Laurel Park 3G Pitch Proposal
The EEG is concerned about the impact that the proposed 3G pitch at Laurel Park would have on the adjacent Maiden Erlegh Nature Reserve. It is also concerned that the proposal would result in the loss of the public recreational facility and sense of open tranquillity that the field provides for many residents. Furthermore, the impact of additional parking on the green space behind the children’s play area and the increased daily human activity generated by the sports facility would adversely impact on the natural environment created by the area. The EEG’s letter to local WBC Councillors is below.
EEG Letter to WBC Councillors: January 2022
The Earley Environmental Group (EEG) has been made aware of Wokingham Borough Council’s proposal to construct a 3G all-weather pitch on Laurel Park, and that WBC has written to residents whose property is located close to the proposed site. Whilst WBC’s letter to residents outlines the proposal in general terms, there is no site plan to show where the pitch would be located in the copy we have received. It is, however, understood that the intention is for the pitch to be located on the ‘lower’ (northern) playing field bounded to its north and east by the Maiden Erlegh Nature Reserve.
The EEG is extremely concerned about the adverse impact that the proposed 3G pitch would have on the nature reserve, as well as the loss of the natural green space and amenity that the playing field itself provides and also the loss of green space to be used for the proposed new car parking.
Impact on the Local Nature Reserve
Maiden Erlegh Local Nature Reserve is a designated Local Nature Reserve (LNR), a Local Wildlife Site and a Site of Urban Landscape Value. Local Nature Reserves need to be protected from the adverse impact of development both within their boundary and alongside. The playing field forms a natural buffer zone protecting the woodland from urban development and intensive human activity. The field is a valued community space enjoyed by many for play, recreation, dog walking, picnicking and strolling. Together with the nature reserve, it provides an area of tranquillity for wildlife and residents.
Impact on the Environment
The construction of a 3G pitch would remove the buffer zone, destroying the protection given to the nature reserve, adversely impacting the habitats of wildlife living and passing through the nature reserve, and removing the public recreational facility and sense of open tranquillity that the field provides for many residents. The increased activity brought about by the 3G pitch and parking area would increase noise and disturbance from human activity. The proposed floodlighting would affect the lives of birds, insects and bats living in and around the reserve, as well as passing along the part of the Maiden Erlegh green corridor formed by the woodland and field.
Impact of Mitigation Measures
The proposed mitigation measures, comprising LED downlighting and a 2-metre-high acoustic fence, would add to the adverse impact of the development proposal. Although it is said that the lighting will be contained within the pitch area, the reflective glow from such a large area is likely to be seen from the nature reserve and neighbouring properties. The lights will also attract insect species, disturbing their nocturnal life cycles and making them more vulnerable. The acoustic fence would produce an imposing barrier along the edge of the southern and eastern sides of the woodland, restricting movement across the public open space and fencing-in Earley’s most valuable natural asset – the Maiden Erlegh Nature Reserve. In addition, there would be unacceptable increases in noise from cars and people arriving and leaving the facility before, during and after each session, the impact of which would not be reduced by the acoustic fence.
Impact on Drainage
The impact of the 3G pitch on drainage is of immense concern because the poor drainage through the artificially constructed ground on which the field is located and the embankment slope between the field and the woodland already causes flooding within the woodland after heavy rain. The surface water run-off from the 3G surface would increase the adverse impact of flooding and threaten the viability of trees and other plants within the woodland.
Impact of Car Parking
It is understood that a new car park would be located off the existing car park in the green space behind the children’s play area. The loss of this or other local green space for car parking would increase traffic movements and noise, reducing the tranquillity of the nature reserve and increasing the level of human activity throughout the day. Furthermore, the land lost to car parking should be replaced with compensatory open space within Earley.
There may be alternative and more appropriate locations within Wokingham where a 3G pitch could be located without such an adverse impact on the natural environment. We would expect WBC to have undertaken a comprehensive assessment of the options, including alternative locations for a new 3G pitch and options for expanding existing 3G pitches within Earley. We would welcome sight of this assessment in order to better understand why Laurel Park has been chosen, as well as the background data on the usage of existing grass and artificial pitches in the area that has led to the justification for constructing a new 3G pitch.
Earley’s green spaces must be protected from loss to development, especially where there would be such an adverse impact, as in this case on the Maiden Erlegh Nature Reserve, as well as the loss of the valued natural green space provided by the field. The nature reserve, Laurel Park field and adjacent green spaces must be preserved as a whole and not diminished by the hard urban development and increased human activity that will emanate from the proposal.The EEG urges WBC to drop this proposal and to preserve the field both as a protective buffer between the nature reserve and the adjacent urban area, and as a tranquil community open space used by the public for general recreational and leisure purposes.