Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Garden land development in Reading

I have received this e-mail from the planning section of the Council. Has anyone got any good or bad examples of garden land development?

"Dear Councillor,

As a result of changes to national Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing (PPS3), which removes private residential gardens from the definition of previously developed (brownfield) land, the Planning Section has been asked by Cllr Willis (Lead Councillor for Planning & Transport) to consider how the Council might approach a policy on garden land.

Following a recent discussion with Cllr Willis regarding this issue, I am emailing to ask you for examples of completed garden land development schemes, which you consider are either good or bad examples. I would be grateful if in providing this information you could set out your view as to why you consider a scheme is good or otherwise in planning terms. This will help to inform the preparation of a draft policy on garden land.

I would be grateful for a response within the next 2 weeks.


Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Recycle your low energy light bulbs

Reading is apparently going to become one of the first places in the country to get involved with low energy light bulb recycling.

Although the energy efficient light bulbs are definitely a good thing, they contain mercury and so should not be thrown away into your black bin, but should be disposed of as hazardous waste -- at the tip.

Most people either are not aware of this, or are put off by the inconvenience of taking their spent lightbulbs all the way to the tip. This means that most are landfilled. I have raised this issue in the past and so I am pleased to see action from the council on this.

I have put the Council in touch with the True Food Co-op who have led the way in waste reduction, reuse and recycling in the past in the hope that they will have a low energy light bulb recycling container at their markets.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Full council meeting, Maiden Erlegh motion and the bunfight that followed

At the meeting of the full council earlier in the week we were hoping to get Reading Borough Council to seek specialist legal advice regarding Wokingham's plan to change the Maiden Erlegh catchment area to exclude some Park Ward children from the school.

Labour had a motion down to make this happen. We were hoping that Councillor Hussain -- Conservative -- was going to second the motion and it would get all-party support. Councillor Hartley who had written the motion -- unfortunately with no political party consultation up front -- had made it clear that he would welcome discussion on friendly amendments. But right up until the meeting it was not clear exactly what position the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats were going to take on this issue. Although both parties had said they supported the Reading parents, in terms of the council motion it was not clear what wording and specific action they wanted. At the start of the meeting it became obvious that cross-party support was not going to happen and so I found myself seconding the Labour motion.

So immediately after my speech seconding the motion the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats moved an amendment -- in practice deleting everything apart from the first few words and replacing it with a new motion.

From here on in it had turned into a bit of a bunfight and no one succeeded in covering themselves in glory! Others have written about this in more detail.

I did not feel that the amendment moved the campaign forwards as all it set out to do in my opinion was formalise what the council was already doing -- but it did not move us backwards either. Inevitably though the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats with a clear majority passed their amendment and then passed the amended motion.

Looking back, I struggle to see how cross party support could have been built. Although I had been talking to both Tories and Liberal Democrats -- as well as Labour and parents -- I do not think either group had agreed a position on this until immediately before the full council meeting, so a back and forth of discussion on the wording of a motion would have been pretty difficult to achieve.

What does this mean for the campaign? Well I am an optimist by nature, so despite this setback I think the campaign has come a long way. And I think that parents have shown politicians in Reading and Wokingham that there are a lot of people interested in this issue and in getting a fair deal for Reading families. The option of getting specialist legal advice is still on the table and the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats said that if there is a need after negotiation with Wokingham then they will do this. So I guess we will have to wait and see what Wokingham does following on from negotiations with Reading and the informal consultation responses and what it puts into the formal consultation in November. My concern though is will this be too late?

Friday, 22 October 2010

Funeral for public services

After the disastrous comprehensive spending review on Wednesday I attended the funeral for public services outside the Civic Centre in Reading.

Join community groups, trade unions, political faith groups, service user groups as well as residents and workers from across Reading to form a coalition against these cuts to services.

