What Wokingham thinks: your letters

How to really help the homeless

Wokingham Salvation Army’s Lt Jan Howlin’s warning (Church Notes, January 25) regarding helping those who appear to be homeless is appropriate and her words that help available whenever an individual is ready to make difficult changes is completely true/appropriate also.

However it must be acknowledged that currently 140 families every day nationwide are being made homeless and that doesn’t include those families forced to live in temporary accommodation (sharing one-bed and toilet facilities with other families, and with no cooking facilities).

These are the worst levels for over a decade according to Shelter’s most recent findings.

Having been a rough sleeper in the “dim and distant” myself (although not homeless) – due to a medley of mental health problems (now resolved) I know how easily any one of us could find themselves homeless/rough sleeping or even in a police cell (which I did in York, simply for sleeping rough on a park bench).

Handing money to those who appear homeless too often only helps to fund the individual’s addictions (as Lt Howlin pointed out) which is why I support both the Salvation Army’s national homeless projects and Launchpad (Berkshire’s homeless charity) rather than giving money to individuals on the streets.

Paul Farmer, Local mental health campaigner

The importance of volunteer drivers

I was very interested in your article in last week’s paper, reference the shortage of volunteer car drivers, to take patients to doctors, dentists and hospital appointments.

Firstly may I praise Wokingham Volunteer Centre for the great work it does, and the lovely service given by those who answer the phones. It is an excellent and much needed organisation.

My husband recently had an appointment at Basingstoke Hospital, and I phoned the doctor’s surgery for hospital transport, which because of his very poor mobility he is entitled to. He is unable to drive at present.

We were told that because Basingstoke is outside the county of Berkshire, the hospital transport service would not be available to him. As we have used the volunteer cars on a previous occasion to the same Basingstoke hospital, we booked there well in advance for the appropriate transport.

Unfortunately when I phoned up the day before to confirm it, the lady at the volunteer service, was most apologetic and said there were no volunteers available for that day.

Because it was too late to cancel the appointment, we had to book a taxi. It cost £100 there and back, and although the taxi driver was most helpful throughout, we couldn’t help thinking of the many, many people who could not afford that amount of money for a hospital appointment with a specialist. It was a fair amount of cash in anybody’s language!

This letter is to emphasise the importance of volunteers, indeed my husband himself was a volunteer, several years ago when he lived in Hampshire.

Finally, I think that the National Health Service is a National Health Service not a County Health Service.

Francine Twitchett, via email

Maidensfield correction

I feel your reporter who covered the Maidensfield meeting on January 17 (The Wokingham Paper, January 19) misunderstood a very significant point regarding the exit/access to the proposed planning application put forward by Taylor Wimpey.

There is reference to gaining access over a bridge?

This is inaccurate, the only proposed access/exit is through Maidensfield onto Watmore Lane, this is a vital point of objection put forward by all residents, I feel this requires clarification.

David Weston, via email

Station Approach lights in Wokingham

In the January 18 issue, ‘Network’ mentioned the use of green filter lights on the Reading Road junction.

It seems to me that traffic from St Paul’s wishing to turn right to the station should only proceed when the green filter arrow is displayed. I have watched the operation of these traffic lights. In two midday surveys, each of 12 cycles, the green arrow appeared only twice, in each survey, at the start and finish.

In a further survey at 6.30pm (20 cycles), the arrow appeared only once, to allow a car to turn right. A few changes later, another car could only turn because of the goodwill of other drivers.

Clearly there is no sensor.

The green arrow should appear every cycle – something is obviously wrong.

Trevor Edington, Wokingham

The mystery of the missing cycle paths

Mr Forfar, Letters, The Wokingham Paper January 25, has a valid point about the missing cycle lane on Reading Road. It is one of four that have gone missing on the A329. Are aliens responsible? No, I suspect the answer can be found in the council offices at Shute End.

As part of the long since completed Plough Lane housing development section 106 funding was obtained to build a cycle route into the town centre. Yet several years have passed but no sign of the cycle lane.  Developer funding was also secured for an identical cycle lane on London Road but that’s not been built either. With duplicate funding is the plan to build a double decker facility with the elevated part serving as a cycle expressway? Such a complex design could be the reason work is yet to start.

