Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Council leader: doubling number of new homes ‘unfair’

Council leader: doubling number of new homes ‘unfair’

THE leader of Wokingham Borough Council has criticised government proposals that he claims would mean 1,600 homes being built in the area every year.

John Halsall says it is unfair that the borough would have to accept so much development and is appealing to residents to make their opposition heard during public consultation by signing his online petition.

Last year, 47,000 residents objected to a figure of 800 new homes per year and the council leader says he is “outraged” at the proposal to double that number.

Councillor Halsall, who represents Wargrave, Remenham and Ruscombe ward, said: “This is horribly unfair to Wokingham borough.

“Adding a new town the size of Woodley and Earley combined into the borough every 15 years is just incomprehensible. We have put up with government-imposed housing targets for too long.

“I have gone to Westminster, as have previous council leaders, to ask for a fairer allocation on housing and got nothing back.

“Last year, we asked our residents if they thought the then Government-imposed housing target of 800 was too many and had an overwhelming response. We thought that would strengthen our hand but now the Government is proposing to double that. We need our residents to step up and tell the Government that they need to rethink this.

“We have created a petition to sign and are asking everyone to write to their MPs and to the Secretary of State. We all need to make our voices heard.”

Since 2006, nearly 10,000 new homes have been built in Wokingham borough, an average of 700 each year. 

In 2017, the Government committed to build 300,000 new homes every year and now ministers have devised a new formula after falling short of the target.

The White Paper is designed to ensure this figure is achieved.

Cllr Halsall said: “We agree with the objective to provide everyone with a home but the obligations in the White Paper are entirely on local authorities and the benefits are entirely with developers.

“Currently, there are more than one million homes with planning permission across England that have not yet been built. This is the equivalent of more than three years’ requirements.

“Three-quarters of all local authorities will be expected to build substantially more new homes than they currently are.”

Cllr Halsall lanched his petition on Tuesday last week and hopes to get 100,000 signatures to trigger a debate in Parliament.

It is directed at Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick and demands that homes are built where there is demand and not allocated by a “one-size-fits-all formula”.

Councillor Wayne Smith, executive member for planning, claimed the Government was trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes, adding: “They are launching two consultations at the same time but giving much greater coverage to the consultation that doesn’t include housing numbers under the umbrella of a major reform to an out-of-date planning system.”

To sign the petition, visit bit.ly/356mTLz

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