title="Wokefield Parish Council in West Berkshire">

News  »  District Councillors Report July 2023

   District Councillors Report July 2023    18 July, 2023

District Councillors report – July 2023


Overgrown Hedges


After dealing with reports of overflowing general and dog waste bins in May, June brought

concerns over overgrown hedges in the ward. Nick visited some parts to see them first-hand

and, in one case, obtained tenant details from a landowner. He also discussed the reporting

process/response times with the council’s Highways team, both to document it and to

understand why some incidents reported by a resident had apparently not been

acknowledged. We think that most of the cases are now logged and under investigation.

When an overgrown hedge is reported online to West Berks Council, assuming it is a

valid/clear cut/not a duplicate, the landowner is generally asked to cut back the hedge. If

they don’t, the council arranges the work and charges the cost to the landowner/tenant.

Sometimes residents/parish councillors help by asking hedge owners directly to take steps,

to reduce West Berks Council’s need to get involved/charge anybody. We cover the problem

reporting process below.


Online Problem Reporting


In October 2022, West Berkshire Council introduced this new online problem reporting

system to allow residents (and parish councils) to report problems relating to Highways

(potholes, dirty road signs, unemptied pavement bins and non-working street lights) and


Countryside (unemptied bins in parks and footpaths). You can access the system HERE from

a PC or mobile device.

You select the problem category from a list and mark the incident location on a map. You can

(and ideally should) upload photos for pothole cases but should not try to measure their depth.

You’ll receive an email acknowledgement, giving an indicative response time. The incident

is then reviewed and assigned a priority. A non-working pelican crossing, or a serious pothole

for example, should be dealt with within a few hours of reporting, whilst a less serious pothole

may take 28 days. You’ll receive email updates as the incident progresses. If it is deemed a

duplicate of a problem reported by others or dealt with already, you will be informed. You

can nominate other people to receive notifications of the incident’s progress.


We don’t currently support the use of third-party apps. to raise problems, nor phoned in

incidents, other than for out of hours emergencies.

Further streamlining of the systems and improvements to user interface are expected by the


Meanwhile if you experience problems using the service, or an unusually poor response time,

please let us know – we have already supported a couple of residents who have used the

system to report both hedges and a non-working pelican crossing and who have helpfully

shared their experiences with us.


Food Waste


If food waste is placed in black general waste bins, instead of the supplied food caddy, it

enters land fill and emits methane that is harmful to the environment. This is why the

government mandated unity authorities such as West Berkshire to collect and process food


Since introduction of food caddies (or shared stores), under 50% of residents use them.

Whilst this represents an increase compared to the previous food waste arrangement,

clearly it is still a low take up.

The waste team fixed “put food waste in the caddy” stickers to the black general waste bins,

to try to encourage take up of food recycling. Other council’s experiences suggest this to be

effective. Whilst we think (and have told the waste team) that the stickers’ wording was not

the best, its appearing to suggest residents had committed a misdemeanour, we support

the rationale behind the action.

We are keen to hear your views on how best to increase the level of food waste recycling in

Burghfield, Mortimer, Beech Hill and Wokefield. Is it, perhaps, communication of the

environmental benefit; making it easier to get food bags; or reducing the frequency of black

wheelie bin collection from 2 to 3 weeks that might help best? Please do let us know your

or your group’s view.

Meanwhile if you are a green waste subscriber, please use only your food caddy for food

waste because it is important to maintain the segregation of food and garden waste.


Recycling News


The Government is investigating possible enhancements to waste collection, in three areas:

Extended Producer Responsibility, in which producers would contribute to the cost of

collecting their packaging waste, Deposit Return Scheme, a cash incentive system, that adds

a refundable deposit to drinks bottles and cans and consistent collections. Of these, the first

two look set to be introduced in 2024 and 2025 respectively, whilst the third is delayed partly

because some councils object to the suggestion of free garden waste collection. We

understand that the current 5 levels of roadside recycling separation that exist today here

(garden, food, plastic/cans, bottles and paper/card) will suffice if/when additional items are

collected at the roadside.


