Thursday, 18 February 2016

Should Cycling Be Allowed in Broad Street, Reading?

Reading Borough Council has launched a three-week statutory consultation today on whether cycling should be allowed along the whole length of Broad Street.
Jenny Rynn & me, Broad St, 2012

This follows an informal online consultation a couple of months ago, the results of which showed majority support for the proposal.  However, there was criticism from residents as the consultation wasn’t well-known about - apart from the cycling fraternity – and the results were questioned.  One of my residents who has eye-sight problems has contacted me already, very concerned by the proposal.

I must put my hand up and say that I am a cyclist however I don’t mind walking my bike across or along Broad Street.   Perhaps I would feel differently though if I was always on my bike (which I’m not) and used it to commute.

Back in 2012 when my friend Jenny Rynn was Mayor of Reading I accompanied her on an invitation from Guide Dogs for the Blind to try walking blindfold along Broad Street.  It gave me a completely new perspective, highlighting just how scary it is to have to rely on your other senses in this busy pedestrianised road. To read about my experience here’s the link.

Getting back to the statutory consultation, if you would like to voice your views do email or write to C J Brooks, Head of Legal and Democratic Services, Reading Borough Council, Civic Offices, Bridge Street, Reading, RG1 2LU.  You can read more about the consultation by going to:

Update: On 10 March RBC's Traffic Management Committee agreed to leave the cycling ban along part of Broad Street in place as the results of the statutory consultation were so close. Personally I'm pleased by the result as I believe it is the safest option.  

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

The Post Office's Decision for Caversham Heights

The Post Office announced today that they are ploughing ahead with their proposed move of the post office from the Woodcote Way News shop despite massive public opposition. 
Protest last year outside the Woodcote Way PO

Their press release admitted that there was “a large amount of feedback…the majority” of which “was opposed to the move of the branch from its current location”.

Through conversations with the Post Office however I’ve learnt that usually there is little opposition to such proposals.  This makes the Post Office’s decision to plough head in this case all the more surprising given the strength and number of objections mustered by my campaign - over 900 supporting my petition and 91 residents writing to me with their strong objections.  Only four Mapledurham Ward residents told me they actually supported the proposal, one of whom understandably gets fed up of people parking for the Woodcote Way shop which is by his home.

Laura Tarling from the Post Office has agreed to meet me on 24 February to discuss the decision. I will be asking her why the Post Office disregarded the robust objections and huge public opposition.  Also I’ll be pushing for the retention of the post box outside the Woodcote Way shop together with its current collection times and asking how they intend to tackle the accessibility and security issues (amongst others) raised in my detailed submission of residents’ objections.

If readers have any other specific question they would like me to put to the Post Office please email me: before the 24 February.

Thank you to everybody for supporting my campaign: I am sorry we were unsuccessful. The Woodcote Way’s dedicated post office counter will close on 21 March at 5.30 pm with the new shared counter in Conisboro Stores offering post office services opening on 22 March at 1 pm. 

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Mapledurham Playing Fields: Should some residents be banned from observing meetings?

At the last meeting of the Mapledurham Playing Fields (MPF) Management committee on 19 January 2016 there was a debate over whether observers “who openly advocate breaking the Trust" should be allowed to attend. 

Reading Borough Council's minutes of this meeting have not yet been formally agreed by the committee, however when they are I will link to them here.

I argued that it would be undemocratic and discriminatory to introduce such a ban, not to mention impossible to manage, and I am pleased to report that my colleagues Cllrs Hopper and Skeats agreed with me.   The demand (I’d received several emails from the Users’ Group representative in advance of the meeting to introduce this ban) flew in the face of the transparency I have promoted since taking on the committee’s chairmanship.  The vote went 1:3 with Keith Knee-Robinson abstaining.  

Next I tabled a motion that any member of the public be allowed to observe these Management meetings so long as they give me, as chairman, written notice in advance (so I can ensure there is sufficient space) and observers do not disturb proceedings.  My motion was agreed 3 with 2 abstentions.

I am well aware that residents opposed to The Heights primary school going on part of MPF, because of the land having been left in Trust for the benefit of everyone living in Reading and the Parish of Mapledurham for recreation, have extremely strong views, which I respect.  However there is a democratic process by which this legal issue will be determined.

For the avoidance of doubt for readers generally, I am keeping an open view about the Education Funding Agency's anticipated proposal to build a permanent home for The Heights on part of MPF so that I can fully participate in the decision making process.  This will enable me to speak up on behalf of all residents in Mapledurham Ward having first fully assessed the pros and cons of the proposal, tempting though it might be to ignore the tiny minority who try to smear my reputation.  

Update on temporary accommodation for user groups:  All but one user group are back up and running having been displaced from the Pavilion whilst the building is shut for a detailed survey. I have been told that the user group still without accommodation should be restarting this coming week once the council has reopened a building at Caversham Court.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Prospect Street Zebra Crossing Safety Campaign

Cllr Claire McDonald, Ed Hogan and me by the zebra crossing
Cllr Claire McDonald and local resident Ed Hogan have been leading a campaign calling on Reading Borough Council (RBC) to urgently review the safety of the zebra crossing in Prospect Street.

This follows a serious incident on 11 January when a woman walking across the zebra crossing was knocked down by a van.  The woman was rushed to hospital with life threatening injuries.

I've been supporting my Conservative colleagues' campaign which has amassed over 1,250 signatures to date.  It is staggering just how frequently vehicles are seen failing to stop for pedestrians trying to, or actually walking over, this zebra crossing - several times every day.  

If you share our concerns and agree that the safety of this crossing needs an urgent review, please take a minute to read and sign the petition.

Simple measures that wouldn't need a long-drawn out consultation like proper lighting and raising the crossing up onto a table would dramatically improve visibility.  Such measures would just need the will of the Labour-run council to take immediate action.