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Battle with Taylor Wimpey 2.0

by Prue Bray on 7 December, 2017

Some of you may remember that back in the Summer of 2013 Taylor Wimpey put in a bid to build rather a lot of houses on the land behind Maidensfield and Woodward Close in Winnersh.   We fought them off.  Well, they’re back.  And it’s time for battle to be rejoined.

About a week ago, a letter from Taylor Wimpey started landing on the door mats of people living around Maidensfield.  It gave them until tomorrow to respond to a “consultation” on their plans for a spookily similar scheme to the one they proposed 4 1/2 years ago.

So why, having been rejected once, are they trying again?  Why now?  And will they succeed this time?

It’s all about national planning policy and how it affects Wokingham Borough.

Here’s what’s supposed to happen.  Councils have to assess the long term (around 20 years) need for housing in their area, and then they have to plan where to put it.  When the council has identified where to put the housing, developers then submit planning applications.  The council makes sure the details of the applications fit what’s needed and are acceptable, and grant planning permission.  Then the developers build the houses, at a rate which keeps pace with the assessed need for each block of 5 years.

What actually happens in practice is something quite different.  The council assesses the long term need, and then has to plan where to put those houses.  In areas where there is a lot of pressure for new homes (like Wokingham, where there are jobs, near London), developers want to build more homes because they are more likely to be able to sell them and they will make more profit.  So they push for higher numbers.  They submit planning applications, which the council approves.  But the developers don’t actually build all the houses they have permission to build, for all sorts of reasons – cash flow, lower sales than expected, poor weather, competition for tradesmen, unexpected complications with a site.  And also because not building all of them opens up other opportunities for them.

The council has to keep the rate of  housing completions level with the assessed figure for what needs to be built over 5 years.  If houses are being built at a lower rate, developers argue this will mean a projected shortfall.  And to make that shortfall up, the council has to grant more planning permissions in order to get enough houses built. These arguments take place at planning appeals, and Inspectors make rulings which the council then is subject to.

In Wokingham’s case, planning permission for roughly 13,000 houses has been granted, against a figure that started off at around 856 houses a year.  So you would think 13,000 was comfortably more than 5 years’ supply.  Unfortunately, because developers have not built at that rate, the houses they haven’t built are being added on to the total, together with a contingency (which in Wokingham’s case looks like 20% at the moment) and the council are effectively forced to grant more planning permissions on less suitable sites.  This increases the required annual build rate, and thus increases the gap between what’s being built and what is required to be built.  So the next planning appeal will up the figure that needs to be built even higher.   One might almost say the fewer houses developers build, the more they get permission to build.

The council has almost no control over the build rate, yet it is the council – and residents – who are being punished.  No credit is given to the council for having granted planning permission, and no penalty is given to developers who don’t then go on and build the houses.

Finally, the government has recognised this as an issue, after councils up and down the land have been vociferously complaining.  In the Autumn Budget, Philip Hammond announced that Oliver Letwin would be looking at it, with a view to reporting in the Spring.

Taylor Wimpey have started on the process of submitted their planning application now because now is their window of opportunity.  The council is updating its plans for housing (known as the Local Plan Update: read more here ).  The land on which Taylor Wimpey wish to build is being looked at by the council, who are unlikely to just roll over and give Taylor Wimpey whatever they want.  Taylor Wimpey will therefore submit a planning application.  If it is refused (as it was before), Taylor Wimpey can appeal.  At the appeal they will do what other developers are doing, and claim that the lack of a 5 year land supply means this site has to be granted permission.  And hope they win – which they might if the Inspector takes the view that the lack of 5 yer land supply overrides the harm that the development would do.   Taylor Wimpey need to get this under way before Oliver Letwin reports, because if his conclusion is that unimplemented planning permissions should be taken into account in the future, their chance of getting planning permission will be dramatically reduced.

This “consultation” is part of the pre-planning process, and Taylor Wimpey will be hoping that people will support the idea that we need housing locally, so that they can use that to argue there is support for them to build in this specific location when they submit the planning application.  There will be a 3 week formal public consultation on the planning application when it does get submitted.

Finally, a word on the need for housing.  No-one in Wokingham is arguing that there should be no development at all.  We need houses people can afford to rent or buy.  Just to insert a political note, the Lib Dems have recently published our ideas for what should happen locally which you can read more about in our current Focus in Winnersh and around the Borough, called “Homes for Local People”.  I have some sympathy for the local Conservatives, and we are working with them on this particular issue.  However, my sympathy only extends a certain amont, as the current difficulties Wokingham Borough faces are the fault of the government which local Conservatives campaigned to elect and they continue to belong to the same political party and to support them.   So they can’t really argue it is absolutely nothing to do with them, now can they?

