Regarding Item 89.9: A number of residents are concerned that this development will not yield a developer contribution in the form of Affordable Houses to the Borough due to the viability of the scheme. Would the Executive Member please explain why this is and confirm whether or not the financial viability of this scheme will be examined by an independent expert?
As you know this Council is committed to the provision of affordable housing within Wokingham and has been investing significantly in providing new affordable homes across the Borough; such as the £12m new development at Phoenix Avenue, which is providing 62 units of affordable housing and other such schemes that are coming forward.
I am here though tonight representing the Council in their role as a developer and can only comment from this perspective.
In our role as developer we are treated by the Council in the same manner as any private developer would be and undergo the same rigorous review and assessment as other major development schemes across the Borough which will be part of the consideration of the Planning Committee.
Wokingham desperately needs regenerating, with a need for a better mix and variety of shops and better leisure facilities. It also needs far better quality public spaces which can be used to help differentiate Wokingham; with things like bigger markets and community events.
All of this is being paid for and delivered as part of the regeneration project.
Over and above the £5m we will be paying towards infrastructure improvements through CIL, SANG and replacement of the tennis courts. We are also investing millions in elements which don’t necessarily contribute monetarily towards the scheme but give so much back to the local community. This is an investment at a scale far above that which a normal developer would ever consider as part of a private scheme.
That’s things like millions being spent to move the existing road so that: the open space can be connected to the pedestrianised spaces; adding resilience to the local road network; creating new public spaces for events and socialising; improving the park; installing services such as water and power to help improve local events; and creating a bigger and better play area.
We are convinced our proposals offer the right balance of development for the site and for the town centre in order to deliver a viable and successful regeneration for Wokingham which will support residents and attract people to the town for years to come.
I think there are a lot of concerns about the whole viability side and while I don’t think it is appropriate that the viability study is made public I think the conclusions of the Independent Examiner should be, and I believe they will be in the Officer’s report. The Town Council, which is very involved with this would appreciate, I think, if they could have a copy of the conclusion when it is available so they can alleviate any fears that residents may have?
Supplementary Answer provided by Keith Baker
Yes, basically we will make sure that you have got a copy of that.
To clarify the significance of the answer from us relating to being a developer. The Executive does not govern any of the decisions of the Planning Committee which is an independent and quasi-judicial body which will consider every aspect of the application independently of this Executive and on its merits.