To answer any public questions.
A period of 30 minutes will be allowed for members of the public to ask questions submitted under notice.
The Council welcomes questions from members of the public about the work of this committee.
Subject to meeting certain timescales, questions can relate to general issues concerned with the work of the Committee or an item which is on the Agenda for this meeting. For full details of the procedure for submitting questions please contact the Democratic Services Section on the numbers given below or go to www.wokingham.gov.uk/publicquestions
In accordance with the agreed procedure the Chairman invited members of the public to submit questions.
The following question was submitted by Pam Stubbs. An answer was provided by Councillor David Lee, Executive Member for Strategic Highways and Planning.
Tonight, there is to be yet another Local Plan Update.Why are you bothering with this when it has become increasingly obvious that landowners and developers are ignoring the Local Plan Process and are exploiting Wokingham’s inability to maintain a workable and robust five year land supply, which would protect both Towns and Parishes from being ambushed with premature planning applications? These are sites which should be reviewed within the scope of the new Local Plan.
As there are such large numbers of approved applications, which would satisfy five or even ten years of housing , why not declare all applications over three years old as “out of date” and then warn applicants of those which, in theory, should start building in the immediate future. After all, these are the developers who are holding the sites back until the housing market picks up again, whilst they are still looking for new land on which to apply. This would at least give local residents the opportunity to object on current grounds not just on historical information. Three years would seem to be a long time in planning and many issues which could influence a decision have changed quite dramatically.
In response to the first part of the question, I would totally agree with you. Some developers are clearly holding back. We have granted planning approvals for over 10,500 houses. Developers are not delivering the housing they should and then winning appeals by arguing that the Council did not have an adequate 5 Year Land Supply.
In addressing this issue the Executive, at its meeting on 27 July, will be recommended to approve the release of reserve sites and land south of Cutbush Lane to bolster the housing land supply. In effect, this will deliver a 6 Year Land Supply and will make it more risky for developers to go to appeal. We have to challenge developers on sustainability. All our Core Strategy policies are in place and they still carry substantial weight.
We are very concerned about the current situation and I would say that it is incumbent upon all of us to challenge the Government’s position which is allowing developers to ride rough-shod over Councils’ established positions. I would urge all Members of the Borough, Town and Parish Councils to write to the Government on this issue.
In response to the second part of the question, I would suggest that we are strengthening our reasons to refuse as part of the Local Plan Update. We need to address the situation whereby Planning Inspectors recognise our 5 Year Land Supply but then go on to say that the National Planning Policy Framework states that there is a presumption in favour of sustainable development. The major sustainability issue we face is the impact of traffic congestion. It is possible to identify sites for new schools and leisure facilities but more challenging to build new roads within some of our existing communities. These are the issues which our Planning Officers and the Planning Committee need to focus on.
Finally, I am happy to meet with any of the Town and Parish Councils to explain the Borough Council’s approach to these issues.