Wokingham Borough hardest place to get planning permission for new homes

Cartoon by Brian Hales

WOKINGHAM BOROUGH is the hardest place to get planning permission in the UK according to new data.

The borough rejected 46% of applications for new housing developments in 2018, according to Barbour ABI, construction data analyst. 

However, the borough’s population has grown by 10% in the last decade, as confirmed by figures from Savills estate agency.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, Cllr Stuart Munro, executive member for business and economic development for Wokingham Borough Council said that whilst pressure mounts from central Government to build: “Actually, we think we’ve taken our share. This year we’ve completed 1,200 houses, and that’s a lot for a population of 160,000.

“Talking to businesses in the area, the thing we need to build is homes our children can afford to buy.”

The data also highlighted a link between the number of applications submitted for new developments and the approval rate. 

The Sunday Times reported that on average, 35 applications were submitted to the top 10 most planning-averse councils in the UK in 2018. 

In contrast, only 11 were submitted to the most planning-friendly councils. 

This suggests that where property prices and demand is high, such as in Wokingham, locations become a developer hot-spot.

Cllr Wayne Smith, executive member for planning and enforcement said: “As a council, we have highlighted four key areas for development in the local plan. These are Arborfield, North Wokingham, Shinfield and South Wokingham. 

“The 46% of rejections come from the fact that speculative developers are putting in applications for areas outside of our local plan. We’ve agreed our housing and infrastructure development strategy and we are going to stick to it.

“Residents should be very proud that we are fighting off speculative developers.

“When it comes to householder applications, such as building an extension on your house, the data is very different,” he explained.

In 2018, householder applications had an approval rating of 89%. So far this year, the approval rating is at 91% for 2019. 

“When it comes to building new houses, we have to be very careful not to kill the area off,” said Cllr Smith. 

“We are already building more houses that Reading, Windsor, Maidenhead and Bracknell. We have firmly decided to only develop in the four areas we agreed with residents in the local plan.”

This comes as Wokingham Borough Council recently announced they will be setting aside £630,000 to help residents fight local planning appeals. 

Whilst appeals are not included in the data, Wokingham Borough has seen a surge in developers submitting multiple appeals for a single development. This tactic is used to increase the chances of the development getting approval.

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