The Wokingham Paper

'The plan for Grazeley is dead' claims councillor as £250 million infrastructure funding falls through

Plans for 15,000 homes at Grazeley are dead, warns deputy leader of Wokingham Liberal Democrats

THE PLAN for 15,000 homes in Grazeley is dead, claims the deputy leader of the Wokingham Liberal Democrats.

On Tuesday, the Borough Council confirmed that the £250 million of national Government funding, which was to be used for infrastructure in Grazeley will no longer go ahead. 

This comes as last week’s Budget saw the announcement that the bulk of Housing Infrastructure Funding (HIF) would go to projects in the north of the UK, where demand for homes is lower, and more financial support is needed for local councils.

This means that the £250 million the Borough Council were hoping to benefit from will no longer go ahead. 

Although it had not been officially confirmed, the leader of the borough council was almost certain the funding would have been approved for the garden town scheme.

Cllr Clive Jones, deputy leader of the Wokingham Liberal Democrats said: “Grazeley — as a project for 15,000 homes — has to be dead.

“The council has got to come up with a Plan B. Without the Government grant of £252 million, it’s simply not viable. 

“We had already calculated there was a shortfall of £100 million for infrastructure. Now, if the council keeps pushing the Grazeley project, the shortfall will be at least £350 million. And that falls on the shoulders of the tax-payer.”

The borough council said they will now look to funding from a new Single Housing Infrastructure Fund (SHIF), designed to provide long-term support for housing development in high demand areas – such as the Wokingham borough.

Although proposed plans for Grazeley will not benefit from the HIF, the council says Homes England and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) have reiterated their commitment to the project — should it be approved in the Local Plan Update.

A meeting between the council and these agencies was held this week.

“They need to find out very quickly what money is available to them, and scale down the proposal,” added Cllr Jones.

“We have just spent nearly four years pursuing the plan for 15,00 homes in Grazeley. It must have cost Wokingham Borough Council thousands of pounds to work on. And now the project is dead.”

Executive member for planning, Cllr Wayne Smith said: “The Government’s short-term priorities have changed and they have moved investment to the north and some other areas where housing development has stalled. 

“That’s understandable and we will adapt and move on because the fundamentals have not changed – there is a need for well-planned new communities to provide sustainable homes for the future with great infrastructure in Wokingham borough. 

“Homes England and the MCHCLG recognise that, which is why we are meeting this week to coordinate our plans.

“There are other funding options available to make sure that, if Grazeley does go ahead following the Local Plan Update, it does so with timely, rich infrastructure investment, sustainable principles and strong community leadership.”

The proposal for a 15,000 home development in Grazeley now has Garden City Status from the national Government. 

The council says this demonstrates a clear commitment from Whitehall to support [the project] and help resolve blockages to its delivery.

Leader of the council, John Halsall said: “Once again, you could argue that we have been victims of our own success – we have such a strong local economy and are such a popular place to live that the Government has again sent money elsewhere. We are used to that and will carry on.

“Dependent on the outcome of the Local Plan Update consultation, we believe Grazeley remains robust and the best way to provide homes local people need in a way that safeguards our environmental and economic future. 

“What we will need is the Government to be good to the commitment it made when granting Garden City Status and help us through these obstacles as the time comes.”

The consultation on the draft local plan has been extended by two weeks, and will now end on Friday, April 3.

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