Meeting Us


How would you like to contact us to raise issues/share your views? Would you come to a

“surgery” on a Saturday morning at a local library, would you visit us in a pub one evening,

or should we (as our Theale colleague does) be in a branded T shirt? Or do you prefer to

call/WhatsApp or email? Please let us know.


Members Bids


We invite parish councils, and community groups, to put forward suitable projects for funding

under our Members Bid scheme. This Dragons Den style scheme offers a matched funding

of up to £15,000, each financial year. Whilst we prefer to support projects that benefit wide

sections of the community, we also like proposals to be clearly costed and ones that can be,

if approved, delivered no later than April 2024. We will consider supporting multiple lower

cost projects – for example 3 costing up to £10,000 each of which we provided half the

funding. Thanks to those who have submitted proposals already. If you have an idea, please

get your pitches to us in writing as soon as possible and no later than 15 September. If you

are a community group, with an idea, please seek your parish council’s support, but ultimately

please do not miss the boat if you have a proposal.


Windmill Court, Mortimer


Last year’s petition, created by Nick at residents’ request, with support from a council

colleague, and signed by nearly 1100 people, sought to protect Windmill residents from

eviction unless and until suitable new accommodation exists. Since then, parish councillors

met Sovereign Housing Association, who in turn has produced a revised proposal.

Under the new proposal, the main building would be replaced by 24 new affordable homes,

of which 13 would be for social rent and 11 for shared ownership. Stafford House would


Of the 13 social rent homes, 6 would be one-bed maisonettes aimed at over 55s and

offered to current/former residents. If those people do not take them up, the maisonettes


would be offered to over 55s from Mortimer or with a clear local connection. Any remaining

unfilled places would be offered to those on the West Berkshire social housing register.

When one such maisonettes comes up for re-let, we understand it to be offered on the

same basis as the original let. Sovereign believe that the quantity of six matches long-term

predicted demand based on research.

We understand that, whilst there is a practical upheaval, those current residents who wish

to return to the new premises once completed, can do so. We’ve asked Sovereign to

confirm whether it will pay those residents’ moving out/back and new carpet costs. At the

time of writing, we understand there are six current residents who have yet to be found

suitable alternative accommodation to live in whilst the site is redeveloped.

Sovereign hope to find those residents alternative accommodation by the start of 2024.

They hope to submit a planning application this month. They estimate that

demolition/rebuild would complete by autumn 2024 with practical completion by Spring



We think that the new proposal represents a clear improvement compared to the original

plan, in better serving both the needs of the original residents and others in the village. We

should make clear though that although the new premises will be built to modern standards

it will differ from what existed, through the absence of the popular communal room and it no

longer being over 55-specific premises. It does however seem clear that the current

building could not practically be brought up to current standards and would ultimately

otherwise be closed. We will keep you posted when we get an answer on the moving/carpet

costs and any news of planning application submission and progress.


Mortimer Neighbourhood Plan


Some months ago, Nick chased West Berks Council for feedback on the proposed update

to the Mortimer Neighbourhood Plan. This update, relating to land set aside in 2017 for a

new infant school and doctors’ surgery, proposed that the area be re-assigned for school

sports and play facilities, a dental practice and parking, with the remainder kept reserved for

a possible (but seemingly unlikely) new doctors’ surgery. Since becoming district councillor,

Nick has been promised feedback from council staff and is expecting this imminently. On a

related note we should clarify some points raised in the recent Mortimer parish council

newsletter in relation to the Neighbourhood Plan:

• A Neighbourhood Plan cannot control (limit) whether a town or village needs to take

a new house allocation – this is managed by a Local Plan Review. If a Local Plan

Review dictates that a town or village need to take an allocation, whilst a

Neighbourhood Plan cannot stop it, it can let the community choose where needed

homes are built, their types and design. It can also, to an extent, specify what

supporting facilities are needed to support such houses. For the avoidance of doubt

the next Local Plan, intended to be valid until 2039, does not make any demands for

Mortimer or Burghfield Common to take new housing.

• A town/village will only have one approved Neighbourhood Plan at any given time.

