Deputy leader of Reading Borough Council (RBC) Cllr Tony Page has voiced concern over the possible future relocation of the Royal Berkshire Hospital (RBH).
As reported exclusively in Thames Tap, the RBH is on the Government’s list for being replaced or rebuilt with a site near Thames Valley Science Park in Wokingham Borough, a likely option.
Wokingham’s updated Local Plan includes a major development of up to 4,500 homes at the Hall Farm/Loddon Valley site, alongside employment development near the Thames Valley Science Park. It refers to the potential to accommodate a relocated Royal Berkshire Hospital at the site.
The Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust is considering its options but RBC has responded to Wokingham’s consultation, saying it believes that the most appropriate location for the hospital is at the ‘heart of the community it serves’.
RBC says accessibility is its main concern and argues the proposed site does not provide anything near approaching the level of accessibility required unless a dramatic improvement in public transport accessibility is provided at the outset.
Cllr Page, who is Reading’s lead councillor for strategic environment, planning and transport, said: “Reading Borough Council is very clear that the most appropriate location for RBH is at the heart of the community which it serves, which is here in Reading.
“We understand that all organisations will routinely review their premises, but the focus has to be on the wellbeing of people who require care. The Hall Farm/Loddon Valley site simply does not currently have the public transport links available.
“While the final decision on relocation sits with the NHS Trust, and not Wokingham or Reading councils, both have declared climate emergencies. To relocate the hospital to a site where the only current realistic travel option would be by car, would seem to be at odds with that commitment.
“Excluding the hospital site, the council has, at this time, not been provided with the necessary evidence to demonstrate how a housing and employment development on this scale could be highly accessible by public transport, walking and cycling, including links into central Reading. We would want to see much more clearly developed transport proposals before we could determine whether or not we agree with any proposal in principal.
“We are of course grateful to Wokingham for the opportunity to feed into its Local Plan and will continue to work closely with them on a range of strategic planning matters, in acknowledgement that our close boundaries mean we are each materially affected by major planning decisions in the neighbouring borough.”
Reading’s response to Wokingham’s Local Plan consultation can be found at https://democracy.reading.gov.uk/documents/s20957/Wokingham%20Local%20Plan%20Update%20Revised%20Growth%20Strategy.pdf
Image: Andrew Smith / Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading / CC BY-SA 2.0
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