The duplicate cycle lane in London Road is meant to link to a cycleway traversing the Coppid Beech roundabout but as in Reading Road work has been abandoned with no indication if / when it will resume. Just before Christmas a sign stating the works would be completed in September 2016 (i.e. 17 months ago) was removed due to its embarrassment factor.

Could it be the council are holding onto the money to fund inevitable overspends on the regeneration projects?

Peter Humphreys, via email

Accept the referendum result and back Britain

I have just read Anthea West’s letter in The Wokingham Paper (January 18) and said to myself, ‘here we go again, another person who cannot accept defeat in the referendum of leaving the EU, grasping at straws, saying some people are turning more towards stay’.

This is rubbish.

I have spoken to a lot of people who have voted out and are more determined than ever, even after watching what happened at the negotiations, how we are treated in Europe by these so-called elected MPs with their attitude of ‘How dare we leave the EU’.

It was such a shock to them, so as all bad losers do, they are making everything harder in our negotiations, and looking for problems.

The reasons we voted to leave the EU are this: We are fed up with the dictatorship of the EU, telling us what we should or should not do; their political correctness; and what shape our fruit and vegetables should be.

We want to be an individual country again, making our own laws and trading all over the world as we used to do.

And we want to be great again.

Young people would not remember this, but older people do. We will not be paying millions of pounds every into the the EU. That money will be ploughed back into our country and a lot of our present problems will be solved.

People will wonder why we ever went into the EU in the first place.

Have faith, be patient, be positive, not negative. The country will be great again, we will survive as we always have done in the past. Back this great country and be proud of it.

H Boyed, Wokingham

Squaring Circles or smoke and mirrors?

The recent, and excellent, highways debate in Wokingham Borough Council highlighted the continued highway problems facing Wokingham Borough’s Conservative Administration while at the same revealing their ineptitude.

Traffic chaos which will only get worse as housing numbers increase and the Council seems to say bring it on by making no attempt to challenge the Government (admittedly their Government whom perhaps they do not wish to offend) by accepting the “dodgy dossier” housing numbers presented by an unelected  consultant.

They talk the  talk but they don’t walk the walk. They talk of too many houses along with the roads and other infrastructure cannot take it but its all pie in the sky as at the same time as they try and fool us they do a deal with Reading which is on offer to Bracknell and West Berks to take any excess housing they have no room for.  

Low and behold Reading were first in and accepted our offer so now we will be building some houses for Reading as well as our own. Bracknell and West Berks must be rubbing their hands with glee.

Getting back to the highways chaos never have they looked at the traffic chaos they cause  in  any detail. It’s just the water board, developer etc. who say we want to dig up this or that road and the Council says yes, of course. Never do residents and motorists come into their thinking  or if it does they just dismiss it. Developers first and residents last.

Dealing with future planned traffic is a major problem but  the short term chaos existing road works are causing need to be handled in a much smarter way.

That must start by putting residents needs first and not last after developers etc.

They deserve better.

Cllr Gary Cowan Independent Borough Councillor for Arborfield at Wokingham Borough Council

Cross party solutions?

It was pleasing to read in The Wokingham Paper last week that residents will be invited to join a new cross party working group to look at Wokingham’s traffic woes.

My only hope is that this will not be a token box ticking exercise and that there will be a genuine political will to show an open approach towards the suggestions made by residents and to put them into action where it is feasible to do so.  

Having made the same suggestion in the original consultation period, I support Clive Chafer’s suggestion of an extension to the Southern Distributor Road to link up with the Finchampstead Road in the vicinity of the old Gowrings roundabout.  

The disgorging of a potentially high level of SDR traffic in a single area adjacent to Tesco’s and Molly Millars Lane seems madness to me.

I also agree with Cllr Clive Jones that both distributor roads are too narrow to serve the purpose for which they were surely intended, to both serve the new housing estates and to relieve pressure on the town centre and surrounding roads. This is a lost opportunity to help make Wokingham a more pleasant town.

Ian Liddiard, Wokingham

Market Place maze and free parking

This week I wandered around the maze that is Wokingham Town Market Place, trying to figure out how to get from Broad Street to the main entrance of the Town Hall. It is not easy – and there seems to be a great many unnecessary barriers in the way.

We are now expecting this disruption here to continue into the spring and possibly the summer of 2018, because despite ground penetrating radar scans and test holes being drilled, problems were found to delay this project even further.

