Wokingham Times

In the twelve months up to last October just 137 new homes were commenced by builders in my constituency. (NHBC statistics). This puts into context the big arguments underway  about how much new building the Council  should allow. Wokingham Borough is of course bigger than my constituency, but current build rates are way below the 623 new homes each year set out  in the Core Strategy.

 The truth is the big boom in housebuilding is long since over. Banks are not able to lend nearly so much money as they did before the Credit Crunch. People wanting to buy a first home need to have a large deposit to put down.  Families wanting to trade up or move on find the market is slow at best. The prices they get for their existing homes are no longer booming away, no longer allowing them to spend substantially more on a luxurious new home.

I have been approached by the Council concerned that developers may put in planning applications that do not conform with the Council’s expansion plans in the approved areas. Of course I will support the Council on any appeal, where they have turned down applications for good reasons and wish to see some limits on development. However, as some of us have warned, the Council’s own new settlement plans do not prevent all other applications and each one has to be dealt with on its merits. Within the approved areas for development, the fact that the Council itself has said it is a suitable place for development is part of the applicant’s case as to why they should be able to build there. The Council has much stronger grounds to say “No” outside its chosen development areas.

However, even outside the four areas of the Core Strategy the Council plans to allow around 2000 new homes to be built by 2026. This fact will also be taken into account by any Inspector hearing an appeal.

I have been asking Ministers for clarification of what might happen in Arborfield. I was promised a firm answer to the future of the Garrison in the Public Spending Review. Now the answer has been delayed, as Arborfield is part of a further review. I will continue to press for an early and definitive answer, as we need to know where we stand  on this important local issue. Redevelopment of the site within the wire of the present Garrison is the least bad option for new homes, but we do not know whether this is going to be possible. Arborfield is the largest of the proposed four major development sites in the Core Strategy.

Local plans need to take account of the slower pace of growth in this era of damaged banks and less credit. Councillors are very keen to concentrate development in particular areas so they can get money for necessary infrastructure. It is important to include good transport links in that provision, as our local roads are already overburdened, and to make sure the new investment goes in at the beginning of any housebulding project.  Councillors understand that voters will not be happy if large new housing estates are added without improvements to roads, schools and other public services. They need to ensure their officers do good deals for local taxpayers where development is planned.

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One Comment

  1. Nick
    Posted January 12, 2011 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    5,000 an acre – agricultural land

    1,000,000 an acre – land with planning permission

    The restriction of supply is down to government.

  • 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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