At a meeting of the Keep Emmer Green action group on 12 November Craig Morley, the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Reading East, spoke about the need to protect our precious green spaces, tackle congestion in North Reading by building a third bridge Thames Bridge, and the problem with top-down housing targets.
The Keep Emmer Green group was set up by local residents who are concerned about the impact that unsustainable development on Reading Golf Course will have on services and infrastructure in Caversham and Emmer Green, particularly with regard to increased congestion on the roads leading to a deterioration in air quality in the area. There are also valid concerns on GP provision and lack of school places. Present at the meeting were residents and local Councillors.
Craig spoke about the impact that poor air quality can have on residents’ health, something he has personal knowledge of as his son developed asthma while the family was posted in China, where Craig worked for the Foreign Office tackling climate change. He feels strongly that a Third Bridge would help to ease existing congestion both in North Reading and around Cemetery Junction and he talked about the possible need for central government to step in and include the project as part of a wider £29bn national infrastructure programme for upgrading roads. This would break the deadlock which has existed between the 3 local authorities (Reading Borough Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, Wokingham Borough Council) involved for the last 3 decades.
He was also emphatic that green spaces such as the golf course should be preserved and protected for the benefit that it brings to the wider community, acting as a green lung, habitat for wildlife and providing an urban leisure facility, easily accessible by foot or public transport which gives its members the opportunity for fresh air and exercise in outstandingly beautiful surroundings.
Talking about the Reading Local Plan and the need to meet government housing targets Craig expressed concern about "top-down housing targets" saying that he felt local
residents are better placed to make their own judgements on how much housing they can accommodate within their boundaries. Chasing arbitrary numbers can lead to extensive development on green field sites, something against which Wokingham Borough Council have been fighting with some success. While Craig absolutely recognises the housing shortage in Reading he does not believe that development across the Reading Golf Course site will meet the requirement to provide affordable housing for those most in need.
"I do not believe that a large-scale housing development on Reading Golf Club is sustainable. It would lead to an increased burden on our roads, GP surgeries and schools. It would remove precious green space. And it would damage wildlife habitats.
"I am on the side of residents in opposing this development.
"I also want to see the Third Thames Bridge built to reduce congestion, and reduce air pollution. It is time for change in Reading - we need a local authority that listens to residents and is on their side. Residents in North Reading are fortunate to have Conservative Councillors that do just that, and I look forward to working with them to protect our green spaces if I am elected as the Reading East Member of Parliament on 12 December."