No doubt the residents of Wokingham will end up paying for this, one way or another.

The ‘Free after Three’ parking scheme ends today (February 1). On Thursday, January 25, I asked the Wokingham Borough Council Executive member for Highways, what was he going to do help the struggling traders in the town. I also asked if we could extend the successful Woodley Trial car parking model to replace the much hated evening, bank holiday and Sunday charges in Wokingham.

Sadly, this does not seem to be the case.

I do not see Wokingham Borough Council dipping their hands in their pockets to do anything to support our struggling Town Centre or encourage people to visit Wokingham.

If Wokingham is to be a thriving market town with any independent character surviving at the end of this work, we need the help now.

Cllr Imogen Shepherd-DuBey,
Liberal Democrat Councillor for Emmbrook

Something for nothing

I’d like to start this week by telling a true story of local interest. Last autumn I attended a funeral service in a Wokingham church, after which friends and family were invited to a wake at a local hotel.

One ‘guest’ was seen going to the fine spread of food etc., five times, filling his plate.

I asked a member of the family who he was but no-one knew. He spoke to a few people making the right sounds “sorry so-and-so has passed on” – such a nice person!

Apparently he is a professional scrounger, who goes wherever a funeral service is being held, then ‘tags along to get free food’.

Despicable – no name known.

That story brings me to voluntary work, having this weekend seen an article about Repair Cafés.

Along with Food Banks and any other free service for the public, there has been in my mind – as one willing to help others – the problem cheats.

For example, I hear that ‘claimants’ for food park their cars away from the Food Bank then make out they are a deserving case!

With the brilliant concept of Repair Cafés where the less well off can get their kettles, irons and general household electrical appliances repaired free of charge, how do we keep out the wealthy who will always go for anything free?

That, plus insurance against false claims, concerns me and inhibits my interest in offering services.

A closing comment this week, concerns the ever increasing pressure to abandon Brexit. The Lords are now setting out to cause as much trouble as they can. It really is time to get rid of the Lords and have an elected second Chamber.

Also stop all honours among politicians and the Civil Service, including friends of politicians!

Believe it or not, I really do think another Referendum is now necessary, (a) to get another measure of public feelings, (b) if a greater percentage are in favour [perhaps 60% or more] then a new PM and Cabinet should be established – all of whom WILL represent the voters, and get us out next year.

Reg Clifton, Wokingham

Man’s best friend?

I really must take a forthright stand against the assertion by Reg Clifton that “this country has gone to the dogs over the past 20 years” (letters, January 25).

Leave man’s best friend out of it.

The country has been fed bit by bit to sharks, vultures and hyenas – and that’s been going on since 1979 when one Margaret Hilda Thatcher was first elected Prime Minister.

Robert Griffiths, Earley

Statin’ the bleedin’ obvious

On Thursday evening of January 18, after fighting my way through the five or six only other local residents to claim a place in the public gallery of Wokingham Borough Council’s Shute End council chamber, I was disappointed, but not surprised, to find that it turned out to be, rather than a debate, more a handful of Councillors standing in turn for their allocated three minutes to read out statements of what could only be described as “the bleedin’ obvious”.

There was no public question time [during the debate] and when finally a vote was taken, it was agreed a cross party working group be formed to discuss and consider the problem, or in real world language more hot air resulting in little or no effective remedial action being taken any time soon.

The truth of the matter is that the borough’s traffic congestion problems were and remain entirely predictable, with everyone apart from the council seeing (if you’ll excuse the pun) it coming down the road for years.

Their (WBC) “we know best” arrogance, in spite of repeated, ignored warnings, and policy of putting housing development ahead of roads and other necessary infrastructure has led to the position we find ourselves in today, with almost certainly worse to come.

One matter of interest and concern however did emerge during the meeting, namely that on the Prime Minister’s recent visit to the borough, traffic congestion forced her from her car, making it necessary, horror of horrors, to proceed on foot – well, did you ever.

J W Blaney, Wokingham


Phil Creighton

Editor of The Wokingham Paper, and has worked in local journalism for more than 20 years including the Wokingham Times, Bracknell Standard and Reading Evening Post. He's also written for computer magazines, The Baptist Times and, to his delight and probably not yours, interviewed several Doctor Whos.

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