7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 26
Reading friends meeting house, Church Street, Reading, RG1 2SB

Keep updated on Facebook here.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

True Food Co-op takings update

Here are the True Food Co-op takings figures for the last few weeks. These are for the shop and markets combined:

Week starting:

13/09/10 -- £6543
20/09/10 -- £7258
27/09/10 -- £6846
04/10/10 -- £7721

As you can see we did hit the target for £7500 in the week starting 4th October. The next target is £8500 by the beginning of November. An extra £1000 a week sounds like a lot but with over 100 members if we all encouraged one new person to shop at True Food they would only need to spend £10 a week for us to make the target.

If you have not tried the True Food Co-op for your weekly shopping I can highly recommend it.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Reading Borough Council full Council meeting this evening

Full meeting of Reading Borough Council this evening. The full agenda is here. There are some interesting items up for debate tonight on Maiden Erlegh, free swimming and renewable energy to name a few.

A month in the life of a Green Party councillor -- September

September has been a busy month. Schools have gone back so I am helping with the crossing patrol again and Council meetings are back in full swing.

Council meetings and briefings -- 9
Surgeries -- 1 stationery and 2 walkabout
School governor meetings -- 2
Community meetings and events -- 9
Enquiries and requests for repairs from residents -- 57

Some of our action:
· continued to support Reading parents in their fight against unfair changes to the Maiden Erlegh catchment area
· carried on working to protect our public services from damaging cuts
· put pressure on Tesco to fix its fence and end the nuisance of trolleys littering the streets and river

Some of our results:
· got the Council to look into 20 mph speed limits in residential areas
· as usual I got countless instances of fly tipping cleared, trolleys collected, graffiti cleaned, pram crossings installed and residents' questions answered.

· None claimed.

Gifts to declare -- over the value of £25:
· None.

My interests are published on Reading Borough Council's website.

Monthly councillor allowance (pay) before deductions: £685.08

Friday, 15 October 2010

Monday, 11 October 2010

Take back parliament meeting -- alternate vote system

Although I think that the Lib Dems should have held out for a proportional voting system, they didn't and so we are left with a choice between no change or a minor improvement to the electoral system. Along with Green MP Caroline Lucas, I am in favour of this minor improvement but I find it hard to muster much enthusiasm.

Anyway, Take Back Parliament have organised a meeting in Reading to get the ball rolling.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Freshers' fair at Reading University

I was helping the Reading Young Greens at the Freshers' Fair yesterday at Reading University. We had lots of interest should hopefully make for a fun and exciting year of campaigning at the University.

The Reading Young Greens also have a Facebook group.

The Lib Dems and Conservatives were both represented at the Fair, but no sign of Labour whose society seems to have collapsed. The local Lib Dems were collecting signatures to pressure Vince Cable into not siding with the Conservatives and increasing tuition fees -- never a good thing when you have the campaign against your own party!

On which roads should cars be allowed to park on the pavements -- carefully?

I received this e-mail from the Council about plans to clamp down on dangerous and problematic pavement parking -- which we have been campaigning on for a while now -- asking which roads in Park Ward should be exempted, and careful pavement parking should be allowed to continue. As residents what do you think?

Dear Councillor

Reading Borough Council, at Cabinet in July and at TMAP (Traffic Management Advisory Panel) in September, decided to progress a borough wide footway and verge parking prohibition. This will mean that all footway and verge parking is illegal and subject to the same penalty notice and process as those vehicles that park on yellow lines.

Officers are progressing that decision and the restriction is expected to be in place by early 2011. However the lead Councillor, Richard Willis, has asked that two measures are incorporated into the introduction of the restriction and they are:-

1) That for a 2 week period before the official commencement of the restriction, vehicles parked on footways and verges will receive a warning notice in the form of a standard letter in a parking ticket holder and placed on the windscreen of vehicles as with current parking penalty ticket issues.

2) That a small number of roads within the borough where no alternative parking is available will be exempt from the prohibition.

It is in connection with the second measure that I am writing to you as the ward Councillor to seek your suggestions as to which, if any, roads in your ward should be exempt from the footway and verge parking prohibition.

