Monday, 30 July 2012

How much of a premium should developers contribute in Wokingham

You all know am a bit obsessed with corruption.

It may seem like I accusing people at every turn. In fact I am simply making it clear that I feel all honest representatives must accept that they should be open enough so that the corruptable stand out as different. Claiming insult if your integrity is questioned proves nothing.

Fact. Property in Wokingham is high value and in demand. Planning permission on a plot suitable for 20 two bedroom flats is literally worth millions.

But who should those millions go to? A developer or the community?

There are two main ways that the developer is made to give some of those millions back.

1. Section 106 contributions where they fund other works.

2. Affordable housing. Where a proportion of the property is intended to be be sold to the districts registered provider of affordable housing.

It would seem a lot of people are under the impressions that the 'affordable housing' is simply handed over by the developer for free.

With some developers expected to provide 40% affordable housing this would take the lion share of the profit out of a typical development.

But I have yet to find information where the example above is the way things are and have found plenty of examples where the 'affordable homes' are just purchased at something near cost. e.g. 60%.

So if they are paid 60% of the value of the property or rather it's 'cost' then what has the developer contributed to the economy? There was a time when the government had it's own house building teams and the person in charge of the project earning perhaps 10x that of the lowest worker.

I believe planning permission should be sold for it's value and that it is currently sold so cheaply that the profit from just getting planning permission is a vast incentive for lobbying. And when an official has the ability to award vast amounts of money for doing little then the corruptible are drawn to politics and we must differentiate them.

To avoid this a system should be in place that leaves the profit to the developer managing the development well.

The sums are simple.

What the value of the land would be to someone wishing to self build... minus

what the land cost the developer = value of planning permission. (to go to the community)

This should be the figure that the section 106 plus the affordable housing 'cost to the developer' should add up to.

To do this we must know what the affordable housing cost to the developer is. And it is not the end value of the properties sold at 60% which is the kind of impression even decisions makers have at the moment.

It is the 'build cost' minus what we pay them and also minus the proportional original cost of the land.

The next thing to look at is who is the 'Registered Provider' of social housing in Wokingham?

They are able to purchase property at perhaps 60% of the value, sell a percentage of that to a young buyer (perhaps 50%) then rent the rest to them at a competitive rate. 1 and 2%.

I am all for this by the way. I see few other solutions while we work to get salaries up to where property values are and keep property values static though stricter lending and making being a landlord less profitable.

But these Registered providers are sometimes private businesses with chief executives who pay themselves  in excess of 200k

This needs looking into. I would have thought the borough owning the affordable housing stakes would be a fairer system. Yes get a private company to manage the portfolio. But selling properties at 60% of value to a private company with an insensitive of personal wealth will again result in a large incentive for 'lobbying'.

Remember. Before you vote for someone tell them what you want them to do. And make them commit to standing down if they don't follow through.

I've had enough of Tory campaign leaflets saying they will be 'Careful about new developments'. We have been shown it's more marketing than an ideology.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Wokingham over development?

The majority of us, aware only that something was being proposed via hear say, finally had our chance to look at the plans today. From what I can gather  Alistair Corrie signed off a £100 million deal this morning before the over busy of Wokingham had a chance to to view it on-line in what little spare time we have.

I can not believe this is legal? (update we have not agreed to a £100m deal we have agreed to pay Wilson Bowden an unknown sum to properly look into it)

We don't get a simplified breakdown as to what the £100 million means. Who pays who what, who owns what at the end of it? When tweeting @wokinghamBC for a copy of the contract the fist response was 'what contract' when I made it very clear there was no reply.

In the mean time. Since the information is finally available I have made a couple of images so that you can see the visual plan for #wokyregen.

Before (download full size)

After (download full size)

You may note that the Children's play area is about half the size of a tennis court.

Parking I assume one space per dwelling? (update. They said there are two. I pointed out there was not two in the design and not space to add. I guess it may be there could be a second space in the underground car park)

Schools STILL NO NEWS! Doing a rough sum. About 1child in primary school per 8 dwellings that's 18 more children (not including the extra dwellings on the Cricket Ground, Molly Millars, Blagrove Lane, the Guide Dogs for the Blind site and the closure of White House School all set to affect local demand.

Really rough sums lets call that 60 'more' primary school spaces needed, squeeze them in and maximize profit or quality of life? Well profit is quality of life when your salary is related to savings.

But it's not all bad. You have to look at all this as part of the big picture. I'm not sure why something as user friendly as this picture has not been on the front page of getwokingham or a prominent link on the site, since it is possibly the most significant thing going on. Ok, I added flood plains.

Anyway. Here is the bigger picture as far as I have gathered. Now off to play with my kids.

