The Wokingham Conservatives have been accused of being ‘hopelessly divided’ over its Local Plan update which could see thousands of new homes being built in the area over the coming years.

The Wokingham Local Plan update was revealed last November and lays out where the borough council would like to see development take place in the next 15 years, with 3,968 homes being built in the lifetime of the plan until 2038.

The plan update is currently undergoing a consultation on the areas that have been allocated for new housing.

Now, councillor Clive Jones, the leader of the opposition at Wokingham Borough Council, has accused the ruling Conservatives of being “hopelessly divided” and stated the plan update has been an “absolute mess.”

The allegation comes following the circulation of a campaign leaflet in Shinfield featuring two Conservative councillors in the Shinfield South ward arguing that ‘enough is enough’ and giving residents 10 comments they could make in the consultation to discourage development in the area.

READ MORE: The 3,000 homes being built in Shinfield as part of Wokingham's major developments

The arguments raise concerns that the A327 road could be overloaded with new traffic and that the countryside should be protected.

Cllr Jones (Liberal Democrats, Hawkedon) said: “This letter destroys the Conservatives Local Plan.

“They’re hopelessly split. I hear other Conservative groups in the borough will issue the same sort of material, campaigning against their leadership.

“It’s their Local Plan, they’re in control and they’re making an absolute mess of it.

“If we end up without one, all of our green space will go and developers would run riot.”

Bracknell News: Clive Jones, Leader of the Opposition at Wokingham Borough Council (Liberal Democrat, Hawkedon)Clive Jones, Leader of the Opposition at Wokingham Borough Council (Liberal Democrat, Hawkedon)

A central issue is the annual housebuilding target which central Government has set for the borough, which stands at 789 homes per year.

Cllr Jones has called on the Conservatives to campaigning with the Liberal Democrats to get the numbers reduced.

Cllr Jones finished by calling on people to sign a petition on the Wokingham Liberal Democrat website urging central government to reduce the housebuilding target, which you can sign here.

In response to Cllr Jones’ allegations, Dave Edmonds, who features in the Shinfield leaflet and is the chairman of the Wokingham Conservatives said: “Nationally all the major political parties accept there is a need for more housing to meet the increase in demand.

“Everyone should be able to have a place to call home, where they can live, raise a family and be happy.

“All parties have a national policy of more housing.

“If we could get the targets down absolutely we would all do that.

“But we are limited in that position. We cannot ignore the national mandate, which is more housing is required."

Bracknell News: Dave Edmonds, Wokingham Conservative Assocation chairman. Credit: Wokingham ConservativesDave Edmonds, Wokingham Conservative Assocation chairman. Credit: Wokingham Conservatives

Mr Edmonds continued: “Different councillors represent different wards, and obviously have different opinions on which areas are best suited to take new housing.

“I don’t think councillors are actually split on this on a party basis, the split is on a ward level.

“If a councillor had concerns, they would have a duty to represent the views of the ward that they have been elected to represent.

“It’s not a party political point it’s a local issue point.

“It is all very well for Cllr Jones to throw stones and criticise Conservative councillors for doing their best to represent local residents but he has been silent on what the local Liberal Democrats would do in the same circumstance.

“The Lib Dems are, as usual, sitting on the fence and trying to face all ways at the same time by opposing housing targets locally whilst saying they are too low in their national campaigns.

“At the Wokingham Borough level, Conservative councillors believe that our Borough has already taken more than its fair share of development and we are opposed to any further inappropriate developments.”

You can read Mr Edmonds’ full response to Cllr Jones’ allegations here:

For his part, Wokingham Borough Council leader Cllr John Halsall (Conservative, Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe) added: “Unless central government relents we have to go with the Local Plan that we have got, or something similar, and we have to do that before our five-year land supply becomes critical.

“Otherwise, we will have 2,000-plus houses built by developers each year.”

READ MORE: What 4,500 home Loddon Valley 'garden village' plans involve 

The five-year land supply relates to the amount of areas allocated for development in a Local Plan.

If a local authority has enough sites allocated to fit the number of houses required of the local authority from the central government’s housing targets, it has a five-year land supply, which Wokingham Borough Council currently possesses.

If an area doesn’t have a five-year land supply, developers are more likely to win permission to build wherever possible, rather than in the defined places set out in Local Plans.

Cllr Halsall pointed out that he was able to get Wokingham Borough’s annual housebuilding targets reduced from 1,635 to 789 per year.

READ: Wokingham leader's open letter to Michael Gove about Government housing targets 

He said: “That’s a pretty considerable decrease.

“Am I going to get it down further? I don’t know, but I will try.

“Cllr Jones is asking to get the numbers down. I’ve got the numbers down.

“He’s asking us to engage with central government, we are engaging with central government.

“And it’s more likely that central government would be responsive to a Tory council than a Liberal Democrat one.”

Bracknell News: Wokingham Borough Council leader councillor John Halsall. Credit: Stewart Turkington Borough Council leader councillor John Halsall. Credit: Stewart Turkington

All three of those interviewed agreed that a Local Plan is needed to stop ‘speculative development’ where developers can apply for planning permission in areas that are not allocated for development.

You can respond to the plan update consultation here.

It closes at 5pm on January 24.