YESTERDAY the borough council announced a proposal to build a new 15,000 home eco-town in Grazeley as part of the Local Plan.
The borough council hopes that the new town will focus development in one key area, defending other parts of the borough from overcrowding.
“The fear of mass housing development has been hanging over the majority of our communities like a Sword of Damocles for too long; at last, we may have a way to remove it for them,” said John Halsall, leader of Wokingham Borough Council on the proposal.
“If it is approved and supported by Government funding, we would be able to produce a Local Plan that meets a need for good homes, including genuinely affordable ones, in the borough while safeguarding our quality of life, protecting our Green Belt and relieving many of our villages from the fear of inappropriate development,” he said.
The borough council says the plan would put countryside protection and the environment at the heart of its strategic vision for the future.
The draft Local Plan will go to the decision-making executive on January 15. If approved, it will then go to public consultation.
The draft Local Plan includes:
- A lower housing target for the borough than would have been enforced by the Government’s standard methodology
- No house building on Green Belt
- A new Garden Town at Grazeley designed and built to ‘cutting-edge’ environmental standards with sustainable transport links into Reading.
- ‘Massive’ upfront investment in facilities such as schools and community, sporting and health facilities
- An enhanced commitment to resist random development outside of the few areas allocated for new communities
- Protection of local green space
- Provision of affordable housing
A Local Plan works by setting out the land to be protected from development across the borough.
Under the draft plan, these ‘no-go’ areas for development would include all green belt designated land as well as roughly 300 sites developers have been eyeing-up across the borough.
Executive member for Planning and Enforcement Wayne Smith, said: “This could be a new dawn for Wokingham Borough with a commitment to a fully-fledged Garden Town where people will be able to live the sort of environmentally-aware, sustainable lifestyles that are becoming the 21st Century ideal.
“This is an ambitious vision. If approved and funded as we are proposing, Grazeley Garden Town would have the sort of upfront investment in infrastructure that is normally only dreamed of in the UK – we are talking about getting things like the transport systems, schools, health hubs and community and sporting facilities built ahead of the housing.
“We are also proposing homes that are designed to protect the environment, provided within communities designed for sustainable lifestyles. People living in a future Grazeley Garden Town would have the jobs and ‘big city’ buzz of Reading to the north and the natural beauty of West Berkshire and our borough to the west and east – a set-up that matches the original vision of garden towns perfectly.”
The borough council hopes that the Grazeley Eco-Town will provide a large number of the additional housing that is needed across the borough in the years up to 2036 and potentially to the mid-2050s.
They added that this version of the Local Plan would help the borough council to resist potential housing sites that have been put forward by developers elsewhere.
However, they added that there would still need to be some smaller-scale growth in towns and villages where agreed locally.
This includes some 916 homes in other parts of the borough:
- Barkham: 140 homes
- Charvil: 160 homes
- Finchampstead: 15 homes
- Hurst: 15 homes
- Ruscombe: 20 homes
- Shinfield: 10 homes
- Twyford: 150 homes
- Winnersh: 305 homes
- Wokingham: 101 homes
The draft Local Plan will be discussed by the Executive on January 15.
If agreed, a public consultation will be launched in February.