New homes in Wokingham and the UK

 

Many of us in Wokingham are in two minds about new homes. We want more people to own their own home and we want people to have the opportunity to buy a new homes to a modern design. We also wish to keep our countryside, protect our natural environment, and avoid over stretching local facilities.

The Council has decided the best way to achieve these two main aims is to allow building in a few concentrated locations, where schools, surgeries and roadspace can be made available and where the incursions into our countryside are limited.

Nationwide the new building rate has risen in recent years. In 2012 it was 103,739 new homes started. Last year it went up to 122,691. In  Wokingham  327 were started in 2012, and last year 338 were started. Wokingham is adding more homes than the average of constituencies around the country, so we are contributing generously to  the national housing drive. Indeed, the Council should remember when considering future plans  that in 2012 twice as many homes were started in Wokingham as in the average constituency, so we are more than doing our bit.

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7 Comments

  1. alan jutson
    Posted September 5, 2014 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    Given the massive increase in Housing passed for the next decade in Wokingham and its surroundings, the Council should have also had some decent plans for new roads.

    I suggest Wokingham in a few years time will end up in gridlock for lengthy periods, due to insufficient thought and investment in the infrastructure.

    John Prescott of course was also responsible for the present situation with his government policies for our area.
    Shame our own Councillors would not take rather stronger action to fight it.

    Reply The first new road, the station link road is nearly complete. There are now plans for a new north south road including a new bridge over the railway.

    • alan jutson
      Posted September 6, 2014 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      reply to reply

      John

      Yes the station road is near completion thank goodness, but why did this take so, so long with all of the inevitable delays to the A329.
      I see it is to be controlled with more sets of traffic lights, only about 100 yards from Shute end roundabout, and 100 yards from the pedestrian lights for Holt school.

      The northern relief road should have connected onto the A329M at either the A321 Hurst road bridge or Ashridge Manor farm bridge, traffic would then have be taken out of the Town and A329 early, and would not need to directed to Coppid beech or Winnersh roundabouts where there is already too much traffic at peak hours.

      The so called southern relief road (not yet chosen from three options), shows all three plans routing traffic onto the A321 between the low and narrow twin bridges at the Tesco roundabout, which all seems rather daft, as these are also known existing bottlenecks.

      Given the amount of new housing and proposed increased traffic, I think congestion will be even worse than it is now, even when these rather limited modifications are completed.

      Hence my original comment.

      Reply There are too many traffic lights and I have asked the Council to take some out, not put more in! The relief road is out to consultation.

  2. Antony Rawlinson
    Posted September 5, 2014 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    WBC’s policy to concentrate the housing in four large, densely-packed sites is a gift to the major landowners and national housebuilders like the University of Reading and Taylor Wimpey. Yes, they will have to pay for infrastructure like the Shinfield bypass (but that was needed anyway to develop the Science Park) and new schools, and they may have to provide a lot of social housing – though on recent evidence their clever surveyors will be able to prove “non-viability” and get the social housing proportion reduced from 35% to 5-10%, which will blow a massive hole in WBC’s strategy to create more social housing. But to compensate them, they will earn large profits on agricultural land they may have owned since the 1920s, and a huge chunk of new housebuilding business, whilst self-builders and local firms won’t get a look-in.

    Small builders and developers in Wokingham are being driven out of the business of housebuilding. The new Community Infrastructure Levy imposed by WBC has been set at a fixed rate of £365 per square metre across the entire borough, though with up to 20% reduction for the national housebuilders in the SDLs (how nice for them). This means that if a small local builder by some miracle finds a plot and secures planning permission for a 4-bedroom house with garage, sized 175m2, the CIL tax will amount to £63,875, plus legal and planning fees of about £2000.

    This CIL tax is around 400% larger than the current S106 tax on small builders. Even in mid-market areas like Earley, this house might only sell for £500,000 (£270 per square foot), so the CIL tax will virtually wipe out any profit for the builder. The cost of his land won’t decrease – he still has to pay full market rates in competition with domestic householders and self-builders, who don’t have to pay CIL – nor will his construction costs, finance interest, the fees for the myriad of reports needed to obtain planning permission, or the costs of lawyers, accountants and estate agents. And if he tries to build in run-down areas such as parts of Woodley, where prices are much lower, that flat rate of £365/m2 will actually guarantee a loss.

    CIL is going to drive most local housebuilders out of business: they will be reduced to doing extensions and replacing people’s kitchens. They don’t have the capital to gear up – and anyway once they have a site above 4 houses, they will have to give away 35% of the plots as social housing, on top of CIL, which makes larger sites completely unviable. The housebuilding industry in Wokingham will be dominated by the national housebuilders, who import their labour from outside the borough (most of the workers on the current site in Spencers Wood come up every day from Portsmouth), whilst local builders and developers are forced to lay off their staff, with knock-on effects on local small trade suppliers like plumbers merchants and kitchen suppliers.

