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Monday, 20 September 2021

Help needed to catch flasher in Caversham

Thames Valley Police have issued the following statement. If you can help find this man, please contact them: 

"Thames Valley Police is appealing for information following an incident of exposure in Caversham.

The victim, a teenage girl was walking in Morecombe Avenue at about 3.25pm on Monday (13/9).

A man then approach the victim and exposed himself to her.

The offender is described as a white man and about 5ft 5ins tall. He was wearing a black rainproof jacket with the hood up and dark trousers.

Investigating officer PC Mark Stubbs said: “We are appealing to anyone who may have seen a man acting suspiciously in the vicinity of Morecombe Avenue on Monday afternoon, or anyone with footage, whether that be from CCTV, dashcam or doorbell camera in the area to contact the force.

“You can contact the force via our website or by calling 101, quoting investigation reference 43210412623.”

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Reading will be celebrating National Older People's Day on 1 October

Below is a statement from Reading Borough Council:

Reading will be celebrating National Older People's Day on Friday October 1 with a free fun-packed event at Broad Street Mall, 10am until 3pm, highlighting the contribution older people make to the Reading community.

Older People’s Day coincides with the UN International Day of Older Persons. The main aim for the day is to be a celebration of the achievements and contributions that older people make to our society and the economy. Older People’s Day supports the campaign to challenge negative attitudes and outdated stereotypes, the theme for 2021 is ‘looking forward to the future’.

Older People's Day is an opportunity to celebrate later life and the huge contribution older people make to our communities. This wonderful free event aims to celebrate these achievements and residents are encouraged to come along and join on Friday October 1.

Some people may be feeling anxious and you’re encouraged to come along to the Broad Street Mall on Older People’s Day to meet other people and services who really can help you look forward to the future.

Reading is a vibrant town with a rich array of local services that support residents, come along and find out how they can help you; Citizens Advice Reading, MacMillan Cancer Education, Compass Recovery College, Age UK Berkshire, Age UK Reading to name but a few. Royal Berkshire Hospital will also be offering free blood pressure checks on the day.

The Mayor of Reading, Cllr David Stevens, will welcome everyone at 10am followed by a host of entertainment including; dance, art and crafts and Tai Chi taster sessions. There will be stalls offering information and advice on a wide variety of services from over 20 local organisations. At 11am join a relaxed hour-long guided history walk around Reading Abbey Ruins, weather permitting. Places on the walk can be booked by emailing Reading Museum museum.education@reading.gov.uk

We have all faced many challenges over the last 18 months and COVID has led to increased loneliness and isolation for older people. This year’s National Older People’s Day event is to demonstrate the resilience of older people in our community and the great work of voluntary organisations and community groups who have supported older people during difficult times.

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Green Waste collections to restart from Monday 6th September in Reading

Reading Borough Council (RBC) announced today, 31 August, that green waste collections - which had been suspended from 19 July - will restart from 6 September.

Residents have been asked by RBC to put out their green wheelie bins or bags on their normal green waste collection day from w/c 6 September. No additional side green waste will be collected however, with RBC asking residents to book a slot at the Civic Amenity Site at Smallmead.

RBC said the suspension of collections was brought in because of "a significant reduction in waste drivers and loaders and council waste resources needed to focus on priority collections of residual waste and recycling, including food waste collections."

Subscribers to the green waste scheme will not lose out financially. Their subscription period will be automatically extended to cover any weeks missed.


Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Inspection notes of pedestrian island on Upper Woodcote Rd near The Heights school

On Friday 6 August I held a meeting with a Reading Borough Council Highways officer and a local resident to inspect the new pedestrian island in Upper Woodcote Road and discuss concerns. 

Vehicles have damaged the island's kerb stones as can be seen in my photo below which has raised safety questions. I wanted to establish whether it was built to the correct dimensions, complies with the prerequisite National standards and what the outstanding works were before it is completed ready for the school opening in September.  

View east showing island's damaged kerb stone

I'll summarise for readers wishing just the headlines. 

  • It is usual for tweaks to Highways works after planning permission is granted to be made without reverting back for further planning permission.
  • The traffic island complies with National standards
  • The measurements have been checked
  • It is yet to have illuminated signage and revisions to the road markings after resurfacing of the road
  • These items will be delivered after the zebra crossing has been finished
  • Reading Borough Council will not be implementing any parking controls prior to The Heights school opening in September, apart from  on the junction entrance where School Keep Clear markings will go down

The officer kindly wrote up his notes for me as requested, including information about the zebra crossing under construction. As there is wider public interest, I'm publishing his notes in blue below:

"Following the planning application stage the applicant and the Highway  authority engaged in discussions regarding the Highways works associated with the school development and this resulted in some minor changes to the design through this detailed design stage, which is common place in the vast majority of schemes requiring Highway works.  Given that the alterations related solely to Public Highway these were not required to go back through the planning applications process. 

