After a long delay, Wokingham has now published its draft (Regulation 18) Local Plan which includes its proposals for site allocations and policies to guide development for the next 16 years to 2036.
This sets out the Council’s approach to housing, which is that they will be seeking to demonstrate ‘exceptional circumstances’ for not delivering the full extent of their housing need. This is a risky approach that is contrary to Government guidance and is likely to cause issues for the Council as the Plan progresses.
The Council has set out that their approach to growth is to continue to implement the four Strategic Development Allocations (SDLs). A limited number of new allocations are made which will deliver only 940 homes across 18 sites (new policy H2).
A ‘Garden Town’ is confirmed at Grazeley – this is a significant allocation, proposed as a new community which will eventually deliver a minimum of 10,000 new homes in Wokingham and an additional 5,000 new homes in West Berkshire. Huge investment in infrastructure is required and there remain several major issues to overcome including flooding and the proximity of AWE. The Garden Town can’t be considered genuinely deliverable at this stage, as it is dependent on a successful bid to Government for significant funding.
In terms of the Council’s approach to policy – they are seeking affordable housing on sites of 5+ dwellings, below the threshold of 10 dwellings which is set out in the NPPF.
The Plan is due to be considered by the Council’s Executive on 15 January 2020. If approved, it is scheduled for a 6 week period of consultation, which is likely to take place between 3rd February and 20th March 2020. The timetable for producing the Local Plan has also been updated and the Plan is scheduled to progress rapidly to Proposed Submission stage (the final draft Plan which the Council considers ready for Examination) between September and October 2020, with Examination following in Spring 2021 and the Plan adopted in Winter 2021. This seems an optimistic timetable given progress to date and the fact that the Council’s approach to their housing needs is likely to be controversial.
We regularly make representations to local plans on behalf of our clients and would be delighted to assist. Please our Hampshire office for more information.