Almost 80 areas of green space have been proposed for special protection from development by Wokingham Borough Council.
The authority is consulting on a revised growth strategy for its new Local Plan, a document which will determine where new homes and amenities like roads and schools should go between now and 2038.
As part of that, it suggests designating 79 areas as Local Green Spaces, meaning they would be offered similar protection to land in the Green Belt, and wants to hear residents' views.
Designation means any use or development on a site could only be for specific purposes, with other forms of development viewed as inappropriate and only allowed in exceptional cases.
This is permitted under national planning rules as long as it still allows the borough to meet its future development needs, including housing, as set out in the proposed growth strategy.
Local Green Spaces must also be reasonably near their communities and have particular local significance like natural beauty, historical importance or being rich in wildlife. They must have a special connection to their immediate area so the designation can’t be applied to large area of land.
Looking after your health
Cllr Wayne Smith, executive member for planning and enforcement, said: “Our revised growth strategy is not just about building new houses, but also welcoming communities where local residents enjoy living and bringing up their families.
“Green spaces are a vital part of that because of the role they play in maintaining people's physical and emotional wellbeing. They offer valuable opportunities for exercise, socialising and spending time outside in nature, which can significantly reduce stress.
“We recognise this and want to make sure these opportunities remain available to future residents as the borough grows and develops to meet Government housing targets as well as local needs. I encourage everyone to play their part by responding to our consultation.”
Planning for greater protection
The borough's draft local plan, which residents were consulted on in 2020, proposed eight plots in Wokingham town and between Woodley and Earley and these are still included this time around.
But following that consultation, the borough council sought the community's views on additional areas and more than 100 new areas were put forward, of 71 were shortlisted.
These are in or near Woodley (13), Earley (12), Wokingham town (10), Finchampstead (eight), Twyford (eight), Barkham and Ruscombe (five each), Arborfield and Winnersh (four each) and Hurst and Shinfield (one each).
The full list includes Elms Field and the Keephatch Park nature reserve in Wokingham town as well as Hazebrouck Meadows in Barkham, Dinton Pastures near Hurst, California Country Park in Finchampstead, Maiden Erlegh lake and nature reserve in Earley and numerous playing fields and recreation grounds across the borough.
Help shape your borough's future
As with the current Local Plan, the revised growth strategy proposes concentrating most development in large-scale new communities to ensure high-quality infrastructure is provided and developers are made to pay for it.
This approach has proven successful for the borough council's existing major developments in Shinfield Parish, the former Arborfield Garrison and North and South Wokingham, which are set to secure an investment package of almost £1 billion.
Now the council proposes a garden village of about 4,500 homes between the M4, Shinfield, Arborfield and Sindlesham, including affordable housing, employment opportunities, new schools, significant amounts of green space and more.
It also proposes about 800 new homes in the existing South Wokingham major development plus smaller allocations elsewhere.
The borough must find new housing sites to meet Government targets so not allocating land for future development isn't an option.
Without an up-to-date Local Plan, developers could take control of the planning process, resulting in the wrong homes in the wrong places and without adequate infrastructure alongside them.
Our consultation is open until 5pm on 24 January and residents can find out more about the proposals or have their say by visiting our Engage public engagement platform.
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