Taken from Wokingham Borough News Centre
Proposals for new homes and communities with a wealth of supporting amenities in Wokingham Borough have been explored at a public meeting which residents can now watch online.
Wokingham Borough Council is staging a nine-week consultation on a revised growth strategy for its new Local Plan, a document which will help shape all kinds of development for years to come.
As part of that process, which runs until 5pm on 24 January, it hosted a series of information events including virtual ones which were recorded.
A video is now live on our website which includes a detailed outline by officers and members of the council’s decision-making executive of what is being put forward.
They also answer people’s questions and explain why the authority once again hopes to concentrate most development in major new communities, and this is accompanied by a package of supporting documents.
Those who couldn’t make the events or still have queries can speak to planning officers at one of several drop-in sessions at the council’s offices in Shute End, Wokingham, between 9.30am and 12pm on 21 December and 6, 11, and 20 January.
Anyone wishing to attend is requested to take a Covid-19 lateral flow test beforehand and must wear a mask inside the building unless medically exempt.
Still time to get involved
The council hopes to follow the same successful approach as it did in its existing Local Plan, which guides decisions on development until 2026 and will secure almost £1 billion in high-quality infrastructure while making housing developers pay for it.
Now, additional homes must be built to meet local need to 2038 as well as Government targets, so refusing to plan for them – or failing to meet those quotas – would just give developers control over the process.
This would lead to the wrong homes being built in the wrong places and without appropriate infrastructure or an affordable element, so it is simply not an option.
Independent advice from leading QCs has clearly stated that the council can’t plan for a lower number than required by the Government, or it will lose its planning powers – leading to the worst possible outcome for communities across the borough.
However, by building large-scale developments like its four existing ones at Shinfield Parish, the former Arborfield Garrison and North and South Wokingham, the council can build thriving, sustainable and well-equipped neighbourhoods as is happening now.
What we’re proposing
The revised growth strategy proposes a new garden village of about 4,500 new homes on land south of the M4 between Shinfield, Arborfield and Sindlesham, of which at least 2,200 would be built by 2038, plus a further 800 within the existing South Wokingham development and additional smaller allocations elsewhere.
Two other sites in the borough were considered for a new settlement but following assessment, including an independent sustainability appraisal, the council named the new site south of the M4 – known as Hall Farm/Loddon Valley – as its preferred option because this is expected to have the most positive effects compared to the likely negative effects.
All three were assessed for various impacts including air and environmental quality, biodiversity, climate change, the economy, local housing need and access to transport networks including scope for sustainable alternatives to driving.
Last year, the council consulted on plans for a new garden town of about 15,000 homes at Grazeley but this is no longer viable after the exclusion zone at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Burghfield was extended to include that area.
The council also considered previously developed sites, also known as brownfield sites, but many of these have greater value as employment land and there aren’t enough available to meet our housing targets.
All new housing will be served by new roads, schools, green spaces, sports facilities, community halls and more, while job opportunities would be created at Hall Farm / Loddon Valley with large areas of green space opened to the public for the first time.
The best possible option
Cllr Wayne Smith, executive member for planning and enforcement, said: “I hope that residents found our information events useful but, for those who were unable to attend, we’re pleased to be making a recording available as well as staging the additional drop-in events.
“We understand that housing is an emotive issue but we can’t refuse to build the new homes required by the Government because they would end up being built anyway, but in unsuitable locations across Wokingham borough and unsupported by vital services.
“Having a plan is far better than not having one as it allows us to channel development in a positive direction. We can plan the infrastructure to be built alongside new homes and make sure that it’s funded by developers.
“By building high-quality housing in carefully planned new communities, including a generous affordable element, we can also ensure that people who grew up in the borough can stay local and bring up their own families here.
“Sharing your views in the current consultation will help us shape the new Local Plan to meet your needs, and those of your friends and family, for generations to come.”
To find out more, watch the video or have your say, visit engage.wokingham.gov.uk