Wokingham Housing Needs Being Assessed
“Wokingham Borough Council is listening to the public and following feedback as it continues to develop its Local Plan Update to deliver the legally-required housing in high-quality developments with the right infrastructure in the right locations,” the leader of the council Cllr Charlotte Haitham Taylor has stated.
Consultation responses the authority has received during the Local Plan Update (LPU) have cited the need for early implementation of infrastructure alongside the legally-required housing. The borough council is taking steps to ensure the early planning required to support this is in place.
As part of the LPU, more than 260 potential housing sites have been submitted for consideration and the authority is considering all of these. Because of the size and complexity of some of the submitted sites the council is commissioning a detailed look at three of them – around Grazeley, around Twyford and Barkham Square (land directly to the north of the current Arborfield Garrison development).
There have been no decisions on where any development will be considered and the commissioning of the masterplanning work does not change that. The work on these major sites is necessary because they have issues such as multiple land ownership as well as the need to consider different parcels of land concurrently.
In addition to commissioning the masterplanning, the council will be submitting an Expression of Interest for a grant of up to £250million from the Government’s £2.3billion Housing Infrastructure Fund. If successful, this funding could help the early delivery of the massive road, rail and other projects that would be needed if major development is to take place in our borough.
Council leader Cllr Charlotte Haitham Taylor said: “We are required by law to accept extra housing and it is our job is to plan for it as best we can. This is so we can provide excellent homes with the roads, schools, public transport, sports facilities and community centres necessary to maintain the borough’s great quality of life”
Cllr Haitham Taylor continued: “Deciding where we can and cannot accept development is a long process and final decisions will not be made until 2019 when the new Local Plan will be adopted. There has been speculation about issues such as Green Belt but it is vital at this stage that residents recognise nothing has been decided and there will be a lot more public consultation to come. For these larger sites that have been submitted it is necessary to have a closer look at what might be possible before a decision is taken on them – that is why we are commissioning this work and exploring forward funding options which mitigate the impact on our residents.
“We are also seeking the Government funding at this early stage because the message we always get from our residents is that they want good quality infrastructure built early during housing developments. We fully agree with that, which is why we are seeking the multi-million pound infrastructure funding from Central Government now.”
The Local Plan
The Local Plan Update process is fully open and transparent and has already included a full public consultation on the principles of how the housing needs should be met (technically known as the Issues and Options Consultation) as well as informal engagement through public events and meeting with community representatives. The next opportunity for people to have their say will be the Preferred Options consultation that is likely to take place next spring (2018). Full details on the Local Plan Update (including information about all the land put forward as potential development sites) are available online. Visit www.wokingham.gov.uk and search for Local Plan Update.
Wokingham Borough Council is required by Government to allocate significant land for housing and has done so through the current Local Plan. However developers have been submitting applications for development outside of the land allocated.
Deputy leader of the council Cllr David Lee said: “We are continuing to lobby the Government for more support against speculative developers who submit inappropriate planning applications in unsustainable locations. Those developers force us to defend our positon (and incur significant costs) at appeals despite the fact that we are accommodating an unprecedented volume of new homes. I want residents to understand that we are fighting to protect them from excessive inappropriately located housing applications on land that is not allocated for homes and that we are calling on Government to back us in this.”