Ash pearce - Labour Church Ward Councillor
Church's Labour Team, led by our Councillor Ashley Pearce

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Ward News

Ward News

Letter to Reading buses regarding the frequency of the number 9

Dear Mr Williams

I am writing to you in my capacity as one of the councillors for Church Ward to bring to your attention a couple of issues that have been flagged with me which relate to Reading Buses.

  1. Number 9 buses along the Whitley Wood Road.

The first issue relates to the frequency of Number 9 buses along the Whitley Wood Road route. A number of residents, many of whom are elderly and for whom the bus is their only mode transport, have commented to me that the Number 9 buses are not frequent enough. It seems to me that this is a significant problem for a large number of people in what is a fairly wide residential / geographical area.

With the above in mind, I would therefore like to know whether Reading Buses have any plans to change / increase the frequency of buses servicing this route or indeed whether there are any plans to consult residents on the bus service in the Whitley Wood Road area.

I would be grateful if you could provide me with a breakdown of passenger numbers (not limited to revenue as many users will be using concessionary bus passes) for the Number 9 route and would be interested to find out whether the number of users of this service has gone up or down?

  1. Student related ASB at Christchurch Road bus stop.

The second issue relates to anti-social behaviour at the bus stop on Christchurch Road (located near to the junction with Whitley Park Lane). Residents have complained to me that this bus stop is a hotspot for noise nuisance and anti-social behaviour, primarily caused by university students using the bus stop on week nights after 9pm at night.

I would like to know whether Reading Buses would investigate or consult on the possibility of implement a temporary closure of this bus stop after 9pm at night. Alternatively would Reading Buses consider moving this bus stop up or down the road and away from residential areas?

To this end, it would be useful if you could provide me with the statistics for the number of bus users who embark at this particular stop. Is there a way to find out how many non-university students use the bus stop after 9pm? Furthermore, would it be possible to find out how many concessionary bus pass users make use of this particular stop after 9pm?

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions relating to the above matters. If it would be useful, I would be more than happy to meet in person to discuss the above issues and explore possible options.

I look forward to hearing from you shortly.

Best wishes.

Yours sincerely

Ashley Pearce
Councillor, Church Ward

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Letter to shops on Christchurch road

Recently several residents have contacted me regarding issues with the shops on Christchurch road. I have written the below letter and will soon be sending to each of the shops from the Council to help improve local relations.

Dear proprietor

I am writing to you on behalf of residents and Reading Borough Council as one of the proprietors of an outlet on Christchurch Road. The shops are located in between two wards, Church Ward and Redlands Ward, and are regularly used by many local people. Locals appreciate the service these shops provide and wish to work collaboratively with the shops to ensure that the local area is as good as it can be.

Over the last few months I have received numerous emails, especially from residents of Northcourt Avenue and Whitley Park Lane which are closely located to the shops, to ask me if I can help in facilitating a discussion between residents and shops to ensure some issues are addressed.

The major issues that residents are concerned about are:

Deliveries (being considerate of the frequency, timings and noise of these)

Delivery lorries parking considerately, especially close to the junction of Northcourt Avenue and Christchurch Road to ensure pedestrians crossing at this busy junction (including those in wheelchairs or with push chairs) are able to pass safely.

Litter around the front and back of the shops

Noise from customers later in the evening

Improving the access road behind the shops

Residents stress that they are supportive of the shops, many use them and they wish to work collaboratively. One of the ways this may be possible is by taking part in Reading Borough Council’s Adopt your street scheme, where local businesses work with the Council to help clean up the area once a month. Myself, the Council and residents would be grateful if you were able to support this.

Please contact me in response to this letter so we are able to take good community relations forward.

Kind regards

Cllr Ashley Pearce
Church Ward
Ashley.Pearce@Reading.Gov.uk

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Whitley Library Sale

The Council will shortly be marketing Whitley Library for sale on the open market and to the voluntary sector which may include a range of offers, subject to planning including community use and possible residential conversion.

The Council will be advertising the property on the RVA (Reading voluntary Action) website from in accordance with the Community Lettings Policy to give the voluntary sector a circa 4 week lead in to open marketing exercise which will itself commence in mid October for a further 8 week period.

The building is locally listed and there are tree preservation orders on the site so the Council will be looking for offers that retain/convert the building and respect the TPOs.
It is also proposed to include within the sale an area of land outside the extent of the current library site for use as ancillary parking.

More information is available on the RVA website: http://rva.org.uk

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Views sought on speed calming

Councillors have recently been speaking with residents regarding parking restrictions and speeding in the ward. After the successful introduction of waiting restrictions in Ennerdale Road & Northcourt Avenue, we are seeking resident views on whether these are needed in other roads.

As well as parking, we are aware of issues of speeding in the ward, especially around Cressingham Road, Hazel Crescent and Sycamore Road (amongst others). We will soon be meeting with Council officers in the transport department to discuss options available to us to help with speed in these and nearby roads. Any resident views, please get in touch.

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Ward news round up

It has been a busy few months for Councillors in Church Ward.

