Newsletter – Summer 2020

IN THIS ISSUE

LOCKDOWN SUPPORT – TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS AND SPEEDING  – ON- LINE ORDERS NOT DELIVERED,
ACER ANNUAL REPORT, MEMBERSHIP SUBSCRIPTION PAYMENTS

Hello everyone.  We hope you have come through the worst of the lockdown unscathed.  Please remember there is still a local lockdown support group in Whitegates operated by volunteers and organised by our resident Councillors, Shirley Boyt and Sheena Mathews. Can’t get out? Need medical supplies?  Need to talk to someone?  Call the number on the green flyer or contact Sheena or Shirley if you have mislaid it.

Traffic Accidents and Speeding

Many of you will have seen or heard of the two recent accidents in Pitts Lane and Milton Road.  Sadly, these were not unexpected by ACER, who have submitted detailed papers to local authority bodies on three occasions in the last two years. The latest submission was to the Speed Review two weeks before the last accident.  Unfortunately, evidence is needed, which is usually the number of accidents.  Evidence can be provided by police speed recording devices operated by volunteers.  This Speed Awareness scheme has been dormant for many months, but is now showing signs of being reactivated. 

On-Line ordering – failed deliveries

Action Fraud received over 16,000 reports relating to online shopping and auction fraud during the lockdown, with losses totalling over £16m. Members of the public have reported the items never arrive. Check reports from other buyers if you have not used a website before.  Use a credit card as they usually cover loss recovery.  Sign up to Thames Valley Police alert messages alert@neighbourhoodalert.co.uk

ACER during Lockdown

ACER has continued to work for the benefit of Whitegates residents during the lockdown.  In addition to detailed response to public consultations including the Local Plan and the Speed Limit Review, all planning applications have been checked that they meet WBC Borough Design Guide requirements in order to retain the local character and do not unfairly affect the neighbours.  Grass cutting and street maintenance have been monitored and taken up with the relevant authorities as needed.

Drug Dealing in Whitegates

Drug dealers have been reported on Hilltop and in Chiltern Crescent. It was noted that the number to call was 999 if a crime is in progress, otherwise 101 or NHPTwoodley@thamesvalley.pnn.police.uk.   In all cases the police require as much information as possible including make and colour of car, clothing etc..

Annual Report

The following topics are some of those covered in the  ACER annual report.  See the ACER Whitegates website.

  • Planning/Development The biggest threat to the character of Whitegates remains development.                           It is the policy of ACER to support improvements to properties provided the changes retain the character of Whitegates in line with WBC Core Strategy and the Borough Design Guide. 
  • There were 40 formal planning applications in Whitegates in the last 12 months.   ACER objected to 10 Applications, 4 were subsequently Refused by WBC.  ACER’s objections concerning parking issues were not upheld, as explained in the section on Parking.
  • ACER raised a formal Complaint, over the conduct of a WBC Planning Committee meeting, detailing the issues in relationship to Planning rules and the conduct of the Chairman, which led to unsound decisions made by the Committee. The internal enquiry by WBC found that the outcome of the Planning meeting was correct! No comment was made on the detail breaches referred to by ACER!  ACER is also concerned over the current fairness of the WBC  Planning Committee during lockdown, where affected residents have been unable to speak.
  • ACER has commented in detail on the draft ’Local Plan’, which happens once every 20 years and sets the parameters for future housing needs, local schools etc. ACER’s response to the draft Local Plan was generally supportive, but ACER  has expressed concerns that the ideas will not be implemented without clear rules being set for planning officers to follow, which has been a weakness of the current Local Plan.
  • Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO)
  • HMO’s have recently been re- defined by the Government as residential properties housing three or more unrelated tenants. The problems arising from too many HMO’s in a street plus the increased demand for parking are recognised in the proposed new Local Plan.  Allocated (off-road) parking is required for each tenant under the proposed plans, but only to larger HMO’s with 6 or more tenancies.  ACER has requested that allocated parking is also needed for each tenancy, not just the larger HMO’s.
  • Parking
  • Parking demand usually increases in Whitegates when existing houses are enlarged.  Highways usually requires two parking spaces off-road, regardless of the number of bedrooms and car owners in residence. Additional cars are therefore parked on the street which is an imposition on existing residents in the road and also causes damage to grass verges. The ‘official’ guidance used by Highways to advise Planning Officers is based on new housing estates,  ACER has requested that parking in established residential areas is taken into consideration in the new Local Plan.
  • Greenery and Front Gardens
  • ACER pushed successfully for the last remaining public open space at Bulmershe alongside Woodlands avenue to be designated as a ‘Local Green Space’. This will protect the area, both from development, and also enclosing to use as a privately run leisure facility. This designation will only be effective if the policy wording is watertight.
  • Trees, shrubs, hedges, grass and traditional front gardens are part of the character of Whitegates.  Retention of soft landscaping in front gardens is a requirement of existing local policy and would comply with the Climate Emergency measures declared by WBC, however such admirable policies are not enforced.  ACER has asked for better clarity for Planning Officers in the new Local Plan.
  • ACER Finance and Membership
  • The major running costs are hire of meeting halls and printing of a newsletter for every household three times a year. Minor costs are website domain name retention, website platform and stationery etc.
  • Committee officials, newsletter distribution and time taken to research and write submissions, attendance at Council meetings etc are all voluntary unpaid activities
  • ACER relies on a subscription of £2 per year, per household, in order to cover annual running costs. The more members we have, the more representative and the more effective we can be. Many thanks for your support.
  • Membership runs from July.  SUBSCRIPTIONS ARE NOW DUE. Due to covid, the payment options are:
    • Put £2 cash in an envelope.  Mark it ‘ACER’ with your name and address
      • Drop it in the letter box of your local street representative, if you have one (see page bottom)
      • Drop in the letter box at 21 Milton Road

ACER wants to have more members in every street so that it can fully reflect your views. The value of having a resident’s association, and in particular street reps, has been seen to work well. Action has been taken following co-ordinated pressure. Street Reps are encouraged to attend Committee Meetings. Get in touch if you are interested.

ACER CONTACTSemail: chair@acerwhitegates.org.uk      Committee:Tim Marsh (Vice Chair,  Acting Chair)          Siôn Williams ( Treasurer), Eric Ayers, Mary Bather, Jenny Lissaman, Graham May, Chris Wigmore,

Local Wokingham Borough Councillors:   Andy Croy  andy.croy@wokingham.gov.uk  07793 767314;    Carl Doran carl.doran@wokingham.gov.uk  07811 157287,  Shirley Boyt    shirley.boyt@wokingham.gov.uk  

Local Earley Town Councillors:  Sheena Matthews  sheena.matthews@earley-tc.gov.uk   07766 424098 ,     Gurdeep Bhangra  gurdeep.bhangra@earley-tc.gov.uk    Marion Shaw marion.shaw@earley-tc.gov.uk. If