IN A BID to save Wokingham from the threat of 1,600 new homes being built in the borough every year, the leader of the council has spoken with the minister for housing.
Just before the extraordinary executive meeting on recycling sacks, held on Friday, September 11 (see page 12), Cllr John Halsall told councillors that he had just come off the phone with Robert Jenrick, whose brief also includes local government.
The MP for Newark has launched a consultation on plans to shake up the planning system.
Under the proposals, it would see local authorities divide land into growth areas suitable for substantial development, renewal areas suitable for some development and protected areas where development is restricted.
Homes in the growth areas would see automatic planning permission granted for developments that meet specifications laid out in the authority’s new local plan.
However, councils would also have to meet a minimum number of builds a year and the figures mooted for Wokingham are twice the current levels, which the council is already arguing is too much.
It is calling on residents to write to MPs before the end of the month stating their objections to the plans.
And Cllr Halsall has threatened to parade naked in Whitehall if Government doesn’t listen to the borough’s concerns.
He considered last week’s call to be progress.
“The fact that I had a phone call with him was a very positive achievement,” he said. “I had a very long conversation with the minister, I was able to put my points across, and he listened.
“I invited him to Wokingham, and he seemed pleased with the invitation.”
However, Cllr Halsall declined to say if the offer was accepted.
“The whole point of whether he comes to Wokingham or not is not relevant. What is important is getting the contact going with the ministry. The fact that he gave me virtually unlimited time is a great positive.
“I was able to put my case to him, and he was listening.”
Cllr Halsall urged residents to get behind the campaign against the white paper.
“We’re in the middle of the consultation,” he said.
“I still want everybody to support me – it’s vital that those letters are written and those consultation forms are filled in.
“It’s vital because the more strength that I have to my arm, the more the likelihood is that there will be a follow-up.
“We are a democracy and politicians need to be seen to be representing the population that they’re representing. They need to be seen to be having the support of the people, if they do, they strengthen their arm.
“So please, please, please, please, please do the things that we’ve asked you to do.”
Join the protests: how to fight housing numbers
Before October 1, email your MP and copy in Wokingham Borough Council’s email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. MPs: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Robert Jenrick via forms.communities.gov.uk and tell the council by emailing email@example.com
Complete the Government Consultation at: www.gov.uk/government/consultations/changes-to-the-current-planning-system
For more details, visit www.wokingham.gov/uk/fairplayinhousing