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Friday, 19 July 2019

Mapledurham Pavilion reopen for bookings

View of the southern side of Mapledurham Pavilion
Mapledurham Pavilion will reopen for bookings as from Monday 22 July.

The hall was closed on 21 January 2016 on a temporary basis due to concerns about bowing of the external southern wall. Regrettably and much to the frustration and annoyance of our community, all but the football changing rooms and tennis club room had remained closed until now.

The renovations were funded by the Warren and District Residents Association which has raised a substantial amount of money through various community events and large donations from Festival Republic.

The booking charges remain as follows:

Type of Booking
Rate
Community Group
One hour booking
£13.50
Community Groups

£27.00 for 2-4 hours
+ £6.75 per additional hour
Private Bookings
One hour booking
£27.00
Private Bookings

£54.00 for 2-4 hours
+ £13.50 per additional hour
Commercial Bookings
Set by Programme Manager on request

Bookings should be made through the Programme Manager on 0118 937 5060

The Pavilion will need to close again later this year in order to have further work done. This will be paid for out of part of the money paid to the Mapledurham Playing Fields Trust by the Department for Education for improvements to the Trust's land. These future works will include installing a new kitchen and loos, plus the insertion of windows into the southern wall to reopen views across the playing fields. 

Sunday, 16 June 2019

How Reading Borough Council will review the Highmoor/Albert Road junction changes

I've blogged before about Council officer feedback following the changes made to the Highmoor/Albert Road junction.

On behalf of several of my residents I asked "if and when officers are going to review the changes and, if the answer is that they have no plans to review it, what would it take for them to change their minds?"

Below is the response:
"Attempts to install potential solutions to the historic road safety issue at this junction have been the subject of significant correspondence, debate, committee reporting and discussion with residents and campaign groups for many years. Proposed solutions have been met with considerable opposition, but we have now managed to deliver a phased scheme to address the road safety issue.

"This is a road safety scheme, so we will be reviewing it on the basis of monitoring a hopeful reduction or removal of incidents involving casualties at the junction, particularly those arising from motorists driving through the STOP on the eastbound Highmoor Road approach – this has been the issue. This will be conducted by using Police-supplied data that we receive for such incidents across the borough. Although some may not like the presentation of the junction and it may require time for people to get familiar with it and overcome the change, if it achieves the anticipated road safety benefits, it will be considered a successful scheme."

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Excavation works at Mapledurham Playing Fields

On Monday, 10 June 2019, Kier Construction Ltd will start "vacuum excavation works along both sides of Upper Woodcote Road to establish/quantify services and depths."
Kier's letter to residents


Kier is the company constructing the new building for The Heights primary school on behalf of the DfE in the north west corner of Mapledurham Playing Fields following many consultations, an unsuccessful legal challenge and successful planning applications.

A letter from Kier has been posted to 94 homes in the immediate area notifying them of the works which "will allow the S278 design to be completed."

The letter continues:
"Implementation of the S278 works are scheduled for the early part of 2020. Date to be confirmed.
"There's also a requirement to carry out a further 4Nr x vacuum excavated holes within the car park through the week.
"The above works were scheduled for Tuesday 28 May 2019, but due to not being able to obtain a road licence the start date had to be moved back.
"It's anticipated the exploratory works will take 3 days to complete."
The second page states:
"Access and egress will always be maintained for the public using the Mapledurham Playing fields car park with a reduced number of parking spaces available. A member of Kier staff will be present on site during these works. The works will take place between 08.00 and 17.00 each day."
Kier apologies in advance for any inconvenience that the works cause.

If any residents have any concerns about these works, or for any other council-related matter, do get in touch with me: Isobel.Ballsdon@reading.gov.uk or 07717 292 003

Friday, 31 May 2019

Programme of Works to Mapledurham Playing Fields


As mentioned on my Facebook page, Reading Borough Council (RBC) officers have helpfully created an information page for residents on the council's website to update residents about the works at Mapledurham Playing Fields (MPF).

letter has been sent to 70 properties around MPF which sets out the two separate pieces of work taking place.

