Tuesday, 2 June 2020

New Grant Funding to Support Reading's Small Businesses

If you have a small company, could you benefit from Government funding to help you through the covid-19 pandemic?

Here's a press release from Reading Borough Council with details:

SMALL businesses across Reading have a two-week window to apply for new grant funding to help support them through the Covid-19 crisis.

Local firms have until Sunday June 14th to apply for Reading Borough Council’s new Discretionary Grant Fund Scheme. They can check if they meet the eligibility criteria and complete an application form at

Reading expects to be given around £1.4 million by Government as part of a new national scheme created to support certain small businesses which previously fell outside the scope of the main business grant funds scheme.

The Council’s scheme closely follows central Government guidance in terms of criteria and which businesses are eligible. Due to the limited funds available, the Council fully expects demand for grants to significantly outweigh supply. Grant values will therefore only be finalised once the two week application window has shut,  at which point the Council can establish demand, carry out the relevant checks and ensure financial support reaches the maximum number of small local businesses in Reading.

A  two-tier payment approach has been designed by the Council based on the estimated rateable value (RV) of businesses. No grants will be awarded without an application being made and incomplete claims or claims received after June 14th will not be considered. At this stage it is anticipated payments to successful businesses will be made by BACS on week commencing 22nd June.

Monday, 1 June 2020

Free Online Comedy Project for over 70's

Please see below details I've just received from Age UK Berkshire of a new project being run in Reading. Do pass on to anyone who might be interested!

Free Online Comedy Project - Build your computer confidence & laugh and socialise with your peers!
StrikeUp Theatre are looking for people aged 70 and over who are feeling cut off from their neighbours, friends and family and would enjoy the opportunity to meet new people in a relaxed, playful environment.
We are working in association with 
AgeUK Berkshire and Reading Borough Council to bring you 6 free comedy theatre workshops, whilst delivering a crash course in video communications online.
Thursdays, 11AM-12PM, 28th May - 2nd July
Your Living Room - the course is run through a computer system which we can teach you how to use
Over six sessions, you will learn the secrets of being funny onscreen, from physical clowning tricks to the secret of comic timing, taught by experienced theatre practitioners from StrikeUp Theatre. Plus, you will learn how to get the best out of video conferencing applications like FaceTime and Zoom. Over the six weeks, we will put together a unique comedy performance from an original script, written specifically to meet the challenges of an online video workshop. 
To sign up, get in contact with Rachel from StrikeUp Theatre:
PHONE - 07514712785

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Reading's Recycling at Smallmead to Re-open

13 May 2020Image result for Re3 recycling reading logo

Please see below the announcement that Smallmead will re-open on 18 May, with an on-line booking system being launched at 10 am on Friday 15 May.


re3 recycling centres to re-open next week on restricted basis with a booking system in place
To gain access to sites, residents will have to book a time slot using a ‘Click & Tip’ service
The re3 recycling centres on Longshot Lane, Bracknell and Smallmead Island Road, Reading will reopen on 18th May, Monday with a booking system in place. The sites have been temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

An online booking system, ‘Click and Tip’ will open at 10AM, 15th May, Friday and residents of Bracknell Forest, Reading and Wokingham Boroughs will be able to book a time slot via the webform provided on the local councils and re3 websites. Bookings will be available for slots from 8am – 6pm, Monday to Sunday, and residents can book up to 7 days in advance. Due to the limited number of booking slots available, with the sites only operating at 50% of usual capacity, residents are urged to continue to safely store waste at home and only make a booking if the trip to the recycling centres is essential.

