Saturday, 22 September 2012

Was there a true consultation on Wokingham Regeneration

According to Wokingham Enterprises Limited and their development partner Wilson Bowden, you were consulted on how you would like to achieve a regeneration of Wokingham town centre.

The consultation apparently started in 2009. I heard nothing, then a letter sent out in June 2011  to homes across the borough. This letter.

2011 Consultation letter circular version

2011 Consultation letter postal version

They both boil down to the same thing.
  1. We are looking at regenerating the town centre. We will make sure it looks nice and in keeping and provides jobs.
  2. If you want to have look at the proposals there are three days in a row in the middle of the school holidays.
From my limited survey it would appear about one in 10 people have any recollection of receiving this letter. although I suspect that even if the letters were actually delivered it suggests a face lift or re-build of the 1960's buildings. Locals working 80 hours / week would not feel the need to juggle things to make the specific Saturday they could attend.

In June 2012 there was a proper public disclosure in the Wokingham Times that there was going to be an exhibition at the end of July 2012. We were shown in an illustration that they would like to build 100+ dwellings on the car park near Shute End, more houses along one edge of the playground half of Elms field, an underground multi-story car park, and loose the other half of Elms field to another supermarket, an underground multi story car park and courtyard shopping square.

Over all 160 more infill dwellings on community resources This to pay for landscaping for the remaining field, making a through road to Shute End and a face lift to the 1960's buildings.

There is also a lot more in the 2010 master plan but this has never been promoted to the general public for consideration.

Not at all what one would have expected from the 2011 document and disturbing given the hardship that many have faced of late trying to get a local school places or even siblings into the same school.

With many new flats on Molly Millars lane as yet to be occupied and the cricket and tennis club property development opposite Elms Field still ongoing. Every patch of land. Where does it end?

At what point is the 'Historic Market Town sign taken down.

My thoughts now are that, if a councillor who went door to door claiming to wish to represent they would have at least included a mention of residential development supermarket and loss of open space openly into the initial public letter. Wilson Bowen or Wokingham Enterprises Ltd did not.

This would not be a problem if we could think of the exhibition at the end of July as the start of the consultation. But we can not. Tory Cllr Allistair Corrie (A tax advisor from Risley signed the £100m contract that was penned by Tory Cllr Matt Deegan (A tax advisor) between Wokingham Enterprises Ltd and Wilson Bowden Developments before the event opened.

It is important that the contract was between Wokingham Enterprises Ltd, a Wokingham Borough Council owned company and Wilson Bowden Developments. Ordinarily such a contract would be open to public scrutiny but by using the sub company. The denied freedom of information request is currently facing an internal review.

A post exhibition survey was conducted by @WokinghamRegneration but this simply asked questions about, assuming we do this what trees would you like and should the buildings be all the same in a row. I had to ask them specifically where state negative comments, they said we can put it anywhere. Many people did. But it was not obvious. It did not ask directly for people to approve or reject the key areas of dispute, apply a financial value to them. The results were absolutely fascicle. As you looked down the stats between about 120 and 220 they seemed to have been filled in in batches of four by supporters who could not be bothered to even pretend to be someone else. Also the survey drew on every one of the many lovely features they ask us if we liked. Which we did. Like a nice painting that I'm your willing to buy. The Summary used very odd measurements based on how many features we liked. The whole survey was a list of likeable features and nothing about choices about the things we don't.

My conclusion (Which matches that of the National Audit Office) is that there was no appropriate pre-consultation.

If you do not feel that there was an appropriate consultation and think there should be one then please sign the petition calling for there to be one.

Open interview. Real views.


  1. There was also a public consultation in 2010 - the results are still on the WBC website - link here

    I agree with your stated concerns regarding the WEL but not about the consultation process. We have all had plenty of opportunity to comment but, in true Wokingham style, most have not bothered prefering to stick to the 'It'll never happen' or 'heard it all before' line. Well it is going to happen, and with, I believe, public support (and, yes, I've seen all the negative comments in the press and elsewhere but sadly that is typical of folk round here). I was born in this town 50 years ago and I've seen its gradual but steady decline, thanks in no small part to the negative attitude of my fellow Wokinghamites. Our town deserves and desparately needs regeneration. Without it, Wokingham will die, squashed between Reading and Bracknell. The current proposals amy not be perfect, and certainly the method of delivery is questionable, but Wokingham folk need to 'own' this project not stick their heads in the sand and continually deride it.

    1. I moved here 13 years ago because I liked it. Wokingham has steadily been listed as a'best place to live' for the last ten years. Not Reading or Bracknell people seem to be bench marking as a goal. They could always move there.

      I would have to disagree with you about public sentiment. Just ask 5 random people. Inform them of the facts first though. Don't just say 'Do you think Wokingham town center needs a revamp. Bit like asking someone if they would like a new car. Then tell them they will be paying £400 / month on it for the next 4 years and miss out on a local school. They will get things back into perspective pretty quick.

  2. I managed to speak to a member of public who was on the 2010 'consultation'. Apparently not a consultation. More, if you were going to build on Elms, how would you like it. The consultation had no impact on the scope and value.