were done at Woosehill, people in Wokingham would still have their parkland views across the Emm Brook Valley and the course would be actively used by far greater numbers than would be the case with parkland alone. The much-needed housing could be provided as well. She added that perhaps part of the course could be used to provide dry ponds and ease the drainage problems of the area.
There was a great demand for another golf course in the area, she said, the new Downshire golf course not having met the demand. She said: “This is the last chance to preserve a park for Wokingham which is in a central position and of worthwhile dimensions. This will benefit residents and newcomers alike, and many generations to come.”
Mr. Peter Cross of Sandhurst Residents’ Association said on Friday that the “Woosehill development plan is premature . . . all development should be delayed until local facilities can cope . . . we need improved roads before new houses”. He maintained that large scale development in Wokingham would increase traffic on the already overloaded A321 from Wokingham to Camberley and the M3.
He said: “The road is unsatisfactory in Sandhurst because it is overloaded at peak times, too narrow in place, passes through our shopping precincts and has a dangerous right-angle bend under a low bridge in the town centre. There is considerable local unrest and concern about this road and there are plans for local civil disturbance in the near future in an attempt to obtain pedestrian crossings.”
A Woosehill resident gave a rural description on Tuesday of part of the appeal site, which might have come straight out of a poem by Matthew Arnold. Giving evidence on behalf of residents of Limmer Hill Road, Dr. F. Garwood spoke of green hedges, grassy banks, and a profusion of wild flowers and birds in the area which is known as Mattinson’s fields.
He mentioned sheep grazing quietly in peaceful pastures, and of the fine views from the top of the hill over woods, fields and hills. Children, he said, go to the area all year round, to gather bluebells, blackberries, chestnuts and flowers, and in winter when there is snow to toboggan down the hill. “There is only a faint rumble of traffic from the M4, and from the top of Limmer Hill you can just see the top of the old Town Hall to remind you that you are not miles from anywhere, but in a precious piece of England which is actually within the borough of Wokingham”. Dr. Garwood finished up with a plea to the inspector that somewhere else be found, to provide houses.
Earlier in the day Mrs. R. D. Nash, who lives in Westward Road, cross-examined Mr. Robert Hemphill, a drainage engineer from the Thames Conservancy, who was called as an independent witness by the Inspector. Mrs. Nash tried to discover from Mr. Hemphill the distance that it was planned to build the spine road from the rear gardens of houses in Westward Road. She had been assured by the consortium, she said, that the road would be built at least 75 feet from the gardens, but she doubted the validity of this assurance.
At this point Mr. David Eve interrupted to say that his clients had not yet prepared a final plan of the proposed position of the spine road, and therefore it was impossible to say how close it might be to anyone’s garden.
Wokingham Times 30th August; Days 22 - 24:
Wokingham’s massive inquiry into the proposed development of more than 350 acres at Woosehill moved into its final week last week. It ended on Friday after more than six weeks of evidence and the decisions are not likely to be known for several months.
Department of the Environment Inspector Mr. Philip Maynard was the man conducting the inquiry and his task is now to look again at the piles of evidence and maps he has collected. He was listening to several different cases at once.
By far the biggest plan for the area has been prepared by a consortium of landowners. Their plan, which was “called in” by the Department of the Environment earlier this year, includes homes for 7,000 people, a dual carriageway spine road, four schools and a shopping centre. Berkshire County Council is part of the consortium, but if that plan fails, it wants to build two schools on the site.
D. J. Hands of Reading wants to build 200 houses and there is also an appeal by P. H. Smith who wants to redevelop the Folly Court site near Woosehill, with 120 homes.
Wokingham Borough Council, many of the town’s residents’ associations and many local people are objecting – often strongly - to development on the site, although the borough council maintained at the inquiry that if development has to take place it must be done comprehensively.
Day 22 – Afternoon:
The demand for houses in Wokingham was questioned by Mr. Frederick Webbing, chairman of Meadow Residents’ Association at the inquiry on Wednesday afternoon. “In Wokingham houses are plentiful now”, he said.
