The leader of Wokingham Borough Council has written to Michael Gove raising concerns planning and rule changes which could see housing development in unwanted places.

Mr Gove serves as the secretary of state for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which is the government department in charge of delivering its campaign promise to build 300,000 homes per year.

This week, Wokingham Borough Council leader John Halsall wrote a letter to Mr Gove voicing concerns about the amount of homes the council is being asked to approve, and called for a change in the way housing targets are calculated.

Cllr Halsall (Conservative, Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe) particularly expressed frustration over ‘speculative development’ where developers apply to build houses on land which has not been allocated for development with the council’s Local Plan.

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His letter reads: “National planning policy has lost sight of the big picture of housing land supply and has created an industry of speculation and unnecessary challenge.

“Too many decisions are being made based on a mathematical position at a point in time, rather than considering whether there is a real issue that needs addressing.

“Putting aside concerns about the scale of development required for the moment, the relentless appeals of speculative developments is our residents’ biggest concern.

“This has involved a substantial commitment in council resources to defend skirmishes around a few score of unplanned new homes rather than upon the vanguard containing over 10,000 managed new homes in our four major development allocations through our last plan period.

“That makes no sense and needs a levelling up of priorities.”

He later argued that instead of spending money on appeals, the council’s money would be better invested on delivering affordable housing and infrastructure like the major new roads projects.

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Elsewhere in the letter, Cllr Halsall argued that residents in Wokingham Borough feel that there has been enough housebuilding in the area.

Cllr Halsall wrote: “Residents overwhelmingly feel that our housing delivery has been sufficient, which it has, but should decelerate and pause.”

He also highlighted the large housing targets Wokingham Borough Council has been asked to approve year on year.

In 2019/20, the council was asked to approve plans for 1,555 homes. The following year, in 2020/21, it was asked to approve plans for 1,129 homes.

Cllr Halsall has pointed out that he has successfully reduced the housing target to 786 homes per year.

He went on to argue that Wokingham Borough has already overdelivered on its housing targets, and that high targets could mean more ‘speculative developments’ in areas that have not been allocated for development within the council’s Local Plan.

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Cllr Halsall wrote: “The level of building has meant that our pot of sites with outstanding planning permission has of course diminished.

“This means that without recognition of past over delivery, our land supply position is now tight, opening the door to speculative, unplanned development despite already delivering what was required.”

Finally, he called for the method of calculating how many new homes should be built in council areas to be reformed.

You can read the letter in full here.

Cllr Halsall’s appeals to Mr Gove come as the council is currently undertaking a consultation into its Local Plan update, which sets the scope of development in Wokingham Borough, which would see 3,968 homes built during the lifetime of the plan until 2038.

You can respond to the consultation on the Engage Wokingham website.

People have until 5pm on January 24 to respond to the consultation.