We need a better quality politics.
I didn’t intend to ‘be political’ with the Caversham site. But if you stand back just a little, an awful lot of all our daily life is political, one way or another. From our sewers to our power supplies, from our roads to our freedom.
Addition – one day after the original item on this site below. Reading’s Labour Council decided to ignore local views on the 2nd March – having rushed the decision forward without warning or explanation. Today, 8th March, I get a letter through my front door from local Labour MP Matt Rodda’s party machine, telling me I can still oppose the planning application, that he opposes it, and inviting me to fill in a questionnaire about it. Dear Mr Rodda, ‘your’ local Labour party and its councillors have already made their decision, regardless. Please explain how you can be so out of step with ‘your’ local party, and your local voters. We – this site’s creators/visitors – look forward to hearing from you. We’ll be happy to add your reply to this site. I’ll copy this to your Case Work email account in case that helps.
FYI – 16th March. Mr Rodda never replied …
The politics of building development. It’s always a factor. And March 2022 saw Reading Council decide to allow developers to build over Reading Golf Club in Emmer Green. And these same developers want to build in South Oxfordshire too.
Keep Emmer Green (KEG) campaigned against it, and their newsletter detailing the Council’s decision is here:
Which councillors voted for it, along with their political affiliations, can be found on the KEG site, where there’s also plenty of background information.
Of course, it’s not just campaign groups who have voices. Local paper The Reading Chronicle, Planet Radio and Henley Standard all covered the issue:
It seems they cover all the angles pretty well.
The councillors’ plea – or claim, depending on your point of view – that the lure of ‘affordable housing’ was sufficiently enticing seems to be the main justification those voting for it came up with.
Talking to a surveyor, it seems a well-known tactic developers employ is to say they will build ‘affordable housing’, but when it comes down to it they’ll claim doing so is no longer viable – and go ahead and build more expensive property instead. But of course the surveyor may be wrong. We shall have to see what actually happens.
Affordable housing aside, the developers are supposed to be spending thousands on healthcare – but given that the NHS is already short of tens of thousands of employees, anything on this front looks to me quite unlikely to materialise. I might be wrong. We’ll have to see.
And then there’s traffic. There are ‘road improvements’ promised as part of this development but it seems to me they won’t be able to easily fit more traffic down already congested roads and lanes. Perhaps they have a new method that I’m not aware of. Perhaps residents will only be allowed to own push bikes. We’ll see.
So, yes, if this development goes ahead we’ll have to see what actually happens. Councillors cannot say they’ve not been aware of some potentially negative outcomes.
But let’s put what may or may not happen in future aside. Let’s look at what we can be more sure we know about.
We know Labour, that’s been in power in Reading for years and years and years, voted against huge local opposition to the scheme. We know that the scheme is in ‘Conservative Caversham’. We also know (see the reports linked-to above) that most of the money promised to the Council by the developers will not be earmarked for Caversham. In fact, just 15% of it.
Of course, you need to deduce from that whatever you wish – it’s your choice. As for what I think there is to learn from it all, I think my ‘political bullet points’ are:
- wherever I live, the traffic this scheme will inevitably generate will hit everyone in Reading, not just ‘Conservative Caversham’. It’s no-win for everyone, however you vote.
- if I was living elsewhere in ‘Labour Reading’, I’d be fearful that a council that can happily ignore very unhappy residents in one part of the town will happily bulldoze through where I live too. Look out Abbey, Katesgrove, Southcote, Tilehurst etc etc.
- I have no grounds to imagine that things would be a whole lot better if Conservatives or LibDems were in charge locally, not least because –
- – the track records of all of our main parties locally and nationally, stretching back decades now, simply no longer matches the needs of the people. (Incidentally, looking at Matt Rodda MP’s web site, at the time of writing, (7th Mar 2022) he’s saying nothing about the development.)
As to what to do, I don’t have a wand for making everything better overnight. At a local level, I hope the people of Reading can take a leaf out of the book of the independent Henley Residents Group (HRG):
which might not be perfect but at least isn’t following the outmoded ‘left’ and ‘right’ of mainstream politics. And their councillors are free to vote according to their own beliefs rather than along party lines.
But politics as we commonly understand it can be set aside. To return to the Reading Golf Club development issue, I personally think everything that’s been said in favour of it, whether from the left or the right, is knocked into a cocked-hat by climate change.
How serious is it, is it really? Ask a gardener. In February 2022 it was reported that, on the basis of 400,000 plus observations, spring flowers are opening almost a month earlier than they did before 1986. Yes, there’s that much climate change, happening that rapidly. Spring flowers opening is just a tiny example.
If we don’t act, now, right now, to counter climate change as best we can, we’re just spitting in the wind whatever our politics. You can talk about this or that aspect of any housing development but there are always alternatives to building on green field sites. Whatever you think or say has to be judged in the light of the state of nature that’s outside everyone’s home.
Your dream home will quickly pale if all you can open your front door to is a dying world. Your dream home will prove a bitter legacy when all you’re leaving to your kids is a near-barren garden. Human activity is the cause of the planet’s problems. Building developments are hitting nails into the coffin. If you’re in favour of them – as a councillor, as an MP, as a land owner, as a developer – then you’re someone with a hammer. I guess it comes down to a question of conscience.
‘In every dream home a heartache’, indeed.