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"This could be the end of Newbury Business Park"

Town councillors oppose plans to convert offices into flats

Chris Ord

Reporter:

Chris Ord

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01635 886639

"This could be the end of Newbury Business Park"

PLANS to convert offices on Newbury Business Park into 129 flats have met with stern opposition from town councillors.

If given the go-ahead, the move would have a “disastrous” effect on Newbury’s premier business park in London Road, as well as on the ongoing protection of business space in the town, according to members of the council’s planning and highways committee.

Developer Stonegate Homes is hoping to convert three existing office buildings into three blocks of 43 one-bed apartments under Permitted Development Rights (PDR).

At a meeting of the planning and highways committee on Wednesday, March 19, town councillors objected to the proposals and revealed their mounting frustrations at the continued loss of protected business space in Newbury.

Councillors immediately drew comparisons with Overbridge Square in Hambridge Lane, which saw developer Overbridge Development Ltd being given prior approval by West Berkshire Council to convert 60,000sq ft of office space into more than 100 apartments.

Speaking at the meeting last week, chairman of the committee, Anthony Pick (Con, St John’s) said: “I’m very seriously disturbed by these developments. We should make a very strong recommendation to West Berkshire Council about this issue.

“It’s a matter of very great urgency.”

While agreeing that the location was not perfect, Lynne Doherty (Con, Northcroft), pointed out, however, that more affordable accommodation must be developed in the town.

“We need affordable homes,” she said.

“The type of development is something that we need, but I agree that it’s not ideal.”

Dave Goff (Con, Clay Hill) said: “We could see the end of Newbury Business Park if this goes ahead.”

All but one member voted to object to the proposals, with Lynne Doherty choosing to abstain.

Two of the buildings, Nexus House and Lambourn House, are currently vacant with the third, Derby House, soon to be vacant, according to the proposals.

The applicant states there has been no interest in its current office use, adding: “The proposed development will make efficient use of underused buildings and provide 129 units to meet the district’s housing stock on a suitably-located brownfield site.”

Introduced in 2013, PDR allow a developer to change the use of a building from business to residential without having to submit a planning application.

According to a report from Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership in December, there were 29 prior approval applications for a change of use from office to residential granted between April 2013 and March 2015, which would result in the loss of approximately 165,979sq ft of existing office space.

However, the district council has confirmed to the Newbury Weekly News that officers are now looking at the possibility of introducing new regulations (article 4 directions) which would limit the scope of PDR on office conversions.

West Berkshire Council spokesman Martin Dunscombe said: “West Berkshire already has a number of article 4 directions in place and officers are considering the issues surrounding its use on office conversions, the implications for West Berkshire and what evidence the council can produce to justify their introduction.”

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Article comments

  • Oldmoaner

    02/05/2017 - 14:02

    This crazy idea of turning every commercial building into flats must stop, West Berkshire Council seem determined to increase their revenue through council tax, they will allow this because its a minimum of another £150000.00 per year into their executive salaries. When there is no work left in the town they will complain that they cannot cope with the commuter traffic. They are encouraging this type of development because there is less chance of children so they do not need schools and play area's. It just highlights the failing in the responsibility that our elected representatives demonstrate to their electorate.

    Reply

  • Thatcham Rules

    02/05/2017 - 12:12

    ... "while agreeing that the location was not perfect, Lynne Doherty (Con, Northcroft), pointed out, however, that more affordable accommodation must be developed in the town" But they will not be AFFORDABLE for workers in Newbury, they never are! Housing prices are out of control, unlike wages with no pay rises for the last couple of years, if you change jobs you have to start again on minimum wage. When are our councillors or MP's going to wake up to this basic fact?

    Reply

  • DonCossack

    02/05/2017 - 11:11

    STOP THE ROT NOW. WE ARE NOT ANOTHER SOULLESS DORMITORY TOWN.

    Reply

    • danny2300

      02/05/2017 - 12:12

      Too late

      Reply

  • bruin the bear

    02/05/2017 - 10:10

    central government needs to intervene NOW to stop the loss of offices. I don't blame the owner/developer, they are simply taking advantage of the legal/planning situation to maximise their profits and who can blame them. We are building flats and new houses everywhere in the town- where the hell are all these folk going to work?

    Reply

    • danny2300

      02/05/2017 - 12:12

      They will do what all us sane people did and 1. Not live in or around town (nothing affordable for those who grew up in the area. I'm sure most of these flats will be earmarked by the council for social housing). 2. Find employment elsewhere (more opportunities outside of Newbury anyway). Most "big" businesses are only here because of our closeness to the M4 so getting in/out of London or other road networks is easy. But that is now diminishing with Green Park in Reading being a lot more attractive as a hub.

      Reply

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