Wokingham Borough Council has submitted an expression of interest to the government’s new Accelerated Construction Programme which hopes to speed up house building nationally by making surplus public land available for residential development.
The borough council, working with Wokingham Housing Ltd, is seeking £4.75m capital funding and £250,000 for additional staffing to unlock and accelerate delivery of 191 new homes on council-owned sites across the Wokingham Borough.
These homes would be additional to the current numbers the borough council has already committed to in the Core Strategy, but would contribute to the housing number it needs to deliver through the Local Plan Update.
The sites listed across the borough in the expression of interest are included for indicative purposes and any decision to build on them would still have to go through the council’s normal planning application process and its executive. They would be a mixture of flats and houses, self-build, affordable homes, privately rented and outright sale.
Cllr Mark Ashwell, executive member for planning and regeneration, said: “I thank all concerned for reacting so quickly and producing this expression of interest in six working days from pro forma to submission.
“We were asked to provide indicative sites, some of which are currently being investigated by Wokingham Housing Limited. If successful, all sites will go through the executive and planning processes.”
Cllr David Chopping, non-executive director for Wokingham Housing Ltd, said: “We welcome the opportunity to expedite our current building programme, and to add more sites to those already under discussion. For a social developer like us the acquisition of land is the first problem, so assistance with the costs of purchase and then building has to be encouraged.
“Getting a foot on the housing ladder whether first as a tenant or home owner, is the greatest hurdle facing young couples today. Supply and demand controls both rents and purchase costs, so the faster we can build the better.”
The £2bn national programme, which is being administered by the Homes and Communities Agency, hopes to deliver up to 15,000 housing starts across the country by 2020. It is one of a number of new government initiatives trying to solve the UK’s homes deficit.
It offers a tailored package of support for councils to help them develop their surplus land holdings much faster.
It also encourages builders to use more modern building techniques, which can deliver homes twice as quickly as conventional builders. This could include building methods such as modular construction, and sites backed by the fund are likely to have a quota imposed on them to ensure a proportion of the homes delivered are done using these techniques.