  • Kier Construction Ltd is building the new home for The Heights primary school on behalf of the Department for Education The letter provides the contact information for the project manager, John Hempton
  • RBC is improving the drainage and durability of the pitches so that more football can be played on MPF. This is necessary because Sports England, and by extension the Charity Commission, required that there was no loss in the ability to play football despite of the school's footprint using up over an acre of MPF
On 17 June Agripower Ltd is starting the changes to the sports pitches on behalf of RBC. In July/August the Council will also carry out works to install a new western side perimeter footpath connecting the new children's play area. This work will be enclosed by heras fencing. Prior to this the Parks department will carry out maintenance work to the vegetation along the western side of the playing fields in preparation for the footpath installation.

There is a dedicated RBC email address for all enquiries relating to the landscape improvement works which is: mpfenquiries@reading.gov.uk  Do copy me in so that I can help follow up your queries: Isobel.Ballsdon@reading.gov.uk

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Precursor for a Work Place Parking Levy in Reading?

Exhaust fumes to justify tax on work place parking?
Reading Borough Council's Labour administration this week has launched a survey of private car parking in Reading under the limited pretext the "results will help inform Reading Borough Council's new Local Transport Plan".

This however does not fully allude to all the contents of the minutes of the July 2018 Policy Committee, nor the resolutions voted through by Labour.

On pages 6-8 of the minutes it says "The report stated that the car parking and air quality strategy would consider the introduction of local transport charging schemes, under powers given to highway authorities in the Transport Act 2000. Charging schemes could take the form of a road user charge and/or a workplace parking levy (WPL), and could be complemented by Clean Air or Low Emission Zones targeting higher polluting vehicles."

Amongst other things the Policy Committee resolved "that officers undertake a borough-wide parking survey and consultation to inform investigations into the potential measures set out in the report."

On the surface it might seem a positive initiative to encourage people out of their cars onto public transport. However for residents in my ward, the bus service is a far cry from the enviably regular Number 17 service that goes across the centre of Reading east/west every 7 minutes. For Caversham Heights' residents the bus timetable simply does not offer a realistic alternative to the car. I myself tried for 6 months.

If the administration is serious about improving Reading's air quality, first it needs to drastically improve the frequency of buses to Wards such as the one I represent. Bringing in a work place parking levy without this would once again * be targeting taxes on my residents.

* The 20% hike in April 2019 of the green waste collection annual charge has hit a large proportion of my ward residents as the uptake for the service is very high in Mapledurham Ward.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Try your hand at Tennis and Croquet this weekend!


Today, 11 May, Mapledurham Lawn Tennis Club is opening its courts up to the public for their "Try Tennis for Free Open Day".

From 10 am until 2 pm the public are invited along to the club which is based on a corner of Mapledurham Playing Fields, Upper Woodcote Road, Caversham Heights, Reading RG4 7LD.

If you're unable to make it to the event, why not book a free taster lesson for another day?

For more details, see the poster to the right.

You can access background information about Mapledurham LTC here. The reverse side of the flyer can be accessed here.

Tomorrow, 12 May, between 10 am and 5 pm, Supporters of Albert Road Park are hosting a free "Croquet Open Day" at the Croquet Club in the park.

The event marks National Croquet Day. Equipment and tuition will all be provided for free.

Croquet is a sport suitable for all ages.


Saturday, 13 April 2019

Answers: Albert/Highmoor Road junction changes

Updates from an officer in italics 12 June 2019
On 10 April Reading Borough Council (RBC) made changes to the priorities at the Albert/Highmoor Road junction. My earlier post sets these out.
View north along Albert Road