Ashley met with representatives from the Council, WCDA, Affinity and Food4 Families about a project with a piece of land in between Staverton Road and The Lawns flats. We are seeking to turn the unused piece of land (pictured above) to create a community garden for use of local residents. We will be having further meetings and pressing for progress.

The tennis courts on South Reading Leisure Centre on Northumberland Avenue received an upgrade just before the start of Wimbledon! We hope this will lead to greater use of the courts and local enjoyment.

Travellers encamped briefly in South Reading initially on Rabsons Rec and then Long Barn Lane. The initial encampment was able to be moved swiftly on after residents contacted Councillors who worked to get the right measures in place quickly. If there are any future encampments in the area, please pass on concerns caused to Councillors and police as quickly as possible as it helps the process of moving on.

The St.Patrick’s hall appeal from Reading University against the Council was dismissed. Ashley gave evidence at the appeal alongside residents where it was again affirmed that the proposed development was too large and for too many students. We hope any further proposals from the University fully consult and consider residents views.

The South Reading fun day this year moved to JMA school on Northumberland Avenue but was of course a huge success again. Many community groups, young people and locals came together for a fun day of art, crafts and information.

The Whitley Community Development Association celebrated its birthday in the Summer with a gathering of all those that have helped the project in the last few years. Part of the Big Local project, WCDA have been involved in a huge number of projects to help the community in the last few years including the opening of the Whitley Cafe amongst many others.

Remember, as well as our regular canvassing sessions to seek resident views, we have our regular advice surgery on the first Saturday of every month at the Whitley Cafe on Northumberland Avenue from 10.30am-12pm.

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Reading Council declare climate emergency

Reading Council recently passed a motion to declare a climate emergency in Reading after campaigners called for action.

Reading Borough Council has outlined its desire to eliminate Reading’s carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 . The resolution sets out a wide range of measures that need to be embraced and pursued by governments at all levels. Carbon dioxide emissions in the borough have fallen by 41% since 2005, the 20th highest reduction in the UK, while the council has reduced its own emissions by 53% since 2008.

Reading Council will also be becoming plastic free after another recent motion was passed. Plastic straws, packets and cutlery will all be on the banned list after council bosses voted to stop single use plastic.

The motion pledges a number of ways to achieve the reduction, including phasing out the purchase of single use plastics in all services commissioned by the council.

Church Ward Councillors showed their commitment to a cleaner, greener Reading with a recent clean up of Shinfield Rec off of Linden Road. The park will also soon see some new lighting installed as well as more bins.

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St.Patrick’s Hall appeal dismissed

The planning inspectorate today decided that the University of Readings appeal against the Council’s decision to turn down the planning application for the expansion of St.Patrick’s Hall on Northcourt Avenue would be dismissed. Residents including the Northcourt Avenue residents society have worked tirelessly on this appeal to show the strength of feeling amongst locals. The plans were too large, with too many students in a building that was too big. Residents are not against development however and would welcome dialogue with the council on any future development plans.

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University consulting local residents

Reading University want to hear the views of local residents regarding their place in the local community, and what they can do to help. The consultation is open until June 7th and can be found here:

https://reading.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/university-strategic-principles-consultation-ext

Councillor Pearce’s submission can be found below:

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Spring newsletter

Labour Councillors and activists in Church Ward will be delivering the Church Ward Spring newsletter in February to keep residents up to date with the work Councillors are doing. A copy of the newsletter can be found below:

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Van tool theft should be a specific offence

Church Ward Councillors are backing a call from local trades people for action to stop tool theft from vans, which is an increasing problem. Theft from commercial vehicles has a huge impact on tradespeople and small businesses in Reading. Not only is there a high cost in time and money to replace tools and to fix the damage caused, it stops people being able to work, leading to loss of earnings and huge financial impacts.

A Home Office Research Study states that the average cost of theft from a commercial vehicle and contents compared to a domestic vehicle and contents is double. Despite this there is no separate crime theft from a commercial vehicle, creating a new offence of theft from a commercial vehicle could help to deter this crime. Local carpenters Micky Leng, Mark Russell and other trades people are campaigning for parliament to change the law to ensure that this carries a sentence which is proportionate to the cost which includes: replacements; repairing damage; business disruption; customer reimbursement and compensation. Micky Leng says “So many of us have had our vans broken into and it has a massive impact on our work.  There needs to be a stronger deterrent so people’s work isn’t affected. I hope everyone will sign our petition and get behind the campaign”.

Church Ward Councillor Paul Woodward added “With vehicle theft on the rise, it particularly affects van drivers – whether self employed or small businesses, I fully support the campaign and I’ll be working to help it succeed.

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St.Patrick’s Hall appeal submission

I have been a Councillor for Church Ward in which St.Patricks hall resides since 2014, so have had a lot of contact with residents, the Council, Matt Rodda MP, the University and UPP (the developers) for both the 2016 planning application and the 2018 application. This has taken the form of me being on the planning committee both times this went to committee, resident meetings as well as meetings with the University. This issue has also come up when speaking to residents on numerous occasions and is something many residents understandably feel very strongly about. I am also a former student and resident of the University, so understand its needs and want to see a strong, thriving University in Reading.


