On Saturday 24th September 2011, local residents within the vicinity of the Bath Road Reservoir were given the opportunity to attend Thames Water’s public consultation, held at Downshire Square between 2.30 and 6.30pm.
This was the first opportunity that the local community had had to see the revised plans and comment on them. Overall, residents felt that the proposals were an improvement on the previous plans which were dismissed at appeal early this year – but that there is still a long way to go before they are acceptable.
Local resident Martin Hoare commented: “With the heights of the buildings proposed, on a higher development platform as well, residents of Western Road would come out of their front doors and think they were walking into Canary Wharf.”
Schoolteacher and local resident Fiona Watson added: “Thames Water have been very dishonest about the old and new building heights proposed – their ‘before’ and ‘after’ figures include only the maximum height figures for their previous application – which ranged sometimes from 8m to 12.5m. To unsuspecting residents who were unaware of the detail of the previous application, this makes it look as though they have listened and reduced the heights, but they haven’t at all – the number of dwellings proposed is less but they haven’t reduced the footprint since the buildings would still cover the same amount of space. This is a very deliberate attempt to mislead the local community and the local Council and I am extremely disappointed.”
STBRR campaigner Graham Griffiths commented: “We still feel that Thames Water could allocate more amenity space. Social housing with no community facilities makes little sense – Thames Water could use one of the buildings proposed as housing for community purposes. Further, this area lacks ball play areas, access to allotments and other such community facilities and a real opportunity to address this is being missed.”
Fellow campaigner Mel Woodward added: “Building heights are still a major concern as the proposed buildings are still of an unacceptable size and massing and would still dwarf the surrounding buildings. One of the key reasons for dismissal was the cluster of buildings in the centre of the site being 10-12m on a raised platform – Thames Water are now proposing that these same buildings would stand 11m metres tall, which goes completely against the Inspector’s recommendations. The plans shown were not final and are subject to change so we very much hope that Thames Water will take note of local feedback and amend their plans accordingly. Reducing unit numbers but not building heights does not constitute listening to the local community, nor indeed the recommendations of the Government Inspector.”
Reading West MP Alok Sharma attended the consultation with local residents. He commented: “The new plans are an improvement on past applications but the density is still too high. I hope Thames Water will really take account of local residents’ views and the revised planning application will be for a much smaller number of homes than indicated in this consultation. Clearly there also remain significant issues about the height of the development and I hope Reading Borough Council will consider local public opinion when it makes a decision on any revised planning application from Thames Water.”
Photo: Mel Woodward and Alok Sharma at the Thames Water consultation exhibition