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Wednesday, 29 June 2016

BREAKING: RBC publishes EFA’s proposal to build The Heights on part of MPF

After business hours today (29 June) Reading Borough Council published a report detailing the Education Funding Agency’s proposal to build The Heights primary school on part of Mapledurham Playing Fields.

A public meeting of The Heights Sub Committee will be held on 12 July 2016 in the Civic Centre. The full agenda can be accessed here.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Highmoor/Albert Road junction: Outcome of last night's meeting

Faded/broken white stop line at junction
Last night local campaigners, CADRA (Caversham and District Residents Association) and Conservative councillors all spoke against the council’s proposal to change priorities at the Highmoor/Albert Road junction at RBC’s Traffic Management Sub Committee meeting (see my last post for further background).  I am pleased to report that the locally unpopular proposal was not agreed.  

The persuasive arguments against the proposal had Cllr Tony Page (committee chair) announcing his view that a decision to change the priority should be deferred before he had even asked the views of the committee members. 

Campaigners' outstanding frustration was Cllr Page’s refusal to instruct officers to repaint the white stop lines at the junction, despite requests from locals, my colleagues Cllrs Ed Hopper, Claire McDonald and me to immediately improve visibility of the signage at this tricky junction.  As you can see from this photo, what is meant to be a thick white line beyond the STOP is faded and broken. Officers committed only to inspect it.

What the committee did agree was that RBC officers would work with representatives from CADRA and HARC (Highmoor Albert Residents Campaign) to bring back a proposal which hopefully will gain local support in September.

You can watch the meeting proceedings of last night's meeting on RBC's webcasting. You can forward to the relevant sections which are 1a for questions followed by presentation of the petition and 7 for the public speaking, report and debate. 

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

RBC Pushes for Change of Priority at Dangerous Crossroads

Reading Borough Council (RBC) officers are recommending a change of priority from Albert Road to Highmoor Road at this local crossroads where numerous accidents have happened, the last of which on 14 May caused the tragic death of a 72 year old pedestrian.

Strength of feeling demonstrated by over 50 gathering
to protest with just a couple of hours' notice
RBC’s Traffic Management Sub Committee’s public meeting tomorrow (Wednesday 15 June), agenda item 7, the report sets out the officer preference to change the priorities as “This option is by far the most cost effective solution…[it] can be delivered without any further legal process so it is the easiest and quickest option to deliver...it is worth reducing the impact of the very restricted visibility within the Highmoor Road”

However RBC’s report admits that “This option does not change the visibility problem and relies on Albert Road drivers obeying the stop signs and giving way to crossing drivers from Highmoor Road...it has its limitations and does not meet the wider concerns of the original petition”.

View north up Albert Road. Photos by Tell Tails Photography
The Highmoor Albert Road Campaign (HARC), formed by local residents, is calling on RBC to improve safety of this dangerous junction.  They’ve carried out a survey of over 100 local households close to the junction to find out from a choice of 5 alternatives whether there is a popular option. The result is 90% of 134 households are in favour of option 1: A raised table designed to slow down the approaching traffic from all four directions.

RBC’s preference to change the priority of the traffic dates back to January 2015 when officers first made the proposal.  Back then residents, local Thames Ward Cllr Ed Hopper and I (Mapledurham Ward) all spoke against it.  A survey I took had 84% of households opposed to a change of priority.

I am canvassing opinion again (see my post detailing the outcome of January 2015 meeting) and would be grateful for feedback before tomorrow evening’s meeting so that I can speak up on behalf of my electorate.  Please email me: Isobel.Ballsdon@reading.gov.uk mobile: 07717 292003 or drop a letter through my door: 10 Fernbrook Road.  Thank you.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Thank you for re-electing me

My apologies for the silence over the last few weeks.  The run-up to the Local Elections was extremely busy, after which I needed to catch up with everything else.

The turnout here in Mapledurham Ward of 45.21% was the highest in all of Reading Borough.  Nobody took the opportunity to stand for democratic election on a “No school on Mapledurham Playing Fields” ticket.  Candidates from the Greens, Labour and Lib Dems stood against me but I was re-elected with 53% of the vote.  The full Local Election results for Reading Borough can be read here.

Thank you to everyone who supported me.  I will continue to work hard for Mapledurham Ward residents on council-related matters.  The biggest issues facing our community for which solutions need to be found are: 
  • A permanent home for The Heights primary school
  • A refurbishment/rebuild of Mapledurham Pavilion
  • Improvements to road safety in Caversham, in particular the Highmoor/Albert Road junction and Prospect Street’s zebra crossing

Thursday, 31 March 2016

EFA's Proposal for The Heights on Mapledurham Playing Fields

Extract from The Heights School's March Newsletter
The Education Funding Agency's (EFA) preview and public consultation events earlier this month were well attended.

