Green light for Wokingham mini-town
July 19, 2012
Phase one of a mini-town north of Wokingham has been approved by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, overruling a borough council decision last year.
Wokingham Borough Council now has until the end of next month to decide whether it is worth launching a costly judicial review in the High Court.
The site in Warren House Lane has been approved to house a 274-home development, the start of a 1,500-home mini-town.
The north Wokingham site is one of four areas across the borough earmarked by the council to take thousands of new homes by 2026.
Developer Crest Nicholson had twice sent proposals to council planners and launched an appeal last year following the council’s failure to determine the application.
Inspector Wendy Burdon held a public inquiry in November, and consent has now been granted on appeal by the Secretary of State.
Councillor Keith Baker, executive member for highways and planning, said: “We are not overly happy with the decision. The Secretary of State’s ruling has both good and bad things in it. We are looking to see if there are grounds for a judicial review which would be very costly but there are some key principles here.”
The council previously criticised Crest Nicholson’s plans for being piecemeal and premature, failing to meet high standards of design and a lack affordable housing.
John Terry, managing director of Crest Nicholson Communities, said: “This site is of key strategic importance for the region and it is a fantastic endorsement and testament to the quality of the proposals that Crest Nicholson should be the first housebuilder to have been granted planning consent in one of the primary designated expansion areas for the growth of Wokingham.”
Kentwood Farm is split into three sites and the council has been in discussion with three developers.
Cllr Baker said: “We had been working to get a legally binding infrastructure over the whole site, since with it we wouldn’t need to work individually with the developers but together as a team to go from one end to the other. The Secretary of State does not see the need for it to be legally binding however.”
The Secretary of State’s decision letter said he “had regard to the council’s concern that, without a binding commitment there is a risk that supporting infrastructure, services and facilities across the North West Strategic Development Location (SDL) as a whole would not be properly planned and delivered on a comprehensive basis”.
He added that “given the absence of a five year land supply... the Secretary of State shares the inspector’s view that the need for a start to the development of the SDLs is a matter of considerable weight”.
The Secretary of State concluded “at the present time, Wokingham’s policies for the supply of housing are not up-to-date”.
Cllr Baker said: “We believe we had made a good argument that we would meet the supply by 2026. Because of the recession our developers are not doing as much as they want to do and so we are falling behind. We are not significantly behind though and we will catch up.”
Phase one of the mini-town will include the new homes, a community centre, primary school and recreational facilities.