The leader of Wokingham Borough Council has written to Michael Gove to fight for a shake-up of the national planning system.

In a letter to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Cllr John Halsall says Government policies ignore common sense and invite damaging speculation.

The borough has to prepare for 768 homes a year but Cllr Halsall argues that the current system does not allow for when councils have achieved high numbers in previous years. In the past five years, the borough has averaged 1,300 homes a year but those are not considered when new requirements are set.

Cllr Halsall wants national bodies to decide where homes go, abolition of the land supply test in planning applications, help for developers to provide infrastructure and incentives to make developers build their schemes once permission is granted.

In his letter he told Mr Gove: “Some aspects of national planning policy undermine residents’ confidence in the planning system, the council, and both local and national politicians.

“This should not be allowed to continue. Residents overwhelmingly feel that our housing delivery has been sufficient, which it has, but should decelerate and pause.

“The planning system must work for everyone. It must be one of common sense and must be trusted by communities to be fair and consistent.”

The existing Local Plan, which is being updated, has major developments allocated at Shinfield, the former Arborfield Garrison and North and South Wokingham, where more than 13,000 new homes are set to be built with almost £1 billion in community infrastructure, funded by developers.

The council has invested £100 million in education and £250m in roads.

Cllr Halsall said: “We’ve proposed a strategy to meet current requirements, which is the right and sensible thing to do.  Top planning barristers have advised that we have no valid grounds for challenging the figures under the existing system.

“We don’t agree with the amount of housing that’s currently imposed, and regret losing every square inch of green land to development but failing to find these sites could leave us with no plan at all – the worst possible outcome.

“Without a valid Local Plan, the Government could step in and take our planning powers over, meaning far more applications are likely to be approved and in far more locations. We could end up with the nightmare scenario of the wrong homes in the wrong places and without suitable infrastructure.

“However, we’re also doing all we can to change the system itself so it is fairer, reflects common sense and requires more realistic numbers.

“I hope that Mr Gove and his colleagues will take our concerns seriously and eagerly await a response – and I hope to welcome him to our green, beautiful and very special borough soon.”

Residents have until 5pm on January 24 to respond to the Local Plan update at

A video address by Cllr Halsall is available here.

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