The new leader of Wokingham Borough Council has backed his predecessor’s lobbying of the Government to reduce housing numbers in the borough.
Cllr Stephen Conway, who took over the role from his LibDem colleague Cllr Clive Jones in May, says he will maintain his predecessor’s efforts to make the council’s position to fight for reduced numbers for the borough, heard in Government.
Cllr Conway has called for planning reform and a system that accounts for individual circumstances and says he will maintain pressure for a better deal.
The council has argued that this year’s Government consultation on proposed changes to the system are a step in the right direction but it wants more extensive reforms and has support from MPs Sir John Redwood (Wokingham), Theresa May (Maidenhead) and James Sunderland (Bracknell).
Cllr Conway said: “We have to plan for the future but the current system is based on past trends continuing – so if housing delivery has been high in the past, it’s assumed it ought to remain high in the future.
“This effectively perpetuates existing trends and doesn’t stop to consider the local picture, or how and where new homes and other development should truly be directed.
“On top of that, if more housing is built than required, under the current national rules we’re not allowed to take this over delivery into account in calculating our future supply.
“We urgently need a fundamental, commonsense overhaul of the planning system that looks at the national picture, considering housing requirements alongside other top-level strategies like those for levelling up, economic growth and infrastructure investment.”
Under the current formula, the council must plan for an assumed need of 795 new homes a year but WBC argues that 1,727 homes were built above its planned requirement between 2006 and 2022 which are not accounted for in the numbers it has to reach.
Cllr Lindsay Ferris, executive member for planning and local plan, said: “As it stands, we’re being unfairly penalised for having proactively planned for new homes, which have then been built by developers ahead of time.
“By not accounting for this, national planning policy is damaging people’s faith in the planning system as it allows developers to use the system to build more homes than was previously agreed.
“If it took a more holistic approach, it would allocate more housing to areas that genuinely need the economic opportunities it brings. This is clearly a far better way to achieve the levelling-up the Government is seeking.”
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