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108 new homes in Tilehurst may still go ahead

Plans to go before West Berkshire's highest planning committee

108 new homes in Tilehurst may still go ahead

MORE than 100 new homes in Tilehurst may yet be built, despite councillors voting to reject the plans last week.

Members of West Berkshire Council’s eastern area planning committee voted against two applications to build the homes, despite the sites being included in the council’s new housing development plan (DPD).

During the meeting, councillors rejected the applications as the new policy had not yet been formerly adopted by the council following lengthy discussions as to exactly how much weight should be given to the emerging DPD.

However, it has now been decided that because the decision goes against the new policy, the plans will go in front of the council’s district area planning committee to make the final decision.

Emma Webster (Con, Birch Copse), who had spoken against the plans at last week’s meeting, said: “I’m disappointed that the application has been referred to the district planning committee, but I have faith that the members will see the perfectly valid reasons we gave for rejecting the plans still stand.” 

The plans had also received strong objections from residents, who raised 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).

The two developments would see 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 DPD in November.

West Berkshire Council spokesman Martin Dunscombe said: “Last week the eastern area planning committee decided to refuse two applications that are preferred sites in the Site Allocations Development Plan Document.

“This is the plan which sets out the preferred land for development across West Berkshire which was approved by the council last year and is nearing the end of the validation process.

“As the decision to refuse planning permission was contrary to the policies of the emerging DPD and has district-wide planning implications, both applications will be referred to a future district planning committee for a final determination.”

Any amendments to the DPD are expected to be confirmed with the planning inspector by the end of September.

However, this has raised fears among some residents that a decision may be rushed through before changes, which could see the removal or alteration of some sites, are confirmed.

Mr Dunscombe added: “The council has a responsibility to determine applications that have been submitted and needs to make decisions on the basis of the position at the time of determination.

“This is not an unusual situation in the national planning process.

“The inspector’s report into the Housing Site Allocations Development Plan Document is not expected to be finalised until spring of 2017 and there is no mechanism in the planning legislation to suspend the development process until a development plan has been finalised.”

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