PROPOSALS to see 1,600 homes built every year across Wokingham borough mean that residents are facing an existential threat and a dystopian future – with just two weeks left to try and save it.
That was the stark warning from council leader Cllr John Halsall, who was addressing a virtual meeting of Wokingham Borough Council held on Thursday, September 17.
He warned: “In just two weeks’ time, at the stroke of Secretary of State Robert Jenrick’s pen, we could be condemned to face 1,635 new houses being built in the borough each year – that’s a town the size of Wokingham in less than a decade. This would come with less affordable housing because fewer developments would be required to provide it.
“There would be no appeal, no further debate.
“Two weeks: that is all we have got.”
In outlining what this would mean, Cllr Halsall warned that it would lead to intolerance congestion, basic services such as medical services and schools would be stretched to bursting point, the green spaces in the borough would be lost, with 15% of the landmasses be converted into housing over the next 10 years.
The council would not be able to defend its five-year land supply, which would be 10,000 homes.
“The Government says all this destruction is necessary to get the economy going and to prevent nimbys blocking necessary housing, but that is a false position,” he said, adding that Wokingham was not “the nimbys of Government propaganda” as the council believed in building “council housing and genuinely affordable homes for all”.
“But we do not believe in, and will never accept, the imposition of a concrete swamp across our fields and villages,” he added.
In a bid to combat that, Cllr Halsall said that he has been working ceaselessly to gain the widest publicity possible. This has included appearing in his swimming trunks for a Daily Mail news video and canvassing MPs and council leaders and working with the Unitary Councils Network.
“It has been a little like chucking mud at a wall unceasingly in the hope that some sticks,” he said.
As reported in this week’s print edition of Wokingham.Today, Cllr Halsall last Friday spoke with the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, who accepted an invitation to visit the borough, at a date to be set.
“That’s only the end of the beginning and is important that, now he is aware of the issue, he becomes aware of the strength of the feeling in the borough.
“We have appealed to all residents to write to their MP, the Secretary of State, sign up to the petition and respond to the consultation.
“I am urging everybody to join me in this campaign.
“Time is running out, but hope is not lost.
“Please take action today.”
How to support the campaign
- Before October 1, email your MP and copy in Wokingham Borough Council’s email address, email@example.com. MPs: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
- Contact Robert Jenrick via forms.communities.gov.uk and tell the council by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- Complete the Government Consultation at: www.gov.uk/government/consultations/changes-to-the-current-planning-system.
- For more details, visit www.wokingham.gov/uk/fairplayinhousing