Grazeley and more homes in the Wokingham constituency

I have been consulting over whether local residents think building more homes at Grazeley is a good or bad idea. Both Wokingham Borough and West Berkshire Councils are attracted to the idea, but it has not been agreed as policy. I am writing a reminder today, as Wokingham Borough Council are making progress with their thinking and getting closer to making a decision.

They have consulted me. I explained that I have not yet completed my soundings with residents. I have also raised three main issues that need to be resolved before agreeing to any such a scheme.

The first is some on the Council think if they opt for a large settlement at Grazeley they will able to prevent developments elsewhere. Latest thinking from the Planning Inspectorate implies this might not be the case. If a Council opts for one major settlement and the build rate is too low in the view of the Planning Inspectors against the assumed need for homes, then they will grant planning permissions elsewhere as well. Whilst concentration of settlement may have the advantage of sparing other places and allowing substantial developer contributions for infrastructure at that place, it may also fall short of the building targets and require even more infrastructure than the developer contribution pays for.

The second issue is the provision of infrastructure. Junction 11 on the M4 is already very crowded even after the recent expansion of capacity, and capacity into Reading from the south fully used at peaks. A major settlement at Grazeley will need additional capacity for school places and GP services. Will any such scheme at Grazeley ensure the provision of sufficient additional capacity in transport and public services, and will this be put in before the homes are built?

The third issue is flood prevention. The low lying lands around the M4 absorb rainfall and run off water. Will action be taken to provide proper capacity to handle surface water and the foul water generated by many new homes?

I have suggested to the Council that they need to start by reviewing the demand side of the equation. The UK has needed many new homes in recent years because it has experienced very rapid inwards migration. 330,000 extra people a year coming here to live means the construction of a large city every year to keep pace. The government has said it intends to reduce this by two thirds or more. This needs to be factored in to any calculations about housing demand after 2020.

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6 Comments

  1. Pauline Jorgensen
    Posted January 7, 2017 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Completely agree John also interested in the demand side, have the government plans to revise the housing targets in the light of Brexit and returning control of our borders?

  2. Steven Smith
    Posted January 7, 2017 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    @ John Redwood,

    I don’t think we can rely on the fact that immigration ‘may’ fall. We have to assume it is going to continue until the point that it does (if it does) start to fall. (Please don’t read remaoner into that statement, I voted to leave)

    Any oversupply may harm people who own houses but there is a whole generation of people who at the minute have no real prospect of ever being able to afford one of these new houses. At some point they are going to want to find somebody to blame for this.

    I would like to pick up on the point you made of providing more capacity to the road structure before any additional large scale housing developements are started.

    More capacity for vehicles needs to be provided, even if there are no further housing projects. It is currently not acceptable.

    So if there are to be more large scale housing developements, which I fully support and think are very much needed, then there needs to be a dramatic increase in our road network to not only deal with these new settlements but also to fix the current poor situation we find ourselves in today.

    There also needs to be some though placed on the services offered by the major metropolitan areas. I spend much of my life trying to work out how to avoid travelling near them at any time other than evenings and night for the simple reason that it turns a simple 20 minute task into a half day event. New large scale housing developements with no local services would only add to this.

  3. alan jutson
    Posted January 10, 2017 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Steven

    Agree, infrastructure first, before any building.

    Past planning in this regard, hopelessly inadequate.

    Far less dense housing would also be a help, past and present day developments far too crowded with very small gardens, narrow paths and narrow roads with no free spaces for visitors, tradesmen and others to park.

  4. Mark Ashwell
    Posted January 11, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Dear John
    Thank you for your consultation with Wokingham Borough Council over our Local Plan Update, which will set where development can and cannot take place over the next 20 years. I look forward to this continuing over the next two years when all decisions made will be tested by a government inspector in May 2019

    The concerns raised in your blog are exactly the sort of issues we are concerned about. As you reiterate we really need the Government’s Planning Inspectorate to provide much more protection against inappropriate development. This is why we have asked for special planning powers to resist other development. This would be a prerequisite to any decision to go ahead with a garden settlement at Grazeley as part of the Local Plan Update in 2019. As you know we would welcome any influence you as the local MP can bring to bear on this.

    Your blog also shows that we share the desire to get the right infrastructure in place early and to avoid any increased flood risk. Both of these are key issues for us as we plan the future development of the borough.
    Your suggestion that we look at the demand for housing before making any decision is something we are continuing to work on with our neighbouring authorities. However, predicting housing demand is very complex and requires all of us to look at more factors than simply a Government’s aspiration to reduce immigration. We are also aware that a Housing White Paper is due to be published by the Government shortly and we need to be mindful of any changes that introduces.
    Cllr Mark Ashwell
    WBC Executive Member
    Planning, Regeneration & Communities

  5. Mrs Claire Tilson
    Posted January 17, 2017 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    I think it is right to give serious consideration to all three of your concerns John and I also think there’s a fourth issue that shouldn’t be ignored. When this development was first publicised it was referred to as a garden village. It has already grown into a garden city and a major development. Which makes the fourth issue valid: the views of the people who already live within a few miles of this proposed development. A garden village could be satisfactorily integrated into the rural communities south of the M4. A major development is going to swamp them and destroy their identities as individual villages. I understand we need to provide new homes but surely not at the cost of the home owners already in situ. If this was planned for your doorstep, would you agree to it? Would the councillors? Please help local people to have their wishes respected. Thank you.

  6. Simon Cooper
    Posted January 17, 2017 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    John,

    Your reply to my email left me with little confidence that you took my concerns regarding the proposed development at Grazeley seriously.

    I’m also gobsmacked that neither you nor WBC have made any effort to interact with local residents around their concerns – where are the decision makers when it comes to the effect on local residents? Quietly absent, maybe sipping tea in the WBC offices!

    Reply I am interested in local reactions to this proposal, as this web exchange shows.The Council will be making the decision, not me.

  • 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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