The health of residents and staff is always the highest priority, so everyone visiting the reopened sites must follow traffic signs, staff advice and adhere to the social distancing measures that have been put in place.
To ensure that social distancing guidelines are adhered, the following safety measures will be introduced on both sites:
  • Limiting the number of vehicles allowed at the site at any one time.
  • All visitors are required to keep the appropriate distance from each other, at least 2m apart.
  • To minimise unnecessary contact with staff, residents should display their proof of address through closed windows and use contactless payments for transactions if possible.
  • No assistance for unloading can be provided by site staff who will be available to direct the public and manage residents parking. 
  • In line with Public Health England guidance, residents who are vulnerable, or who are showing symptoms which may indicate coronavirus, must not visit the recycling centres.
Things to remember when visiting the re3 sites at Longshot Lane, Bracknell and Smallmead, Reading:
  • You must make a booking before you visit the site. If you do not having a booking you will be refused entry.
  • Please bring proof of address that shows you are a resident of Bracknell Forest, Wokingham or Reading such as driving licence, a council tax bill or a utility bill and place it on your dashboard for staff to see.
  • You must arrive at the time of your booked slot.
  • You must come in the car for which you made your booking (identified by the number plate).
  • Visitors who come without a booking, outside of their booked slot, without a proof of residency or in a different car from the booking will be turned away.
  • We will accept all usual items, including chargeable waste, so plan your visit when loading your car as it will help minimise the amount of time on site. 
  • There may be delays accessing the site and possibly queues of waiting vehicles, so please have all your documents available. 
  • Please be patient and follow the instructions of staff onsite at all times. 
Cllr Mrs Dorothy Hayes MBE, Bracknell Forest Council’s Executive Member for Environment and Chairman of the re3 Joint Waste Disposal Board commented:
The wellbeing of our residents and staff is our priority and we have been working hard to ensure that re-opening of recycling centres can be done in a responsible and safe manner during these unprecedented times. I am certain that the reopening of our recycling centres will be welcomed as we understand the difficulties people have faced managing their waste at this time, but residents need to realise that it is open at limited capacity and for pre-booked visitors only. We are expecting very high demand for appointments so we are asking residents to be patient and comply with new rules so we can safely deliver this crucial service.”
Cllr Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Strategic Environment, Planning & Transport and Deputy Leader of the Council, said:
”I welcome the reopening of the recycling centres based on an online booking system and effective traffic control system, supported by other social distancing measures. These give us confidence that sites can operate safely, at the same time providing residents with the opportunity to dispose of and recycle their waste in a responsible manner. We thank residents for their patience during the period that the recycling centres have been closed and ask that they continue to be patient whilst the service is reintroduced. We anticipate that demand will be high, and with limited appointments available we ask everyone to only make a booking and travel to the centres if it is necessary.” 
Cllr Parry Batth, Wokingham Borough Council’s Executive Member for Environment and Leisure, added:
“I welcome this decision, but we should understand this is not a return to normal. Our recycling centres have always been in high demand with many residents praising the ease of use of our facilities. We want to continue to offer our services and as always ask everyone to follow staff advice. We need to ensure continuing access to refuse freighters and other councils vehicles, alongside opening-up the HWRCs. So, new measures are vital to ensure we protect our residents, our staff and to reduce unnecessary queuing near the sites.” 
More information can be found on the re3 website.

Bookings will go live on 10AM, Friday and residents can make a booking via the webform: Click&Tip service. 

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Works to re-start at Mapledurham Pavilion

This afternoon Reading Borough Council (RBC) announced the welcome news that refurbishment of Mapledurham Pavilion will restart on Monday 4 May.
Mapledurham Pavilion's works to restart on 4 May 

Below is the information RBC has provided:

Re Mapledurham Pavilion works
The works to the pavilion started in early March by AYM Services Ltd, but were temporarily put on hold due to Covid-19 and the difficulty in meeting social distancing guidance.

Central Government have identified that where construction work is able to safely continue it should do so to aid future economic recovery. The Government have recently updated its Covid–19 construction safety guidance giving more specific advice on safe working practices. AYM have adjusted their working practices to reflect and meet this updated advice on social distancing rules.

AYM will re-start work on the pavilion on Monday 4th May with a reduced work force to build the small side extension and replace the existing roof and windows. Then the majority of work is inside, refurbishing the interior of the pavilion, for example installing new heating, electrics, changing facilities and toilets.

We have not taken this decision lightly. The pavilion is a community facility that we would like to reopen as soon as we are allowed for local people to use. We are aware of resident concerns about noise, disruption and social distancing caused by other nearby works and have put in place measures to address these concerns for the pavilion works. These include:
  • A smaller workforce to meet revised Covid-19 construction safety guidance and will mean less activity on site at any one time
  • We have asked that AYM work with the Council’s Environment Protection (EP) Team and apply for a S61 noise licence to limit or reduce any noisy work where possible to reflect that there are more people staying at home
  • A noise monitor is to be installed near the pavilion to automatically record noise levels to help the EP Team monitor noise and target any site visits on the pavilion works
  • All compressors and generators, where practicable, will be ‘sound reduced’ models fitted with acoustic covers to remain closed whenever they are in use
  • All plant and machinery are to be fitted with effective silencers where available, will be sited away from houses where practicable, and will be shut down when not in use
  • The AYM site manager will letter drop nearest neighbours to provide information as work progresses and will be available on site to listen to any queries about the pavilion works 

AYM construction working hours are Monday–Friday 8 am - 6 pm and, if needed, Saturday 9 am - 1 pm. They will be arriving on site between 7 am - 8 am to carry out safety checks but are aware that actual construction work is not to start before 8 am.