Is it ironic that I have to neglect them now to fight for their future living in a country that can sustain itself? (download full size)

Monday, 9 July 2012

#woky developments


Molly Millars Lane flats

Cricket Field Wokingham town centre.


43 houses in Blagrove Lane, Wokingham, including 26 3/4 bed homes - application 2012/0467 currently under review by WBC.

Latest plans for Guide Dog for the Blind site, Blagrove Lane, 130 houses and flats including 3/4/5 bed homes. Good place for a school?

Chestnuts in Chestnut Avenue  32 Additional houses (two demolished)  houses is due to be approved. Charles Church Developments Ltd

White House School probably not going to be school. Watch this space?

Elms Field.

Main issues

Schools within walking distance over subscribed and congestion considered poor, Wokingham loosing Market Town feeling that made it popular in the first place.

That's all?

This is not including the 5000 properties planned in farms to the north and south and which include their own infrastructure. Fields / Stables off Luckley Road apparently compulsory purchase order used.

Do we call Foresters Care home cramming. That’s not in my community but my local vote gives the power to the few who decide.

You missed something!

Please advise me of wrong information and give more detail.

Please also let me know of missing ones.

The wokingham planning portal online is unusable. Just a single image of the area with developments areas marked with dwelling number being proposed will give locals an educated insight.

#woky. Historic Market Town. Best place to live... 2007

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Elms Field Development

Finally we are going to be able to see what the Wilson Bowdens Developments of Barratt Developments and penned that will suit our needs and be worth their while in the sale of property.

I can see the business attraction. Land in Wokingham is expensive, properties sell quickly for good money. Build costs are flat so if you want to make good money, with the same build cost you can sell a property for twice as much in Wokingham as perhaps one hours drive away.

Building a new community is simply not as profitable as tacking it onto an existing one.

The new 2 bed flats in Molly Millars are up for £180k. I don't know the build cost but I'm going to guess at three flats cost about 250k.

That is quite a profit. More than 100% if the land is free, which it is not. Far from it. Land with planning permission is very expensive here. The normally developer trick is to buy a farm, turn it into a dump and stir the locals up to insist it is developed on.

You may hear the terms section 106 batted around. This is the contribution that a developer pays to the council to agree to permit the proposal.

I have heard section 106 figures batted around typically per dwelling. 7k, 16k, 28k. This would need to be looked at in conjunction with what the developers are going to be selling, flats, supermarket, shops and we should have to factor a bit for the contributory works. We all heard the £3m for landscaping what will be left of Elms field. I'd personally expect to pay one 10th of that and can recommend some locals to do it.

Elms Field is a funny one because it belongs to the council, or rather us. So selling it and allowing development should demand a very high section 106 per dwelling.

The properties will be very close to the town centre and train station. I would perhaps like to see a retrospective one on sale price. 30% perhaps. Alternatively every third home should be transferred cost free to the council for affordable housing.

Do not confuse affordable housing with developer contributions. They must simply be build to conform to the affordable homes standards and sold specifically to us or housing associations for affordable housing use. It would almost seem that affordable housing is a guaranteed sale for the developers.

Our Historic Market Town has been bombarded with developments over the last 20 years. It's pretty safe to say that it in no-way resembles a Market town any more. It seems everyone has a story or compulsory purchases of farms for too little and a developer making money. So I am very wary of us giving up another bit of green space in the heart of our town.

I wish the council would come up with a critical mass point. But I suspect Wokingham will just become another medium town centre, surrounded by houses with box rooms and no parking with plenty of passing trade. No longer the town for the locals. Another vibrant hub that lost its soul. Never to appear on a 'Best place to live' list again.

Should we wish to live in a town like Wokingham is we would eventually have to move. Eventually the developers, literally unable to cram in any more pretty from the outside box room no parking small garden homes, will also leave Wokingham and look for a quaint community elsewhere that has been noted. 

I accept that the towns 1960 retail buildings are hideous. I would have liked us to face lift them using our own mini economy gradually and sustainably using local trade paid a living wage . We have reached a saturation point and gone beyond it. We can not sell, drink and eat our way out of the incestuous bankers and politicians bust. Our expansion will help best if the local trade were doing the job gradually. Not a rapid growth sale and cram with work carried out by cheap labour from abroad. The congestion and school places problems not even assessable from Molly Millars and the cricket field developments.

The jury is still out. My fears may not be realised.

The website is here

The planning consultation document is interesting. The concerns about the reduction in Elms Field is not answered, congestion not even an attempt, sound like they are going for a, well we will build everything and if there is a problem (which there will be) we will fix it (which is impossible and compounded), we know schools is a big problem and we don't want those crammed either. The ones close to the people south west of the town now unable to supply their local needs. There is also the problem that south east water is unable to cope each summer.

