Thursday, 12 September 2013

Is our share of £1.3 billion worth of planning profit Wokingham Borough Councils SDLs subsidising the Tories?

When I first discovered that we had SDL's (strategic development locations) that involved developing on green belt I was disappointed, but then again all three big parties are burying their heads in the environmental sand and printing another year of artificial GDP in the form of land use change, from land that regenerates to land that consumes.

Unlike the Town Centers mostly housing development, the council has decided to be more active at a consultation level, possibly as a result of the bad rap they are getting from previous Tory voters for cashing in on every patch of the 'Historic Market Town's' open spaces, lack of school spaces and increased congestion and pollution.

Possibly because....

Wokingham Borough Council January 2012 ITEM NO: 61.00 TITLE Audit Commission Annual Plan 2011/12 

"Has concluded that there is Risks with the mismanagement and potential  misreporting by the use of council owned companies."
"The town centre redevelopment is being funded by the Council at a time of economic uncertainty. There is a risk that failure to deliver the anticipated returns will have an impact on your financial resilience"

"At present the progress of the Transformation Programme does not take place in a public meeting. There is a risk that existing reporting lines do not enable effective scrutiny of progress by members outside of executive and other interested stakeholders."

Fairly damning. 

Then in July Tory Cllr Alistair Corrie signed off the £100m contract penned by Tory Cllr Matt Deegan the morning before publishing the plan which is now spun as 'Too Late' to change.

I managed to find a member of the public who was involved in the consultation who unfortunately wishes not to be named. They did however state that is was not a consultation. They were there to be shoe horned into an option. This is why the progress needed to be public.

Why did the National Audit Office think that the process enabled certain individuals to abuse their situation?

The Report

Then the finance and ownership details of the £100m contract are blocked from freedom of information.

Anyway. Back on topic. In 2010 we adopted a core strategy that selected strategic development locations around the borough. There is a lot of profit to be made in changing the use of land. 

What is a 1 acre field worth? £100k (although it is worth a lot less, just inflated because of the potential to get planning permission.

How much does it cost to build ten 3 bedroom houses plus the road for them using even local labor  £110k each?. 

How much will they sell for in Wokingham. £280k+

£160k per house - 35% affordable housing - £20k infrastructure / dwelling (apparently recently up from £8k) = £84k / dwelling profit.

It would appear mad that we as a council did not compulsory purchase the land, interest rates are very low at the moment, commission a good design, then sell the plots, with planning permission to developers, who would profit from the build. Perhaps £20k per dwelling. Not four times that figure for the developer and family trust fund.

The incentive for corruption is very real so what rang my alarm bells? When I asked to film the first Southern SDL meeting and was immediately given permission my concerns were put at ease.

However, at the last minute, permission was revoked. The argument being that some people might not participate because the presentation was being filmed.

This spurned a fairly heated debate in which a certain Tory Cllr Baker lied on getwokingham that...

 "Full marks to Kaz for only telling part of the story. He has been told that we have every intention of filming all the SDL Forums and have even suggested he could "pitch" for the business. Unfortunately we simply did not have the time to organise it and we did had some indication of people not being comfortable with this. 

Two weeks is simply not time enough to get the Churchs permission and to alert all attendees that we would be filming. Whatever we do we cannot put barriers in place which stops resident participation. So this has to be handled carefully.
Cllr Keith Baker
12/02/2013 at 19:32 Offensive or Inappropriate? 
With the above in play I had not only lost all faith, but it became, in my mind, a likely hood that something underhand was going on, that we can not trust what is said and that what is said must be documented so at least if the public are getting ripped of to the tune of £65k per dwelling, it will have to be done using financial wizardry that is open to scrutiny by people outside their control.

Since we as collective idiots voted for them I guess we have ourselves to blame.

Please look at as a possible solution (if there is indeed a problem) join the facebook group and get involved.

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