He said houses were remaining on the market for a long time, “The theory of the chain reactions has been used to justify the building of high to medium priced houses. This theory suggests that when a house is purchased this released the seller’s house, which is usually at a lower price than the one purchased. It is assumed that this process is repeated until a house becomes available at the bottom of the price range for young newly-married couples or a council tenant. Regrettably the sting is in the tail for even the bottom of the price range is far too expensive for most newly-married couples and council house tenants.”
Mr. Webbing said he had consulted estate agents in the town and estimated there were about 500 houses for sale. Another estate agent had told him that never in 30 years had he known so many houses to be up for sale. “People have been given as many as 100 houses to view, It has been difficult to obtain “For Sale” boards for display outside houses coming on to the market; the demand for boards has exceeded the supply”.
He added that one estate agent had said that people were not interested in houses on large estates and were refusing to accept details of such houses. “These are not the circumstances which justify claims for the urgent release of more building land in advance of comprehensive plans for the town and the surrounding area”.
Mrs. A. M. Garwood of Gable Cottage, Limmer Hill, made a plea for the woods near her home to be kept in their present natural state. “This is a real playground for children, The developers probably say they are going to make play areas available, but you cannot convince me or my child – that a man-made playground is the same as a natural one with trees to climb”, she said. Mrs. Garwood added: “If the children do not have these woods to play on, it will lead to vandalism. They already do a certain amount of damage while there, but if they do not have these woods, the amount of vandalism will increase and could lead to juvenile delinquency”.
Day 22 – Evening:
The people of Wokingham will go on fighting for their “bit of England”. So said the chairman of Wokingham Society, Mr. Anthony Cross, when he spoke at the inquiry’s evening session, last Wednesday. Well over 200 people, urged on by advertising leaflets from Wokingham Joint Residents’ Association, packed the rural council offices.
Many had to stand against the walls to hear the 27 people who took the microphone to air their views about the development, and the temperature in the council chamber rose sharply. But there was none of the bad feeling that marked the inquiry’s opening last month and Inspector Mr. Philip Maynard, who said he was under no obligation to hold such a meeting, was determined to give everyone “a fair crack of the whip”.
Most of the speakers in the three-hour meeting were wholeheartedly against the proposed developments. They spoke about the town’s overcrowded roads, its overcrowded shopping centre, its lack of amenities, the fact that there were many houses for sale in the area, the character of the town and its “community spirit”. “It will spoil our quality of life” was a popular phrase used throughout the evening.
Mr. Cross said Wokingham had been known as the “Town of the Forest” and still retained its old character. This would be destroyed if development took place. “The atmosphere is still one of small town intimacy and welcome”. He added: “It is not possible to add mammoth developments to an historic market town and expect the two to blend”.
Then, he told Mr. Maynard: “Yours will be a decision on the merits of the case presented to you. Your recommendations may well, like those of inspectors at other inquiries here, be rejected for political reasons. I would like you to report that the feelings of the people in this town are running high. They are getting bitter and angry. They feel that Wokingham is being thrown to the wolves because unlike other towns in East Berkshire, such as Windsor or Maidenhead, it has no powerful protector or strategically-placed councils to speak for it”.
He said the people of Wokingham would go on fighting for their “precious heritage”. “We are fighting for ordinary people – not to make fortunes for a few lucky landowners or to fill the pockets of a few greedy property developers. We have fought and we shall go on fighting for our bit of land”. Like many speakers, his evidence received loud applause.
He then quoted a letter to him from Professor Sir Colin Buchanan, a top planner who left Wokingham last year. Sir Colin said he and his wife left with many regrets but were glad to leave behind the traffic problems. “As a founder president of our society I sincerely hope you will be able to persuade the Secretary of State that Wokingham has taken enough and that it should now be given the chance to absorb the phenomenal growth of the last 20 years in an orderly fashion without having still further pressure thrust upon it”.