I've had a lot of questions from my residents and below is an RBC officer's response:
  • Qu: How does the Highway Code say the junction should be driven? Does anyone have right of way?
  • A: The junction is made up of 2 STOP approaches and 2 Give-Way approaches. Vehicles approaching the STOP approaches must stop and wait for a safe gap before moving off. Vehicles approaching the Give-Way must give way to traffic on the main road (i.e. the junction), so they must be prepared to stop. Therefore, traffic approaching along Albert Road must prepare to stop and give way if traffic emerging from Highmoor Road considered that it was clear to move off (or if turning traffic considers that it is clear to conduct this manoeuvre) and is entering/has entered the junction. This overcomes the prior situation, where traffic on Albert Road considered that it had the right of way and where many motorists would be making no alterations to their driving (speed) to take into account their approach to this junction.
    Officer update: "This approach will have a far greater impact on traffic speeds and behaviour than a reduction of the speed limit and/or traffic calming would achieve."
    In a situation where vehicles on Albert Road approach the junction in both directions, reasonable motorists could be expected to take turns in proceeding, depending on their indicated direction of travel.
  • Officer update: "This proposal puts the expectation back on drivers to consider what is happening around them across the entire junction and to consider their movement around this.
    How drivers should approach a Give Way and STOP junction are in the Highway Code, but this is not an exhaustive document, so this will be the case with numerous layouts that you will see."
  • Qu: Will RBC be reviewing the success of the changes and if so, when?
  • A: Casualty data obtained from the police has evidenced the historic road safety issues at this junction. This data is monitored and, following the implementation of these changes, we expect to see a reduction in - and hopefully no further - accidents involving injury at this location.
    Black arrow marks position of the original STOP line
  • Qu: Why, having told the local residents’ action group HARC, and local councillors that the STOP line on the west side of the junction could not be moved nearer the junction (thereby improving visibility - which is one of the actions originally requested) has it been done? This improvement could have prevented the need for making Albert Road drivers from needing to GIVE WAY?
  • A: While I do not have the context of the statement made to HARC, I expect that this was stated because the junction is on a slight bend in the road and that the road is also not particularly wide at this point. Traffic travelling along Albert Road (particularly in a southbound direction) was slightly cutting this bend, reducing the width on the west side even further during free-flow. Moving the stop line out in this context would have created a risk of collision with the stopped traffic and the 'pinched' northbound lane. Now, however, Albert Road traffic will be considerably slower through the junction and must be prepared to stop/give way, and the cutting of the bend should also no longer be an issue. We have, therefore, been able to slightly move out the stop line.

    This has been a change in a particularly sensitive area and it will take a little while for motorists to become familiar with the new layout.
Do get in touch with feedback, email: Isobel.Ballsdon@reading.gov.uk

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Drivers beware: priority changes Albert/Highmoor Road junction

Reading Borough Council implemented changes to the cross roads of Albert and Highmoor Road yesterday afternoon, Wednesday 10 April. Now drivers along Albert Road should give way, having always previously had the right of way across the junction.
View north up Albert Road this morning

On my way to work this morning I was horrified to see that no warning notices had been put up alerting Albert Road drivers of the changes. 

I parked up and watched, powerless, as the first of 3 near collisions happened.

I rang the police and then an RBC Highways officer (who I know always gets in early) with my safety concerns. Another 2 near collisions happened whilst I was talking. The RBC officer promised to take action so after about 15 minutes there I continued on my journey to work.
I was called back at 8.41 am by another officer who reassured me that RBC people were attending and that notification signs warning drivers of the priority changes would be installed later this morning.

To recap, these junction changes were brought in to improve safety following a series of collisions, one of which led to the tragic death of a pedestrian. Ironically, to my knowledge there haven't been any collisions in the last few months.

UPDATE: "New road layout ahead" signs put up
The changes implemented yesterday, however, were not what the local community, supported by my Conservative colleague Cllr Ed Hopper and me, had called for, but a compromise. Originally, apart from asking for the faded white road markings to be freshly painted, we had asked for the Highmoor Road stop line to be moved forward a foot, improving the sight lines. We also asked for the markings in the centre of the junction to be removed. 

I will be monitoring the junction carefully as so many of Mapledurham Ward residents and others in Caversham Heights go through it on a daily basis, including my family and me.

[To see previous posts I've done on this junction, select "Transport" under Labels on the right hand side and scroll down through to find them all]

UPDATE: Red signs have been put up saying "New road layout ahead" following my request first thing today. Do let me know if you think this is adequate or if more should be done.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Waste Collection Calendar Cock Up

Residents across Reading have been left guessing when their waste will be collected from April onwards for the new civic year.

In previous years residents have always been given a calendar (see right) but some bright spark in the Labour administration quietly decided to ditch this important communication.

My residents might have approved of the saving if the council had actually told them about the decision, given the reasons and, oh yes, popped it on the website. Would it have been so difficult to include the news with the Council Tax notification?