One of the changes to the scheme relates to the dimensions of the pedestrian refuge island which was agreed should be increased in width so that it could facilitate additional pedestrians and would be of benefit to the safety of those utilising the crossing.  This design is subject to the S278 Agreement between the DfE and the Council and a copy of the approved drawing can be viewed here
The retained carriageway width either side of the pedestrian refuge island is 3m, which is in accordance with the National Standards and on site checks have verified that this width is provided.
It should be stressed that the pedestrian refuge crossing facility is not completed with the provision of illuminated signage and revisions to the road markings still to be undertaken by the developers contractor.  These works have been delayed given they are to be completed post the resurfacing scheme that is to be undertaken by the developer as part of the wider package of works and as such the road markings would be completed post this resurfacing.  These works will take place post the construction of the zebra crossing.
Highway Officers have previously expressed to the contractors that the crossing should not be opened up to the public until the full scheme has been completed and on 6th August Officers reiterated this to the contractor given that the barriers restricting the use of the crossing facility had been removed.
It should also be stressed that the Highway works are subject to independent road safety audits, one of which is completed pre commencement of the works and identified no fundamental issue with the design of the scheme with all areas of concern appropriately addressed.  An additional road safety audit would be undertaken post completion of the works and Highway Officers will be requesting that this be undertaken as soon as works are complete given the sensitivities and concerns regarding the scheme.
The existing bus stops on Upper Woodcote Road within the vicinity of the works will be relocated as agreed at the planning application stage and as such will not conflict with the proposed pedestrian refuge crossing as can be seen on this drawing.
A zebra crossing is to be constructed south east of the school access within close proximity to Knowle Close. The crossing will also be provided with independent street lighting columns to provide visibility for those crossing at night and these columns will include shields at the back of the column head to reduce light spillage.  The zebra crossing will not be provided with a school crossing patroller.   
These two new crossing facilities would be the only dedicated pedestrian crossing facilities in the vicinity, which will not only aid travel to and from the school but for the wider community to travel to and from Mapledurham playing fields, between bus stops and other pedestrian journeys.  The only other island within the vicinity of the site is splitter island at the junction with Woodcote Way, which is not designed for pedestrians as its purpose is to keep vehicle traffic on the correct side of the carriageway. 

For information the Council will not be implementing any parking controls prior to the opening of the school apart from the school keep clear markings on Upper Woodcote Road (which are provided within the scope of the developers works) but reviews will be undertaken by Officers to establish what measures may or may not be required once the school is operational to ensure that the correct scheme is progressed.  This approach was agreed by Councillors at the Traffic Management Sub Committee in January of this year."  

As usual, if you have any questions about this, or any other council-related matter in Mapledurham Ward do contact me at: Isobel.Ballsdon@reading.gov.uk 

Tuesday, 10 August 2021

Reading Borough's Library consultation

On 9 August 2021 Reading Borough Council launched a six-week consultation on its ‘vision’ for Reading’s Library Service. Residents are invited to have their say via an online survey and at consultation events taking place locally. This is an extract from RBC's press release:

The Council is developing a draft Library Strategy for the next 3 years. The purpose of the strategy is to guide the service to further supporting our communities, being innovative and providing an excellent experience for everyone.

Unlike many local authority areas where libraries have been permanently shut due to budget pressures, Reading Council has retained all of its seven library branches and is fully committed to maintaining this approach by making the best possible use of its limited resources.

The vision for Reading Libraries is that they are innovative, accessible to all, at the heart of all of our communities and enhancing the lives of Reading people. They inspire learning and enjoyment, provide books, content and activities and help everyone to navigate the digital world.

  • The vision is underpinned by five key focus areas:
  • Supporting our communities as we recover from the pandemic
  • Helping Children and Young People
  • Improving access to online services
  • Supporting improvements in Health, Wellbeing and Literacy
  • Bringing arts, culture and heritage to library spaces

The Council is now inviting residents to feedback on these priorities. Residents are also asked to share how they use the library service, what is most important to them and what they would be most interested in using in future. They are invited to comment on Reading Central Library and the Library’s Home Service.

An online consultation launches today at www.reading.gov.uk/libraryconsultation 

There will be a consultation event at Central Library on Tuesday 24 August between 11am and 4pm. This will offer an opportunity for people to feedback in person and the chance to ask questions about the library service.

Alongside the online survey and the library event, several focus groups are being held during the six-week period, with key groups in Reading.

