Wokingham Borough Council is continuing to work with Homes England and other partners on a potential garden town at Grazeley, to which government awarded Garden City Status in 2019.
The council is consulting on its draft Local Plan Update, which includes a proposed garden town as a sustainable, carbon-neutral community for the future.
It had been hoped that Grazeley would benefit from funding from the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF), but the Government announced in its Budget last week that the bulk of this funding would go to projects where demand for homes is lower and therefore more support is needed (such as in the north of the country).
Instead, the government has announced, and has directed our attention to, a new Single Housing Infrastructure Fund (SHIF) that will provide long-term support to housing development in high demand areas – such as Wokingham borough. At the same time, Homes England and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) have reiterated their commitment to work in partnership with Wokingham Borough Council on Grazeley (should it be allocated for housing in the Local Plan Update). A high-level meeting with these agencies will be held this week (w/c March 16).
Executive member for planning Cllr Wayne Smith said: “The Government’s short-term priorities have changed and they have moved investment to the north and some other areas where housing development has stalled. That’s understandable and we will adapt and move on because the fundamentals have not changed – there is a need for well-planned new communities to provide sustainable homes for the future with great infrastructure in Wokingham borough. Homes England and the MCHCLG recognise that, which is we will be meeting this week to coordinate our plans.
“There are other funding options are available to make sure that, if Grazeley does go ahead following the Local Plan Update, it does so with timely, rich infrastructure investment, sustainable principles and strong community leadership.”
Following the Budget announcement, Wokingham Borough Council is exploring funding options, such as the opportunities presented by SHIF or a potential Development Corporation. The Grazeley proposal has Garden City Status, which is a clear commitment from Government to support it and help resolve blockages to its delivery.
Whilst infrastructure dependant, Grazeley is highly viable and would be able to fund much of this cost; though forward funding continues to be given careful consideration.
Leader of the council John Halsall said: “Once again, you could argue that we have been victims of our own success – we have such a strong local economy and are such a popular place to live that the Government has again sent money elsewhere. We are used to that and will carry on.”
“Dependent on the outcome of the Local Plan Update consultation, we believe Grazeley remains robust and the best way to provide homes local people need in a way that safeguards our environmental and economic future. What we will need is the Government to be good to the commitment it made when granting Garden City Status and help us through these obstacles as the time comes.”