top of page
Search

Levelling up Wokingham

Wokingham’s Conservative Member of Parliament, Sir John Redwood, made a speech recently that has significant relevance to our campaign against the seemingly endless tide of housing and other development swamping our ever-diminishing Wokingham countryside. So much of it is relevant to our campaign to stop the imposition of thousands more houses onto the overcrowded South Wokingham Parishes it is worthwhile, I think, to reproduce a fair chunk of it as part of this post.


Should you wish to read the entire text of the speech you can find it by clicking on this link:


 

“First, I wish to address the question of housing supply in the national planning policy framework, amendment 44 and others. I support the Government in rejecting the Lords amendments—in most cases, those amendments make the Bill worse—but we need greater clarity from the Government about how the national planning policy framework and the definition of needs in any national intervention relate to what is done locally. The Minister has been a clear advocate of more devolved power, and the one power my local community would like is more power to decide how many houses we can fit in and where they could be built. That is not clear yet, and I look forward to further clarification and further documentation.

 

I am pleased that the five-year supply of land calculation has been amended, because that was causing considerable trouble. Wokingham Borough Council was more than hitting the five-year target, but we were constantly told by inspectors that we were not, because they calculated the numbers in a different, and we thought rather perverse, way. We never got any credit for greatly outperforming the average that we were meant to be building under the local plan, with all the difficulties that were being created by people living on many building sites in the local area.

  

I am keen that we get a better balance in where new housing is built not so much because of the impact that I see of too much housing being put up in a hurry in my area, but because I think that more of that investment should go to places that want levelling-up moneys and that need a better balance of development. Those places could do with a lot of the private investment that all too often comes to parts of the country that do not qualify for levelling-up money.

 

Every time I get a new housing estate in Wokingham, I have to go to a Minister and say, “We need a new primary school.” After we have had half a dozen new housing estates, as we regularly do, I have to go and say, “We need a new secondary school.” Those are big ticket items, and that is big public sector investment that has to go to a part of the country that does not need to be levelled up. More difficult is trying to get money for roads, because we have this strange idea that we can put as many housing estates as we like into a place like Wokingham and magically our existing road network will take it when people buy those houses and practically all of them have cars; well, it cannot. We then need bypasses, extra road capacity or extra train capacity. We need the utilities to put in more water and electricity capacity, otherwise we have the embarrassment that we have lovely new houses, but it is difficult to hitch them up to a grid that works. There are great pressures and huge amounts of consequential investment from the new housing that comes into a congested area of the country that does not qualify for levelling up.

 

I urge all parties to do a little more thinking about how we level up areas and to ask why it is that so many people wish to visit huge amounts of private sector housing investment in places that are levelled up, while starving the rest of the country of it, when it is often the motor of the levelling up that they seek”. My emphasis in bold.


How does this compare to the currently held view of our “wannabe” M.P. Clive Jones? A quick look at his web pages followed by a search regarding any comments on housing reveal the following insights.

“Clive is fighting over-development in Wokingham. He is working to ensure local people have the final say, so we get houses that meet the needs of local residents”.

Er, that’s it? Nothing else on housing? Where shall we go to have our “final say”?

Here? https://engage.wokingham.gov.uk/en-GB/folders/developing-a-vision-for-wokingham-borough  But sadly, there is nothing in this “consultation” about housing specifically. If you want to make a comment about the overdevelopment of the Borough, you can, but only under the catch all heading of “Any Other Comments”.

 

I suggest you can draw your own conclusions about the true ambition of the current authority in Wokingham from a few recent planning developments.

 

Or what about this as an insight as to how the Wokingham Liberal Democrat administration is working? https://engage.wokingham.gov.uk/en-GB/projects/meet-the-borough-vision-partners

 

The University of Reading, prime mover behind selling over 550 Hectares of farmland to housing developers as part of Wokingham Borough Councils Local Plan Update, for a reputed £500,000,000, are listed as “Borough Vision Partners”!  Which begs the question, what exactly is in this vision?

 

When do we, the people who suffer from the rampant overdevelopment inflicted upon us in the form of dangerous, overcrowded roads, longer doctor waiting lists, children bussed miles across the Borough to find a school place, fields disappearing, trees cut down, pollution increased, when do we get a say in all this?

 

What about the next round of National and Local Elections coming to a polling booth near you in 2024?


IMAGE: The "Avenue of Trees" at Hall Farm. This valued local heritage, specifically mentioned in the Arborfield and Newland Local Plan would be cut in half by the access road to the proposed "Loddon Valley Garden Village". Photo courtesy of David Turner.

218 views7 comments

Recent Posts

See All

7 Comments


garycowan75
garycowan75
Dec 13, 2023

The Lib Dem leader of Wokingham Borough Council and the Chief Executive have set up a cozy working group along with the Vice Chancellor and the head of Community Engagement at Reading Uni supported by 4 unnamed senior academics and 4 unnamed Council Officers.

Reading University are the main players in developing Hall Farm on the banks of Loddon River which floods to take 4500 houses over 30 years when the government only want a plan for 15 not 30 years.


Wokingham’s Lib Dem’s fully support this plan as they could just say they will abide by the govts 15 year plan but they don’t. I wonder why?

Like
Paul Stevens
Paul Stevens
Dec 14, 2023
Replying to

Perhaps when we see the revised NPPF, hopefully later next week https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2023/dec/13/michael-gove-to-ease-housebuilding-targets-for-councils-in-england Wokingham Lib Dems will be able to deliver on the "promise" they made to SOLVE Hall Farm representatives last year to remove "up to 2,000 houses from the LPU, with Hall Farm first priority as it had the greatest number of objections". Don't hold your breath, however, as this new "partnership" with the University of Reading speaks volumes about who matters most, and it ain't the voters :-(

Like

Peter Dennis
Peter Dennis
Dec 10, 2023

My take here is that John Redwood has actually started to feel the pressure being put forwards by the current Liberal Demoncrat administration on him and the government departments, and so is attempting to do something (which he has failed to do for years) (could this be due to the forthcoming General Election next year ?) I remember he was put under a lot of pressure for school financing, he turned up to a committee room debate for five minutes, asked an inane question and left. The article mentions the Aldi in Winnersh, that is interesting. There are problems with the junction that could be solved (it really is poor right now for the three busy shops that are there)…

Like
Replying to

As a Lib Dem councillor, Peter, would you like to elaborate a little more on that deep care you feel for our rural surroundings? Your ward in Winnersh would be badly affected in more than one way if the Hall Farm proposal went ahead. Are you in favour of it?

Like

Pauline Jorgensen
Pauline Jorgensen
Dec 10, 2023

I must say I completely agree with John Redwood. The Lib Dem administration at Wokingham have failed to protect the Borough from speculative housing on green field sites and now we see them and Clive Jones quietly renaging on promises they made in the last local election to get votes. I am opposed to development at Hall Farm and if elected in the General Election I will work hard as the new MP for Earley and Woodley (which includes some of the villages bordering this planned development) to ensure the Government listen to us and reduce our housing target so it meets the needs of local residents rather than attracting large numbers of people to the overheating south east.

Like

garycowan75
garycowan75
Dec 10, 2023

It certainly suggests that the Lib Dems are not to be trusted as their policy of anything to get a vote philosophy shows how little they care for Wokingham, its green fields and its residents

Like
bottom of page