Dear John Halsall (Leader of the Council at Wokingham).
Thank you for your most recent letter, I have put it with all the other letters, leaflets, maps and other sundries into a folder so I can refer back to them as required. As I have taken the time to read your letter I hope you will find the time to read my Blog.
First, an apology. I don’t have the budget you have so I am unable at this point in time to individually post a letter to every resident in Wokingham, or to afford thousands more glossy leaflets to make my case ☹ There is still a little left in the £500 donated to me to fight against 4,500 houses at Hall Farm/Loddon Valley but I am obliged to spend it very carefully, as I am sure you understand 😉
Let me start with your letter. “Central Government’s forcing of housing development upon us”. A national target of 300,000 homes is presumably meant to be spread evenly across the entire Nation, is it not? Or is there something about the concept of national I am failing to grasp here? As mentioned on here in previous posts the national increase in births is around 0.4% yet Wokingham’s share of the national new housing being built is over 6%. Despite the phenomenal amount of housing being built in the Borough we still don’t have enough?
Houses could be built elsewhere, but this is not helped by a broken housing formula even you, John, are now having to argue against. (Not before time I might add, what took you so long?). This is not about “affordable houses for our grandchildren” as you claim. I sincerely wish that it was. This over heated housing market is the result of many buyers engaging in a “race for space”, according to Nationwide. "They want bigger homes with room to live and work, as well as a garden, and easy-to-reach coast or countryside".
So why “Must” we build in Wokingham? As always it helps to follow the money. The average price of a property across the UK is £254,624. (Source House price index) But the average price of a property in Wokingham is £497,635. (Source Home.co.uk) Almost twice the profit but for the same cost of building! As you yourself point out John; “The current system fails to protect areas such as Wokingham”.
A small but important correction here if I may please John, you wrote Wokingham, when in fact you should have written the South of Wokingham. Over the past 10 years 97% of new housing has been built in the South but only 3% in the North of the Borough. (That would be the bit you represent?)
There is also a “lack of incentive to landowners/developers to actually build homes rather than just acquiring planning permission”. I agree, John, the pernicious practice of “Land Banking”, where the supply of actual houses built and sold is deliberately kept to a trickle, continues to ensure demand always outstrips supply and that price inflation continues. Thanks for raising this, but is anyone listening?
According to https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/dark-money-investigations/exclusive-property-tycoons-gave-tories-more-than-11m-in-less-than-a-year/ The Conservatives have received more than £11 million from some of the UK’s richest property developers and construction businesses since Boris Johnson became prime minister last July, an “OpenDemocracy” investigation has found. More “Fake News” John?
Then there is the “presumption in the current system that oversupply of housing will lead to a reduction in house prices”. Presume away John, but this is what a quick internet search found: https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/040215/how-does-law-supply-and-demand-affect-housing-market.asp “Some of the factors that will influence housing demand include lower interest rates or borrowing costs.. and if there remains a limited supply of housing inventory, prices in a low interest rate environment may rise even more”.
Even I understood that. The hot house inflation of house prices is being fuelled by low interest rates (encouraged by the Bank of England?) and a Stamp Duty holiday (courtesy of the UK Government). Are these not deliberate Government policies about which only they can do anything?
As ever time moves on and we all have other things to do so let’s finish on the topic of “misinformation”. Far be it from me to criticise your choice of words put the last great proponent of so called “Fake News” was Donald Trump. Wasn’t he a deluded bombast who is still sulking because he couldn’t win a rational argument with clear facts?
You have spent a lot of (our) rate payers money on (yet another) riposte intended to counter “myths” and “untruths”, when in my humble opinion you would be much better off spending it on any number of real problems in the Borough, like the funding gap of more than £3 million for its key social care services https://www.getreading.co.uk/news/reading-berkshire-news/theres-3m-hole-wokinghams-social-17534044 which as your own budget predicts could increase to £4.5 million by 2023. Priorities John?
You say that “We cannot build on Green Belt land”. Well, as pointed out in the previous Blog post, you can. You do have to make a special case for it, but I, and many others, believe the MOD taking away Grazeley as a potential site is a “special case”. Here’s an idea: why not make an objective assessment of the real “value” to us all and undertake a Net Biodiversity Gain study of ALL the sites available? Then, if we really must have houses you can put them where the greatest benefit is gained and the greatest loss is minimised. Simples!
Take a look here :https://www.gov.uk/guidance/biodiversity-metric-calculate-the-biodiversity-net-gain-of-a-project-or-development and tell us what you think.
As you are the man who founded the Campaign to Protect Rural Wokingham I’m slightly surprised you don’t already know about it, but we at green4grow are always happy to help. However, please could you use the comment section of the blog in future, so much cheaper than another, how many was it, 69,800 letters?