Mr. Brian Sansom, of Oaklands Drive, a new Wokingham District Councillor, spoke on behalf of many of the residents present when he talked of the quality of life in Wokingham. Like many people he spoke of the “appalling traffic conditions” and lack of amenities in Wokingham for the present population. He questioned the need for houses in the Wokingham area of the type to be built at Woosehill, and he quoted Coun. Robert Bramall in saying that there was enough land already developed in Wokingham district.
Mr. A. Mitchell, of 23 Windmill Avenue, Wokingham, said he objected “to any development on the “site”. He spoke vehemently against the government developers. “The Minister wants to develop Woosehill before the next general election”, he said, claiming that Wokingham had been “Ripponised”.
Mr. A. R. Clark, general manager of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, said his association could put forward an alternative use for the Folly Court site. They would like to buy it as a training centre for their dogs. About 35 people would live there, as well as 80 dogs and it would be perfect for their training. “We do not want a centre deep in the country”, he said. The dogs have to be trained where there is traffic. At the moment dogs have to come from centres at Leamington Spa and Exeter”.
Miss Julia Szafran of 1 Green Croft said there was nothing for young people to do in Wokingham and the development would make it worse. Mostly, they used pubs at present and if Reading was anything to go by they would just wander round the streets after dark.
Other people were worried about the lack of adequate library facilities and the crowded town centre. Others said the roads were already far too dangerous and would be made more so by the added traffic.
Mrs. Geraldine Robertson of 30 Heath Close made an appeal “for the children of Wokingham”. She said their teachers always called them molly-coddled because they travelled everywhere by car. “But they have to travel by car if you want to see them home safely again”.
Last to speak was Mr. Robert Sawyer of 8 Osterley Close, who represented, said Mr. Maynard, the “youth of Wokingham”. Robert said he was not wholeheartedly against the development and was sure that the town centre could be made traffic-free to do away with some of its problems. His suggestions were greeted with cat calls from the otherwise quiet audience and Mr. Maynard had to tell them to be quiet and “let him have a fair crack of the whip”.
In a last bid to save Woosehill from the developers, two Wokingham residents, armed with maps, plans and vast proofs of evidence, took over the entire proceedings at the inquiry on Thursday.
With a carefully prepared speech Mrs. F. M. J. Macphail, representing the Council for the Protection of Rural England, described her own and her organisation’s position as “having taken on Goliath”.
“But David does sometimes win”, she said. In her evidence Mrs. Macphail touched on all the objections which have so far been raised against the development proposal, and pointed out in particular that the percentage growth increase in Wokingham over the years has been higher even than in Bracknell, a town planned to cope with the London overspill.
Mrs. Macphail vacated the witness stand for Mr. Glen Stewart, an eloquent member of the Meadow Residents’ Association who had given prior warning that his evidence would last for at least four hours. Barristers and solicitors sat back as Mr. Stewart opened his case by saying that he made no apology for taking this length of time. The developers, he said, had spoken for 79 hours among them, and they still had more to come.
Mr. Stewart went on to describe, with the aid of photographs, diagrams and a video tape recording, how unbearable life he thought would be in Wokingham if the Woosehill development goes ahead. “If this development is allowed, there will be no stopping others”, he said. “I hope to show in my presentation how little the public have been consulted on this major development which will have such a vast effect on their environment”, he said. If there were to be a general attempt to build houses for the people who need them, at a reasonable profit for the developers, and planned considering the requirements of the whole town, I shall strongly support those proposals, even if it means a block of flats at the boundary of my property. But as it is I strongly oppose it”.
It had been anticipated that counsel representing the various appellants would begin summing up their cases on Thursday afternoon, but in view of the lengths of the previous cases, this was postponed.
Wokingham has expanded fast enough – and is still expanding as a result of releases on appeal. These were two of the main points brought out in the summing up of Wokingham Borough Council representative, Mr. Robert Gray. He was speaking on the last day of the inquiry on Friday. But county council representative Mr. John Gray said his main argument was “Woosehill – and no more”. He told Mr. Maynard the county council, “facing reality and persuaded by circumstances”, had decided Woosehill should be developed. These were the two opposing views on the last day of the inquiry.
