The Wokingham Paper

Parliament speech was thanks to residents, says council leader

Theresa May
Theresa May speaking in parliament

THE COUNCIL leader has thanked residents for speaking up over their planning reform worries.

Last month, Wokingham Borough Council encouraged people to contact their MP and the secretary of state for housing about their concerns.

Last week, Theresa May, MP for northern parts of the borough spoke against the planning reform, and the leader of the council said this was due to residents’ pressure.

Cllr John Halsall said: “It was great to have Theresa May leading the charge when the proposals were debated in parliament last week.

“I like to think that was in large part down to Wokingham residents contacting her to tell her enough is enough.

“We have seen over 10,000 new homes built in the borough in the last 10 years and we just can’t start doubling that every 10 years going forward.

“One of the things Theresa said was really important. She said that Wokingham has worked very hard to deliver its previous housing targets but that we are now being punished with a doubling of our target, whereas other councils who have failed to build their fair share of housing over the past decade are now being rewarded by having their housing targets cut.”

Cllr Wayne Smith, executive member for planning and enforcement at Wokingham Borough Council, said: “The borough is a great place to live – we are consistently ranked as one of the best places to live in the country. And developers know that, so they all want to build here.

“By carefully planning new development we’ve been able to force developers to stump up for the infrastructure necessary for all these new houses, and that includes affordable housing.

“The strategic new developments in Wokingham borough have all included 35% affordable homes – that means that for every 20 new homes built, seven of them are affordable.

“That is a real benefit to our residents, as we all know this is an expensive place to live.

The campaign to get residents involved and speak out worked across parties, with the Wokingham Liberal Democrats and a number of independent councillors joining forces.

Cllr Lindsay Ferris, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “This is such an important issue for the borough.

“I can’t blame people for wanting to move here – Wokingham borough really is a wonderful place to live – but these proposals go too far and would spoil what makes this place so special. These proposals would result in us losing local influence on planning decisions.

“We stand united to fight against these changes and support the continued action of this council and our MPs.”

The council will continue to lobby Government to rethink its proposals, including changes to the housing numbers. And a response will be considered at an Independent Executive Member Decision on Tuesday, October 27.

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