Jun 27

End of Uni Year Clean-Up

The University have been working hard to get students who live in privately rented houses in Redlands to dispose of unwanted items responsibly.  They have lots of recycling schemes and have provided advice about how to recycle and dispose of waste.

As in previous years RBC waste disposal crews will be asked to take reasonable amounts of side waste from properties which students have vacated on the normal waste collection day and they will be removing fly tipping from recycling sites.

The council will arrange an additional collection at from such properties as required. The Neighbourhood Officer for the area and an Enforcement Officer will monitor the area and liaise with landlords about waste clearance on their property and enforcement action will be taken as necessary.

We will continue to work with the University to identify cost effective waste management strategies for the future.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you spot a property which has been missed by the Council teams.

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Jan 05

Changes Proposed to Residents’ Parking Permit Scheme

A RAFT of changes to the Residents’ Parking Permit scheme is being proposed following a review of the operation.

A Task & Finish group was established in June 2016 to take an in-depth look at parking pressures in the town and the obvious impact on local residents. Reading’s Residents Parking Scheme is now 40 years old and the cross-party group looked at how it currently works and how it could continue to operate in the future.

A number of recommendations are now being made, including the introduction of a charge for the first parking permit, expanding the areas which could be considered for inclusion in the scheme and a tightening of the eligibility of applicants.

There could also be a number of improvements for permit holders, such as upgraded IT to allow residents to manage their parking permit requirements online, improved enforcement of permit zones and more flexible visitor permits.

The proposals are being reported to the Traffic Management Sub-Committee (TMSC) on 12th January, who will in turn be asked to recommend the changes to the council’s Policy Committee for consideration four days later (16th January).

Unlike many other local authority areas, residents in Reading have never been asked to pay for their first parking permit since the scheme was introduced in 1976. The recommendation is that a first permit charge should now be considered to cover the costs of running and enforcing the scheme.

Savings totalling £65 million have been made by Reading Borough Council since 2011, due to unprecedented cuts in Government funding and increased demands on services. A further £42 million in savings need to be identified by 2020.

Most other local authorities who run residents’ parking schemes – including West Berkshire, Wokingham and Slough – already charge for a first permit.

Members are being asked to consider a number of charging options for the price of a first permit, ranging from £25 to £50. The potential income generated from the charges for first and second permits range from £357,750 to £552,360, depending on the option chosen. A new set of charges are also being proposed for a range of discretionary permits which are also currently free.

Other options to be considered are changing the rules for permit allocations to schools so they are dealt with on a case by case basis, stricter controls on proof of vehicle ownership and more discretion for households in newly created permit zones.

Improvements could include an upgraded online permit application process, increased parking attendance presence in permit zones, a new tool to report illegal vehicle parking, renewal of visitor permits without the need to re-apply and online booking of visitor permits by session rather than AM/PM.

Councillor Tony Jones, who led the cross party Task & Finish Group, said:

“A lot has changed since Reading’s Residents’ Parking Permit scheme was first introduced 40 years ago. As demand for parking continues to grow, more and more households are asking for their streets to be included in residents’ permit zones to allow them to park near to their homes.

“The level of demand means it is no longer sustainable to issue first vehicle permits free of charge, which is why we are recommending a charge is introduced to cover enforcement and administration costs. This would bring Reading into line with neighbouring councils like West Berkshire, Wokingham and Slough, and London boroughs which face similar pressures on limited parking spaces.

“The review has also identified a number of other areas where changes could be made, including expanding the areas which could be considered for inclusion, making it easier for residents to manage their parking permit requirements online, improved enforcement of permit zones and more flexibility with visitor permits and permit allocations for local schools.

“I’d like to thank every resident who took the time to contact me as part of the scrutiny process, and fellow councillors for their input into the recommendations which will now go forward for consideration.”

Cllr Tony Page, Reading’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, and Chair of the Traffic Management Sub-Committee, said:

“There were more than 26,000 permits issued in Reading last year and we know that demand will continue to increase with more houses and former offices being converted into flats.

“The residents parking scheme was first introduced in 1976. While there have been a number of changes to it over the years, this important piece of scrutiny was long overdue in light of the increasing demands on limited parking spaces in Reading.

“I’d like to thank Councillor Jones and the Task and Finish Group for the work they have put into this piece of scrutiny. The recommendations include a number of changes which, if approved, will result in a more effective and fairer residents parking scheme.”