To help immediate neighbours to the pavilion know what is happening AYM will provide regular updates to them. The site manager of AYM is Michael Leith, AYM site manager and may be contacted by email on,uk.

For all enquiries relating to the construction of the Heights Primary School, in the first instance please contact the Kier project manager on While the Department for Education are controlling the works to the Heights School, the Council’s Environment Protection team are also monitoring the school works and may be contacted at For more general information about the Landscape works taking place at Mapledurham Playing Fields, please visit RBC's website page

Monday, 27 April 2020

Urgent works to Grade I listed Chazey Court Barn

Chazey Court Barn - start of new scaffolding (taken on 24/4)
Chazey Court Barn, one of only six buildings within Reading Borough to have a Grade I listing, is at last to have urgent works carried out. It dates back to the 17th Century and has been on the Heritage at Risk Register for many years because of its precarious condition.

Last week new scaffolding started going up to support the building. The scaffolding will be going higher as there will be a temporary tin roof  above the tiles to keep the building watertight.

Chazey Court Barn is owned by Mapledurham Estate. There is a long and complicated planning history. For years there has been a stale mate with many organisations and individuals, fronted by Reading Borough Council (RBC)  trying to get the owner and/or leaseholder to look after this important building, the restoration of which forms part of a successfully appealed application to build a nursing home.

RBC had a meeting on site in February with Historic England and the sub-leaseholders, InMind to discuss and agree a schedule of urgent works. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions coming into force, commencement was delayed. JM Civil Engineering are carrying out the restoration works. They have put up a sign with their contact details and are extremely keen to keep disruption to a minimum.

RBC has asked the sub-leaseholder to submit a Certificate of Lawfulness for a proposed development to establish that the planning permission is extant, ie that all pre-commencement conditions have been adequately satisfied and that the time limits set by condition for starting the development and/or submitting reserved matters have not expired.

Digger on top of the soil temporarily put into the balancing pool
On Friday lorry loads of soil were off-loaded temporarily into the area previously dug out for the flood alleviation balancing pond. More lorry loads will be off-loaded here this week. Please do not be concerned as the soil will be taken out to create a bund around the barn and the balancing pond (whilst maintaining access to the properties to the west) to secure the site.

Contractor's details
Do get in contact with me
mob: 07717 292 003 if you would like any further information or would like me to put specific questions to John at JM Civil Engineering or the RBC planner dealing with this site.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Plea from Thames Water + Green Waste Collections Re-starting

Thames Water are pleading with residents to put 'non-disposables' in the bin rather than down the toilet.
Bin wet wipes, kitchen roll and tissues: don't flush them!

"One of the unfortunate impacts of COVID-19 is that we are seeing an increase in blockages in our sewer networks, as people doing extra cleaning or who have had problems buying toilet tolls are flushing non-biodegradable alternatives, such as kitchen roll or antibacterial wipes. This is creating problems in our sewers which can result in sewage backing up into people’s homes or polluting the environment."

Welcome news for gardeners is that Reading Borough Council's green waste collections will be re-starting from w/c 27 April. The annual charge will run from this date.

Green waste collections had been suspended on 27 March because the council wanted to ensure grey and red bin collections were prioritised despite staff shortages due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Excess garden waste will not be collected: only that presented in the green wheelie bins or bags provided.

To sign up for the green waste service visit fill in this form

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Mid April update on works at MPF

Here's an update on various matters which I hope you'll find helpful.

The Heights primary school
The piling works for the new school will be finished by the end of this Wednesday, 22 April. Kier, the DfE's contractor, has managed to reduce dramatically the programmed 4 weeks of piling works down to 2 weeks. Testing checks on Thursday 23 April might possibly be needed, but if so should only last that day.

Here's a video of Andy from Kier describing the works when I visited the site office a few days ago to check out the noise and vibration levels.

Mapledurham Playing Fields' drainage works
Drainage channel with sand on top

Agripower, the Council's contractor, re-started its works this month within the cordoned off area of the pitches.

Drainage is being improved and once complete, grass seed will be put down. The area will be re-opened as soon as the grass has become established enough to walk on.
1 of 3 new tarmac links from Hewett Ave

Separately, back in late March, the council finished off and tarmacked the three entrances into MPF from Hewett Avenue to enable easy access for all.

Mapledurham Pavilion works
Council officers are investigating with the contractor how to re-start the Pavilion refurbishment works while complying with Covid-19 distancing instructions.
Pavilion - awaiting a restart of refurbishment works

View west across playing fields one sunset