PLANS for more than 100 new homes in Tilehurst were rejected by West Berkshire councillors, despite the land being included in the council’s new housing development plan.
However it has now been decided that the plans will go in front of the council's district area planning committee who could over turn the decision.
To the delight of residents, members of the eastern area planning committee defied officers’ recommendations and objected to the two outline planning applications at the recent meeting in Calcot.
The plans had received strong objections from residents raising a number of issues, including worries over a lack of infrastructure, an increase in traffic and the impact on the adjacent North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
However, councillors ultimately rejected the applications as the new policy had not yet been formerly adopted by the council.
The two developments would have seen 39 houses built on land opposite Hall Place Farm Stables in Sulham Hill, while a further 69 homes would have been developed on land adjacent to Stonehams Farm in Dark Lane, with both sites having been approved in the council’s Housing Site Allocations Development Plan Document (DPD) in November.
The DPD seeks to identify future development sites across the district as the council attempts to cope with the demand for housing.
However, at the meeting, committee members concluded that Reading-based developer Darcliffe Homes Limited had submitted the plans prematurely, since the DPD had yet to be approved by the planning inspector.
Addressing the committee on behalf of the developer, agent Angela Miles argued that the sites formed part of the council’s required five-year land supply and pointed to what she said was a similar application in Pangbourne Hill (also in the DPD), which had already been granted approval by the same committee.
However, Emma Webster (Con, Birch Copse) who voted against the DPD, said: “If the developer was so confident then this application would have been submitted a mere three months later, after the inspector had decided.”
Tony Linden (Con, Birch Copse), who had also opposed the DPD, added: “I don’t see why the applicant has to rush ahead.
“The inspector has said there are concerns and it’s important that we take that into account and wait to hear what the inspector has to say about these houses.”
During the discussion, councillors were warned by officers that the committee was in danger of contradicting its own DPD if the plans were rejected for reasons such as traffic or impact on the AONB.
However, West Berkshire Council portfolio holder for economic development and planning, Alan Law (Con, Basildon), said in his opinion the sites were good sites in principle, but referred to previous appeals where the planning inspector had indicated more weight should be given to current policy rather than “emerging” policy.
As a result, it was proposed that the plans be rejected on the basis that they do not adhere to the council’s current housing plan.
Speaking after the meeting, Ms Webster said: “I’m pleased with the outcome, but I’m very much aware that this is very early days and we are likely to have to fight again.
“It’s not about a site which should be developed or not, it’s the point at which the developer comes forward.
“The developer obviously has the right to appeal, but by the point of appeal we will have heard the inspector’s findings.
“Both myself and members of Keep Tilehurst Green have given the inspector robust reasons why they should be removed from the DPD.”
The planning inspector is due to reveal his findings on the DPD this autumn, with the plan expected to be formally adopted next spring.
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