University of Reading: University Responds To Wokingham Local Plan Update

The University of Reading has been liaising with Wokingham Borough Council as part of the Local Plan Update – which will be consulted upon formally later in November. The Loddon Valley Garden Village forms part of these draft proposals, which aims to deliver a range of new homes, community infrastructure and employment space between Shinfield and Arborfield, some of which is on land owned by the University and one of its trusts.

These proposals are at a very early stage, however the University of Reading is keen to assist in strengthening the successes at the Thames Valley Science Park in attracting national interest, such as the British Museum and Rutherford Cancer Centre. This also includes a new creative industries hub, Cine Valley, which includes the 18-stage Shinfield Studios, and a TV studio. These industries have been attracted by the links to and values of the University of Reading, equipping students with skills to succeed and retaining talent in the Thames Valley. A core part of the garden community would be the creation of additional employment space, further expanding a home for innovation and creativity in the Thames Valley.

The University of Reading will continue to make use of our existing academic knowledge and expertise to attract businesses that are motivated to collaborate with us on key areas of research and academic strength. In keeping with our founding principles, we aim to benefit our students and surrounding communities, and perform a valuable role in helping to generate economic growth for the region and UK. We aim to promote educational and professional skills development, including opportunities for upskilling and reskilling, helping local people to join the diverse and talented workforce of the future.

As a world leader in environment and climate research, we are keen that any proposals which come forward for the garden village reflect the aspirations for a low carbon society that respects nature – from enhancing the habitats and biodiversity around the Loddon Valley to creating new accessible green spaces for everyone to use. We want sustainability to be at the core of the development, respecting the setting around the River Loddon, its floodplain and surroundings, enhancing biodiversity and opportunities for leisure uses.

Hall Farm, which is part of the proposed site, is an active dairy farm and a major European agricultural research establishment, and is a key facility for our students and academic research teams. The University of Reading is rightly considered one of the world’s leading centres for the study of agriculture and food, and has a global reputation for its work on the environmental and health impacts of food and farming. The University is clear in its long-term ambition to oversee further investment in its world-class agricultural facilities and is looking for significant new opportunities to grow this area of strength, in a process led by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Parveen Yaqoob. This process is continuing and will make recommendations in 2022. We remain committed to helping to shape the future of farming and food and training the next generation of farmers, agricultural managers and scientists.

While this is still early in the process, we intend to continue an open process of consultation and engagement within and beyond the University about these plans. Together, we believe this collaborative approach can create a long-lasting legacy of investment for our students, academic work, and the community that reflects the values of the University of Reading.

A University of Reading spokesperson said:

“Proposals for the Loddon Valley Garden Village are at an early stage. We want to ensure that we take a proactive, collaborative approach to this significant scheme, building on the values of positive engagement set down by the neighbouring Thames Valley Science Park and Cine Valley. This is a real opportunity to bring forward an original scheme for development that is employment-led, provides benefits for students, and links back to the academic centres of excellence at the University of Reading.

“There is still a great deal of work to be done, with much research and technical work yet to be undertaken – however we look forward to undertaking this journey with our students, academic and professional services colleagues, Wokingham Borough Council and members of the surrounding community to help further shape this vision.”

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