Monday, 19 July 2021

Albert Road burglary

Please help Thames Valley Police by responding with relevant information to their request:


Thames Valley Police is appealing for witnesses after a residential burglary in Caversham.

It happened between 3pm and 6pm on Friday (16/7) in Albert Road. Entry was gained through the front door of the property, and a wallet was stolen from the hallway.

Investigating officer, PC James Packman, of Reading police station, said: “I am appealing for witnesses to this incident of residential burglary which happened in Albert Road in Caversham.

“I would ask that anyone who was in the area at this time and thinks they may have seen something to please make contact with us.

“Anyone with information is asked to report online, or call 101, quoting reference 43210317252. Alternatively, you can call independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

For burglary prevention advice, please visit the Thames Valley Police website.

Friday, 18 June 2021

Watch out for a hole on Mapledurham Playing Fields!

This evening, Friday 18 June, I've been alerted by a Chazey Road resident to a hole which has opened up in the pitch nearest Caversham Trents Football Club's (CTFC) storage unit.


I have alerted CTFC in case they were intending to use the pitch tomorrow, as well as alerting Reading Borough Council. 

However because of it being Friday evening, it is unlikely anyone at RBC will be able to take any action until Monday at the earliest.

In the meantime I've asked CTFC if they might have time to cordon off the area first thing tomorrow to alert MPF users to the potential trip hazard.

I didn't want to ring them in the middle of tonight's England match!

Please therefore stay clear of this area for now, until RBC can sort out the problem. Feel free to forward this warning to anyone likely to be user MPF this weekend.

Thank you.

Update from Reading Borough Council (24 June)

Agripower returned to the Playing Fields earlier in the week to inspect this and have advised that a small seam of gravel underground had washed away which resulted in the hole opening at the surface. 

“They have now reinstated the ground and will monitor for any further movement.”

Friday, 4 June 2021

Emergency road closure Woodcote Way

Emergency Road Closure Woodcote Way , outside no 88

I’ve received the message below from Reading Borough Council this morning: 

 

“The Streetworks Team wish to make you aware Thames Water have informed us of the necessity to close Woodcote Way outside property number 88, with immediate effect.  This is required for an ongoing investigation to establish the source of a leak, initially thought to be within the footway. 


“Unfortunately the leak has worsened causing damage to the carriageway and therefore, for reasons of safety they have informed us of the Emergency Road Closure. Access can be achieved from either end of Woodcote Way, up to the point of closure.

 

“A Thames Water team will continue working throughout the weekend to find and repair the leak and the closure is anticipated to remain in place at least until the end of play on Monday 7th June 2021.  Should the closure need to remain in place beyond this date, the Streetworks Team will provide an updating email. 

 

“Reading Buses have been informed, in order to implement a temporary diversion for Bus services and the Emergency Services and Taxi Associations will be notified imminently.”

Sunday, 9 May 2021

Thank you Mapledurham Ward residents for re-electing me

Thank you very much to Mapledurham Ward residents for re-electing me to serve a further term as the local councillor.

The turnout was 55.15% (the highest in Reading) and more than half of those who voted backed me, for which I am very grateful. 

Thank you also to the huge number of people who have congratulated me since the Count. Receiving this recognition of my work for our community means a great deal to me.

I love helping resolve residents' council-related issues, it doesn't matter how mundane or complicated, do get in touch: Isobel.Ballsdon@reading.gov.uk 

Do send me an email if you'd like to receive my e-Newsletter.

Thursday, 6 May 2021

Unlit traffic island concerns on Upper Woodcote Rd

As regular readers of my blogwill know I’ve been keeping a close eye on the construction of The Heights school and the associated works at Mapledurham Playing Fields.

The damaged sign on part of the traffic island

Following concerns about the yet unlit pedestrian traffic island on the A4074, as well as repeated requests for the introduction of a 20 mph limit, I’ve just received the following response from RBC’s Highways:

“I confirm that I’ve been in contact with the contractors today and have agreed that the barriers previously erected on the island be removed so as to not obstruct visibility of the reflective keep left bollard. The developer will also be arranging for additional signage to be placed in advance of the island to warn of the new road layout ahead.

“The pedestrian refuge island is to have an additional illuminated keep left sign erected facing each direction it given delays to the electricity connection, this has not been possible as yet.

“I will be pushing the developer to get this installed as a matter of urgency to reduce the risk of collisions. The crossing will also remain closed until this time.

“In relation to the introduction of a 20 mph speed limit on the Upper Woodcote Road, it would not be possible to include this retrospectively as a requirement of the planning permission for the school.or Highways work agreement, but this could be proposed to the Traffic Management Sub-Committee as a potential scheme in the vicinity and then possibilities investigated by officers.”

