Housing and development

When we last had a Conservative government I argued strongly the case that Wokingham had been through a period of very rapid housing development and needed to slow down, as the pace of housebuilding was putting too many strains on transport, public services and green spaces. I was successful in making my case, and Wokingham’s planning status was changed from an area of fast growth to something closer to the local view of what was needed.

Today Wokingham is suffering again from two related planning policies forced upon it from central government that I would like to help change. The first is the policy of wanting to build too many houses. Regional plans require Wokingham Council to find the space and land to build more new homes than residents would like, and more new homes than the industry currently wishes to build. The second is a policy of demanding high densities of development. This produces more strains on the roads, the parking places, public services, and damages the semi rural environment which made Wokingham such a pleasant place.

A Conservative government has promised to scrap a lot of the regional planning empire. It is a level of government we do not like – a needless extra expense, and an unaccountable level of government in England. Caroline Spelman, Shadow Secretary for local government, has promised to give more powers to Councils to settle things like the rate of new housebuilding. I will want this to be early legislation if a Conservative government is elected, and to include the right to choose how many homes to place on each individual acre as is intended. We need to let Councils follow sensible policies on the amount of car parking space provided to avoid parking on pavements and in every spare corner that we see on some modern developments. Councils should also determine the ratio of social housing, based on planning considerations and Council budgets.

I am also very conscious of the need to provide sufficient homes of the right kind for first time buyers. I am not against all new development in the Wokingham area, and will press for more shared ownership as one way of helping people onto the home ownership ladder, and to bring back into use public sector housing which is in a bad way and needs homesteading or similar treatment to get it back into use. I will also press for the banking reforms needed so people have access to sensible levels of credit to buy their first home.

I strongly believe that if homes are to be built on the edge of a settlement or adjacent to existing properties the best way to win over the neighbours and to avoid confrontation on the planning issues, is for compensation to be paid to the existing owners by the developers. This is perfectly legal under the current law, and where tried is usually successful. I will press for more of this to happen where otherwise people will fell unhappy about a change to their local community which cannot be stopped.

Promoted by Christine Hill on behalf of John Redwood, both of 30 Rose Street Wokingham RG40 1XU

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7 Comments

  1. Javelin
    Posted April 12, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    If you get rid of the 1-2 million illegal immigrants in this country there would be no housing crisis. The Indian guy to my left and Thai guy to my right at work shake their heads every day at the "cowardly" British Government for not looking after their own nationals.

  2. Matt
    Posted April 12, 2010 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    Yesterday you were supporting unnecessary controls on the freedom of movement of labour. Today you want to interfere in an already over managed housing market. I'm sensing that no elected government will be able to resist the temptation to interfere – hence warping a free market, something I thought you would believe in. If developers don't want to build as quickly they don't have to – what makes you think any government knows better than the demand of the market?

  3. alan jutson
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    John

    Sensible views, with much commonsense.

    Unless a Motorway/Airport or some other project which requires National planning and finance, then local development should be overseen by local government.

    Local planners know best their local area.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted April 13, 2010 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      I disagree strongly with those sentiments. If you allow local planners under the control of a local council to decide on planning matters, no houses will ever be built.

      Most people – who are homeowners and who live in a nice area – don't want any more houses built. They are voters and any councillor who says 'let's build 1000 houses so that young people can live in the area they grew up in, so familes can live near each other, so young people don't have to mortgage themselves up to their necks to buy a house' – will be voted out by the NIMBY brigade.

      It is short-sighted and selfish. I'd actually like my adult children to be able to live locally but, like many generations before them, when they want to buy a house they'll have to move a long way away to find cheaper housing.

      30 years ago people moved from London to Wokingham (Earley and Woodley) to find cheaper housing. Our kids will end up moving to Southampton or Portsmouth to find cheaper housing. Families separated by long distances is not a good idea – especially when young people need their parents to help with child care or parents get ill and need their kids to help out.

      • alan jutson
        Posted April 15, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        Mike

        But if the local Authority had to raise all of the money to finance themselves (without central government help/grant) then perhaps their attitude would be different to what you suggest.

        The above pre-supposes of course that if funds do not come from central government, then our GENERAL taxes would be lower (some hope i know).

        Not all people are against new building, but many are against EXCESSIVE new building.

        I have long come to the conclusion that new towns, properly designed and placed, are better than for ever increasing the volume of existing ones, where the strain on the old infrastructure is left creaking at the seams.

        I agree that it is difficult to get on the local housing ladder, and that prices are high, and have blogged on this subject before, but this has been the case for decades. I too moved out of West london (parents rented accomodation) to get via Staines to Wokingham, and built my own house 30 years ago because WE could not afford to purchase what we liked or wanted.

  4. Mike Wilson
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    The decision of Wokingham Borough Council to build on Elm Park is a disgrace. A pleasant and well tended park and recreation area right in the heart of the town – the only green space right in the town. A place where generations have sat and watched their children play on the swings, played tennis or had a go at putting.

    Yet, as always, the inability of councils to manage budgets means they always need to find more money. So they allow the only green space in Wokingham Town Centre to be built on.

    It's disgraceful. Once built on that green space will disappear forever. Why does this have to be done. Don't see the London planners allowing people to build on Hyde Park.

    • alan jutson
      Posted April 15, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      Mike

      Whilst I agree with you absolutely on this subject/project, it rather goes against your argument in your reply to my original statement above your ref NIMBYS.

      The whole reason some parts of London are so attractive is because of the availablity of open green areas.

      Regents park, Hyde park, Hampstead heath, Richmond park etc
      No surprise then that these are some of the most expensive areas to live.

      To the West on the outskirts we have Chiswick park, riverside lands, Barnes common, Gunnersbury park, Boston Park, Osterly park etc.

      The problem with many new developments, is the high density the local authorites request, with limited parking.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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