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Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Reading Museum Launches Collection Website

Reading Museum has created an online showcase that will display more than 2,700 objects from its collections, including the oil painting by Paul Sandby below of the inner gateway of Reading Abbey that connected the public outer precinct (The Forbury) to the private inner precinct where the monks lived and worked.
Oil painting by Paul Sandby, 1808, north side of Abbey Gate

A major highlight for local residents will be almost 2,000 photographs of Reading during the 20th century, many from the Reading Chronicle collection.

The website will be a growing ‘shop window’ for the museum’s diverse archaeology, art, natural history, social history and world collections.

The new Collections Online catalogue has been created thanks to funding from the Arts Council England.  It can be found at http://collections.readingmuseum.org.uk

Friday, 21 November 2014

EFA Feedback on location for The Heights

The Education Funding Agency (EFA) has asked RBC to help find a community-backed permanent location for The Heights.  Reading Borough Council has published a press release welcoming the EFA's request to help engage with the public.

The facts:
  • The EFA has agreed to Rob Wilson MP's request that there should be a thorough public consultation on where the permanent location for The Heights is built.  Rob's statement can be read on his website
  • The EFA has indefinitely put on hold pursuing High Ridge in Upper Warren Avenue as the solution.  A stated reason is "we recognise that developing the school there would be unpopular with a section of the local community"
  • However the EFA states that "High Ridge presents a deliverable if not ideal solution...We are confident that a good school can be delivered on this site."
  • The EFA states that the "only real alternatives to High Ridge are sites within LA ownership or held in Trust"
  • The sites listed are:  Mapledurham Playing Fields, Albert Road Recreational Ground and Bugs Bottom
  • RBC's Policy Committee will be discussing the report (referred to in RBC's press release), on Monday 1st December. The report has this map of Mapledurham Playing Fields appended
It is important to note that the school's temporary site is incapable of becoming the permanent site as it is not big enough (leaving aside the fact that it is in the wrong location, being outside the catchment area).  However RBC's Kevin McDaniel has clarified with me this afternoon that he believes the school could remain on the temporary site for up to one year more than originally given as the end date in order to deliver the right final solution (ie extending the date of moving to a permanent location to September 2017 at the latest).

You can read the EFA's letter to Rob as well as their letter to RBC.

The Reading Chronicle has published this report and GetReading this slightly longer report.  Other reactions can be read on The Heights' Facebook page.

There is a lot to be worked out and disseminated by the EFA/RBC such as how to carry out the consultation and what information is needed to ensure the consultation will generate meaningful results.  I will be working hard at my jobs as councillor for Mapledurham Ward and Chairman of the Mapledurham Playing Fields Management Committee, studying the matter carefully and updating readers regularly.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Gridlock again in Caversham

This morning the traffic ground to a halt across Caversham, spilling over into Reading, due to the temporary traffic lights near Caversham Bridge at the junction of Church Street and Church Road.  Those drivers who abandoned the slog to cross the river either turned back home or dumped their car by the roadside.

Cars backed up from Caversham Bridge up through Caversham Heights along the A4074 all the way over the Oxfordshire boundary to the turnoff to Mapledurham House.  I don't know how far on the A4155 to Henley, or indeed the Peppard Road the gridlock went, but know that it wasn't until well after 10 am that the Woodcote Road backlog was dealt with.

I spoke with Reading Borough Council's Network Manager Simon Beasley today and he explained what happened.

The temporary lights failed last night and the engineer who came out at about 11.30 pm got them back up, without realising the lights reverted to their default 3-way setting instead of the 2-way setting needed.  This morning when the construction workers arrived they realised and reported the problem.   However gridlock had set in across Caversham long before and by then was well established.  In order to release the pressure, manual control was instigated.  First the traffic from Reading, next the Henley Road approach and finally the A4074 were cleared.

The good news is the works to install the new traffic lights at the Church Street/Road junction are on schedule to finish this Sunday.  Simon reassured me that if the temporary lights fail again in the meantime, the Council has notified the emergency call out engineers to reset the lights on the 2-way setting.

Once the new traffic lights are up and running do let me know if the Microprocessor Optimised Vehicle Actuation (MOVA) system makes an improvement to traffic flowing through the junction.

GetReading has the following report

Monday, 3 November 2014

Arthur Clark Care Home Site to be Leased

Arthur Clark Care Home before closure
Tonight, Reading Borough Council's Policy Committee is being asked to agree to the leasing off of the old Arthur Clark Care Home & Albert Road Day Centre site to A2Dominion Housing for the development of an extra care housing scheme.