I’m a bit busy today as it’s the Elections so I won’t post more. It’s given me the chance though to rest my feet whilst writing on my mobile!

Sunday, 2 May 2021

The Heights school's opening pushed back to September 2021

The Heights primary school has announced that sadly the DfE has pushed back the school's planned opening at Mapledurham Playing Fields (MPF) to September 2021. 

This is a huge disappointment to the children, families, staff and governing body who had been gearing themselves up to move in after half-term this June. It too will be a big disappointment to the residents who live by the temporary building off Gosbrook Road. 

The benefits though are that by September the school will be complete and fully functioning, as should be the surrounding works to MPF.

Kier, the DfE's contractors have cited the following reasons for the delay to completing the build:

  1. Delays in arranging connection for all the utilities
  2. Progress being hampered severely by the temporary closure of the access which significantly impacted deliveries of both labour and materials
  3. Covid-19 social distancing and working hours restrictions have meant they cannot increase labour to levels needed to claw back time lost due to reasons 1 and 2 above
  4. An area in the car park/Early Years Play Area that subsided. This was only discovered when the additional welfare units were removed. An independent report has been commissioned to establish the reason, but quite extensive additional groundworks may be required.
I do not as yet have further information about reason 4 above, but am pressing to find out more as this will be of particular interest to some of my residents.

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

A4074 highways safety works for The Heights at MPF, Upper Woodcote Road

Highways works are ongoing to improve pedestrian safety on the A4074 / Upper Woodcote Road in preparation for The Heights school relocation to Mapledurham Playing Fields after half-term.

View up A4074 towards access (24 April)

Following the reopening of the Pavilion's car park, I've received complaints from residents about the latest highways works. I hope the information I've managed to put together from my various requests for information are helpful.

Lack of notification of highways works

I am sorry and disappointed residents were not notified in advance of the current highways works as those next to the works all should have been, out of common courtesy. The Department for Education (DfE) or their contractors, Kier, should have contacted you and other stakeholders to explain what they were about to do and provide timescales.

Timescale of restrictions

I've been trying to find out for how much longer the works and traffic management (ie the temporary lights) are likely to be in place. I had hoped a meeting between the DfE, Kier and Reading Borough Council's (RBC) Highways would have taken place today (27 April). I'll update this post when I have confirmation.

Speed camera

Following RBC consulting Thames Valley Police, it has been necessary for the speed camera to be relocated to avoid the introduction of the school 'keep clear' restriction. I believe this is so that the speed camera's white lines for measuring vehicle speed do not conflict with the zigzag and 'keep clear' markings.

RBC officers have told me the speed camera's new location, after the access to the Pavilion and school, will result in vehicles slowing down as they pass the entrance and approach the camera. They've added that the sight of the zebra crossing and school keep clear restriction should also help advise drivers of the increased pedestrian movements and therefore slow their speed accordingly.

Officers have added that were the speed camera to be located prior to the school it would need to be located 46m east of the proposed 'keep clear' restrictions which would be approximately 63m from the Pavilion / school entrance and is therefore likely to lead to some drivers accelerating as they pass the school.

The speed camera's location does not require planning permission. The decision ultimately is for Thames Valley Police as the infrastructure belongs to them.

Pedestrian refuge

The proposed pedestrian refuge island is to aid pedestrian movements to and from the school / playing fields and this has been designed to ensure that 3m wide lanes are provided in both directions complying with National Standards and that the island is sufficient in size to accommodate a person waiting with a bicycle and /or an increased number of pedestrians.  To achieve this the carriageway width has been increased by 22cm on both sides to provide a taper around the pedestrian refuge island. The granite sett kerbs have been replaced with standard kerbs to ensure that the pedestrian refuge crossing facility can be provided.

Zebra crossing

An assessment undertaken at the planning application stage identified that a signalised pedestrian crossing was not justified and therefore any request for this by the Council would not have met the relevant tests to secure planning obligations.  The scheme does include the provision of a zebra crossing on Upper Woodcote Road east of the proposed school entrance, which was secured through the planning process.  A zebra crossing is regarded as a controlled crossing facility and will aid the movements of children and parents to and from the school in a safe and efficient manner.

Width concerns of access junction's bell-mouth

Having watched vehicles turning in and out of the newly constructed junction bell-mouth, I raised concerns with RBC about the width. I've seen vehicles fail to stay to their side of the access road. The Highway Authority's view is that the current conflict is because of the works not yet being complete. They have reassured me that an officer is overseeing the works to ensure the access road has been constructed to the correct width and officers will request the developer include signage (if possible) so that vehicles exiting the site keep to the left as much as possible.  

