Thatcham Quarry – do you have questions?

I will be sending questions to Grundon Sand and Gravel and the owners of Waterside Farm. Any residents who would like me to submit questions on their behalf are welcome to contact me at: judith.bunting@wbld.org.uk.

Last week, I visited Grundon Sand and Gravel Ltd in Colthrop to lobby estates director, Andrew Short, on behalf of local residents who are opposed to the proposed quarry at Waterside Farm in South Thatcham. Judith is the parliamentary candidate for Newbury and West Berkshire Liberal Democrats.

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The real problem, is that plans for the quarry are proceeding without Waterside Farm even being recognised as a preferred site for development by West Berkshire Council. The Council’s plans for Minerals and Waste Sites are so many years behind that Grundon feels the need to proceed before they are completed.

The result is that plans for development in our area are being driven by the needs of industry, rather than the needs of residents. Once again Richard Benyon and his Conservatives on West Berkshire Council are dropping the ball.

Waterside Farm is a lovely area, which is well used by walkers, riders and schools for recreation and keeping fit. The quarry will not block any paths or bridleways, but will obviously destroy the attractive environment. It will also disrupt the local wildlife, although Grundon have said they are willing take the nesting times of ground-nesting lapwings into account.

Residents who live near the Waterside Farm area are of course worried by the prospect of the noise, dust and environmental upset that can come with having a quarry at the end of the garden and they have started a campaign to stop the development.

At the meeting, Andrew Short told me that Grundon is open to listening to residents’ concerns and will do everything they can to make the development acceptable, but the company is keen to press ahead. This is not what residents want.

I have also approached the owners of Waterside Farm, St John’s College, Oxford. The St John’s team has offered to answer any questions residents may have after the public open day, which was held at Thatcham Football Club this week.

I will be sending questions to Grundon Sand and Gravel and the owners of Waterside Farm. Any residents who would like me to submit questions on their behalf are welcome to contact me at: judith.bunting@wbld.org.uk.

Tory attitude to housing is a scandal.

Taceham House in Thatcham, empty for ~6 years. With Owen Jeffery, Dep Leader, Thatcham Town Council, and David Rendel, Cllr for Thatcham Central.
Taceham House in Thatcham, empty for ~6 years.

Today the Conservative party announced plans to extend the right to buy to Housing Association properties. This proposal will lead to longer waiting lists for homes and fewer social houses.

In February 2015, 1,092 qualifying households were on the Common Housing Register for West Berkshire. 1,569 non-qualifying households were also on the list. I know, I checked with WBC.

That’s 2661 people/families waiting for suitable accommodation in West Berkshire, while the infamous 37 affordable flats in Parkway and social housing sites such as Taceham House, lie closed and unused. Taceham House has stood empty for 6 years.

According to Government figures, only 220 affordable homes were built in the  West Berks district between 2010 and 2012. That puts the council 48th out of 55 unitary councils in England. The lack of care shown by this administration in West Berkshire is a scandal.

Now the Tory administration supported by our own MP is proposing to extend the right to buy to Housing Association properties. This proposal will lead to longer waiting lists for homes and fewer social houses. It should not be allowed.

Local housing is controlled by the Council, but I believe the MP has an important role in standing up for residents’ needs. If I’m elected to Westminster I will not turn my back on local matters. I want to make sure young people in our area all get the best start in life. Over the past five years, our MP has been sleeping on the job.
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On 7 May we decide who should take care of West Berkshire in parliament and on our local Council.
 

Should we elect a Liberal Democrat MP who will fight for fairness or send a Conservative MP back to Westminster for more of the same?

 

DECENT HOMES FOR ALL: For more information about Lib Dem Housing Policies, please see the full report, below, Decent Homes for All:

http://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/libdems/pages/2012/attachments/original/1390841965/104_-_Decent_Homes_for_All.pdf?1390841965

The True Cost of Parking Charges

Newbury Jan-Feb 2013 164 cropped
Collecting signatures for the Lib Dem petition against on-street parking charges, in 2013. The petition carried 1,719 signatures by the time it was handed in to Council by Cllrs Roger Hunneman and Keith Woodhams on 5th March.

I am sad to see Conservative-led West Berkshire Council bring their promised on-street parking charges into effect, in roads around central Newbury, recently. These charges will damage the small shops and businesses around Newbury centre.

Lib Dem Petition

Earlier this year Lib Dem Councillors ran a campaign to fight the introduction of these charges. The petition, submitted to Council, by Cllrs Roger Hunneman and Keith Woodhams on 5th March 2013, carried 1,719 signatures collected from residents, shoppers and business owners around the town.

As well as this, Newbury Weekly News reported at the time that Newbury BID wrote a letter opposing the charges, as did the Federation of Small Businesses, and Royal Mail workers submitted a petition that carried 68 signatures. Did the Council pay any attention to these submissions? Government guidance makes clear that the aim of parking controls is to keep traffic flowing and ration road space fairly. In the Faraday Road area, there is little coming and going. People who park there, are people who work there. What a shame that our Council sees fit to effectively tax our residents to go to work.

Useful Experience Elsewhere

For the record, on the whole I do expect to pay to park my car. I am happy to pay in car parks and in busy areas where the need for spaces is at a premium. There is experience out there that shows how on-street charges have a direct effect on businesses, large and small. In other parts of the country it’s been recognised that stiff parking charges hurt business. In 2012 London’s Westminster council was forced into a U-turn over its plans for “nightlife” parking charges when businesses from high street giants to corner shops, to church groups to government ministers united over the abolition of free parking, and the High Court ruled in their favour.

The Crazy Idea of Pay by Phone-Only

The move to pay by phone, only, in some places is also frankly bizarre. Paying by phone is a great convenience, when allied to cash and/or card payments. Pay by phone only is a prejudice against people who don’t have phones, prefer not to use their phone, or who prefer not to pay the additional premiums charged by phone line providers, when all they want to do is park their car. The station carp arak gets around this nicely, by charging a phone premium, but then reducing the daily rate so the charge to the consumer comes out the same.

Overall these on-street charges smack of a mealy mouthed determination to squeeze the last penny out of any opportunity. How long will it take for our Council to realise the damage they are doing to the small local businesses that give Newbury its character.

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Comment

After publishing similar comments on my facebook page (www.facebook.com/JudithBuntingforNewbury) I received the following supportive comment, from Barry Flisher, of Lambourn:

“Living as I do in the outlying village of Lambourn; parking charges even now are a big deterrent to shopping in Newbury. They also force ‘outsiders’ into the out of town stores where parking is free,as we have no option but to bring our cars.

Public transport is largely non-existent or as for people like us living outside of Lambourn totally irrelevant not because we don’t want to use it but because it is routed away from our area (another story).

Towns like Wantage have 2hrs free parking.

Parkway [in Newbury] has no attractions as stores like Lakeland, John Lewis and Debenhams are available ‘on-line’ with delivery, often free, to the door. Popping in for a cup of coffee, which lets face it often costs £2 or £3 even without a cake, is made unpalatable all the more when taxed by parking costs. Yes thinking about it maybe describing such charges as a ‘Shopping Tax’ is very accurate!!