The first step in the process to protect the long-term prosperity and popularity of Wokingham Borough for residents and businesses will be taken this week with the publication of a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), which has been produced in partnership with the five other Berkshire authorities and the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
The SHMA is a technical assessment of the number of homes the area will need to ensure it continues to be the UK’s economic engine room as well as a great place to live. All Local Authorities are required to produce a SHMA in order to assess the future need for housing in the local area and then to set their housing target through their Local Plan (produced through engagement with residents and co-operation with other local authorities).
Executive member for planning and highways Cllr John Kaiser said: "Wokingham Borough is a great success story – we have wonderful schools, more and more parks, play areas and nature reserves, a thriving economy and extremely low-crime rates. Businesses want to do business here and people want to live here - and those are the winning ingredients we need to maintain. The council in 2010 allocated four large Strategic Development Locations, which ‘consume their own smoke’ in terms of providing the infrastructure needed, including a substantial road programme, to ensure new housing is in sustainable locations.
"The SHMA is a dry, technical document but it is directly linked to those winning ingredients because it gives us the foundation stone on which to build our long-term plans. From the SHMA, we will be able to agree housing numbers for each authority and, from that figure, we’ll be able to plan where the homes go and what schools, roads, health facilities, parks, play areas, sports and community facilities and nature reserves are needed to maintain our high quality of life. This will be set out in the new Local Plan."
The way Wokingham Borough will accommodate its homes will be set out in a new Local Plan and there will be significant consultation and engagement with residents when this is produced.
Cllr Kaiser added: "It is vital that people realise that more homes are coming to the borough – and that they will come regardless of whether we carry out a SHMA, Local Plan or anything else. But, by producing a SHMA and then a robust Local Plan we can retain greater control over where homes go and how they are planned and to make sure we maximise benefits for existing residents – the alternative is a developers’ free-for-all where we get housing everywhere and anywhere but not the infrastructure needed.
"The SHMA is a highly technical document that objectively produces a figure for housing need, which is broadly indicative of potential housing numbers we may need to provide for. But we will want to consult and engage as widely as possible when it comes to the Local Plan."
The Strategic Housing Market Assessment can be found on the planning policy page.