Road safety audit

The Heights School proposal has been assessed by Highway Officers and is deemed to meet the appropriate design criteria and standards with a Road Safety Audit being undertaken for the proposed Highway works which found no fundamental concerns with the scheme.  I was asked by a resident why Hewett Avenue, rather than the A4074, had been designated as the access to the school. The RBC response was: it is accepted that Hewett Avenue may be a quieter road in terms of traffic flow however, the Council can only assess the proposals that are submitted at the planning application stage.

A review of the roads will be undertaken by RBC once the school is occupied. It will establish whether changes to the speed limit are required and assessing what parking restrictions may need to be implemented as a consequence of the school opening.

Officers have advised that should a speed reduction be proposed it is likely that this would be in the form of a 20 mph zone which would require the need for physical speed reducing measures, ie speed cushions, chicanes, etc in order to have a direct impact on slowing vehicles. Officers point out that this would have resulted in increased costs for the DfE and also would not have met the planning tests. Any such proposals for a 20 mph speed limit would need to be put forward to the Network Management team for review.

Inspection of highways works

RBC have assigned an officer from Highways to inspect the works to ensure that it is complete to the required standard, should this standard not be met the works would need to be rectified.  In most cases it would not be the developer that would have to pay for the items to be rectified but that of the contractor undertaking the works and therefore there would be no additional public money spent to facilitate this.

Consultation

RBC are having to wait until after the Local Elections before they can go out to consultation on highways works. This is far from ideal but it is not possible to circumvent purdha rules.

I will update this post when I have further information, particularly on when the temporary lights will be removed. 

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Site visit inside The Heights' new building at Mapledurham Playing Fields

On Friday 16 April John Hempton, Kier's Project Manager, kindly showed me around The Heights primary school's new building at Mapledurham Playing Fields.

Pavilion's car park reopened to public 19 April

The Pavilion's car park has been transformed. Though not completely finished, it looks amazing. As of Monday 19 April the majority of it was reopened to the public, so everyone can see for themselves. It is being block paved - a huge contrast to the old, pot-holed, uneven surface! 

It also serves as what is known as a SuDS (a sustainable urban drainage system) meaning rain drains straight through it.

View from 1st floor room of the Main Hall
Standing outside the hoardings around the school's site, you simply can't get an accurate spatial awareness. However once inside the school's grounds, the space is astonishing. 

Even though the school is a few weeks away from completion, I could sense what a wonderful building it will be for our west Caversham community. It's amazingly spacious, especially when you consider its small footprint. 

The southern staircase benefits from great views of the playing fields, as does the wonderful main hall. It feels fantastic. It has a dramatic high ceiling with expansive, south-facing windows and doors out towards the playing fields. You can get a bird's eye view of the main hall from a first floor room which gives a great alternative perspective. What a contrast from the temporary buildings!

One of the classrooms
The impressive kitchen units are in situ next to the hall and the serving area is coming together. The lift is to be installed imminently, the floors are all prepped, classrooms are being approved for painting and the multi-use games area (MUGA) is being started on this week. It is all coming together so quickly now. 

It was lovely hearing John's enthusiasm for what he and his team are delivering. He reckons the school will blow the children's minds and he's not wrong. They are going to absolutely love it.

Monday, 19 April 2021

Enabling works for opening The Heights at Mapledurham Playing Fields

The Heights primary school at Mapledurham Playing Fields opens after June half-term. I had a look around it on Friday 16 April but haven't yet had time to share my photos. The parking area in front of the tennis courts and the majority of the area in front of the Pavilion has now opened as per Kier promised schedule.

In the run-up Kier, the DfE’s contractors, have got permission from the Trustees for two items detailed below the image to enable the paved access route from the car park to the playing fields to be completed on time to be available for public use when the school opens.

















  1. Temporary heras fencing to replace hoarding line whilst Kier construct the paved access ramp into the playing fields between the school and Pavilion
  2. Temporary relocation of some welfare units onto a small area of grass at the rear of the Pavilion until 7 June
First item
Kier are going to replace the hoarding located between the school and Pavilion with a temporary heras fence, but 2m to the right of the hoarding‘s current position to allow them to construct in a safe manner the access ramp and connect it to the breedon gravel footpath next to the children’s play area.

This work will be of direct benefit for MPF users as this paved access route is for everyone coming and going from the Pavilion car park directly into MPF to all the facilities such as the children’s play area and breedon paths for walking, cycling and running.

Second item
Due to Covid-19, Kier had to increase the number of welfare units on site for their workforce to comply with Covid-19 construction regulations. These welfare units are on the external areas within the school’s external area for the school pupils’ Early Years outdoor space and the staff car park. 