But back to Taylor Wimpey.  It is up to residents whether or not they wish to respond to Taylor Wimpey’s letter..  If you want to post comments, the link is:

And if you want to see the full letter, here it is:  TW – Winnersh Resident Letter finished


6 Responses

  1. Barry Fry says:

    Hi Prue

    Thank you for your continued support in all matters ‘Winnersh’.

    I live in Maidensfield, whilst it is a fantastic place to live the original design wasn’t designed for modern living standards, with many cars being parked on street. Given that Maidensfield has been highlighted as the only access to the Taylor Wimpey site, I have huge concerns over safety given the increased traffic that will be created, especially during the building phase when large vehicles will be traveling to/from the site.

    I am not opposed to some sort of development on the Maidensfield site, but would like to see more consideration given to recreational activities rather than yet another housing estate.

    As the local Councillor please can you raise the following suggestions to the council for other uses of the Maidensfield land.

    1, Winnersh Allotments – These are due to be displaced due to the building of the north distribution road. Maidensfield would be a sensible site for the relocation.

    2, Wokingham & Emmbrook Football Club – The town lost its football club many years ago, over the years sites were identified for possible relocation of the club, all were refused – now many of those sites have been redeveloped for housing & the Tesco site. Creating a small stadium at far end of the Maidensfield site would prevent disruption to residents and also provide the community with recreational facilities.

    3, Sports Pitches – In alongside the Football stadium, sports pitches could be created. This would create recreational space and maintain open space. Bowls Club, football, cricket golf driving range & athletics club are all viable options.

    There are many other possible uses for the land, but I understand that I may be looking at this with a simplistic view, given that the land is probably not owned by the council.

    Have a great Christmas


    • Prue Bray says:

      Hi Barry,
      Thanks for your comment.
      Some of the land that Taylor Wimpey have their eye on is owned by the council. You may like to know that the part between the British Legion and the motorway has already been identified for the Winnersh allotments and should be going in for planning permission shortly.

    • Dennis Goodlad says:

      Hi Barry, I agree with your sentiments. However, the land under threat isn’t owned by the Council. It is owned by a family trust. According to the Land Registry the family surname is Dent. None of them live locally. They are just trying to cash in their asset. They granted Taylor Wimpey an option over this land in 2010. Typically such an option lasts for 10 years. They had a crack at planning permission in 2013 and are doing so again now before their option expires worthless. WBC rejected the application in 2013. The Planning Inspector who ran the public examination for the MDD saw through their protestations as well. I don’t see any reason for the Council to approve the application this time round; I suspect it will be decided on appeal. If they do win at an appeal, it is of course within the gift of the Council to allow an access road between Wheatfield School and the British Legion – directly to the new Relief Road, thereby removing all the traffic from the crossroads !!

  2. lovedebenham says:

    We are facing just such a battle with Taylor Wimpey in Debenham in Suffolk. As a community we had tried to be responsible about growing and developing the village for the future. Our parish council spent five years, working with independent consultants, to create a realistic draft Neigbourhood plan (as recommended by the government) with three proposed sites for sensitive growth. A referendum on this draft Neighbourhood plan is due to be held on 16 March. In December 2017 Taylor Wimpey leafted residents with a glossy brochure showing a massive development on a completely different site, which had been already been dismissed as unsuitable because of a multitude of potentiallyadverse impacts on the village. When people received the Taylor Wimpey leaflet, with the promise of a new primary school/social care centre, they wrongly assumed that plan was already approved – so intially thought there was no point in opposing it. In fact Taylor Wimpey had spent several months in quiet discussions with our council about developing this site before they openly leafted the village.Taylor Wimpey were fully aware that the draft Neighbourhoold plan had dismissed this particular site as unsuitable but completely ignored this and put in their application in advance of our local referendum. They hope to pass their application before the vote on the Neighbourhood plan. Taylor Wimpey show complete contempt for the democratic process and the recommendations of the Neighbourhood plan. Although we have followed the governments own advice on local development this has been completely bulldozed by Taylor Wimpey, so it makes both a nonsense of government planning guidelines as well as the democratic process.

    • Prue Bray says:

      I wish you all the best with your neighbourhood plan. Any neighbourhood plan has to be in conformity with the Local Plan so hopefully the site they want is not in the Local Plan either, which will reduce their chances. It’s important to leaflet as many people as possible to get them to object to the way Taylor Wimpey are behaving, and to support your neighbourhood plan.

  3. lovedebenham says:

    Thanks Prue – we are doing what we can but frustrating because although our parish council are on the ball the local plan hasn’t been finalised which is leaving many villages extremely vulnerable to attack by predatory developers like Taylor Wimpey.

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