Mr. Robert Gray repeated the borough council’s objection to the development. He said Wokingham had expanded fast enough and was still expanding as a result of releases on appeal. “It may have expanded even more before the Secretary of State’s decision is known”. He added that if it was decided more development should take place, this should wait until after studies next year. But, he said, if the development was thought to be necessary, the borough council would try and provide the amenities.
Throughout the inquiry the borough council has said it is against development but would rather, if it was thought necessary, have it done comprehensively. But Mr. John Gray [for the county council] said it should be “Woosehill and no more”. He asked Mr. Maynard to recommend that the boundary of the Woosehill site was held to “stop Wokingham’s population having to attend so many public inquiries”.
The county council supports a planned, phased comprehensive development. Mr. Gray said one of the reasons why they disagreed with the other smaller plans was that if these went ahead, nobody would be able to get a doctor. The consortium plan, he said, provided for a health centre, possibly even in its third year. He stressed the importance of woodland areas and the “end of Wokingham” aspect of Bearwood Road. The county council had no objections, he said, to the spine road but they would object strongly if Bearwood Road was used.
Earlier in the day Mr. Glen Stewart, of Meadow Residents’ Association, had said the inquiry system lacked humanity and compassion. At the end of the second part of his evidence he told Mr. Maynard: “Woosehill development is the perpetration of a modern horror, for the same motives of greed by a handful of people. Woosehill development, if it took place under these plans before you, will be looked on by future generations in the same light we regard the horrors of the industrial revolution”.
Mr. John Taylor, D. J. Hands’ representative, asked the Inspector to recommend that there was no compelling reason why his application should be refused and went on to set out the evidence given during the course of the inquiry.
Last to speak was Mr. David Eve Q.C., representing the consortium. In a speech of two hours and 20 minutes he set out the reasons why the plan for 2,000 homes, four schools, a shopping centre, health centre, open space and dual carriageway spine road should be accepted.
He said there was a need in the area for housing, despite the argument that there were plenty of houses for sale in Wokingham. He added that land for housing had to be found somewhere and there were national, regional and local reasons why Woosehill should be chosen. A large scale land release such as this would lead to a balanced development but small “ad hoc” releases could not. Wokingham Borough Council, he said, accepted Woosehill if development had to take place – even though they were against development.
Mr. Eve said it was irrelevant to point to the lack of facilities in the town. Public open space would be increased by the development and the Riverside Park would be the largest in Wokingham. He added that Woosehill might hasten on the provision of facilities. “If the population is increased by Woosehill then the chance of getting extra facilities at Wokingham Hospital would be increased”. Then, he said, people would not have to rely on Battle Hospital for emergencies. Another example was the pedestrianisation of the town centre. This, too, could be hastened if Woosehill were developed.
A number of people had referred to the impact of the access road, he said. But the consortium would consult with residents and do their best to screen the road and put up barriers.
Mr. Eve then referred to the number of people who had objected to the development throughout the inquiry. He said it did not matter whether or not they objected – what was the facts behind the objections. “It would be better if the energy local organisations put into objecting to Woosehill was put to getting facilities”, he said.
Woosehill would be contained, he told the inquiry, because the spine road would not be a through road. He then set out the main traffic figures showing that Wokingham could take the increase. The mini roundabout, he said, could be built without encroaching on anybody else’s land and would have plenty of capacity in reserve.
“Woosehill is a phased development allowing time for Wokingham to absorb it”, he said.
At the end of his speech at 6.40 p.m., Mr. Eve thanked Mr. Maynard for listening patiently to the six weeks of evidence in such hot weather and he also thanked the people who had come along to the inquiry. Said Mr. Maynard, “I would like to thank everyone for co-operating with me so well”.
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 Bracknell Library, while those up to the end of 1971 can also be seen at Wokingham Library.
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