By Ruth Lucas

ELECTION candidates clashed over housing as tensions heated up during a Wokingham hustings as the election campaign entered its last leg. 

Tory candidate Lucy Demery accused the Lib Dems of trying to 'avoid scrutiny' over housing at a debate at All Saints Church on Wednesday, June 26.

She said: "The Lib Dems have been quiet on it conveniently in all of their literature and the opening remarks because they’ve changed their position on this issue after winning votes in the local elections.

“They’re conveniently delaying updating the local plan or publication of it until after the general election to avoid scrutiny.”

And they continued to butt heads into the following morning when on Thursday, June 27, they appeared on BBC Berkshire’s ‘Your voice, your vote’ election special for Wokingham.

Prue Bray, deputy leader of the council, has been representing Liberal Democrat candidate Clive Jones, who was too unwell to appear in both debates this week.

She said: “we were accused by the Conservative candidate last night of having hidden the local plan from the local people before the general election, but of course, we didn’t decide when the general election would be.”

She added that as the council expected it to be in the autumn, it would have been given to the public before then.

The government changed national planning policy rules in December 2023, meaning councils across the country had to revise their plans. Councils must know the sites they will build on to provide housing for the next five years under these rules, but Wokingham Borough Council is yet to publish theirs.

In response, Ms Demery claimed: “It’s been a long time since the national planning policy framework was updated. There has been making councils across the country that have already updated their local plan”.

She said this was leading to “inappropriate development proposed for the local area”.

The Conservatives have promised to deliver 1.6 million homes in the next parliament if elected to government, having already delivered 2.5 million since 2010, according to Ms Demery.

The tory hopeful hit out at the Lib Dems again: “the council owns a lot of property in Wokingham town that’s sitting vacant”, claiming they had two floors of their offices that “could be used for homes”.

Labour’s Andy Croy, representing his party’s candidate for Wokingham Monica Hamadi, also unwell, branded this suggestion “disingenuous”. Ms Bray also hit back at the Tory, calling her claim of vacant spaces “really not true”, adding that 97 per cent of buildings in the town centre had full occupancy.