PLANS to build up to 401 homes around Vodafone's Newbury headquarters have been approved on appeal.
In a devastating blow to residents fighting the scheme and West Berkshire Council the Planning Inspectorate has ruled that developer CEG can build the homes to the north and west of the A339 around Vodafone's HQ.
The council refused the scheme in 2015 as it felt that it did not adequately address the impact on local roads and education and was not included in the council’s housing plan.
But delays to the 2,000 development at Sandleford has seen the council's housing target slip and it admitted that it does not have a five-year housing supply without the development coming forward.
New evidence introduced at the appeal made it clear that the council was unlikely to defend its decision to refuse the application.
Indeed, the council withdrew all of its objections to the site at the appeal held in January this year and did not submit closing statements to the inquiry.
The Planning Inspectorate said that in December 2016 the council had a five year land supply but the Council could no longer demonstrate it. However, in allowing this appeal for 401 dwellings, the Inspector recognises that the Council will again be able to demonstrate a five year supply of housing land.
Speaking about the decision Councillor Hilary Cole, West Berkshire Council’s Executive Member for Planning said: “I’m bitterly disappointed by the Inspector’s ruling. We want to take a proactive, plan-led approach to planning to deliver new housing for local people and decisions like this undermine this stance.
"It is frustrating that the slow delivery of new housing by developers who already have planning permission has consequences for subsequent applications and makes decision-making that much harder. Despite the ruling today we remain committed to delivering more housing for our residents and making West Berkshire a desirable and affordable place in which to live, work and relax.”
Jon Allen from CEG said: “The decision confirms that this is a suitable, deliverable and sustainable solution to providing much-needed housing in the area.
"The development is adjacent to one of the largest employers in West Berkshire, providing the chance to live and work in the same area and reducing the need to commute.”
For more reaction and analysis see the Newbury Weekly News, out on Thursday.