Lots of residents and users of Mapledurham Playing Fields (MPF) came to look at & discuss the EFA's proposal of where to build The Heights primary school.  In particular people spoke about the outlined area of Trust land in the preliminary layout proposal, as well as what possible benefits could be part of the EFA's formal proposal for the wider community.

As regular readers will be aware, the siting of The Heights primary school's permanent home is a widely debated issue in the community.  No matter what your views, the EFA would like as many residents as possible to fill out their consultation form, so please make time to respond.

The deadline is Monday 4 April 2016.

I remain neutral on where the school is built for two reasons: (1) I am on Reading Borough Council's (RBC) Planning Committee and (2) As the elected councillor for the area it is my job to represent the views of all residents.  It was clear at the previews and public consultation events that there were mixed views: Some residents were pro the school, some were opposed to any Trust land being built upon, whilst others were wishing to see exactly what the EFA's formal proposal will be to Reading Borough Council (the Trustee) before making their minds up.

Caversham and District Residents Association (CADRA) is also remaining neutral as their committee recognises the fact that their members have mixed views.  I agree with CADRA's stance.  I hope that the Warren & District Residents Association's (WADRA) committee will rethink their approach which has been to align with the MPF Action Group (MPFAG) against the school being built on MPF thereby leaving some WADRA members feeling marginalised.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Caversham Heights Without Post Office Services

The Post Office failed to get its services up and running inside Conisboro Stores on 22 March as
originally planned.  Having closed the much loved, dedicated post office counter inside the Woodcote Way shop on Monday 21 March and stripped out the equipment, PO customers have been left high and dry.

PO customers have been forced to get in their cars or jump on a bus to a post office elsewhere and as yet I have had no response back from the Post Office as to when post office services at the shared counter in Conisboro Stores will be up and running.

This is extremely frustrating for residents, especially since there was such overwhelming opposition to the Post Office's proposed move of postal services from Woodcote Way in the first place.

Update
If, like the local business people who have contacted me, you too are being inconvenienced you may wish to make a formal complaint to the Post Office, in which case you can do so here.

The Conisboro Stores manager thinks it unlikely that the Post Office's engineers will be able to carry out the necessary recalibration until Thursday at the earliest and services may not be working until Monday (4 April).

In the meantime the queue in the Post Office down in Caversham has been tailing outside, one frustrated would-be customer told me!

Further Update
The Post Office has informed me that postal services are up and running now in Conisboro Stores (Friday afternoon, 1 April)

Friday, 4 March 2016

Breaking: Temporary Closure of Mapledurham Pavilion Extended

Pavilion - taken a while ago
This afternoon Reading Borough Council (RBC) published a report to its Policy Committee which recommends the continued closure of Mapledurham Pavilion.  Here is the report.  

As blogged on 21 January, RBC’s administration announced its decision to temporarily close the Pavilion pending a detailed structural survey.  RBC estimated that this would be for a period of 6 weeks.  The decision followed the recommendation of an earlier survey which raised safety concerns about bowing of the southern external wall.

Today’s news of the prolonging of the temporary closure was communicated to User Groups by RBC this afternoon.  I too wrote to the users and as readers may be interested, here is what I said:

“I know your respective groups have all been inconvenienced by the temporary closure of the Pavilion, for which I am very sorry.  I appreciate that the news of the continuing closure is most unwelcome.

“As chairman I have called an urgent meeting of the Mapledurham Playing Fields Management (MPFM) Committee to discuss the report going to Policy Committee, Agenda item 8, a link to which is: http://www.reading.gov.uk/article/8775/Policy-Committee-14-MAR-2016

“MPFM Committee meeting
The MPFM Committee meeting will be in the Civic Centre at 8 am on Thursday 10th March.  You are welcome to attend as long as you register your wish to attend with Nicky Simpson by noon on Wednesday 9th March so she is able to check that there is sufficient seating and that your name is added to the attendees list.  This will ensure that security will let you into the building (which doesn’t open until 9 am) when you press the intercom at the building’s main entrance. 

“In order for the meeting to finish in time for people to get to work I will not be allowing observers to speak.  If there are any questions you would like considered, please notify me by noon on 9th March.

“Policy Committee meeting
Members of the public are allowed to attend Policy Committee which will take place on Monday 14th March at 6.30 pm.  I will be addressing the committee on Agenda item 8 as MPFM’s chairman.  Simon Hill in Committee Services is the Policy Committee’s administrator to contact if you have any queries, his details are on the same link mentioned above.”

For those interested, here is the detailed structural report referred to in RBC's Policy Committee report.