There is no other space to relocate the welfare units within the school’s grounds so Kier asked to re-site them within the car park. Officers and I were opposed to this. Instead the Trustees, officers and I have agreed that Kier may use a small part of the area of grass at the rear of the Pavilion which will be heras fenced (see above plan and photo below).

This area is currently not used as the Pavilion is closed due to Covid-19 and may not be fully open for the next period.

Access to the paved area at the rear of the Pavilion will be maintained. However there will be a short period when Kier complete the paving outside the football changing rooms when this side of the Pavilion will not be available. Kier will confirm the actual dates.

Other related news
The Council’s contractor, Agripower, are scheduled to return on Monday 24 May to install the secondary sand grooves drainage to cross connect with the installed primary drainage in the 30,000m2  of new sports pitches. As this is ‘tractor and sand groove machine’ operation, it is not envisaged to erect any heras fencing or barriers during this work as it is comparable to tractor grass cutting or pitch slitting operations that take place across the parks and regularly occurs within the need for additional barriers. The area will be able to be walked on soon after the sane grooves are installed. A temporary compound to store the sane will be located in the grass area next to the tennis courts and pavilion.

This work will take up to 3 weeks to complete (weather dependent) and the area will be available for use after the works are complete.

I'll share my photos of how the school is coming along shortly. In the meantime do contact me if you have any questions on the enabling works detailed above.

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Delays on A4074 Friday 9 April 2021 on Oxfordshire/Reading border

Tomorrow, Friday 9 April, temporary traffic lights will be put in place on the A4074 Upper Woodcote Road by the Oxfordshire border from 8 am until 8 pm. 

Although I have been chasing for this last section of the A4074 (between Shepherds Lane and the county border) to be completed since October 2020, I was only notified by the council this afternoon.

Please allow extra time as delays are likely. 

NB the temporary lights by the turning for Mapledurham Pavilion on the A4074 are still in place, but at least drivers can avoid this section more easily. 

UPDATE: The western end of Shepherds Lane is closed too so there is no access from it to the A4074.


Monday, 5 April 2021

Know who vandalised trees on Mapledurham Playing Fields?

On Easter Day, did you see two trees being vandalised on Mapledurham Playing Fields? If you did, please report the culprits to Thames Valley Police.

The Liquid Amber specimens are part of the tree-lined avenue footpath leading across Mapledurham Playing Fields to the Pavilion. Council officers had painstakingly planted the trees in perfect alignment for everyone's enjoyment. Especially in Autumn, the avenue was designed to create a stunning landscape feature with the leaves turning orange and crimson. 

It is highly unlikely the vandalised trees can be saved as the trunks have been completely severed and they were coming into leaf, but I will double-check tomorrow with the council's tree officers.

Replacement trees will probably have to wait until at least November when trees are dormant again.

The moronic, criminal damage is incredibly upsetting. I hope the imbeciles are caught and punished.

UPDATE: A resident says there were some loud girls and boys on MPF at about midnight on Easter Day creating a disturbance. Does anyone else have more information please?

Dog owners watch out - I've had a separate report of broken glass on MPF. I haven't been told the location yet but will update when I do. I'll be asking the Parks Department to try and pick up the broken glass as soon as possible to avoid any injuries to dogs or residents.

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Government announce Mental Health investment

I'm delighted by the Government's decision to invest £500m to support mental health across the UK.

Last October I wrote about the importance of good mental health including how hard living through the pandemic has been on everyone's mental health.

At a family funeral a week ago, the impact of loneliness on one of my relative's mental health was so sad to see. We talked about the struggle going out by yourself when you are feeling low and alone. Her pets have played a huge part in getting her through the last year. She's had to walk her dogs which has meant she has been able to say hello to other dog walkers so see another human being. She is so looking forward to restrictions easing - as I know we all are!

With the swift and efficient rollout of the vaccine, British Summer Time starting tonight and gardens bursting into flower, life is improving.

If you need help, here is a list of excellent organisations:

Sunday, 21 March 2021

Census 2021 - Today’s the Day!

Today, remember to fill out the Census. Everybody across England and Wales must do so. The results help plan how services are funded in each area.

It shouldn’t take long to do. If you live in Mapledurham Ward and need help filling it in, let me know and I can either help over the phone or in a virtual/online meeting. My contact details are here.

You’ll need your 16-character code from the letter sent to you a few weeks ago. If you’ve lost it, there's a way of getting a new code by going to the Census website.

Thursday, 11 March 2021

Forward thinking travel plans for The Heights at MPF

Wednesday evening I had the pleasure of participating in an incredibly positive meeting about how The Heights primary school is going to minimise vehicle journeys to their new building at Mapledurham Playing Fields (MPF). 

