Wokingham Borough Council is stepping up its campaign for a change in the way that new housing is planned - and a cut in the number of new homes which the Government is forcing it to take.
The new leader of the council, Cllr Clive Jones, is to meet Bracknell MP James Sunderland today (Friday, 17 June) to try to enlist his help to ensure residents’ voices are heard in Westminster.
Cllr Jones’ meeting is part of his ongoing drive to build local support for proposals to improve the planning system so that the borough takes a fairer share in future.
He is also calling for a meeting with Michael Gove MP, who is responsible for that system as housing minister, to discuss the issue in more detail.
Cllr Jones said: "What we really need is a meeting with Michael Gove so we can explain the real problems that the Government’s policies are causing in places such as Wokingham borough.
"It is obvious to everybody living here that we don’t need massive commercial housing development that blights our countryside, clogs our roads and overloads our schools and doctors’ surgeries.
"We do need some new homes, but these need to be genuinely affordable social housing. We also need a planning system that works in the interests of local communities, not the interest of the development industry."
'A strong voice for our residents'
The council is determined to persuade the Government to reduce the number of houses it is currently imposing on the borough which, under the current system, is 781 per year. It is also calling for new planning rules that would give communities more powers to create better places to live.
Cllr Jones has written to all local MPs asking them to back his calls for a meeting with Mr Gove, and points out that the borough’s population has increased by more than 20 per cent since 2001 (58,000 homes to 71,000).
He has also held a meeting on the subject with Wokingham MP Sir John Redwood, after which Sir John raised the matter in the House of Commons, and has a meeting scheduled with Theresa May MP, whose Maidenhead constituency covers parts of Wokingham borough.
Cllr Jones said: "We are determined to act as a strong voice for our residents and when it comes to planning, that voice needs to be heard by Michael Gove - which is why we are seeking a meeting with him. We want to be constructive and work on a better way to build communities that is not based on arbitrary targets."
The council's key points include:
- The number of houses the borough has taken already
- The clear local opposition to high housing targets
- The environmental damage that a substantial increase would bring
- The additional impact on our overstretched doctors, schools and roads
- The need to level up the country by developing away from the South East
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