In the current circumstances, it doesn’t feel comfortable to be backing proposals for high rise flats whilst comfortably holed up in a suburban family home with a garden. The advantages of city living: being in the thick of the action, near entertainment, transport links and workplaces, have been entirely nullified for an extended temporary period. Towns and regions as concepts are largely irrelevant as only your street and your country really count, together with access to local open space.
Yet it’s been a busy few months of local development news since my last update so here are some of the main stories, inevitably viewed in the context of the Covid-19 crisis. Continue reading “Parks and Recreation”
I use these pages to break free from the character limited world of Twitter. But if I’m going to post here I feel it’s got to be long enough to be worth it, so I set a nominal lower limit. That means that when it comes to commenting on local goings-on, I am faced with a choice of writing either less than 280 characters, or 1000 words. So here goes… 1000 words on the December 2019 train timetable changes with, hopefully, minimal repetition, hesitation or deviation – although the odd rail replacement bus service cannot be ruled out.
Continue reading “December ’19 Timetable Preview”
Would you vote for an extra tax? You might be surprised to hear a voting process is underway right now in Reading for exactly that. It’s a simple Yes/No referendum. On this occasion, it’s not residents being polled – frankly nobody’s in a hurry to ask the public to make any more binary political choices at the ballot box. But thankfully it’s not us being taxed either. The votes on two separate town centre “Business Improvement Districts” (BIDs) ask local employers to agree, by way of a majority, to a 1% levy on their business rates (taxes) to fund a range of initiatives to “enhance their trading environment”. Continue reading “Town centre bids for success”
The past month or two has seen several inter-linked pieces of news on local transport: talk of congestion charges, increasing car park prices, air quality concerns, and the planning refusal for the MRT. Let’s attempt to stitch together some of these threads and offer some analysis and opinions on the way forward. Continue reading “A Congestion Charge for Reading?”
The proposed bus, cycle and pedestrian link from Tesco on Napier Road to Thames Valley Park was a prominent issue in the local elections, particularly in its immediate neighbourhoods in East Reading. Intriguingly, a whole series of revisions to the plans were published the day after the polls closed. One might instinctively assume this must be cynical timing to prevent “bad news” being released to voters before the election, but I think it is probably more accurately explained by the “purdah” rules that prevent policy announcements in the run up to elections. In this case, I think the changes would have been positively received by those closest to this issue, and in my view, make the case for this new infrastructure even more compelling. Continue reading “East Reading MRT Revised Plans”
Contrary to popular belief, I do occasionally venture outside the Greater Reading area. Last week I was fortunate enough to go to Lisbon for Web Summit, a world-renowned technology conference. From virtual reality to flying cars, in this post I’ll cover some of the innovations coming down the road (or hovering above it), as well as considering some of the implications for us locally. Continue reading “Supporting a technology tradition”
What is the most famous ancient belief that’s subsequently been disproved? A flat earth? Heat coming from caloric? The existence of aether? The earth as the centre of the universe? The guy who sculpted the Forbury Lion killed himself? Well, it turns out we have a new candidate to top them all: a third Reading bridge would increase traffic in South Oxfordshire. This long-standing principle has been central to opposition to the new crossing from the north bank for decades, but according to a new report it’s been sensationally disproved. Continue reading “Third Bridge – debunking a myth”
The East Reading MRT is a proposed bus, cycle and pedestrian link across the mouth of the Kennet to link Thames Valley Park directly to Reading Station. I’ve covered the topic before, but this week there are further exhibitions to coincide with the submission of a planning application. I called by earlier to find out the latest. Opinions were mixed, but it’s fair to say that opponents were more numerous than supporters. There was a make-shift protest stall outside the event trying to garner signatures for a petition against the scheme. I stopped to talk to them too about their concerns.
Continue reading “The Kennet Mouth Bridge – Calming Troubled Waters”
April was a month of contrasting fortunes for Reading’s two major regeneration projects. Royal Elm Park, a convention centre and hotel complex adjoining Madejski stadium, was enthusiastically approved by the council, to wide acclaim from the business community. By contrast, Station Hill is being put up for sale, which will likely see the proposals back on the drawing board. Since 2005, variations of plans have come and gone. The five hectare site adjacent to Reading Station was supposed to transform the town, but years on it hasn’t lived up to its incredible potential. Station Hill really is the Jack Wilshere of regeneration schemes. Continue reading “Reading’s Regeneration – a game of two halves”
Last year it was announced that the BBC would vacate the 1850-built Caversham Park house, where its foreign media monitoring service is based, and sell off the estate. This week it emerged that the council and the BBC are in dispute over a “Tree preservation order” covering the site. The council has dug in meaning the BBC cannot start clearing the site in an attempt to maximise the appeal to any developer. Continue reading “Caversham Park – Blue Sky Thinking”