Wokingham Borough Council is reconsidering where to put a new sports pitch in the area in what could be seen as a victory for campaigners.

Last year, the council announced that it would invest £300,000 in a new multi-use sports pitch in the borough – with Laurel Park in Earley being considered the preferred option.

However, the consideration of Laurel Park led to uproar from neighbours, who argued that building the pitch would lead to a loss of green space and an unwelcome increase in traffic, which would present a disturbance to wildlife at the nearby Maiden Erleigh Nature Reserve.

In something of a u-turn, the council is now saying that Laurel Park is “not suitable” for the 3G pitch.

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A letter written by councillor John Halsall, the leader of the council (Conservative, Wargrave, Remenham and Ruscombe) states: “The executive has made no formal decision on the site of the proposed 3G pitch in the Lower Earley area or indeed whether there is a suitable site.

“Laurel Park was simply the initial site put forward by the Berks and Bucks Football Association in their bid to the Football Foundation.

“A review of the 3G Pitch at Laurel Park indicates that this site is not suitable and therefore will not be progressed by this administration.”

It means a new site will have to be found in Wokingham Borough for the sports pitch, which will be made out of 3G astroturf.

Initial options include Maiden Erlegh School in Earley or Bearwood.

At a full council meeting on Thursday, February 17, seven members of the public asked questions of councillor Parry Batth, the executive member for leisure (Conservative, Shinfield North) about why Laurel Park was the ‘preferred option’ and whether a full consultation on new sites would take place before one is selected.

You can view tweets from the meeting below: 

A campaign against Laurel Park being selected was run by neighbours and the Earley Liberal Democrats.

Celebrating the decision, Andrew Mickleburgh (Liberal Democrats, Hawkedon) said: “The council has finally listened to the voice of the many, many residents who have pointed to clear evidence that Laurel Park is not a suitable location for what was proposed.

“Given that an earlier letter from Wokingham Borough Council to a small number of residents in January 2022 referred to installation of a 3G pitch towards the end of 2022, these proposals must have been quite advanced.

“The Liberal Democrat Team is hugely appreciative of all the groups and residents who have helped to achieve this significant u-turn. We remain committed to work with residents and WBC Officers to help find a suitable site that can deliver a first class facility.”

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Despite what cllr Mickleburgh called the “good news” he said that questions remain over how much was spent on surveying Laurel Park and whether there will be a full consultation on all the potential sites for the 3G pitch.

Cllr Halsall’s letter states a full public consultation will be held on the site for the pitch with a ‘options analysis’ report to be presented at a future executive committee meeting.