Members of the Traffic Management Sub Committee will be asked to recommend to Policy Committee, meeting on 16th January, that a charge be introduced for the first permit and a number of discretionary permits.

If approved at Policy Committee, the charges could be introduced from 1st April 2017 for new permits issued, and would apply to existing permits on subsequent renewal dates.

The full Residents Parking Scheme report (Item 6) can be found at: http://www.reading.gov.uk/article/9637/Traffic-Management-Sub-Committee-12-JAN-2017

 

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Jan 01

Council Recycling Your Christmas Trees

Please bring your trees along to one of the many sites across Reading.

Christmas Tree recycling sites open on 2nd January and stay open until 17th January.

They will be in car parks at the following locations:

  • Mapledurham Playing Fields
  • Clayfield Copse
  • Hills Meadow
  • Rivermead Leisure Complex
  • Kensington Road Recreation Ground
  • Prospect Park
  • Meadway Recreation Ground
  • Tilehurst allotments, Armour Hill
  • Palmer Park Sports Stadium
  • Whitley Wood Recreation Ground
  • Academy Sports Leisure Centre, Northumberland Avenue

The trees will be chipped by the Council and used in a range of landscaping schemes across the borough. Residents should not be alarmed if they see piles of trees as it may take a few days to collect from each location.

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Dec 21

Festive Thank You to the Foster Squad

A GROUP of youngsters from the Foster Squad got into the Christmas spirit at a special festive session.

The council-run group is open to the children of foster carers and it meets every month.
The youngsters decide which activities they would like to do in future sessions. Recent activities have included street dancing, learning sign language, a pizza party and going on trips out.

The group also hears from guest speakers on a variety of topics, they make new friends and have the opportunity to talk about any issues they encounter being in a foster care family.

Their Christmas get-together on Thursday 15th December included decorating cookies and tucking into a selection of festive treats.

The children were also presented with a special Thank You certificates by Councillor Jan Gavin, Reading’s Lead Member for Children’s Services, who visited them at their meeting in The Avenue Centre, Tilehurst.

Cllr Gavin said:

“The children of parents who foster play a vital role in ensuring the happiness of the young people who come into the family home.

“It is essential that Looked After Children feel welcomed and part of the family and the foster parent’s own children are amazing at helping to make that happen.

“I was delighted to be able to meet some of the Foster Squad and to thank them for everything they do. I would also like to wish all our Foster Carers and their families a very merry Christmas.”

Any young person aged between seven and 18-years-old who is interested in going along to the Foster Squad group can find out more through their parent’s supervising social worker.

Some people who are interested in fostering do not make the initial enquiry because they are worried about the impact on their own children. However, fostering can be a very positive experience for carer’s birth children, bringing fun and new relationships into their lives.

Some of the council’s foster carers have their own children and others do not but when children foster we make sure they have the support they need.

Reading Family Placements Team is currently looking to recruit more foster carers who could offer short term or long term care to children and young people of all ages.

The council is also looking to recruit carers to its Short Breaks Scheme, which involves providing a regular overnight stay or day respite care to Reading families where there is a child with a disability.

Carers are paid an allowance based on national guidelines which covers the cost of caring for the child or young person, plus an additional payment which recognises their important role as foster carers.

Cllr Gavin said:

“Fostering can be a challenging but hugely rewarding role and we need local foster carers from all walks of life for a variety of different children.

“Our carers are offered on-going training opportunities and support from our fostering team and other carers.

“If you have the time and commitment to support our children, even on a part-time basis, we would love to hear from you.”

Anyone interested in learning more about becoming a foster carer can contact The Fostering Recruitment Team on (0118) 937 3740, email f&a.recruitment@reading.gov.uk or visit www.reading.gov.uk/fostering.

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Nov 25

Reading Quality Foods [Northumberland Ave] closed after a major rat and cockroach infestation

reading-quality-foodsReading Quality Foods and Al-Muzammil Halal Meat (based within Reading Quality Foods), 73-75 Northumberland Avenue, were closed by the Council’s food and safety team on 7th November, using a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice.

Reading Magistrates confirmed on 18th November that the Council had made the correct decision to issue the notice and close both shops.

