THE initial response to the housing consultation has pleased the leader of Wokingham Borough Council.
Cllr John Halsall told The Wokingham Paper that a large number of replies had come in already but to ensure the council can send the strongest possible message to the Government, it needs as many people as possible to take part.
Last week, every home in the borough received its consultation pack, setting out its case for why the council believes that the housing target set by the Government is too high: in Wokingham’s case this would be more than 800 homes a year up until 2036.
Cllr Halsall, who become council leader in May, said: “We have already approved homes for the next 17 years.
“The action we’re taking is not to say no more houses, it’s no more houses than we’ve specified. It’s a limit to the number of houses, not to stop building them and [next year’s] Local Plan Update [to 2036] will reflect that.”
He argues that the NPPF (national planning policy framework) set by the Government allowed for councils to build fewer homes under “exceptional circumstances” and that Wokingham borough should be treated like this.
“We argue that Wokingham Borough Council is exceptional. We’re looking to build what we’re specified rather than what the government wats which is almost twice as much.
“We can’t not build the houses already agreed.
“We want to build homes which are reasonable for the borough to approve and building what residents want.”
And Cllr Halsall said that his team were looking at ways to improve the borough’s housing stock for people on a median income, such as the homes in Peach Place, which are edging closer to reality.
“We will be announcing a separate programme for social housing,” he promised.
“The housing at has already been approved is specified to include 35% of affordable homes.”
But he also said that compared to other councils, its waiting list for homes wasn’t that large.
“We don’t have a huge housing list, surprisingly,” he said.
There has been some criticism of the shortness of the council’s consultation – it is just a month rather than three as is normally the case. But Cllr Halsall feels this is the right step to take.
“We did Homes For The Future, a very, very detailed consultation. It was long and detailed and only had 1,500 responses. This is a very deliberately short consultation that doesn’t require much more than a few seconds to respond.
“That gives sufficient strength to our message to national Government and hopefully will get a really good responses. We want everyone in the borough to reply to this consultation and allow us to pursue a case to the favour of our residents.”
He urged: “We’re grateful for the responses so far, but we need more people. Please, please, please, please respond.”
The consultation is open until 2036 and can be completed at www.wokingham.gov.uk/consultation