What is more important for the Council and Executive Members; maximising house builders’ profitability by destroying green open spaces, more flooding of the river Loddon up and down its reaches, or the existing paying and contributing local residents health and wellbeing, local agriculture production, the environment and habitat in which is being damaged and lost by these swathes of soulless new build estates? Surely all brownfield sites should be exhausted and redeveloped before green virgin land is covered in concrete. Brownfield sites have not been exhausted in the slightest.
The Government require all local authorities to create plans to manage development in their area.
There are clear benefits in refreshing our local plans. A new plan will mean our planning policies continue to be effective. Without a new plan, there will be less control over where development happens, meaning it is likely to come forward in poorly located places. It will be much harder to try and improve infrastructure alongside if development is driven by developers in an ad-hoc and dispersed pattern; this is not theory. It has happened in the past and many residents expressed their concerns to the Council about this.
A local plan must enable land to come forward to meet development needs unless there are compelling reasons why this cannot be achieved. We have engaged the leading planning barrister and a statistician on this and there are no compelling reasons we could progress.
With regards to housing, the Government introduced a standard method which calculates the housing need for each local authority. For Wokingham Borough the housing need currently calculates as 768 new homes each year.
If we progress a local plan which does enable this amount of housing, it will not pass examination, bringing all the negatives of loss of control.
Turning to the issue of previously developed land, we have sought to maximise all available and suitable sites within the proposed strategy. We review vacant land within employment areas to see whether it could be repurposed for housing and reviewed Council owned land. We have also asked Councillors to use their local knowledge to identify any land they believe was available and suitable within their areas.
These actions have allowed us to increase the number of previously developed sites within the recommended strategy. I addition we have made an allowance for development we can reasonably expect to come forward elsewhere in our towns and villages within our supply calculations.
The hard truth, however, is that there is simply not enough available previously developed land to meet the housing the Government expects. To say there is denies reality. We are therefore required to make difficult decisions.
Through previous consultation on the local plan, the most supported single approach was for development needs to be met through large scale developments, where infrastructure could be planned, funded and provided alongside.
Large scale developments are also often the best technical solution for providing new housing in ways which respond to the challenge of climate change and minimise other environmental impacts.
They offer the opportunity to design in sustainability from the outset, including measures to lessen the need to travel by private car, so reducing our carbon footprint and impact on the environment and air quality compared to dispersed development. Large developments also allow to plan for accessible green spaces, drainage management, biodiversity enhancements and renewable energy.
Lastly, I disagree with the comment about soulless housing estates. The new communities we are delivering are vibrant communities, supported by new infrastructure and, from our annual survey of new residents, receive a high level of satisfaction. This is not to say that we need to stop learning and continue to improve where we can.