400 new homes may replace industrial estates in Wokingham

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Mulberry Business Park

FOUR HUNDRED new homes may replace Wokingham business parks.

This comes as 38 new apartments were approved at last week’s planning meeting.

The Fishponds Road site was previously home to Sorbus House which burnt down in 2011.

Maxika Homes Limited are proposing to build a four-storey apartment block on the site, with 32 two-bed flats and six one-bed flats.

They are proposing a total of 59 car parking spaces — less than one parking space per bedroom.

There is no visitor parking within this number, the original proposal did not include any affordable housing. 

Instead, the developer was pledging to help fund affordable housing elsewhere in the borough.

However, at the planning committee meeting last week, councillors pushed for the inclusion of affordable housing within the new-build.

Many of the surrounding buildings have been granted permission to change their use from offices to housing.

This has been granted through permitted development, and did not require the developer to gain planning permission.

And more buildings are in the process of gaining permission for such changes through permitted development.

This would create approximately 300 new homes on the current business park, according to Evendons Councillor, Sarah Kerr.

Cllr Kerr is frustrated with this, and is pushing for a change in the law surrounding permitted development.

“The Molly Millars Industrial site is a Core Employment Area identified by the borough council,” said Cllr Kerr. “But I kept getting notified of permitted development applications for this area.

“That’s because the law allows office blocks to be converted into homes without going to consultation.

“Whilst I support the need for more housing — especially council and affordable housing — this law is being used as a back-door approach to build new homes.

“It’s being used and abused, as the developer doesn’t have to allocate any affordable housing, or contribute to the local economy through the community infrastructure levy.”

Last week, Cllr Kerr wrote an open letter to Wokingham’s MP, John Redwood, asking for help to lobby the Government for changes to the permitted development law.

She believes the current law is “not fit for purpose” as it takes away control from the borough council, and undermines the local plan.

However, other business locations in Wokingham are also up for residential development.

The Station Industrial Estate, Oxford Road has been allocated for 92 homes in the draft Local Plan, announced on Wednesday, January 8.

When combined with the offices at Molly Millars Industrial site, this could lead to roughly 400 new homes in central Wokingham.

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