Campaigners in Lower Earley are calling for green space to be permanently protected after plans to build a Lidl and homes on the land were refused last year.

Swallows Meadow – an area off wild land located off Meldreth Way- was at risk of being built on as developers Lower Earley Properties applied to build a new Lidl and 43 homes on the site.

The plan proved controversial from the outset, with neighbours reacting with anger when legal clearance work took place in November 2020 which ‘deforested’ the meadow in anticipation for the development.

Now Liberal Democrat campaigners are calling for Swallows Meadow to be permanently protected.

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They are calling for the land to be transferred to Wokingham Borough Council to protect it from future development.

Councillor David Hare, (Liberal Democrats, Hawkedon) explained that Swallows Meadow was given to the University of Reading in the days of Berkshire County Council, adding that the former Wokingham District Council had the opportunity to acquire the land when the county council broke up, but never did so. 

Councillor Clive Jones ( Liberal Democrats, Hawkedon) said: “It seems like the council messed up a long time ago between 1977 and 1987 when it could have had the land transferred to Wokingham Borough.

“The land either side of it is owned by Wokingham Borough they missed that bit, and somehow it’s got to the university.

“If those original planning documents can be found, maybe this was not the university’s land to sell.

“I think morally it was not the university’s land to sell.

“What should happen now is the developer should say ‘ok, we’ve tried, we’ll back off’.

“The university can give them their money back and the university can do the decent thing, and give the land to Wokingham Borough Council.”

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The campaigners fear that the plan could get the go ahead if the developers appeal.

However, Swallows Meadow could gain an extra level of protection as it has been identified as an area of ‘Local Green Space’ in the Wokingham Local Plan update, as part of the Lower Earley Meadows B area identified in the plan update map here.

Designation of the meadow as green space could scupper an appeal attempt, as it would make clear the council has designated it for retained green space rather than a place for buildings.

Lower Earley Properties, the company which submitted the plan, is a subsidiary of Jansons Property.

There has been no decision on whether an appeal will be lodged yet.

Jansons Property managing director Andy Jansons said: “Whilst we are disappointed with the decision, we are pleased that both planning officers and councillors acknowledged our plans have the potential to deliver significant economic benefits; and that the identified technical issues could easily be addressed as part of the appeal process.

“We’d like to take this opportunity to thank the 600+ local residents who wrote in support of our plans.

“We will now take time to review and reflect on the decision, before deciding on our next steps.”

The University of Reading and Wokingham Borough Council have been contacted for comment.