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Page last updated at 16:14 GMT, Friday, 10 December 2010
Arborfield residents give views on plans for barracks
by Emma Midgley
BBC Berkshire Reporter

Gill Purchase
Gill Purchase stands in front of the proposed development site in Arborfield

Residents gave their views on Thursday on plans to build new homes on the site of a Berkshire military base.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is expected to leave Arborfield Garrison, near Wokingham, by 2015.

Proposals include building about 2,000 homes, as well as schools, shops and a district centre by 2026.

The consultation has prompted Arborfield Garrison Residents' Action Group (Ag-Rag) to express concern at the scale of the development.

A total of 3,500 homes are planned for the Arborfield area as part of Wokingham's Strategic Development Location plan.

Of these, 2,000 are planned to be built on the MOD site, and at the adjacent Dovecot Nursery and Westwood Farm.

Gill Purchase, of Arborfield Garrison Residents' Action Group

"There's a lot of residents around here who really care about the beautiful mature trees and the green fields. We want the area to retain rural.

Development plans for Arborfield

"We're not the average nimby who doesn't want development by any cost, we understand that there's a need.

"However, we strongly feel it should be behind the army fence, and it should be on a brown field site, where a building already exists or there is development already in place.

"Mothers can walk their children around with a pushchair. It's a community facility, not something that local residents can enjoy, there's thousands of army houses surrounding the fields.

"There's no sense in ripping this up and telling people they have to drive a mile down the road to another green field."

Mark Pickens, Vice Chairman of Arborfield Garrison Residents' Action Group

He said: "We don't think they should build on green fields.

"They should only start their redevelopment on the brown field site when the MoD has left.

"We all know the MoD leaving is up in the air.

"The other part of REME is in Hampshire, and they've been told they're moving out next year. For the time being they'll go to Arborfield, so they're not going to close Arborfield.

"So the whole development, where they're going to put 3,000 houses, just becomes unviable, unless the MOD move out.

"The amount of infrastructure that's needed is huge. We're talking about three new schools, shopping centres, doctors centre, even down to a brand new sewage works.

"If the MoD doesn't move they're going to develop green field sites, and you're not going to be able to provide all that infrastructure because the finance won't be in place.

"Our ideal scenario is the MoD stays, and they move the development to another location."

Arborfield councillor Gary Cowan

He said: "The biggest concern I have is the development will be 3,500 houses, and the MoD is supposed to vacate the site before they start building.

"Otherwise it will create piecemeal development.

"Also some of the details of the plans they produce are very very sketchy.

"The MoD has said for more than five years it would depart by 2012. The contract hasn't even been signed yet.

"So the worry is the Defence Trading Review may change everything.

"Another concern I have is that the MoD work on best value for the treasury. I'd be cynical over the infrastructure they offer, whether they'll actually deliver it or not."

Ministry of Defence Statement

The MoD said: "Arborfield Garrison has been promoted by the MoD as a redevelopment opportunity for a number of years.

"We are very interested in hearing the views of local people on the current proposals for the future of the site.

"The public consultation which is taking place on 9 and 10 December, offers the opportunity for local people to share their views on the future of the site. It also enables the Landowners Consortium the opportunity to gain a greater insight into local community views.

"Today's event has been well attended and we are pleased with the feedback that local people have given us so far."

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