Two parents who adopted children just over a year ago have praised Wokingham Borough Council for creating a welcoming community to bring up their family in.
Phill and John, who live in Montague Park on the authority’s South Wokingham major development, say its close-knit, neighbourly atmosphere is offering their youngsters the best possible start in life.
They have shared their touching story in an exclusive video interview which is available to watch on the council’s new Engage public engagement platform.
A green, peaceful environment
The couple moved to the area more than five years ago and say attending the local primary school has grown the children’s confidence hugely as they have made friends and become popular.
The pair, aged six and four, also love playing in the open spaces near their home, where they often bump into classmates or say hello to their teachers while exploring or building dens.
All these amenities were funded by developers building new homes in the area and are among the many benefits of the council’s strategic approach to setting aside land for large-scale new communities.
By doing so, it can secure all the services and amenities that residents need, also including new roads, shops, sports and community facilities and much more, and make housebuilders pay for them.
'Emphasis on pastoral care'
John says: “There’s so much open space around here to explore, which the kids love. They need to be able to run and burn off that energy so they sleep well at night.
“The school has been instrumental in helping the children to settle in. They work brilliantly with us, the social workers and psychologists and it’s an integral part of our community.”
Phill was so impressed with the school that he nominated himself as a parent governor and was elected.
He says: “I wanted to give something back because the staff really nurture children and the curriculum puts a big emphasis on pastoral care, looking beyond the academic side of things.
“Everyone seems to know our kids and they know everybody in turn. It’s amazing how quickly they came to know everybody’s name and felt safe and secure.
“They’ve really grown in confidence and academic ability they’ve also become so much more rounded as people, with constant smiles on their faces.”
John adds: “At the beginning they were like lost lambs – they looked so tiny and vulnerable and you could see the fear in their school photos from their first day.
“Now you can’t keep them quiet and they’re both so well-known and liked in this area – everyone loves them and wants to play with them, which has really helped.”
A home for the long term
The couple might move to another house in the area but will stay in the community.
John says: “Any change is significant for our children and so we’d never move from where we are now – we fell in love with the area at first sight.
“There wasn’t a community atmosphere where we were before but here, more than anywhere else, we really feel that. I haven’t experienced that since my childhood.”
Phill adds: “There’s much more of a community spirit when you’ve got places where people can get together and the parks and open spaces are really important for that.
“There’s so much going on here that makes it such a great place to live and bring up the family.”
Building for the future
South Wokingham is one of the council’s four major new developments, with three others allocated at North Wokingham, Arborfield Green and Shinfield Parish as part of its local plan.
That plan, which serves as a blueprint for housing and other development across Wokingham borough, must now be updated and the authority proposes continuing that successful approach.
It is consulting on a revised growth strategy, which includes a new garden village south of the M4 of about 4,500 homes, a further 800 dwellings within the existing South Wokingham major development and smaller allocations elsewhere.
As before, these would be supported by high-quality, developer-funded infrastructure and a large number of proposed local green spaces.
Councillor Wayne Smith, executive member for planning and enforcement, said: “I’m delighted to hear that Phill and John’s children are settling into family life so well and wish them all the very best for the future.
“I’m also proud that we’ve played a part in creating that stable foundation for the children to develop friendships, explore and discover their own interests and ultimately develop into healthy, thriving adults.
“It illustrates the benefits of building major new communities, an approach we want to continue in our revised local plan as it provides a rich variety of services and amenities, in turning creating an environment where residents can forge lasting and meaningful relationships.”
Have your say
The council’s survey is open until 24 January and residents can find out more at a series of public events including one tonight (30 November) and two more on Thursday this week and Monday next week (2 and 6 December).
Places must be booked in advance at engage.wokingham.gov.uk, where there is more information about the local plan update and an opportunity to respond.
The video is available to watch at engage.wokingham.gov.uk/en-GB/folders/building-communities-the-wokingham-way.
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