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People, places, and plans.

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, has been out and about on the media circuit today. It comes as Rishi Sunak insists his party will meet its commitment to building a million homes before the next election, expected in 2024.

Listening to him on the Radio this morning it was hard not to agree with him on at least some of his points. “Build in cities, not in the countryside”. Absolutely spot on, Mr Gove. “Thoughtful master planning required”. Yes please, Mr Gove. “An appropriate design code used to ensure this new development was beautiful as well as effective”. By Jove Mr Gove, what a great idea! “New developments as well thought out as Haussmann’s Paris or Gaudi’s Barcelona” Who could possibly disagree?

Well, some Conservative back benchers possibly, or even some housing specialists (The Local Government Association has warned that offices, shops and barns are not always suitable for housing, and could result in the creation of poor quality homes) but the prime minister, clearly focussed on winning back disenchanted Conservative voters in the Shires said his government would not be "concreting over the countryside" adding: "Our plan is to build the right homes where there is the most need and where there is local support, in the heart of Britain's great cities."

But is this just the latest spin on the great house building debate? A cunning plan to propose building in Labours back yard, not in the Tories back yard? What would Labour do differently if they were in power? Build on Green Belt possibly?

Twyford is in the Green Belt but has also been identified as a possible site for housing development and has better transport links than Hall Farm. With the changes proposed by Labour would this be a viable possibility?

The Labour leader told the BBC he was prepared to take "tough decisions" and "back the builders, not the blockers". However, he also pledged to restore local housing targets, which are being watered down after calls from Tory MPs. This sits very much at odds with our Liberal Democrat administration here in Wokingham. It believes the current system, in which councils must calculate future need based on a mathematical formula, doesn't take individual circumstances into account.

“While lobbying for reform, the council continues to move its own local plan forward to ensure the borough remains protected from unwanted, speculative development in less suitable areas.

Its decision-making executive will discuss a revised timetable to update the plan this summer, with the aim of consulting on the next stages later this year”.

SOLVE Hall Farm representatives met with Lindsay Ferris last April to discuss the Local Plan and housing targets and were assured that if National housing targets are reduced local numbers could also be reduced. We were also assured that as Hall Farm had the greatest number of objections it would be the first major site to benefit and could be reduced by as much as 2,000 houses.

On Thursday 18th July in response to a question from Jim Frewin Cllr Ferris seemed to suggest we could expect to see an Updated Local Plan as soon as this autumn. How fortuitous then that the Government have seen fit to release today, a consultation on a new plan for Local Plans. A lot to digest in this last document, and it has literally just landed in my in-box, but expect to hear more soon.

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Judith Stevens
Judith Stevens
Sep 14, 2023

Is there hope in Tory hell ?🙂

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