Published on

29 January 2024

Millions secured from developers to build strong, thriving communities

Funding linked to planning permissions has helped to provide a range of amenities in Wokingham Borough without putting pressure on council finances

An aerial view of an area where new housing is being built, with large areas of green space and trees as well as parks with footpaths

More than £34.8 million in developers’ contributions towards infrastructure was raised by Wokingham Borough Council during the 2022/23 financial year.

The sum, secured through legal agreements linked to planning permissions for new housing, as well as statutory contributions, will help to fund amenities like schools, bus services, leisure facilities and more without adding to the pressure on the council’s own limited finances.

Almost £10 million was raised through the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), a charge on new development based on its type, location and size. The remaining £24.9 million came from Section 106 agreements, which cover the costs of affordable housing and other site-specific improvements.

Over the same period, more than £31 million was invested in making the borough a better place to live and work - comprising more than £8 million in CIL and £22.9 million in Section 106 money. The full report may be viewed online (PDF download, 2.1MB).

As with all councils, money received from developers can only be invested in infrastructure and not the ongoing cost of services that residents use every day, including social care, highways maintenance, waste collections and more.

The council is campaigning for a fairer deal on funding from the Government, as it is the lowest-funded unitary authority nationally. This means residents pay a higher proportion of service costs though their council tax than in other places, which the council argues is unfair.

Keeping you moving healthily and safely

Just over £8 million in CIL went towards the North Wokingham Distributor Road, which opened in 2022 to serve residents of the major development in that area and reduce traffic pressure on Wokingham town centre.

This has shared footways and cycleways to promote sustainable alternatives to driving, several developer-funded nature parks providing habitats for wildlife, and ample new trees planted along its length.

The project included significant flood relief works, including a redirection of the Emm Brook, as well as ecology work to improve water quality and protect species like newts and otters.

Like the borough's three other major developments at South Wokingham, Shinfield Parish and the former Arborfield Garrison, the new homes at North Wokingham are much needed to meet local demand and Government housing requirements.

A total of £1.8 million in CIL was passed on to the borough's towns and parishes, with more available to those which have adopted neighbourhood plans to guide development in their communities.

Places to live, learn, play and more

Meanwhile, £6.3 million in Section 106 money went towards Phase 2 of the Gorse Ride regeneration, which will provide 249 new high-quality, energy efficient homes at Finchampstead in partnership with residents and contractor Wates.

Over £4.2 million was invested in education, including St Cecilia's Primary School in North Wokingham and the Bohunt secondary school at Arborfield Green. A further £235,000 was invested in libraries, mostly in moving Twyford’s library to a new home at the former Polehampton Boys’ School.

More than £2.2 million helped toward green infrastructure like new allotment sites, including one at Twyford, and over £1.1 million was invested in leisure facilities including Carnival Hub in Wokingham town and the gym and pool at Forest School in Winnersh.

Some £1.2 million went towards completing Nine Mile Ride Extension, a major new road running through the former Arborfield Garrison with extensive provision for pedestrians and cyclists.

Several bus routes were also funded, including the Leopard 3 from Reading to Wokingham via villages south of the M4, the 19 from Reading to Woodley and Earley, and the weekly 154 from Reading to Three Mile Cross and surrounding villages.

Improving your communities sustainably

Cllr Lindsay Ferris, executive member for planning and local plan, said: "We know new housing can be an emotive issue and we continue to lobby the Government, which sets the formula for calculating housing need, to allow us to plan ahead for a sustainable level of new homes.

"However, we'll always need homes to meet local demand and to help residents to continue living in the area at different stages of their lives, particularly young people looking to find affordable housing locally, and older people looking to downsize. This, in turn, needs to be accompanied by a range of amenities and facilities.

"We're pleased to be continuing our strong track record of providing high-quality infrastructure with developer funding, which means we can improve the quality of people's lives while protecting our own finances in these extraordinarily challenging times."

This year's biggest CIL contributor was the Hogwood Farm scheme off Sheerlands Road in Finchampstead, part of the Arborfield Garrison major development. This brought in £5.57 million while the nearby Reading Football Club training ground development, off Park Lane, brought in £1.33 million.

Most Section 106 money came from development at Matthewsgreen in North Wokingham (£6 million), followed by projects in neighbouring Kentwood Farm (£5 million), at Montague Park in South Wokingham (£5 million) and at the former Arborfield Garrison (£4.8 million).

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