In Mortimer’s case, the current Neighbourhood Plan was the one approved in 2017. .

When that Plan is update relating to school/dentist/doctors’ is approved, that update

will become the Plan version. When the wider update to the Plan, that seeks to


reflect new government policies and community needs, is approved, estimated by

Autumn 2024, that will become the Plan version.

• The terms Neighbourhood Development Plan and Neighbourhood Plan are

equivalent – both are valid although the trend is to use the latter. “Development” in

town planning terms, means “the carrying out of building, engineering, mining or

other operations in, on, over or under land, or the making of any material change in

the use of any building or other land”. Development need not include house building.


Neighbourhood Action Group


Officers in the Highways team informed us that members of the Neighbourhood Action Group

(NAG), a police led crime-focussed problem solving group, had approached them asking to

support additional parking restrictions (yellow lines):

1. outside St Mary’s junior school, because of a perceived danger to motorists as they

pass parked cars during school drop off/pick up.

2. opposite Mortimer Lane, because of a perceived danger to road users turning left

(eastwards) onto the lower Street.

3. on the Grazeley Road verge to the east of the roundabout at the bottom of The Street,

that is used by rail users, because the proposed station car park is reportedly not

going ahead.

These proposal seem not to address where cars currently parked in those locations would

park, if restrictions were introduced. It seems also to overlook the fact that parked cars

provided a form or traffic calming – we quite often hear reports of speeding along the St

Mary’s school stretch. Motorists who obey the Highway Code and look both directions before

exiting a junction are unlikely to have an accident at Mortimer Lane and those who do not

look will probably just get a “wake-up call” if someone is coming up the hill. We welcome

your views on this.


Mortimer Zebra Crossing


Nick was approached by two concerned residents, that they had been the victims of a near

miss on the zebra crossing opposite St John’s church. The incidents were said to be in

morning daylight busy hours. They had obeyed the Highway Code and waited until no car

was passing before alighting on the crossing, after which a subsequent vehicle did not stop.

They fear risk of injury of themselves or others and suggest that the crossing be converted

to/replaced by a button-controlled Pelican crossing. It appears that, unlike the current

arrangement, a Pelican crossing would not to require street lighting (and thereby satisfy

Mortimer’s “dark village” status) and be more suited to blind/partially sighted pedestrians. We

ask that Stratfield Mortimer Parish Council consider and advise us their position on this

request so we can report back to those who raised it.


Mortimer Fairground Security


The planning application has been submitted and Nick has provided technical advice on the Data

Protection and usage specification. Meanwhile we understand that the system on the Burghfield Rec

continues to be helpful in deterring/following up on incidents.


Beech Hill Parish Plan


The council’s planning team recently sent us, as new councillors, the Beech Hill Parish Plan

to review. Vic has reviewed and Nick plans to by 7 July.


Reading Gospel Hall Trust – Planning Appeal


The appeal against refusal of planning permission for a new church hall and burial ground

with associated parking at the junction of Hollybush Land and Shortheath Lane, Burghfield

Common ( RG7 3JS) has been turned down, If you’d like details of the application and

grounds for refusal please get in touch,


Foot/Cycle/Bridleway Between Mortimer and Burghfield Common


Stratfield Mortimer Parish Council, has submitted a planning application for its proposed

combined foot/cycle/bridleway between Mortimer and Burghfield Common. The application

details are HERE which details the proposed route and construction. Assuming planning

permission is granted, we suggest that Mortimer and Burghfield parish councils get together

sooner rather than later to establish the source(s) of funding for construction and ongoing

maintenance, and perhaps confirm the likely usage levels as part of the business planning.

We’d also suggest the separate public feedback about the use of uncontrolled versus

Pelican crossings be considered in implementing the proposal.


Vicky Pool, Nick Carter & Geoff Mayes

West Berks District Council Members for Burghfield and Mortimer



Tel/WhatsApp: 07447 557557

Email: nick.carter2@westberks.gov.uk



Tel/WhatsApp: 07896 909776

Email: vicky.poole1@westberks.gov.uk



Tel: 0118 9332536

Email: geoffrey.mayes1@westberks.gov.uk

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