The original application gained a lot of publicity regarding the demolition of the historic Pearson’s Court site. This lead to lots of local (and some national) publicity, a petition that gained over 1000 signatures and eventually the local listing of the hall and the application being pulled by the University. This was the first time that it appeared the University (or more to the point UPP, whom they have commissioned out these services to) were in a rush to get the application through with little thought on the impact it would have on the local community.
I have had many discussions with local residents on the issue of the St.Pats hall expansion, not just the Northcourt Avenue residents association (NARA) but other residents of the street as well as other nearby streets such as Ennerdale Road, Stanhope Road and Weardale Close. Nearly every one of the residents I have spoken too are not against redeveloping this site. They realise the current facilities are tired and worn, and that students deserve better, more modern facilities. They also value the benefit of a thriving University, with many residents being ex or current employees of the University.


The main issues that have come up time and again are the lack of real engagement with the local public, that the current plans are an overdevelopment and that the planned building would be over bearing on the local streets. Resident meetings and exhibitions that the University have held, have taken the form of presenting a finished proposal. Any semblance of consultation has been lost on the residents. Changes that were made to the application were very minimal and never addressed residents overall concerns. This has always been the height and over bearing nature of the proposed site, and the large increase in the number of students in a predominantly residential area. The University and UPP would have gained public approval and support long ago, if only they had agreed that the height and storeys of these buildings were lower (4 storeys as on the other side of the University in Wokingham borough has been mentioned many times by residents) and that the number of students would be lower than the high figure sought. The residents have already been patient and supportive of the University in recent years, despite an increase in noise and sometimes anti-social behaviour, as well as huge strain being placed on local parking, to which the University have never attempted to come up with a credible plan to solve or even engage the issue. It has recently taken the University well over 6 months to respond calls from residents and Councillors for a public meeting regarding the behaviour of a minority of their students and the negative local impacts they are having. Sadly this is common in the Universities poor approach to engaging with the local community.

Lastly, whilst within the law, the application coming into the Council from the UPP rather than the University so as to swerve Community Infrastructure Levy payments was incredibly disappointing. This increase in student numbers will obviously put a great strain on local infrastructure and with Council budgets being so tight, this cannot be met by the Council. This may in some cases even lead to dangerous situations for students in terms of local road safety. Northcourt Avenue were the hall is located, runs parallel to Shinfield Road where the main Whiteknights entrance is. At the moment the nearest crossing is at a busy inter section of road and traffic lights near a parade of shops. This area is already a tricky intersection of road to navigate, and the huge increase in student numbers proposed will not help this. This will also cause pinch points at particular times of the day with schools and the hospital being close to this area. If the University wished to be a real contributing member of our community, it would be offering proposals to ensure the safety of its students and working with the local community and Council on this, not running away from their responsibilities. It sadly shows again that the University currently sees itself as separate to the local Council and community, rather than being an important partner alongside them.


The character and history of Northcourt Avenue is something the residents are rightly very proud of, and this includes the history and heritage of St.Patricks hall. The local listing of Pearson’s Court confirmed the special place it has in resident’s hearts. This planning application more than any other issue I have encountered since being on the Council, has fostered the most local concern. Not because the residents do not want development or a successful University but because they seek consideration from our University partners. The residents, Councillors and the Council would like to work with the University on an equal footing to come up with a suitable proposal that enables the University to grow and thrive, that protects the heritage of the local area, ensures safety and comfort for local infrastructure, and that is not over bearing for the rest of the local community. I do not believe the current proposals achieves these things but still believe if the University wanted too, that it could.

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St. Patrick’s Hall appeal has a date

Local Councillors and MP Matt Rodda will be backing residents in the appeal.

The week beginning 19th March 2019 has been set as the date that the University of Reading will see its appeal against the rejection of St.Patrick’s Hall heard.
Reading Borough Councils planning committee rejected the plans back in February due to it being an inappropriate development along the lines of height, mass and impact on heritage. The Council will be sticking by its original decision and hope that the University will work with residents and come back with a more appropriate plan. Councillors have been working with local residents group Northcourt Avenue Residents Association on the detailed appeal plan and Ashley will be present at the appeal to help make the case for sticking with the original rejection of the plans. 
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Councillors decide priorities after CIL consultation

After the recent consultation regarding how the local element of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) would be spent in the Ward, Councillors have listened to residents and agreed on their priorities. The consultation saw nearly 100 respondents in the area vote for key improvements to the local community. The top 2 within Church Ward were to implement a zebra crossing at the top of Whitley Wood Road and to implement a 20mph zone on Northumberland Avenue by Reading Girls School. Both of these proposals will help keep our youngsters safe on their way to School and hopefully act as a natural speed calming measure. Also proposed just outside the Ward but very beneficial to residents are improvements to the Whitley Health Centre as well as the play area at Cintra Park. Despite savage cuts to the Council’s budget year on year, Church Ward Councillors are listening and implementing policies to help residents.

 

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