New council leader Clive Jones has secured an urgent meeting with Wokingham MP Sir John Redwood to call on him to back a reduced housing target for the borough and a better planning system for communities.
The council’s new leadership is determined to get central government to reduce the number of houses it is currently forcing on the borough (the latest target being imposed in 781houses per year). It is also calling for a new planning system that would allow communities to create better places to live.
Cllr Jones has written to all local MPs asking for their support. He said: “We made a commitment to campaign against the ludicrously high number of houses being foisted on the borough – and one of our first actions is to make good on that promise. I am delighted Sir John Redwood has agreed to meet me and I hope I can persuade him to back our call for a realistic target.
“MPs are crucial to this issue, and I want to create a united front with Sir John, Theresa May, Matt Rodda and James Sunderland. That would be a cross-party team acting in the clear interests of our residents and a strong voice to the government.”
A letter to Michael Gove
The meeting with Sir John Redwood came about after local MPs were copied into a letter Cllr Jones sent to Michael Gove, the minister responsible for the planning system, calling for a meeting with him on the issue. The letter stated: ‘National planning policy has lost sight of any positive plan for how development should be managed on a national scale. In the case of housing, housing need is calculated through a simple mathematical formula. These formulae are applied without any sense check or any consideration of constraints or opportunities.
‘The government must step away from a mathematical approach and instead set out a positive strategy for development, one which purposely aligns housing with economic aspirations such as levelling up and is fair and achievable for all places. It should recognise that places that have been asked to accommodate more development in the past cannot simply continue and that another solution is required. The ask of Wokingham Borough and our residents must be lowered to a fair scale.’
The letter also pointed out that Wokingham Borough’s population has increased by more than 20% since 2001 (58,000 homes to 71,000).
An argument for change
Cllr Jones added: “Ultimately, it is Michael Gove who we need to convince; he has responsibility for the current housing target imposed on us and he has the power to listen to local views and change the system. Our case is overwhelming and there are so many strong arguments in our favour including:
- The number of houses we’ve taken already
- The clear local opposition to such high targets
- The environmental damage so many more would bring
- The impact on our already over-stretched doctors, schools and roads
- The need to level-up the country by developing away from the south-east
“And to be clear, we are not saying no more new homes are needed. We need places people can afford to live; social and affordable housing and a reasonable amount of other well-planned development. What we really don’t need is another round of mass development forced on us by central government.”
Cllr Jones will meet Sir John Redwood tomorrow and has written again to the borough’s other MPs to set up similar meetings.
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