ONE of the borough’s four MPs has pledged to protect the green belt, while also encouraging one of the biggest house building initiatives the country has ever seen.
Theresa May, who is the MP for Maidenhead, was visiting Wokingham’s Montague Park development on Wednesday, January 3, to meet first-time buyer Laura Paine who had taken advantage of changes to stamp duty rules announced by the Conservatives in the Autumn Budget last year.
Ahead of her visit, Mrs May said that the changes meant a stamp duty cut for 95% of all first-time buyers who pay it with no stamp duty at all for 80% of first time buyers, saving up to £5,000.
Government figures suggested that more than 16,000 first-time buyers have taken advantage of the changes so far, rising to a million within five years.
Mrs May said: “I have made it my personal mission to build the homes this country needs so we can restore the dream of home ownership for people up and down the UK.
“In the autumn we set out ambitious plans to fix the broken housing market and make sure young people have the same opportunities as their parents’ generation to own their own home.”
Controversially for Wokingham borough – which is facing demands to build around 30,000 homes over the next 20 years, in the Autumn Budget the Government announced the UK will deliver an average 300,000 additional homes each year by the mid-2020s through targeted new financial support and reforms to the planning system.
The Government said that these measures mean that the country will raise the annual housing supply by the end of the Parliament to its highest level since 1970.
Speaking to The Wokingham Paper, Mrs May said that the greenbelt would be safeguarded as much as possible, with the emphasis placed on building on areas suitable for housing.
She said: “The important thing is that we built homes but we build homes in the right place.
“I still believe it’s important to protect greenbelt – I had a meeting before Christmas with [Cllr Charlotte Haitham Taylor] the leader of Wokingham Borough Council about Wokingham borough’s proposals for building more homes, about the potential that they’ve shown for Ruscombe – but Wokingham does have other areas where it will be capable for building significant numbers of homes.
“Actually, Wokingham is a good borough in terms of building homes. We see this development here [Montague Park] and significant areas within the borough where they have ensured that we see more homes being built. We want to see the homes being built in the right place – it’s important that we protect greenbelt as far as possible.”
But opposition parties poured scorn on Mrs May’s policies saying that it’s not enough to help people get on to the housing ladder.
Cllr Andy Croy, who was Labour’s candidate for Wokingham in last year’s General Election, said: “Theresa May might want to visit the 2,000 families on the council home waiting list. The latest figures show that the list is growing by 10%. Even so-called affordable homes are not affordable to most young people.”
And Cllr Lindsay Ferris, the Liberal Democrat leader on Wokingham Borough Council, said that his party’s policy of building council housing was better.
“We need to build more council homes and I think the time has come to try it. The old fashioned approach is what’s needed: this is the time for it and it’s time councils were allowed to do it properly.
“She [Mrs May] is tinkering with something that is creaking.”