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