Please do pay them a visit on Friday 13th and Saturday 14th and ask them the real questions. Minimum room sizes. Parking spaces per dwelling. Section 106, how the new shops will be owned / paid for. What school will the children go to, if so what school will the children further out now have to drive to and though what additional congestion. Is south east water increasing their capacity to cop with the 6000 + homes already o the cards in our surrounding farms? Always make sure that the solutions are going to be in place before they are problems.

Wokingham is a very old town. The original layout was never designed to support the level of through traffic we have now have . And the more you build the worse the impact of infrastructure works will be.

Selling assets to spend. Invisible borrowing.

Selling assets is a great way for a government or council to carry on as usual but generate less debt in the process. Short term that is.

Long term they are selling their raining day supply and, even worse, committing future governments to additional spending.

This is why we have a complete inability to pay the rents for social housing in London. We sold them and build not more.

A good example is selling a house for £250,000 with a rental value of £12,500 / year.

This could either fund housing for four families for five years, or one indefinitely.

Often the money is consumed immediately and some local facilities are purchased with a great fanfare. But let's just pretend the money was used wisely.

The reduced strain on housing welfare is quickly filled due to both local and international demand. With no measures in place to encourage manageable population growth the population increases until the hardship threshold is met once more.

What happens in year six? We have no money left and four times the burden.

Well, that is another general election away, and not an immediate concern.

What about the hassle of managing it. The private sector does that better? Yes. Let the private sector manage it. Don't sell it..

I have attached a link to an example I found of a Conservative Councillor deciding on short term gain on a property in Earley recently. I found it on Google searching for 'wokingham borough council sell property'

So I thank you, on behalf of our children, for the burden of paying another landlords mortgage or perhaps four . . indefinitely. Another generation having to work that little bit harder.

I don't know whether to be mad at them for driving the middle and working classes into servitude, or sad that the majority of us keep giving them the privilege. Or sad that most of them are good people, with aspirations of success in business, enticed by the success of a corrupt few.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Wokingham Local Elections 2012 post from previous blog

Going Green

I want a sustainable future for my grandchildren, where they can raise their children in a suitable house and not have to work more than eight hours per day per adult to afford it. Even if they are just using recently acquired skills.

I want them to be able to enjoy their surroundings in relative safety without threat from angry hopeless youths who's lack of fear is all they have to be proud of.

I had always voted Conservative. Those clever men in dark suits speak so well and understand all those little rules they keep making up. It always seemed that to get rid of them would inevitably return us to the dark ages? Gradually we learn that half of these little rules exist only to hoard wealth at the top.

The Conservative vision. A free market economy.

A free market economy is like evolution - gradually the most efficient way of growing will be found. I also believe this is true.

But the problem with evolution is that it is cruel.

The problem with our definition of growth is that it is measured in money?

My idea is to measure growth by looking at how much time a person has to spend doing things they would rather not do, in order to live a full life, not at the expense of future generations, and still contribute enough to society to support those less fortunate.

In later posts I will elaborate on what fundamental economic changes I believe can achieve this. But I was pleased to find that it was the writing from members of the Green party, no less, that matched most closely to my own. Not a bunch of lazy hippies after all but intelligent people who are willing to work hard and smart, and have not forgotten that quality of life is paramount.

That is why I became a member. Shortly afterwards, I received an e-mail from the amazingly well-organised Marjory Bisset of the Reading branch, inviting me to stand as a Wescott local councillor for the Green party as a paper candidate. A paper candidate is someone who has little realistic chance of winning, but at least the few voters who do share our concerns get a chance to vote and be counted.

I was most surprised because I had always thought that there would be a mountain of equally opinionated and concerned people ready to take up the mantle. As part of a household that generally clocks up over 80 work hours per week with kid stuff on top, I do not have time for much else. And as my family is only young once, I’ll not sacrifice these precious moments lightly. But if no-one else in Wescott will, someone must, and if I want the Green party in power there needs to be some drive for votes.

I am often concerned about the motives behind the decisions made when there is so much money riding on them. It is troubling to see how much related power and wealth gets picked up by those in office, albeit a few years later.

I'm laying down the gauntlet and hoping to set a trend here. Lets get our representatives to sign away their route to corruption.

'I will never profit or seek to profit from anything I influence in the public's confidence, for myself or anyone,  now or in the future, other than in the way it generally benefits the wider economy.'

If the person seeking your confidence will not sign something like this then they are not in it for the right reasons. Spread it, tweet it and get everyone involved in choosing the words. Then only vote for people who have signed it.