Thursday, 30 June 2011

Jelly's Coopers Arms art space -- help needed

I popped down today to see how Jelly were getting on with their new venture -- turning the Coopers Arms pub in Reading town centre near to the Town Hall into an art space.

They seemed to have made amazing progress. It is only day one and they had already washed and filled many walls and were getting on to painting.

They still need help though. Have a look at this blog for more information.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Maiden Erlegh specialist legal advice

I just had a confidential briefing on the results of Reading Borough Council seeking specialist legal advice following on from Wokingham unfairly changing Maiden Erlegh's catchment area.

Getting specialist legal advice on this issue is something we have been pushing for for the last six months. It is also something we raised as a Green priority in our recent balance of power negotiations with Labour. So I am delighted that this is finally moving forwards. Hopefully this will mean a fair deal for families in the area.

As it was confidential I can't go into too much detail, but there are some things I can publish.

There are two options available to us, judicial review and objecting to the Young People's Learning Agency (YPLA). I believe objecting to the YPLA to be the best option -- which the parents' campaign did a while ago and the council has now done.

Assuming the objection to the YPLA is upheld it then goes up to the secretary of state who makes a binding recommendation. The timescale for this is that we would get the final decision some time over the summer.

There is a meeting organised by the YPLA for parents on Wednesday, June 29 starting at 6 p.m. at Maiden Erlegh. I think if we can get lots of families along to this meeting this would be a real show of strength and support the objection.

If you want to be kept updated on local issues please sign up to our monthly newsletter.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Green Rd mosque and TVU planning applications

I had a frustrating time at the planning applications committee meeting this evening. First of all I turned up promptly at 6:30 p.m. only to learn that the Green Road mosque planning application had been deferred because councillors hadn't had an opportunity to consider the equality impact assessment.

At about 7:45 p.m. we got on to the other Park Ward planning application -- the Thames Valley University student accommodation development.

I spoke against this application focusing on the parking impact and the unenforceability of the clause in the tenancy agreement designed to stop students from bringing their cars to University -- one councillor remarked that nothing is ever 100% enforceable and I pointed out that the University has never successfully enforced this clause.

As a plan B in case they permitted this development I argued for more money to be asked for to spend on resolving any parking problems. I also asked that the leisure/recreation section 106 money not be tied solely to Palmer Park but to the cemetery as well giving us more flexibility about how it is spent.

Unfortunately, this planning application was permitted and the pot of parking mitigation money wasn't increased. I did achieve the minor victory with the section 106 money though.

If you want to be kept updated on local issues please sign up to our monthly newsletter.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Green Park wind turbine visit

Last week I went on the Green Drinks visit to the Ecotricity wind turbine at Green Park. It shames me to say this is my first visit to the turbine since it was installed. But I comfort myself by the fact that it is in Wokingham.

The turbine stands 120 m tall, I couldn't hear any sound at all until I was standing underneath it and one side of the tower was very warm -- which was much appreciated on a cold day.

The turbine is one of the worst performing ones in the UK -- because we have such a good wind resource and most turbines are located in windier areas. But when ranked alongside the leader in wind energy -- Germany -- it is in their top 10%.

Another thing that I was interested in was the carbon payback -- how long it took to displace enough non-renewable energy generation and carbon emissions to balance out the carbon emitted in manufacturing and installing the wind turbine. Apparently this was two years.

A lot of these carbon emissions were from the concrete foundations. I was informed that work was under way on reusable foundations.

Unfortunately in the UK we have some way to go with renewables as we only currently generate around 5% of our electricity this way. In Germany it is around 17%.

In Reading we have been pushing for the Council to make use of the new feed in tariff to fund a massive investment in solar panels on Council buildings.

Obviously boosting renewable energy generation is no good if it is being wasted through inefficient housing for example. This is why we have a two pronged approach and are also pushing for Reading's free insulation scheme -- in areas of deprivation -- to be funded for the next financial year and expanded.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Increasing participation

One of Labour's priorities this year is increasing participation. I have always thought that a good idea would be to make council agendas searchable on the ward impacted. This would allow residents to easily find out what sort of things are going on in their area across the different council meetings. Maybe they could even publish a RSS feed for each ward.

I spoke to officers about this a little while ago and they seemed to think a way forward was a better document management system that would be the back end to a new section of the website.

This would then open the door to Local Area Forums -- where residents get together with councillors and other agencies to discuss and make decisions on the things impacting on the local area -- or at the very least it would make it easier for self organised residents' groups to discuss and be informed on local issues.

What other ideas do people have to increase resident participation?

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Scrutinising Reading Council

Scrutiny involves looking at Council decisions, policy and services with a view to improving it.

As you may be aware Council has now adopted a revised scrutiny framework -- Internal looking at the Council and External looking at the police, NHS etc -- and officers will be working with the two commissions to develop a programme for the coming year. If there are any topics you would like to see either of the commissions considering, please get in contact.

Examples of large scrutiny projects in the past include drugs and private housing.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Big Lunch this Sunday

There are eight Big Lunch events in the Reading area registered on the web site.

The thinking behind this initiative is that it is an opportunity for the community to come together over a bite to eat. I think this is a great idea which has been and will continue to help build communities.

The closest one to me in Newtown is on the Orts Road green on Sunday, June 5. No time is given but Sam and I plan to go down there for lunch at 1 p.m. until about 2 p.m.. It would be great to see other people there.

Everyone is invited. Feel free to bring food to share, something to sit on, music or a game. The only limitation is your imagination.

Please spread the word and let me know if you plan to come along.