At a meeting on Wednesday 30th March, 2016, Wokingham Borough Council’s Planning Committee approved the
application to develop Elms Field and the Paddocks Car Park.
The Planning Officers recommended that the application be approved, subject to a large number of conditions about delivery and materials. Consultation had been extended to 6 April because the original notice failed to mention that part of the development would be in a Conservation Area but the Officers sought a decision on 30 March subject to no substantive issues being raised during this extended consultation period.
The objections raised by the Society’s Executive Committee, as well as those submitted by other organisations and individuals, were addressed and answered in the Officers’ Report, while the concerns expressed by those who had asked to speak at the meeting were responded to without altering the outcome. Other than the issue with the proximity of the residential units to the houses at the end of Albert Road, the only concern expressed by the Committee which has led to a change is the retention of the steps at the Terrace which were proposed for removal on safety grounds.
The Planning Committee also approved an application for the tennis courts at Elms Field to be used as a temporary car park while a second storey was being added to the Station Car Park. That storey is now finished and open but the temporary car park still remains in use.
In late 2016 the Council ran a public engagement on the designs for the new play area and says that feedback is being used to help finalise designs. It is expected that there will be further consultation about the detailed lay-out of the park, of which the play area will be a part.
Agreements have been reached with Premier Inn for a hotel, with Aldi for a food store and with Everyman for a three-screen cinema on the east side of the site, where a number of shops will also be located.
On the west side of the development there will be 126 new dwellings, to be built by David Wilson Homes. A road from Wellington Road to Shute End will pass in front of the houses but it is intended to provide access to the buildings and car parks on Elms Field rather than to act as a through route.
Pre-construction work on the first phase was carried out in the Autumn of 2017 and building work by the contractors McLoughin & Harvey started in March 2018. Since then the whole of the area has been stripped to bare earth, apart from a number of trees that will be retained within the development, while other new trees will be added in due course. The hotel, food store, shops and cinema will be built first, with completion in stages between the Summer and the end of 2019 A new road from Wellington Road to Shute End is under construction and will form a south and a north section until the whole project is complete, when the two sections will be merged into one at the end of 2018. Work on building the houses in the west of the site will start in early 2019 with a view to completion at the end of 2020.