We store cookies on your device to make sure we give you the best experience on this website. I'm fine with this - Turn cookies off
Switch to an accessible version of this website which is easier to read. (requires cookies)

Tories Risk increased Housing Allocation for Wokingham District

October 29, 2004 12:00 AM

"The Tories' approach to negotiating a reduction in the number of houses to be built in Wokingham district has been so spectacularly unsuccessful that it runs the risk of even more houses being built and in all the wrong places," says Councillor Coling Lawley (Leader of the Liberal Democrat Councillor Group on Wokingham District Council).

Coling Lawley spoke following the Wokingham Tory Executive's failure to adopt the Berkshire Structure Plan at its meeting on 14th October when the decision was deferred against the advice of Council Officers. The Berkshire Structure Plan outlines the housing allocation to all six Berkshire Unitary authorities, and lists suitable land for development. Frank Browne (Tory Leader of the Council) is seeking a last-minute meeting with the Berkshire authorities in an attempt to renegotiate the housing numbers for Wokingham district.

Coling Lawley said, "The consequences of not having an adopted Structure Plan are dire for the residents of Wokingham district. It would open the floodgates to developers and the Council would no longer be able to control the number of houses being built in the district.

"Frank Browne regained control of Wokingham District Council two and a half years ago on a promise to reduce the housing allocation for Wokingham. Since then he has not managed to reduce the allocation by one house. In fact, he has done worse than that. He has conducted the negotiations with our neighbours in such an ineffective way that nobody has been inclined to listen to him.

"Recently Frank Browne has suggested in the press that he might still, even at this late stage, negotiate a reduction in the housing numbers. It is almost inconceivable that all of the other Berkshire authorities will agree to this. Even if he manages to persuade one other authority to increase its housing number, any such agreement would probably never be implemented because it would be open to legal challenge."

Officers advised the Executive on 14th October as follows:

  • A new plan is urgently required. Without an up-to-date structure plan, there is an increased risk that major planning decisions in the area will be made on the basis of appeal decisions.
  • The plan as recommended for adoption has been subject to independent testing. The panel who conducted the examination (Examination in Public held in September 2003) considered the objections by Wokingham District Council and by others but recommended that the housing distribution be unchanged.
  • Wokingham District Council has consistently argued the need for its housing allocation to be reduced. The Joint Strategic Planning Committee (made up of representatives from each of the six Berkshire Unitary authorities) has, however, on a number of occasions not supported proposals by the representative of Wokingham District Council to amend the housing distribution. Given the attitude in past meetings, there is little prospect that the Joint Committee would consider further modifying the plan at this stage.
  • GOSE (Government Office of the South East) state they are firmly of the opinion that the best course of action is to continue to adoption of the Structure Plan.
  • GOSE say that the absence of a fully adopted Structure plan in Berkshire could endanger sound planning for future housing and infrastructure in the Western Corridor and Blackwater Valley sub region. They say that it will be all the Unitary Authorities' responsibility to ensure that the new Structure Plan is adopted as soon as possible, and they would be very concerned if the Berkshire Unitaries did not now adopt the Structure Plan at this late stage of the process.
  • The Council has sought legal advice on the options open to it. The advice is that the Council cannot challenge the decisions of the Examination in Public Panel, or GOSE or the Joint Strategic Planning Committee. If the Council does not adopt the plan the Government has powers to direct its adoption.