Wokingham Today

£50 million gap

Fears tax payers will be forced to pick up shortfall in Grazeley plan

- By PHIL CREIGHTON news@wokinghamp­aper.co.uk

COUNCIL TAX payers will NOT be asked to contribute towards the new Grazeley developmen­t if £750 million plans go ahead.

While opposition councillor­s fear there could be a £50 million shortfall, the ruling Conservati­ves has promised to The Wokingham Paper that residents will not have to put their hand in their pockets to fund the gap.

Last month, Wokingham Borough Council, in partnershi­p with Reading Borough Council and West Berkshire Council revealed that the Ministry of Housing, Communitie­s and Local Government has shortliste­d the plan to turn the beautiful countrysid­e by the M4 and A33 into a new settlement of 15,000 homes.

If approved, the councils will received £300 million towards an estimated £750 million needed to enhance the M4 junction, improve the A33, move a railway station into Grazeley and also build schools, community, sporting and health facilities.

The council said that the £450 million shortfall would be met by developer contributi­ons, known as Community Infrastruc­ture Levy (CIL).

From front page

However, there is a funding gap as the figures released by Wokingham Borough Council, backed up by a statement made at the March 22 council meeting by David Lee, executive member for Strategic Highways and Planning and deputy leader. He is currently an election candidate for the Conservati­ves in Norreys Ward.

He said that the shortfall between the £300 million government grant and the estimated £750 million cost would be “met by developers” and not the council tax payer.

But Liberal Democrats dispute that figure.

Mr Lee told the council chamber: “This authority has forced reluctant developers to accept their responsibi­lities and provide the necessary infrastruc­ture on their developmen­ts by ensuring they make the required contributi­ons, which now equate to some £38-40,000 per unit.

“Any developer on Grazeley will also contribute the infrastruc­ture required. It is called Community Infrastruc­ture Levy (CIL).”

But, as confirmed by the Conservati­ves last week on Facebook, the council’s policy for affordable housing on new developmen­ts could blow a hole in this financial planning.

The council’s Core Strategy requires all developmen­ts of five homes or 0.16 hectares or above to provide a percentage of the homes as affordable housing and is typically around 35%.

Under current housing rules, CIL is NOT charged on affordable homes.

That means that of the 15,000 homes planned for Grazeley around a third of them will not bring the council £40,000 per home.

If the 10,000 homes each brought in the £40,000 CIL payment, that comes to £400 million – when added to the Government's proposed £300 million investment, that leaves a £50 million shortfall.

Clive Jones, speaking in his capacity as Liberal Democrat parliament­ary spokespers­on, told The Wokingham Paper that he was worried and disputed Mr Lee’s claims that developers would foot all of the costs and feared that the target would be missed by an even greater sum.

“It’s 100% correct that some of the bill will land of the doorstep of Wokingham borough council tax payers,” he said.

“In the council press release it says that there will be a £450 million shortfall.

“This will just the minimum figure.

“CIL money is not payable on affordable homes, so the shortfall will be at least £60 million to £70 million, if not more.

“You can guarantee they [the council] won’t have got their sums right – they rarely do.”

Mr Jones also had concerns over the size and scope of the developmen­t across the borough.

“There are plans for 15,000 homes in Grazeley, 3,500 in be Ruscombe and 1,000 in Barkham Square. It is too many, it will double the size of the borough.

“It’s already difficult enough to travel anywhere, it will be impossible if these houses go ahead.”

But David Lee hit back at Cllr Jones’ views, saying that there were other ways to plug the £50 million shortfall.

“Life is not straight forward,” he said, critical of the suggestion that it was a straight sum involved.

“If the developers want to build on Grazeley, they will have to supply gas, electric etc. They have to supply that infrastruc­ture.

“The £50 million is easily made,” he promised, adding that the council had planned £500 million worth of capital investment­s over coming years and still had a balanced budget.

He said that if the council didn’t receive the £300 million, it would change the plans for Grazeley.

“If we don’t get it, we wouldn’t build it to that extent,” he promised.

“The cat will not be skinned by residents of Wokingham borough.

“They have not done so in the past, nor will they in the future.”

Mr Lee is up for re-election in Norreys ward on Thursday, May 3. As we went to press, the other confirmed candidate is Phil Cunnington, standing as an independen­t, nomination­s close on Friday.

Executive reports page 10 Letters page 14

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom