'If Grazeley town goes ahead, Wokingham will be like a London suburb'

Wokingham will be like a London suburb if the new local plan to build 15,000 homes goes ahead.

That‘s the verdict of Cllr Clive Jones, Deputy Leader for Wokingham Liberal Democrats, who warns that too many homes are being built in the borough.

And with Twyford having recently made it onto the London Underground map with the Elizabeth Line, the likeness has some legs to stand on.

This comes after the draft Local Plan — proposing 15,000 homes in Grazeley — was announced last week.

Cllr Jones believes that the plan does not protect the borough residents from overdevelopment, as claimed by Leader of the Council, John Halsall.

Instead, he has criticised the Conservative Council, saying they have not done enough to reduce the borough’s housing quota, as defined by central government.

“This is a semi-rural borough,” said Cllr Jones. “Generally residents don’t react very well to any development. These people moved here because they wanted to enjoy a semi-rural life — and we are taking all that away from them.

“We should only be saying between 500 and 600 homes per year for our share [of national demand].”

Building too many homes — says Cllr Jones — will create a borough similar to the suburbs of London.

Cllr Jones is also concerned that the draft Local Plan will make the council fall victim to hundreds of costly appeals.

“They’ve opened a Pandora’s Box. The council previously encouraged landowners to look at developing their sites — and more than 300 people came forward.

“But less than 20 of these have been included in the Local Plan. They’re disappointing more than 280 landowners.

“The Conservatives think that people will just roll over and accept that after being encouraged to develop their land.

“But the bigger companies will put in planning applications, which the council will reject on the grounds of the Local Plan, and then it will go to a costly appeal.

“These are very expensive as the council will need to spend on a good Barrister.”

He is also concerned about the provision of infrastructure, should the plan to build on Grazeley go ahead.

“In 2016, the council published a central document that suggested £750 million was needed for infrastructure in Grazeley. They wanted to ask for £250 million from central government. This creates a shortfall of £500 million.

“The council said they would get £500 million from developer contributions, but this doesn’t include affordable housing.

“With approximately 5,000 of the 15,000homes allocated for affordable housing, this reduces developer contributions to £400 million, creating a shortfall of £100 million.”

“Since 2016, the council has reduced their quote down to £650 million for infrastructure. But I think they have just taken the numbers down to make it look as though it’ll work.

“We’ll end up with not enough high-quality roads, schools and transport links. It’s all quite badly thought out.”

Cllr Jones is also concerned about the project timescale. The Local Plan is drafted to span 20 years.

“If they build at their current rate, then they will only deliver 4,000 homes in Grazeley during that time.

“From 2036-2050 the rest of the 11,000 homes will be built — it’s a long, slow build.”

Published by
Jess Warren
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