Following a tip off from a tradesman who reported seeing 10-15 rats running throughout the store, Council officers visited the premises and found an array of serious hygiene violations. This included a widespread rat infestation throughout the premises, a substantial hole in the floor that appeared to be as a result of rat damage and a cockroach infestation at the butchers.

Food was found on display at Reading Quality Foods that had been gnawed and damaged by rats and contaminated with rat faeces. Fresh droppings were found in boxes where food was displayed. Droppings were found across the premises on the floor, on shelves, on food products and under equipment including on freezer handles.

Live cockroaches were found at the butchers on the work surfaces and living in kitchen equipment. Cockroaches were also found within one of the freezers at Reading Quality Food.

General conditions of the premises were poor and staff facilities were found in a filthy condition with no hot water. The areas outside the store were littered with large amounts of food and general waste, with disused equipment containing items encrusted with food.

Pest control reports for the premises identified that there had been a significant problem for the majority of this year, preventative proofing works were not carried out as advised and that there had been a lack of cooperation from the store owners in resolving the problems.

Both the store and the butchers shop will be closely monitored by the Council and will remain closed until they can demonstrate that they can comply with food hygiene legislation.

Cllr Paul Gittings, Reading’s Lead Member for Consumer Services, said: “This case shows the Council’s commitment to protecting consumers from rogue shop owners. We take food violations very seriously and I want to thank both the member of the public for reporting the problem and our officers for their extensive work which has seen these stores closed.

“Whilst the vast majority of food outlets are responsible and meet the high standards of food safety, here is an example of offenders who did not appear to take those responsibilities seriously. There is no excuse for these kinds of breaches of basic food hygiene. This sends out a clear message that public safety remains a priority and poor standards will not to be tolerated.”

 

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Nov 05

Voluntary ‘To Let’ Sign Ban Breached – Why?

estate-agent-nov-16-3No sooner have the new students settled into their new homes for the Uni year than a sign appears outside their home saying it is available To Tet … But not until next summer, in 10 months’ time!

We have had several contacts from residents in the last few days saying that the Letting Agent Voluntary ban on ‘To Let’ signs in old Redlands is being seriously breached by two Letting Agents – Cintra and Space, there are also a few Flagman’s.  There appears to be a turf war going on.  I went and looked this morning and there are some roads with 20 plus signs up e.g. De Beauvoir and Donnington but there is a fair smattering across many of the roads north of Addington and Erleigh.

This is such a pity; the whole community has appreciated the huge improvement in the quality of their environment over the last few years since we brought in the voluntary ban with the help of most reasonable and responsible Letting Agents.  House burglaries have fallen and the whole area has felt more settled and less transient.

But it seems that there are a few Letting Agents that are not prepared to act as good neighbours, seems that they could not care less about the environmental or safety consequences of these unnecessary boards.  These houses are not available for another 10 months.

The recent Redlands NAG meeting heard that there had been a spate of burglaries and student house doors being knocked-on by strangers, sometimes late at night, looking for accommodation.  Given that these student houses have only just started their tenancies and these properties will not be available again until next summer they are an unnecessary environmental blight.

We will continue to put pressure on the few Letting Agents who are breaching the voluntary ban and work with the Student Union to advise students that they can demand that these signs are removed.

 

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Sep 30

Innovative Scheme to Protect Parking in ‘Old Redlands’

foxhill-RoadSince Redlands first elected Labour Councillor Jan Gavin in 2011 she has made sorting out the problems of residents parking a top priority.

As Jan was joined on Reading Council, with the successive Labour victories of Tony Jones and David Absolom respectively, they have formed a formidable team in working directly with local residents to find solutions that would work for the area.

It is with some satisfaction that Redlands Labour is able to report that at the council’s Transport Management Committee in September agreement was made on a break-through for residents parking.

This followed on from a set of proposals (which covered part of the area in “old Redlands” immediately around the Royal Berkshire Hospital) “paused” in June to allow detailed plans to be drawn up to incorporate the remaining streets.

What’s new about the latest residents’ parking scheme?

Some streets were left out of the last set proposals because local residents had told us they did not want parking protection schemes. However, following representations and face to face discussions with residents, these have been included in the new plans.

