THE LEADER of Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) has slammed the government’s planning shake-up as ‘outrageous’ and ‘disgusting’.

John Halsall has sparked fears the radical reforms — announced last week by housing secretary Robert Jenrick — will mean the number of houses which have to be built in the borough every year will double.

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He said: “We’re outraged and disgusted at these government proposals which would see the amount of new housing more than double across the Wokingham Borough to 1,635 per year.

“This is completely and utterly unacceptable.

Reading Chronicle:

“Not only is our current annual figure of 789 far too high but Wokingham in the last 20 years has taken on more than its fair share of new houses.

“This isn’t just us as a council questioning this level imposed by central government, 95 per cent of our residents told us in a far-reaching survey last year they’re also against future developments.”

The planning overhaul will designate land into three categories — growth, renewal and protection.

Government officials are hoping the laws will speed up housebuilding in both ‘growth’ and ‘renewal’ areas.

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But councillor Halsall — who has frequently spoken out against government housebuilding demands on Wokingham borough — criticised the reforms.

He added: “The perverse and bizarre methodology used to calculate the new housing rates in the White Paper are penalising those authorities like us which have already been delivering high numbers of new housing.

“It assumes we can continue in this way. We cannot. Our infrastructure and communities cannot and should not bear this burden.

“For the past two years, we’ve been campaigning to Ministers to see sense.

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“As they haven’t, we’ll continue the fight and do everything in our power so our residents don’t suffer from these crippling targets.”

But Labour councillor Carl Doran hit back at cllr Halsall, claiming the council would not be in a ‘mess’ if it had ‘listened’ to those ‘screaming’ about a need for more affordable housing.

He said: “Conservative Leader John Halsall’s comments on proposed Conservative Government planning reforms are utterly confused.

“Crucially, when you look closely at why these Conservative planning reforms are forcing the amount of extra housing to double in Wokingham, it is precisely because of our lack of affordable housing.

“In the Prime Minister’s own words: ‘We have nowhere near enough homes in the right places. People cannot afford to move to where their talents can be matched with opportunity’.

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“The white paper assumes that any area with affordability problems clearly hasn’t built enough homes.

“If WBC had listened to those of us screaming about affordable housing and provided a satisfactory level of it over the last ten years, we might not be in this mess.

“So, to John and his Conservative colleagues, I would say this:

“There’s a point when any political activist, politician, Councillor or MP who genuinely has principles and the honour to uphold them, says “this far and no more” to their own political party.

“So, no more pointless talk of public indecency in Whitehall please, let’s hear about how you are seriously going to send a message to your party.

“Either you’re with the Conservative party’s act of sabotage on our democracy or you’re with the people of this borough.

“Time to choose.

“If you don’t remove yourselves from representing the anti-democratic Conservatives, the electorate will have to do the job for you.”