Officers are unhappy as they fear this failure to communicate will simply create more work for them with a rise in residents' complaints.

One of my residents asked me what the dates were because without internet access he thought he was excluded from seeing the calendar. The reality is, everyone is in the dark. The new calendar isn't on the council website.

You might ask why does this matter? Well there are several reasons including:

  • If you miss a grey bin collection, you've a whole fortnight to wait
  • In hot weather your bin will really stink after 4 weeks, and you might have problems fitting all your rubbish in 
  • People may put their bins out at the beginning of the week to ensure they don't miss it being emptied
  • Not only is this ugly, but having wheelie bins on the pavement causes problems for the partially sighted and those with mobility issues, as well as people pushing buggies
  • Readings recycling rates have been going down. Labour needs to encourage people by at the very least making it easy to know when collections are going to be made
Pull your collective finger out Reading Labour, get the calendar for grey, red and green waste collections published and include an apology for your failure to communicate!

Monday, 11 March 2019

Works at Mapledurham Playing Fields for The Heights school

Planning permission granted and legal action dismissed, works on site at Mapledurham Playing Fields began at the end of February.

View from car park over school site
The site in the north west corner abutting the car park was cleared of trees by Kier Construction's contractor, Bennett's Tree Care.

Reading Borough Council (RBC) neatly pruned back the trees along the vehicular access off Chazey Road to give clear access. They then took out the trees around the playground to make way for the works to the playing fields which will enable an intensification of use, ie more football to be played by drainage improvements as well as a levelling of the areas with pitches.

Today (11 March) and tomorrow, Kier will be carrying out soil investigation works as part of the upgrading of the existing car park and access road off the Upper Woodcote Road entrance.

Vacuum excavation plant will be used to locate all the existing services in these areas and complete and record a survey prior to their reinstatement. The areas around the excavation and plant will be enclosed with Heras fencing whilst these works are progressively completed. This plant is powered by the diesel engine of the vehicle and so this will be operating throughout the period it is on site.

Over the 13 and 14 March six trial pit excavations will be completed in the car park area. During these works 6 to 8 car parking spaces will not be available.

Works to relocate the playing field access gate are programmed to start on 14 March and completed by Friday 15 March.

Should anyone wish for further information do let me know as I have further plans showing the relevant areas.

Monday, 25 February 2019

Lease granted for The Heights primary school

On Monday 25 February, Reading Borough Council granted a lease of the north west corner of Mapledurham Playing Fields.

Clearance works started on Monday to prepare the site for the building works with temporary Heras fencing cordoning off the area so that the trees due to be felled could be done so safely.

The Council's press release states:

"Work on New Heights Free School Set To Begin

THE Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is set to begin work preparing for the construction of the new Heights Free School on part of Mapledurham Recreation Ground this week, after full planning consent was granted today (Feb 25th).

A lease of part of Mapledurham Recreation Ground was granted by Reading Borough Council - in its capacity as trustee of the Mapledurham Recreation Ground Charity - in favour of the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on February 18th. The lease has been entered into in accordance with a decision taken unanimously by members of the Mapledurham Playing Fields Trustees Sub-Committee, which has delegated authority from the Council to make decisions in relation to the Charity.

It follows the ESFA’s amended planning application, which was approved by the Council’s Planning Committee on February 6th. Full planning consent was granted earlier today (Mon Feb 25th).

The ESFA’s contractor, Kier Construction Ltd, has confirmed it expects to begin work to clear the school site this week, in preparation for main construction of the new school.

The clearance work includes the removal of all the trees within the school site. Soil investigation work within the playing field car park and entrance road will also take place. For safety, Kier has confirmed they will cordon off the area with temporary heras fencing whilst the work is carried out. Clearance work is anticipated to be completed week ending March 8th.

At the same time, the Council will also be removing 15 trees in the middle of the playing fields in preparation for landscape enhancement work later this summer. This work will improve the quality of the football pitches and provide a greater flexibility and more sustainable use of the area, as unanimously agreed by members of the Mapledurham Playing Fields Trustees Sub-Committee. There are plans to plant 57 replacement trees in the area."