    This is a deliberate policy of WBC: David Lee, when he was leader of the council, said explicitly during a radio interview that WBC wants to concentrate almost all the new houses in the SDLs, and make housebuilding for small builders, with their nasty little “garden-grabbing” infill sites, unviable. WBC’s Core Strategy only allows for 1000 “windfall” sites between now and 2026: that’s just over 83 houses a year across the entire borough, to be shared by small builders, medium-sized firms like Westbuild or Millgate Homes, and self-builders. A CIL of £365 is the council’s mechanism to achieve this target.

    Wokingham may be “doing its bit” for national housing levels, but it is doing this at the deliberate expense of small local builders and their associated tradespeople and suppliers. Why is it so hostile to them? Is the Planning department too overloaded with work, coping with the SDLs and now a flood of opportunist large planning applications in and around the SDLs, because the Core Strategy is full of holes and can’t meet the Government’s 5-year land supply requirement? I suspect it’s a straight political calculation: the new houses are crammed in four limited locations, out of sight and mind for the vast majority of Wokingham electors (except when they are out on the roads and find the traffic grinds to a halt north of the M4 – the A329 supplying the Arborfield and Shinfield SDLs and the Science Park runs straight into the bottleneck of Shinfield Rise and the A33). The nimbys are therefore kept happy.

    WBC could have developed, in addition to (smaller) SDLs, a policy of limited, incremental, sustainable growth, with small numbers of houses filling in built-up areas and around the existing villages. The increased traffic flows would have been distributed over a wider area, existing local shops would be better supported, the small developments would show far greater variety of architectural design and visual interest, local housebuilders and hence employment would be kept alive, and self-builders would have had a chance to find a viable plot.

    Guaranteeing fat profits for the large landowners and biggest housebuilding companies, taxing small firms out of business, reducing self-builders and small builders to 83 houses a year across an entire borough: would Mr Redwood call these policies something a Conservative should be proud of?

    • alan jutson
      Posted September 6, 2014 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      Antony

      Well said.

      I chose to retire and to get out of the construction business whilst I could, rather than try and compete and make sense of all of the additional costs and regulations constantly being loaded onto legitimate businesses.

      Self built 35 years ago when it was encouraged around here.

  3. James Winfield
    Posted September 5, 2014 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    For most people in their 20’s and 30’s, including myself, the prospect of owning a home is about as realistic as the prospect of riding a unicorn.

    Due to the consistent lack of supply over decades, to match the increase in population, house prices are completely unafforable to many.

    But at least we can still afford to go out partying all night – got to put our spare money to use somehow if saving for a deposit on a house is pointless. And at least the option to ride a unicorn becomes possible in nightclubs.

    • Cliff. Wokingham.
      Posted September 6, 2014 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      James,

      You are correct in what you say however, it has always been the same.
      We all started off in adult life without much to our name. We all sat on wooden boxes or deck chairs because we had no furniture and couldn’t afford to buy any. We have all gone hungry and eaten unintereseting meals whilst trying to save.

      Fortunately for my generation, we did not have the state interfering in pay levels; businesses had to set pay at a level so as to attract staff. There were more jobs and fewer people to do them and thus, pay was more realistic. This began to decline when London Transport and others, began to import workers from the West Indies.
      The national minimum wage has, in far too many cases, became “The Wage.” People are forced to work for the NMW and to have their income made up to a more liveable level via tax credits and benefits by the state. The biggest problem with this kind of wealth redistribution, other than it encourages dependency, is that the state machine becomes bigger and bigger and the machine swallows up more and more of the created wealth as the redistribution policies become more complex. The state has no money of its own; only what it can extract from the people.

      I think the one relavent and perhaps, most important difference, between my young adult years and now, is that for poorer people who did the right thing; marriage and careers, one was able to get council housing easily.
      I think Mrs Thatcher’s policy of selling council housing to tenants at a discount was great and gave many ordinary people a chance to own their own home which they would never have been able to do however, where the scheme fell down, was not letting the local councils use the money from the sales to build more council housing, had they allowed that, I think the scheme would have been perfect.

      I suspect the real reason why many ordinary people can not afford to buy a home is because pay has not kept up with house price increases. The state should not control one, namely pay by using sleight of hand methods such as the wealth redistribution scheme mentioned above, whilst letting the other side of the equation run wild, namely artificially high demand due to lack of building and too much immigration. The latter not only fuels the house price bubbles we’ve seen but, it also keeps pay deflated and artificially low, with too many people chasing too few jobs and too few homes.

      Finally, I would just like to say that many of the things which attracted me to this area back in 1968 from London’s East End, such as green spaces and clean air, are slowly but surely being destroyed and are making the whole place much more like the kind of place I left; OK I accept East London’s dock area was still a far cry from today’s Wokingham but, it is moving in that direction.
      It seems to me that our local council sees green space as a liability; costs of upkeep etc and they see development as a revenue stream, rip off tax and business rates etc. I think when everything comes down to councils or governments making more and more money, so society declines and our work life balance goes out of the window.

      • alan jutson
        Posted September 8, 2014 at 8:25 am | Permalink

        Cliff

        Your comments mirror many of my own thoughts and actions

        Indeed I also remember using family deck chairs in our first house, with a shoe box as a lampshade for the first few weeks of ownership, until we had saved up enough money to purchase rather more comfortable furniture.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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