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Developer agreements bring millions to improve our communities

Developer agreements bring millions into communities

20 January 2023
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A graphic of a house over a photo of British banknotes and coins

A significant increase in developers' contributions towards amenities like schools, highways and public green spaces has been secured by Wokingham Borough Council.

 

The authority received £92.3 million during the 2021/22 financial year (PDF download, 8.2MB), almost three times the £32.6 million it received in 2020/21. 


The money was secured through agreements made when giving planning permission for new homes and other developments, ensuring residents benefit from additional infrastructure while reducing pressure on the public purse.

 

This is a priority as the council, which faces unprecedented financial pressures, must balance making savings while building strong communities and protecting essential services like social care. 


It is also lobbying Government for the borough to take a lower, fairer share of new homes in future.

 

Making the most of an unfair deal


Cllr Lindsay Ferris, executive member for planning and local plan, said: “We stand by our belief that the Government is forcing our communities to take far too many homes, and we'll continue our lobbying to change this.

 

“Until then, however, we have to accept the required number or we could lose our planning powers - so we’re doing all we can to make a flawed system work in our favour. By having developers build or pay for community infrastructure, we can ensure people have what they need on their doorsteps and aren’t isolated or forced to travel too far for their day-to-day needs.

 

“We will continue to work closely with developers to ensure they meet their commitments towards improving infrastructure, and new affordable homes to meet our community’s needs when they develop in our area.


Travelling with less environmental impact


In 2021/22, more than £27 million was spent on transport and highways including active travel schemes, helping the council honour its pledge to improve air quality and offer greater access to healthier and more affordable ways of getting around.

 

This includes £12.7 million towards Nine Mile Ride Extension on the Arborfield Garrison major development, which opened fully in November. The 2km road has a shared footway and cycleway, which will help residents reach local amenities without driving, and connects to routes like the traffic-free greenway to Finchampstead.

 

A further £4.6 million went towards the 5.6km North Wokingham Distributor Road, the final sections of which were finished last spring. This serves new homes being built to meet Government requirements and offers an alternative route bypassing Wokingham town centre. There are five nature parks alongside it, also funded or created by developers, with more than 2,000 new trees planted.

 

Meanwhile £5.5 million went towards the South Wokingham Distributor Road and more than £790,000 went towards the Winnersh Relief Road, which opened in 2021.

 

In addition to these road improvements, the council is focused on reducing car journeys by making it easier to walk, cycle or take public transport, which cuts congestion further and can help in reducing emissions.

 

A better place for all to live and grow up


About £14.5 million went on regenerating the Gorse Ride housing estate at Finchampstead, which will provide more than 240 high-quality, energy efficient homes. This is underway with 46 new affordable homes built at Arnett Avenue and further clearance and demolition in progress.

 

Some 323 affordable homes were provided across the borough in 2021/22, with 108 more to follow through legal agreements completed that year. Under council policy, all developments of five or more homes must include an affordable element.

 

Almost £2.5 million was spent on the new St Cecilia's Church of England Primary School in North Wokingham, which is now teaching pupils from Years 3 to 6 and will fully open when needed, along with a new community centre, due to open soon.


About £1.6 million went on moving Farley Hill Primary School to the Arborfield major development, with 240 additional places including nursery places funded by prior planning agreements.

 

Improving the quality of life for all ages


Some £2.4 million was spent on the Wokingham town centre regeneration, mostly on the new flagship Carnival Hub building which opened last July. This is home to the new Wokingham Leisure Centre alongside an improved library space and a flexible sports and performance hall.

 

The centre has swimming pools, a gym, fitness studios, a health suite, café and more, with rooftop solar panels and air source heat pumps to make it one of the country’s most energy efficient.

 

Almost £1 million was spent on an interactive play area at Cantley Park in Wokingham, which opened in March 2022, while more than £600,000 went towards greenways including a new route through nearby Woosehill Meadows. About £300,000 went towards a new community centre at Shinfield, which opened in November 2021.

 

More than £81.9 million of the 2021/22 total came through so-called Section 106 agreements, which mostly cover things like affordable housing and improvements on site. The remaining £10.4 million came from the Community Infrastructure Levy, a compulsory charge, with more than 90 per cent of all money coming from the major developments at Shinfield, Arborfield and North Wokingham.

 

The council spent a total of £65 million in 2021/2, a decrease on the previous year’s £84 million, with further funds to be invested in years to come. 

 

Residents are also urged to respond to the Government’s proposals to change national planning policy, which could require the borough to plan for fewer homes in future. Visit the Government's website for more.


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