PEOPLE must stand against plans “to inflict an avalanche of housing developments” on Wokingham.

That’s the message from councillor John Halsall, leader of Wokingham Borough Council, who believes proposed changes to the country’s planning system pose “an existential threat” to Wokingham.

“The beautiful borough, that it is my honour to serve, may soon be no more if we do not stop the government’s plans to inflict an avalanche of housing developments,” he told a full council meeting on September 17.

The government is running a consultation on a white paper, which contains long-term plans to overhaul the planning process and make it easier for developers to gain planning permission in certain areas of the country.

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But Cllr Halsall says that is a “smokescreen” for another consultation (ends October 1) on plans to make immediate changes to the current planning system, to ensure 300,000 homes can be built in England each year.

It includes plans for a new formula that determines how many homes should be built in each area of the country.

Wokingham Borough Council says this will result in more than 1,600 homes being built in Wokingham each year – that’s double the current target.

There are also plans to allow developers to build up to 40 or 50 homes without providing affordable housing and extend Permission in Principle, so house builders have a faster way of obtaining planning permission.

'Two weeks, that’s all we’ve got'

“The innocent sounding but deeply pernicious changes to the current planning system consultation ends in just two weeks,” said Cllr Halsall.

“We must be clear what’s at stake.

“In just two weeks’ time, at the stroke of Robert Jenrick’s pen, we could be condemned to face 1,635 new houses being built in the borough each year.

“That’s a town the size of Wokingham in less than a decade.

“That would come with less affordable housing because fewer developments would be required to provide it.

“There would be no appeal, no further debate. Two weeks, that’s all we’ve got.”

He said that if all these homes are built in Wokingham, it will lead to “intolerable” congestion, and schools and GP surgeries “will be stretched to bursting point”.

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He said: “We are not the Nimby’s of the government’s propaganda, we believe in building the homes people need, in providing council housing and genuinely affordable homes for all.

“We do not believe in and will never accept the imposition of a concrete swamp across our fields and villages.”

He added: “We have appealed to all residents to write to their MP and the secretary of state (for housing), sign up to the petition and respond to the consultation.

“I’m urging everybody to join me in that campaign.

“Time is running out, but hope is not lost. Please take action today.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing said: "We are overhauling the country’s outdated planning system to deliver the high-quality, sustainable homes communities need and it is right to be clear about the homes an area needs.

“Our proposals will increase the supply of land available for new homes where it is needed to address affordability pressures, and support economic growth and the renewal of our towns and cities.

“Local community involvement is at the centre of the proposals being put forward. Communities will be consulted from the very beginning when local plans are developed and, because the process will be made more accessible, they will be able to help shape plans the way they know is best for their area.”