The Heights had invited local representatives from MPF's sporting groups,  one of the local residents associations and me to discuss their draft Travel Plan for when they open in June after summer half-term. 

The school has been working up plans to minimise additional traffic to the local area. 

You may say you'd rather watch paint dry, but if you'd been there hearing the school's representatives relate their forensically detailed draft Travel Plan you'd have been as impressed and reassured as those present.* 

Karen Edwards, The Heights' inspirational Headteacher, together with her wonderful governors and parents involved in the Travel Plan, truly have gone the extra mile. They've got a proven track record of sustainable travel which the school community has pledged to improve yet further at MPF. Health and sustainability are truly embedded in the school's DNA.

Measures for minimising vehicles to school include a 'bike bus', a 'walking bus', identifying safe lit walk routes, ensuring all who come to the school are fully aware of the public transport options and minimal on-site school parking. Other initiatives include identifying parents' drives available for staff members to park on and, once restrictions permit, car sharing.


After the initial 3 months of the school being up and running at MPF, there will be an assessment and a consideration of whether any additional measures are needed.

A whopping 91% of parents have pledged to walk, cycle, scoot, take public transport or park and walk to MPF. The school aims to hold a public event to enable local residents to see the new building (lockdown restrictions permitting) and will also be communicating how and to whom any concerns can be raised.

I trust residents living close to the school will feel reassured by The Heights' responsible and considerate approach. I'll continue to liaise closely with the school, the council, residents and MPF user groups to mitigate the impact of increasing numbers coming to MPF. As always do contact me if you'd like some advice or help. 

* Update: Martin Brommell, the Warren and District Residents Association's representative attending the meeting, has asked me to highlight that some WADRA members who didn't attend still have concerns about the potential impact of traffic once the school opens, as does he.

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Temporary closure of Mapledurham Pavilion's car park & access

This evening, Thursday 25 February, details of a temporary closure of the access to Mapledurham Pavilion's car park to vehicles* have been sent to the Mapledurham Playing Fields Management Committee, of which I am the chairman. 

The DfE's contractors, Kier Construction, need to close the car park from 8th March until 19th April to carry out car park improvement works. The works will much improve the car park and enable the school to open and function safely from Monday 7th June.
DfE / Kier's plan of improvement works to MPF's car park

* Between 22nd March until 19th April, there will be no access whatsoever from the Upper Woodcote Road access to MPF. Pedestrians, cyclists and runners will all have to access MPF from elsewhere.

Ideally these works would have been scheduled earlier to have them out of the way before the covid-19 restrictions started to ease. Sadly this was not possible. Originally the scheme was going to take only 2 weeks, however because of poor drainage the scheme had to be changed. Although the short notice is regrettable, the Chair of Trustees has given permission to close the car park in line with the officer recommendation because pressing ahead with the works will have less impact on the community than if the works were to be delayed. Kier are letter dropping nearest neighbours and have put up notices in the car park to give warning of the pending car park closure.

The MPF car park's driveway work will be deferred to allow completion of the rest of the school works so the latter can open on 7th June. 

The driveway work is going to be scheduled to take place in the Summer holidays from 2nd August with an estimated 3 weeks of no vehicular access to the car park. 

 As I know residents living around MPF would not welcome contractors parking in the nearby roads, I'm pleased to confirm that Kier are expected to use Rivermead car park for temporary contractor parking. Kier will be providing a shuttle bus to MPF site whilst the MPF car park is closed between 22nd March and 19th April. From 19th April to 6th June there will be an area in the car park by the school site that will still not be available for parking, as it will revert to being Kier's construction vehicle route into the school site. 

In front of the Pavilion there'll be a combined materials storage (block pavings, etc) and vehicle area which will be reduced in size as the build continues. Council officers expect that the car park may well be used increasingly by the public from 2nd April onwards as Covid restrictions start to be relaxed for outdoor gatherings, tennis and football. Kier have given an undertaking that this area in front of the Pavilion would be opened up for community parking if the car park becomes busier. Kier have a member of staff who will be stationed in the car park to manage the parking. 

Through the school build the Council have instructed Kier not to use the car park. No parking will now be available on the school site for the final month or two of the build, allowing some limited Kier parking in the MPF car park is preferred to the alternative of increasing parking on the adjacent roads for the final build period. 

Sports pitch secondary drainage works potential delays 
The Council has delayed this final piece of work until 8th June as regular access throughout is required to complete the drainage. This work is weather dependant, but pitches can be used pretty much the day after the work is completed, officers tell me, so no impact on the following football season is expected. The work includes dressing the surface of the sports turf with sand which will take a short while, and some rain, to disappear into the turf. There is a risk that if there is a prolonged dry spell, cutting the grooves into the ground may need to be delayed until the ground softens. This work will take about 3 weeks but will not require the field to be closed off. 

