Timing of homes consultation criticised by councillors

The timing of the announcement of a consultation on housing has been criticised by an opposition councillor.

Last week, the leader of Wokingham Borough Council, Cllr Julian McGhee-Sumner (Con, Wescott), announced a consultation will be held to find out if residents want the government to reduce the number of homes that the council is required to build, with about 850 houses per year set to be delivered over the next 11 years.

There are also proposals for a 3,500 home development in Ruscombe.

Cllr McGhee-Sumner said he hopes that if 25,000 or more people show their opposition to new housing, the government will lower its quota for the council.

Opposition leader Cllr Lindsay Ferris (Lib Dem, Twyford) said that although he feels the consultation is the right thing to do, the timing of the announcement, just over a month before the council elections, is ‘obviously for political reasons’.

He said: “I am very cynical about the timing. It feels like a last throw of the dice by the ruling administration.”

Due to the disruption the consultation would have on the elections taking place on Thursday, May 2, it will be held after they take place.

An exact date is yet to be announced.

Cllr Ferris added that the Lib Dems would support the consultation after the elections.

Cllr John Jarvis (Con, Twyford) denied that the announcement was a political move. He said: “It’s not electioneering because it’s not going to start out until after the elections.”

Wokingham council is set to build thousands of homes over the next 10 years, with sites in Twyford listed as potential destinations for new homes. Cllr Jarvis hopes that the consultation could persuade the government to lower its demands down from 850 to 400 or 500 a year.

Cllr Jarvis said: “Twyford already doesn’t have any space to build homes. I am all for trying to keep it as a village.

“If anything happened to Ruscombe we would end up being one big town. This is worth trying. If nothing else, because if we don’t try we don’t know if we will succeed.”