The schemes include a massive expansion of residents parking areas in the old Redlands area controlled by parking permits, made up of a mixture of “residents parking only beyond this point” (Great thanks go to local resident Christine Wilkinson and her group who did a huge amount of work with councillors to bring these new ideas to Reading); some limited “shared use” parking areas, available to permit holders all the time and limited hours for non-permit holders; the introduction of “pay and display bays” in the immediate area around the RBH. The same rules will apply in the area relating to the issuing of visitors permits.

What happens next and when will protection be introduced in my street?

Following agreement at the June and September committee meetings, the detailed plans are now out to formal public consultation which ends on the 20 October, the results of which will be reported back to the next meeting of the council’s Traffic committee on 3rd November. Unless there is a major upset, the new parking arrangements could be introduced early next year.

Residents will need time to apply for their own permits and for these to be processed by the council. But as long as your vehicle is registered at the address you live in Redlands, there should not be any hitches

Detailed maps showing the schemes can be found here:

If you have any questions or views, do get in touch with your local Redlands councillors.

 

 

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Sep 17

Closure of Arthur Hill Swimming Pool

arthur hill poolIt is with sadness and a complete acknowledgment that the decision to close Arthur Hill Pool in December is a tough one for people to accept or understand.  We know people are hugely fond of Arthur Hill, people learnt to swim there, it is small, local and quite cosy.  But it is also 105 years old.

Residents will recall the many emergency closures that have occurred recently; it has been failing structurally for a number of years and we have spent several hundreds of thousands of pounds shoring it up over those years.

It will now cost more than £700,000 to repair the pool structurally, and we will still be left with a facility that was built in the early twentieth century, with a very limited lifespan and very limited capacity to modernise or to offer a wide range of swimming opportunities.

In the context of having to find another £41m in savings [reducing our operating budget from £120m to £80m] over the next 3 or 4 years, we have taken the decision that we should not spend any more money shoring up a pool that has come to the end of its life and costs well over £100,000 a year to run.  The Administration will commit to sell the site and use the proceeds to build a new modern pool in Palmer Park.  Labour Councillors in east Reading will make sure this is a promise that is kept as soon as possible.

We understand that people are rightly angry and upset by this decision, but as will be reported to Policy Committee the same evening, we have huge budget pressures in Children’s Services, where there has been an 86% increase in referrals, there are also pressures from an aging population for Adults Social Care.  These are statutory duties which we have to carry out.  As the Tory government continue to axe the money they give us to run services in Reading, the more likely it is that much loved and valued places such as Arthur Hill Pool will have to close.

Below is the Press release from RBC:

Council Commits to Arthur Hill Pool Replacement
16/09/2016
Reading Borough Council Press Release

ARTHUR HILL swimming pool will be closed and replaced with a modern new 25-metre pool at nearby Palmer Park, under proposals being considered at a meeting of the Council’s Policy Committee later this month (September 26).

The ageing facility would shut from December 19th this year. It would be replaced in 3 to 4 years’ time with a modern new 6-lane swimming pool at Palmer Park Stadium, linked to existing leisure facilities.

Latest figures show unprecedented cuts in Government funding and increasing demands on services mean the Council needs to tackle an estimated budget gap of over £41 million by 2020. £65 million worth of savings have already been made since 2011.

The facilities at Arthur Hill are dated and expensive to run and the pool has been forced to shut a number of times for essential works. The estimated cost of bringing the building to an acceptable standard is more than £700,000, and even then it would have a limited lifespan.

At a time of severe budget constraints, the Council can no longer afford to invest in outdated facilities which would only remain operational for a limited period of time. Instead the Council is proposing to invest money – including from the sale of the Arthur Hill site – in a modern new swimming facility for east Reading.

A forced closure of the pool is also increasingly likely due to its poor condition. The proposed scheduled closure would allow regular pool users to plan for using alternative swimming facilities at Central Pool, Academy Sport, Rivermead and Meadway Sports Centre, including the four schools currently using Arthur Hill for swimming lessons who would be hosted at other pools.

Paul Gittings, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Culture and Sport, said:
“The need to replace Arthur Hill has been known for some time now. Realistically, only a huge investment will allow it to remain open and unprecedented Government cuts means we are not in a position to invest money in ageing facilities with a limited lifespan.

“Instead the plan is to reinvest money – including from the sale of the site – into a new 25-metre 6 lane pool in Palmer Park linked to existing leisure and sport facilities. People rightly expect modern and good quality sports facilities. In terms of value for money and the provision of modern sports facilities for residents, that has to be the much better option.

