It is clear that residents want the necessary infrastructure in place earlier rather than later. You have miserably failed to get the infrastructure in place before the houses are occupied under your current Local Plan. What can you point to in this new document that will get the infrastructure in place next time?
Funding for infrastructure in the UK is paid to Councils after the commencement of development, whether this is via S106 or CIL. It is therefore remarkable that Wokingham Borough Council has forward funded and delivered much of the 2010 Core Strategy local plan (which runs to 2026) £574m worth of infrastructure programme as early as it has been brought forward and it has been delivered directly. Not only is this a programme of massive scale, it has also been incredibly successful in transforming the capability of the Council so that it is recognised externally as a delivery authority. This status was recognised in 2016 by a Peer Review where the final report said:
“Wokingham is the Department of Communities and Local Government’s ‘go to’ example of successful delivery of strategic housing development accompanied by the infrastructure to create sustainable communities. This is far from the norm. WBC has demonstrated a strong vision in this area of activity, coupled with leadership and commitment to achieving that vision, and quite rightly the Officers and members of the Council are proud of what has been achieved to date and what is in train.”
Clearly, we would like always to have done more sooner, however I expect the current Peer Review to have similar findings because the Council’s performance on infrastructure delivery is spectacular on a national scale, and it is regrettable that this is still not more widely understood particularly within Wokingham itself. The highlights of our programme are
£250m of Highway initiatives: -
· The Eastern Shinfield Relief Road, completed early.
· The Northern Distributor almost complete and the Coppid Beech section is due after 2026.
· Arborfield Cross Relief Road, completed early.
· The Nine Mile Ride Extension, half complete and the other in hand.
· The Station Link Road, early.
· Mereoak Park and Ride complete.
· Thames Valley Park and Ride complete.
· Winnersh Park and Ride in design.
· Barkham Bridge widening.
£226m of Community, Sports and Leisure initiatives:
· 110Ha of new publicly accessible greenspace, country parks and play areas completed and an extra 130Ha to come.
· 20 Miles of greenways, now many KM completed and many more KM in design.
· 12.5Ha comprising around 400 new community allotments.
· California Country Destination play area completed.
· Dinton Activity Centre completed.
· Cantley Destination Play Area in design.
· Finchampstead Designation Play Area.
· Sports hub at Ryeish Green completed.
· Sports hub at Arborfield completed.
· Sports Hub at Grays Farm in design.
· Bulmershe Leisure Centre rebuild completed.
· Five Community Centres at Shinfield, Matthews Green, South Wokingham, Arborfield and Montague Park.
£98m of Schools initiatives; one Secondary and seven Primary:
· Arborfield Secondary, early.
· Montague Park Primary, early.
· Shinfield West, early.
· North Arborfield Primary early.
· Matthews Green Primary under construction.
· Three primary schools to come at Spencer’s Wood, South Wokingham and South Arborfield when they are needed.
The route to success has been the delivery capability of Wokingham Borough Council have combined with one of the highest CIL rates in the UK, as well as strategic planning which is fit for purpose. We have no intention of changing this formula in the new plan other than to build on the existing policy, capability and continue with our delivery successes.
To fight the climate crisis, we need full local services including doctors and schools, local employment and good public transport links, as well as cycle routes. How does what you are proposing provide any of these things?
I think it is very clear Rachel. I read your statement where it says that we are not providing infrastructure and we have failed miserably. From what I have just read out we are not failing miserably, and all of those items will be taken into consideration as we move forward with this Plan and all the work that Gregor is doing on the climate emergency.
The Leader of Council responded:
We have no capability of increasing the number of medical centres or GPs. It is not within our hands. We are trying to get them to do better but that is all we can do.