Jul 20

Saved from Demolition – 3 Craven Road

I was delighted that at Planning Committee on 19 July, members unanimously agreed that we should serve an immediate Article 4 to remove Permitted Development Rights for the demolition of the locally listed building at 3 Craven Road, RG1 5LE.

The Hospital Trust had applied under ‘permitted rights’ to demolish all the buildings on the large site covered by 3 – 5 Craven Road, with a view to selling the land for development.

3 Craven Road is an important building to our local heritage; it was added to our Local List of buildings of heritage significance, most of the ornate Victorian features and windows are intact and it is believed that the distinctive bricks are made from local Berkshire clays possibly at local kilns.

There was an application to convert the whole site to Retirement Homes (including demolition) which was unsuccessful and withdrawn in 2016.  In the words of Richard Bennett the Chair Reading Civic Society and Vice Chair Reading Conservation Area Advisory Committee

“it seems to be an act of gratuitous violence to propose to demolish this building, and indeed the one next to it, without a clearly approved plan for the site.

Demolition without an approved action plan for the future of the site would result in the loss of an important building, which is capable of restoration / re-use even if the current owner does not have a future plan for it, and inevitably, result in a brownfield site in a very visible position which could be vacant for years.”

It is unfortunate that our local hospital trust continues to treat the town and its immediate neighbourhood with such a lack of respect, but we will continue to fight and protect our local heritage.

Jun 30

Waterloo Meadows BMX track receives a facelift in time for summer

WORK is underway to renovate the popular BMX track at Waterloo Meadows this week so that youngsters can enjoy it when the school holidays start.

Improvement works on the track, first installed back in 2004, are part of an ongoing programme of leisure related capital improvements across the Borough which also include

The work at Waterloo Meadows began on Monday 26 June and is expected to be completed on Friday.

The works will involve cutting back vegetation on the site as well as modifying, and re-profiling some of the jumps. This renovation is being headed by Kent and Clark Contractors – one of the world’s leading BMX track designers. They are also responsible for the London 2012 Olympic BMX track.

Reading’s Lead Councillor for Sport, Councillor Sarah Hacker said:

“The track at Waterloo Meadows is a hugely popular community resource and one of a kind in Reading. There is no doubt improvements were needed though, and I am pleased that this vital work has been brought forward from July. It means the renovated track will now be completed in time for the school holidays, providing young people with a modern facility to enjoy the long and hopefully hot summer days at.”

 

Jun 29

Households Respond Well to Waste Collections Changes

HOUSEHOLDS are being thanked for their co-operation four months after major changes were introduced to the borough’s waste collection service.

Collection rounds were reorganised, bin days changed and existing service standards more rigorously enforced for the first time in 10 years in February 2017. Charges were also introduced for the doorstep collection of garden waste in April.

The shake-up of the service was driven by the need to increase recycling levels and to make savings as a result of severe cuts in government funding.

In the first few weeks of the changes, bin collection crews were leaving about 7.5 per cent of recycling bins per round because they were contaminated with the wrong items. That figure has now fallen to 1.5 per cent as households have become more familiar what can and cannot be recycled.

The number of enquiries and complaints about waste collections has also fallen from a peak in late February and is now lower than before the changes were introduced.

Despite the success of the new operation there were some issues with fly-tipping, particularly at local bring bank sites and in areas with bagged collections, such as Oxford Road, west Reading.

Two new Environmental Enforcement Officers, brought in to support the waste changes, investigate incidents of fly-tipping and have so far issued 102 Community Protection Notices (CPNs) since February, compared with a total of 12 in 2016/17.

Reading households had enjoyed free collection of green waste since the service started 10 years ago but the Council could no longer afford to provide a free service and introduced charges in April.

About 16,700 residents took advantage of the service prior to charging and the Council was anticipating a drop-out rate of between 25 per cent – 50 per cent when charges were introduced, based on the experience of other councils.

However, the number of subscribers is currently 14,000 with about 50 new enquiries coming in every week. About 1,000 subscribers are new customers who had not previously used the free collection service.

Councillor Liz Terry, Lead Member for Neighbourhoods, said:

“I would like to thank residents for responding so well to the changes which were made to waste collection services in February.

“Of course, there were some initial teething problems and a period of disturbance but I am glad to see this has settled down well and most people have got used to the new ways of working. I am also delighted so many residents have signed up to the green waste collection service.

“As well as making essential budget savings, this exercise was about increasing recycling levels in Reading.

“Previously, full loads of recycling had to be sent to landfill because the wrong items had been put in red bins. I hope the efforts of households and our waste collection crews will now result in recycling rates going up and the amount of rubbish going to expensive landfill going down.”

The report on Waste Collection Service Changes and Chargeable Green Waste Collections will be discussed at the Housing, Neighbourhoods and Leisure Committee on Wednesday 5th July and is available at: http://www.reading.gov.uk/article/10564/Housing-Neighbourhoods-and-Leisure-Committee-5-JULY-201

 

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.

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

 

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.

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.

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.”

 

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.

 

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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