A “DIRE” need for more housing has seen West Berkshire councillors approve planning permission for a 157-home development on land between Newbury and Greenham.
The outline plans were given the go-ahead despite concerns from residents over traffic congestion, highways safety and the continuing loss of the ‘green gap’ separating the two settlements, as well as the existence of a legal covenant protecting the land from such developments.
The plans will see a large area of the ‘gap’ retained as public open space, with conditions set to be put in place to ensure the remaining land is maintained by the developer and landowner, Rivar Ltd.
Speaking at a meeting of West Berkshire Council’s western area planning committee on Wednesday last week, Jeff Beck (Con, Clay Hill), proposed approval of the development saying: “Some of us around this table have long heard about the ‘Greenham Gap’.
“When I first saw the application I thought ‘Hell’s bells – here’s the whole lot going’.
“But if this development goes ahead there will still be a considerable gap.
“It’s been pointed out that we do have a dire need for housing in the area.
“I appreciate there will be traffic impact but what are we going to do? Live in tents?”
The proposal came after lengthy discussions to ensure the ongoing maintenance of the land, which would also include protection of great crested newts habitats, which can be found in the area.
Officers had also explained that the legal covenant, drawn up in 1992, which states the land should not be used for any other purposes than “open air sports or leisure or recreational purposes”, exists between the landowner Rivar Ltd and the council and so could easily be amended if both parties approved.
The site, which has been included in the council’s local development plan, will be split into two distinct areas to the east and west and include 87 homes and 70 homes, respectively.
The remainder of the site will stay as an ecological area of publicly accessible open space.
Sixty of the homes will be affordable.
Rivar Ltd is proposing one new access off Greenham Road to the east and an additional access off Haysoms Drive to the west.
Speaking at the meeting on Wednesday, objector Lucy Crofts pleaded with councillors to reject the plans, claiming residents were already dealing with a congested road network at peak times, while raising fears that the site would be used as a rat run.
Speaking on behalf of residents, she also said to build more than 157 homes in that part of West Berkshire would be “overdevelopment”.
“The infrastructure just can’t cope,” Ms Crofts told the committee.
Also speaking against the application was Greenham ward member Billy Drummond, who said: “I know the application site is in the [West Berkshire] local plan, but that does not mean it’s right, especially for residents in Greenham who have put up with their fair share of developments.”
After debating the application councillors ultimately voted to grant planning permission by a majority of seven to one, with Mr Drummond the only councillor to oppose the plans.