If you could let me know the roads that you feel should be considered in this measure, officers will then review the suggestions and report to the lead Councillor with the suggested roads and an officer recommendation on whether technical and physical evidence supports their exemption.

An exemption will only be considered if:-

· There is no off-street parking available
· The road is too narrow to safely allow vehicles to park fully on-street.
· Current highway rules (size of vehicle etc) will be followed – There are a number of types of vehicle that cannot be parked on the public highway, such as HGV’s, and the drivers are required to be aware of their vehicle class and the restrictions relating to it and not leave their vehicle on the public highway.
· The exemption does not impact on other restrictions already in place.

Once the lead Councillor has reviewed the requests and recommendations we will report back to ward Councillors on the proposed list of roads, which when finalised will be reported to TMAP in November 2010 or January 2011 for confirmation.

I would be grateful if you could let me know by the 18th October of any roads you wish to be considered within this measure.

Pat Baxter

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

How active has your councillor been? August figures published

I have just been sent the latest councillor activity statistics. This spreadsheet shows how many items of casework -- raising housing issues, reporting fly tipping, requesting repairs to streetlights, asking questions of officers etc -- each councillor has put through the Front Office system in each month since the elections in May. As you can see there is a large range in the levels of activity.

As people have pointed out in the past casework is only one aspect of a councillor's work and I wouldn't expect the mayor for example to be doing much casework as he is busy being the figurehead of the council. But I still think it is a useful measure of how active your councillors are.

Monday, 4 October 2010


Got this through from the Council:
Works to improve the car parking and landscaping at Palmer Park are due to commence during the week beginning 11th October 2010.

This is the last phase of the works to upgrade the play area and surrounding landscape. It also provides parking for the new gym.

In anticipation of these works, new trees were planted last year, and any that failed to establish, will be replaced this winter. In addition, improvements were made to the area of park next to the London Road, principally replacing fencing around the old Adventure Play Area.

Now that most of the new and replacement trees and other landscaping are in place, we will be removing the shrubbery and small trees between the stadium and car park that were previously identified for removal. Once the new car parking area is in place, and the then redundant space removed, we shall be able to accommodate more cars, but we will have also increased the amount of green space in the park.

The material chosen for the car park surface is a porous asphalt, which allows rain to flow through the surface, helping to reduce the risk of flooding and following best practice.

In order to keep disruption to users to a minimum, the work is being carried out in 3 separate phases.

Phase 1: Approach to stadium and new stadium car park

· The car parking area next to the sports stadium is being improved and extended to accommodate just under 200 vehicles.
· New parking will be created in front of the stadium and will include 5 designated disabled parking bays.
· New post and rail fencing will be installed in areas separating car parking from parkland.
· Yellow lines will be painted along the driveway to the stadium to prevent its being narrowed or blocked by parked vehicles.
· Passing places will be created along the driveway to the stadium to allow recycling vehicles easy access to the relocated recycling banks.
· Two zebra crossings and one raised table are to be installed where pedestrian and cycle routes cross the driveway to the stadium.

Phase 2: Statue Area

· An area which is currently tarmac, will be returned to parkland around the statue of George Palmer to allow for a safer junction of pedestrian routes at this point, and a landscape feature at the centre of the park.
· New post and rail fencing will be installed to prevent encroachment by cars onto pedestrian routes.
· White lines are to be repainted onto the existing tarmac parking area to mark out all the car parking spaces.

Phase 3: Wokingham Road car park area (next to St. Bartholomews Road)

· The car park accessed from Wokingham Road is to be removed and returned to parkland, leaving 3 disabled parking bays and a path link to the existing network of paths.
· The recycling area is to be relocated next to the sports stadium.
· New post and rail fencing will be installed to prevent encroachment by cars onto pedestrian routes and into the park.

We anticipate that the work will be completed in approximately 8 weeks and apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Letters containing this information will be sent to local residents on Tuesday 4th October