THE town’s industrial and commercial areas should not be used for housing.
The views were aired as Newbury town councillors considered proposals to convert more than 60,000 sq ft of office space in the town into apartments.
Overbridge Development Ltd is hoping to be able to convert the offices at Overbridge Business Park into more than 100 new flats through permitted development rights.
Under the proposals, the five buildings will be turned into a mixture of one- and two-bed apartments with up to 25 dwellings in each building, along with communal cycle storage facilities.
The application describes the site as being situated in an area of “mixed industrial land use with business parks and industrial estates located to the south, east and west”.
Permitted development rights would allow the developer to convert the offices into flats without requiring planning permission should West Berkshire planners decide that no prior approval is needed.
However, Newbury town councillors unanimously opposed the plans at a meeting on Monday night.
Elizabeth O’Keeffe (Lib Dem, Victoria) said: “I object to this for a number of reasons.
“It is losing commercial properties, there are an awful lot of flats being squeezed in that space, it’s an industrial area and it will bring more traffic to the area.
“And those aren’t old buildings either.”
Jeff Beck (Con, Clay Hill) said: “I totally agree.
“It’s an industrial area and I think it’s totally unsuitable for housing and we need to maintain businesses so people can earn a crust in Newbury.
“All that area is dedicated to business and I feel it should stay like that.
Adrian Edwards (Con, Falkland) said: “The application is seeking to establish if prior approval is required and the answer to that is ‘yes’.”
The plans had originally been submitted to West Berkshire Council in July, but were withdrawn last month as the developer was unable to provide sufficient information surrounding noise impact and potential ground and water contamination.
However, last week the plans were resubmitted by the London-based developer.
Neighbouring business owners had objected to the original proposals owing to fears the conversion would have a negative impact on trade and have argued the right to claim compensation for any loss in earnings.
It is not the first time that the issue has been debated.
Last year, a number of business leaders wrote to West Berkshire Council expressing concern that a lack of commercial business space could see Newbury become a ‘dormitory town’.
In the letter, Richard Deal, director of Newbury-based commercial property agents Deal Varney, said: “We believe Newbury is at a crossroads.
“It has always been a great place to live but, if we continue to ignore business and its needs, we will become the dormitory town that is so often mentioned.”