MORE flats look set to be built on the former Travis Perkins site in Mill Lane, Newbury, despite the development meaning the loss of more office space in the town.
Members of the council’s western area planning committee voted in favour of the planning officer’s recommendations that the application be approved at a meeting on Wednesday last week, but they raised concerns over the loss of more than 1,500 sq m of offices.
The plans will now go before the council’s district planning committee for the final decision.
Developer David Wilson Homes had initially planned to build a office block, along with the nowcompleted 37 homes on the site, in 2014. However, after being unable to find any takers for the proposed office space, the developer submitted an application to build 22 two-bed homes on the site instead – half of which will be affordable.
However, the land in question, formerly occupied by builders merchant Travis Perkins, is protected by the council’s own core policy which states it should only be used for developments that would generate employment.
West Berkshire planners, however, had argued that even though the loss of employment land would have a potentially negative economic impact on the town, the inclusion of 11 affordable homes would bring a “substantial” social benefit.
Addressing the committee, Newbury Town Council leader Dave Goff said the town council also supported the application, despite having concerns about the further loss of office space in Newbury.
Vice-chairman of the western area planning committee Paul Bryant (Con, Speen) said the site had a long history and the council had previously decided it wanted a commercial user in it.
However, he admitted that the committee had little choice but to accept the proposals saying: “I’m sure if an inspector had a look at this he would walk all over us.”
He added: “I think we have been put in a impossible situation.
“The local plan is becoming pretty threadbare.
“With industrial or commercial land being lost with the likes of Merchant’s Court and the very large office block at Overbridge Square, it’s really ruining our plans.
“It’s getting to the point where we need to get the local plan up to date or we are going to get more and more of these plans coming through.”
Executive portfolio holder for adults, care and culture Hilary Cole (Con, Chieveley) said: “I would like to say I welcome the 50 per cent affordable housing on this site, which I assume is some sort of compensation for the loss of employment land.
“However, my concern is around the loss of employment land.
“What we really need as a district is to identify some quality employment land so that we can have employment land and buildings which are fit for purpose for 21st-century employment and not 20th- century employment.”
“I think the applicant has done all they can to attract people and business are not interested in this site.
“Therefore I propose we accept the officer’s recommendations.”
Councillors voted unanimously in favour. The application will now go before the council’s district planning committee where the final decision to either approve or reject the plans will be made.