“We hope people appreciate the Council’s commitment to investing in a brand new replacement pool in the east of the borough, which in itself a big commitment given the severe budget constraints.

“Of course we understand that for regular users of Arthur Hill, and residents who swam there when they were young, this is a significant step. The scale of Government cuts we face mean we have very little option, and the reality is Arthur Hill is on a constrained site with limited capacity and with very little scope for improvement.

“By making this announcement now, we hope to give regular users time to plan for using the borough’s alternative facilities at Central Pool, Academy Sport, Rivermead and Meadway Sports Centre. This is preferable to having to close the pool with absolutely no notice when the current building inevitably fails.”

The full September 26th Policy Committee report can be found at: www.reading.gov.uk/article/9598/Policy-Committee-26-SEP-2016  (Item 9A)

The proposals follow the Council’s announcement in November for two new swimming pools to replace ageing and outdated facilities at Central Pool and Arthur Hill. The Council is in the early stages of a procurement exercise for the design, build and operation of the new pools. Current estimates are that the new facilities will open by 2020.

The Council’s budget position means it cannot continue to invest in Arthur Hill pending the opening of a replacement pool in Palmer Park. As well as removing the high costs of on-going repairs and maintenance estimated at over £700,000, shutting Arthur Hill in December saves £325,000 on running costs over the next three year period. In addition the Council will generate a capital receipt from the sale of the site and the value of this will be reinvested in the new swimming facilities for east Reading at Palmer Park.

As well as two new pools, the Council also announced in November that it would build a temporary demountable pool at Rivermead, adding to the existing leisure facilities on the site and to ensure continuity of provision. Alongside this, enhanced bus services to Rivermead will be in place from this autumn. This will include a new hourly bus service between Rivermead and the Town Centre from October this year (effectively an extension to the new route serving the new housing development at Kenavon Drive) comprising 11 buses per day Mon-Fri, 8 buses per day Sat, Sun & Bank Hols. The demountable pool is expected to open by January 2018 following a planned closure of Central Pool.

 

 

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Aug 10

Trees have to be felled

lime treeFor safety reasons, sadly the council has to fell some street trees in Redlands Ward during the next couple of weeks.

In Craven Road there are 2 Lime trees with extensive decay at the base and in Eldon Square there is another Lime tree with extensive decay at the base.  It is sad to see these lovely old trees go but we will ensure that they are replaced as and when funds are available.

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May 25

Council Submits Plans to Provide 28 Temporary Homes

temp homesPLANS to create 28 temporary homes for people on the council’s housing register have now been submitted.

The proposals are for modular homes on the site of the former mobile home park in Lowfield Road, Caversham.

The scheme is part of Reading Borough Council’s Homelessness Strategy 2015 – 2020 which aims to tackle the chronic shortage of temporary housing in the borough and reduce the use of bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless families.

The planning application seeks temporary permission to install 28 self-contained units along with 32 car parking spaces, bicycle sheds, a play area and communal amenity space.

Each unit will be timber clad, have UPVC windows and doors and will contain two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen-diner and a living room.

The height of the buildings, coupled with their natural appearance and complementary landscaping aims to ensure minimal impact on the surrounding environment.

Members of the Housing, Neighbourhoods and Leisure Committee agreed the principle of the project at a meeting in November 2015.

Councillor Richard Davies, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Housing, said:

“House prices in Reading are amongst the highest outside London and demand for affordable housing far outstrips supply.

“The increase in the number of families requiring emergency housing has resulted in the council having to use bed and breakfast accommodation which is unsuitable and disruptive for homeless families.

“The stock of affordable housing has been depleted for a number of reasons, including Right to Buy sales, high land prices and a declining supply of private rented accommodation available at housing benefit levels. The council’s ability to build new affordable homes has also been severely hit by recent changes in legislation.

“The Lowfield Road scheme will provide 28 decent temporary homes for people who are in urgent need of help and is just one of the many innovative ways the council is working hard to tackle the housing crisis in Reading.”

Other schemes in Reading’s Homelessness Strategy include: the creation of a wholly owned housing company called Homes for Reading which will buy properties and let out a proportion at below-market rents; the construction of at least 40 new council-built homes in Conwy Close in Tilehurst and closer co-operation with private landlords through projects such as the Rent Guarantee Scheme.

 

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