The Wokingham Paper

‘Plan for Grazeley will need reworking’ as a result of Covid-19 warns Wokingham Borough Council leader

John Halsall
Wokingham Borough Council leader Cllr John Halsall

THE DRAFT Local Plan Update, which was launched earlier this year will likely undergo changes, said the leader of the council.

It currently contains plans for a garden town development in Grazeley, with other strategic development sites across the borough.

But Cllr John Halsall told Wokingham.Today he believes the plan for Grazeley will need reworking.

This comes after the £250 million government Housing Infrastructure Funding (HIF) — planned to pay for infrastructure in the Shinfield development — was unsuccessful.

And in March, the emergency planning zone around the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Burghfield was expanded to include Grazeley and other parts of the Shinfield parish.

Cllr Halsall also believes the economic shock from the pandemic could cause issues with the borough’s five year land supply.

“Before the pandemic we had about 500 houses in new developments that were not sold,” he said. “And the economic shock of this will change the pattern of delivery in the future.

“Buying a house doesn’t happen overnight. It’s difficult under current circumstances and I expect the pattern of development will have changed significantly. The probability is the demand for the delivery of housing will decline.”

Cllr Halsall explained that if some developers slow down in their building plans, this could make the borough more vulnerable to development appeals on other sites.

The five year land supply — which entered national planning in 2012 — requires the borough council to demonstrate it has enough sites ready for development to meet housing needs for the next five years.

In Wokingham borough, this is between 750 and 800 homes per year.

Cllr Halsall said: “If our five year land supply becomes lower than expected — because developer views on what we can build is coloured by the pandemic — then that makes us vulnerable.

“Our land supply could go down to only three years.”

He warned that in order to protect the borough from over development, a new local plan must be approved.

“We now have to get a local plan update,” said Cllr Halsall. “The draft local plan update was dependent on certain hypotheses. But the huge economic and social shock will undoubtedly change the shape of the plan.

“It wouldn’t have been finalised until the end of 2021, but I expect the changes will add another year onto that.”

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