Area 5 works to main access into MPF's car park 
There is no option but to close the main access strip to install the block paving along this section of the access road to MPF's car park. RBC officers will be liaising with the Tennis and Football Clubs over the next couple of weeks to consider the impact on these clubs. 

If you have any questions, do contact me. Isobel.Ballsdon@reading.gov.uk or 07717 292 003.

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Petition to get Reading BC to improve drainage and the surface of Upper Warren Avenue's dip

UWA's dip February 2021
If you cycle, walk, drive or live on Upper Warren Avenue (or one of the roads off it) and agree with me that Reading Borough Council should fix the drainage issue in the dip and then resurface this water-damaged area, please sign my petition.

After years of lobbying for Upper Warren Avenue's (UWA's) deteriorating tarmac to be resurfaced, finally in November 2020 contractors carried out the work. Within days though, following heavy rain which pooled in the bottom of UWA's dip, the new tarmac surface started to break up.

Late November 2020 (facing east)
The photos show how in the space of just 3 months big patches of the new tarmac surface have been washed away.

I have raised the issue several times with officers and they have confirmed that the surface will be resurfaced in Spring. I however want to ensure that the drainage problems are sorted out first to give the new tarmac a decent lifespan. It simply is not good enough for it to break up within days of being laid.

Mid-November 2020 (after dark)

Do please consider signing my petition.





Sunday, 3 January 2021

Please help find 13 year old's killers


Thames Valley Police have reported the fatal stabbing of a 13 school boy earlier this evening in Bugs Bottom. If you have any information please contact TVP. My heart goes out to the boy's family at their tragic loss. It is horrendous, devastating news.

Copied below is TVP's statement:

Murder Investigation Under Way After 13-Year-Old Boy Dies In Stabbing In Reading

Thames Valley Police has this evening (3/1) launched a murder investigation following the death of a 13-year-old boy in Emmer Green, Reading.

Officers were called at 3.50pm to reports of a stabbing in Bugs Bottom fields, near to St Barnabas Road, Gravel Hill, Emmer Green.

Tragically, a 13-year-old boy died of his injuries at the scene.

The victim’s next of kin are aware and are being supported by specially trained officers, but at present, no formal identification has taken place.

No arrests have currently been made.

Senior Investigating Officer Detective Superintendent Kevin Brown, head of Thames Valley Police’s Major Crime Unit, said: “This is a fast-moving and dynamic investigation, which is ongoing.

“We are in the very early stages of this investigation, but we believe that the victim was attacked by two or three males, who made off after the incident in the direction of Hunters Chase.

“There will be a very considerable police presence in the area of St Barnabus Road and Gravel Hill for a number of days, and we have a very large scene-watch in place.

“I would appeal to anybody who was in Gravel Hill this afternoon and believes that they witnessed anything that could help this investigation to please make contact with police if you have not already done so.

“This is an area that is used extensively by dog walkers, and I believe that there will have been witnesses to this dreadful incident, or who may have seen the offenders leaving the area quickly.

“I would ask anybody who was driving or cycling in the area and has either a dash-cam or a head-cam to please check the footage between 3pm and 4.30pm, and get in touch if it has captured anything that may assist this investigation.

“Similarly, many families walk in the area, and so if anybody has taken photographs within the area around that time to please check these and contact us if you have picked up anything suspicious.

“I would also be keen to hear from anybody with CCTV footage in the area, please can you check this and again contact us with anything that may be able to help us in this investigation.

“You can call the 24-hour number 101, quoting incident reference 1069 of 3 January or call the independent charity Crimestoppers 100% anonymously on 0800 555 111.

“This is a tragic and shocking incident which has resulted in the death of a young boy. We have specially trained Family Liaison Officers supporting the boy’s family and the thoughts of all of us within the force are with them at this extremely distressing time.”

Local policing area commander for Reading, Superintendent Nick John, added: “This is a shocking incident, and I would like to re-assure the community that we are working tirelessly to locate the offenders and bring them into custody.

“Naturally, this incident will cause huge concern in the local community, and I fully understand those concerns.

“I would like to re-assure the community that we are leaving no stone unturned in this investigation and we have deployed a large number of police officers and staff to the area.

“If you have any concerns or any information, please do not hesitate to speak to one of them.

“We are in the very early stages of this ongoing incident, and I can assure you all that we are working to ascertain what has happened and arrest anybody suspected of being involved.

“We have a strong local community, and I would encourage anybody who has any information that would help us to locate the offenders, please contact us, and you can do so in the strictest confidence.”