The Labour administration has been desperate to crack on with enabling the disused site to provide for the needs of older people in order to redeem its deeply unpopular decision back in July 2013 - opposed by Rob Wilson MP and the Conservative Group - to close the much loved local facilities.  Thousands signed a petition against the closure to no avail.

You can read the report going to the Policy Committee tonight here.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Update on Permanent Site for The Heights Primary School

High Ridge, the site bought by the EFA for The Heights
 I got confirmation from the Education Funding Agency (EFA) this morning that it was having a fence installed within the High Ridge site's boundary - nothing more.

As can be seen from my photo the fencing is being put up several meters back from the site's frontage onto Upper Warren Avenue.

This week both the Reading Chronicle and GetReading have had articles about the ongoing quest to agree a permanent location for The Heights Primary School.

I believe that it will only be a matter of days now before the EFA reports back to Rob Wilson MP the findings of its review into Bugs Bottom, Mapledurham Playing Fields and the Caversham Lawn Tennis Club - plus what ever other sites were either new onto the market, or where circumstances had changed, since its original assessment. [The first three sites were agreed and put forward by a stakeholder group of representatives from local interest groups.]

I have been speaking with lots of residents from across the school's catchment area.  Practically everyone has a strong view on where the school shouldn't go (supported with strong arguments) with no one site gaining unanimous support - which goes to show just how difficult the EFA's job has been.

I attended the Warren & District Residents' Association's (WADRA) AGM in Mapledurham Pavilion on 15 October at which residents expressed their conflicting views.  Some favoured the school going on a part of Mapledurham Playing Fields with others vehemently against.

At that meeting, WADRA announced its committee's preference for the school going down in Bugs Bottom (otherwise known as the Hemdean Valley).  Although opposition to this was voiced, WADRA's chairman said he was aware of few objections.  Since then a Facebook Group has been started called Save Bugs Bottom and apparently a group of residents met on Sunday to protect this meadowland.

I know that the waiting is proving exceedingly difficult for everyone concerned.  I am looking forward to our community being able to evaluate the results of the EFA's report in order to debate where the school will go.  Of course not everybody will be happy with whichever site is settled upon but at least this process should enable our community to understand the challenges each possible site has and the reasoning behind those that are viable.

As an aside, but of course the school and its pupils is what this is all about, I was delighted to look around The Heights' temporary site earlier this month.  It is extraordinary how well established it is after just the few weeks since it opened and wonderful to see so many families benefiting from the tremendous hard work by the founding parents, head teacher and staff team.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Gridlock in Caversham

The traffic signal replacement scheme at the George Street/Gosbrook Road junction which caused last week’s gridlock in Caversham has another 2 or 3 weeks to run.

As the works progress fewer lanes will be closed, however the temporary 3-way lights cannot direct traffic as efficiently as permanent lights, according to an RBC transport officer I spoke with today.

Apparently a workman is manipulating the temporary traffic lights in peak times Monday – Saturday to try to manage the traffic as best as possible. 

After the George Street/Gosbrook Road junction is done, works will move to the Church Street/Road junction which no doubt will cause similar gridlock for a further week or two.

The upgrade works are necessary as over the last 6 or so years, traffic signal technology has come on a lot, our town’s population has increased and businesses continue to bring larger numbers of people to Reading putting greater strain on the road network.

All traffic lights north of the river are to be renewed as part of this Government-funded upgrade.  The new signals will use the MOVA system (Microprocessor Optimised Vehicle Actuation) so we should all see an improvement.  MOVA is more reactive to local demands which should help motorists and pedestrians.  Sensors in the road feedback information which enables the optimisation of traffic flow through junctions by dispersing any queues – or so the theory states. 

In the meantime avoid the works as best you can but if not possible allow extra time for your journey.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Appeal for Witnesses to Fight in Caversham

Please see notice from Thames Valley Police:

"Thames Valley Police is appealing for witnesses to a large fight in Caversham which resulted in a 21-year-old man being assaulted.

"On Friday 6 September at around 12.30am a crowd of around 20 people began fighting in Church Road. During the fight the victim was punched in the head, kicked and hit with a bottle. He sustained head injuries but did not seek hospital treatment.

"The offender is a white male, aged between 16 and 20 years old.

"If you have any information about this incident and have not already spoken to the police then please contact PC Ben Sherry via the Thames Valley Police Enquiry Centre on 101.

"If you don't want to speak directly to the police you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org. No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court."