I am very concerned about the rate of new building in our area. This could lead to more floods, cut the availability of green open space, overstretch transport systems, and place further strains on other public services.
The Council, with the agreement of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups of Councillors, has backed a Core Strategy to concentrate new housing development in four locations, instead of spreading it around the whole District. They have chosen this approach as they think it will be easier to provide extra roadspace, school places and the other important services if housing is concentrated. At local level the political disagreement has between the Conservatives and the Lib Dems over the number of homes to go to North Wokingham and the number for Arborfield. The majority Group proposed 3500 for Arbofield and 1500 for North Wokingham. The Lib Dems favoured more at Arborfield and less in North Wokingham.
The Council has done this to comply with the Labour government’s instructions, relayed through the regional planning bureaucracy, to build a specified large number of extra homes. The government has not confirmed that it will make the £80 million available to Wokingham for new school construction, put into the Council’s budget for 2012-13, despite the obvious need for more school places if we have to take more homes.
As your MP in the last Parliament I made unsuccessful attempts to persuade the government to reduce or remove the regional housing targets, as I think they are too high. I was more successful lobbying the Conservative Opposition, who have placed the following in the Conservative Manifesto:
“A Conservative government will introduce a new “open source” planning system. This will mean that people in each neighbourhood will be able to specify what kind of development they wish to see in their area. These neighbourhood plans will be consolidated into a local plan. We will abolish the entire bureaucratic and undemocratic tier of regional planning, including the Regional Spatial Strategies and building targets”
This means that if you help elect a Conservative government under these proposals people in Wokingham Borough will be able to choose fewer homes and lower densities of development. This would be something the Council could put into its plan without outside interference from the Region or Whitehall.
I suspect under such an approach we would opt for less and for lower density development, to ease the pressures on green space and flood plain. It would also help resolve the problem that the government is not offering us the large sums required to build schools and roads which new housing on their scale will need.
Promoted by Christine Hill on behalf of John Redwood, both of 30 Street Wokingham RG40 1XU