Left to Right: Cllrs John Halsall and John Kaiser, and Shinfield Residents at Shute End

It’s very encouraging to see WBC budgeting £630,000 to fight planning appeals, in support of residents’ objections to large-scale housing planning applications. This includes £100,000 to fight Bellway Homes Plc’s appeal against WBC’s rejection of its South of Cutbush Lane scheme. The hearing is expected next year. Further sums are expected to be set aside to fight planning appeals in the following years. To quote Borough Council Deputy Leader John Kaiser, interviewed in the Wokingham Paper of 31/10/19: “We are putting the money in the supplementary budget to enable us to fight these inappropriate and unsustainable developments using the best legal counsel we can.” This is very welcome news.

Cllr Kaiser said the council is taking this step following residents’ petitions against over-development, as well as the housing consultation responses made by nearly 50,000 Wokingham Borough residents: “It is something that the residents have asked us to do to the best of our ability,” he explained.  Indeed they have, loud and clear: 95% of the consultation responses wanted less new housing development. So all credit to WBC, if their motto now is ‘You said, we did’.

This allocation of funds follows up on Cllr John Halsall’s inaugural address as Wokingham Borough Council leader last May. As then reported in the Wokingham Paper, he annnounced a key policy of his administration would be to tackle housing numbers. He would challenge the Government to reduce the number of dwellings the borough is directed to build, starting with the residents’ consultation, then through negotiation with the Government, and if this did not succeed, by litigation. Now the Council is making good on its commitment, putting in place the resources needed if developers are to be stopped from cynically abusing the planning system to get their own way.

It’s also good to see cross-party support at Shute End for the Council’s robust stance. Cllr Lindsay Ferris, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, has emphasised that the developers have to be fought, if the character of our area is not to be changed forever. He is right: we are fighting for the quality of life in the places where we live, and we need our elected representatives to be leading the fight with us.

So let’s celebrate the fact that we now have a Council that not only says it listens to residents, it puts the resources in to support us. That’s how we’ll know it means what it says.

Article by Richard R