Regeneration or degeneration? Choked roads or bold vision for the future? Next Thursday, you decide on the type of Wokingham you believe in. Make sure you vote
OUR postbag over the past year has been bulging and getting bulgier.
The reason? The regeneration of Wokingham has not been without its growing pains.
As we have shown consistently over the past 12 months, work taking place is hurting the borough, and hurting it hard.
Our daily commute is snagged by traffic jams, regardless of whether you’re setting out in rush hour or early afternoon.
It doesn’t help that the tussle over running buses in Woodley and Earley has yet to have a satisfactory resolution.
Our shops – particularly independent retailers – have been hit by the closures of roads in the town centre, coupled with the double whammy of The Lexicon opening and the Market Place works being delayed so that they now finish in July.
Retailers have been hit with rate rises, but complain of little help – or visible action – from the borough’s leadership.
Car park charges have remained in place, despite the empty high streets. The first solution was a fudge of free parking after 3pm, the new solution is a year-long trial of free parking after 6pm.
We note this has become an election issue with some Conservatives using this on their leaflets as an example of how they’ve listened to you. The only trouble is, at the time the overnight parking charges were first announced, it was pointed out it was a silly move.
New road projects move on at a glacier pace. For various reasons, the Shinfield Eastern Relief Road was 18 months late, was plagued with teething troubles, is still fairly light on traffic and with a roundabout that’s far from perfect.
The Winnersh Relief Road phase one will open soon and there are fears, quite rightly, that it will create a bottleneck at the already busy Winnersh crossroads.
Residents across the borough are worried about overdevelopment.
We’ve taken more than our fair share of housing in recent years, but not always seen the infrastructure to go with it: where are the doctors’ surgeries, the community facilities that we need?
Why are we moving a library and removing a splash pool at the new Carnival Pool?
We also live in fear of projects such as those mooted in Grazeley, Ruscombe and Barkham Square. These are not developments from outside interests, but our own council dumping thousands on new homes on us rather than saying to our Prime Minister enough is enough.
Add in concerns over gravel quarries and calls that councillors don’t listen and you have a toxic mix.
But, this is not a journey in a wilderness. It will not take 40 years to get to the end result (it might feel like it at times, but the bulk of work will be completed by 2021).
Yes, regeneration works are a pain.
Yes, we all get frustrated with the amount of traffic on the roads and yes we all want the best for our borough.
Next Thursday’s local elections are crucial. You might think your vote has no power, but actually it does.
If you think that the end result of regeneration will be worth the pain then endorse the current leadership and give them your support. Or, if you think there has to be an alternative way, choose a different party.
Local elections may not seem that important, but next Thursday they really are. It is a referendum in all but name on the type of Wokingham borough you believe in.
Make sure you vote.