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'Nuclear option' in battle to halt housing scheme

Council triggers legal process to prevent 100 new homes

John Garvey

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John Garvey

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HUNGERFORD Town Council has officially started the process of launching a legal challenge to West Berkshire Council’s housing allocation Development Plan Document (DPD).

A judicial review is the ‘nuclear option’ in the battle to prevent 100 new homes being built on land south of Priory Road.

But it is the only remaining weapon in the arsenal for opponents of the proposed development.

An alternative strategy – having the issue called in by the Secretary of State – has been torpedoed.

John Oakes, a senior planning officer with the National Planning Casework Unit, which handles such matters for the Government, said he was content that the issue “should be dealt with by the local planning authority”.

On Monday night, June 19, an extraordinary meeting of the full town council met to debate the potential costs of a judicial review.

Councillor Richard Hudson gave a verbal update on the process, but warned: “If we press the button it could be very expensive, especially if we lose and have to pay the other side’s costs.”

The town council could potentially face a bill of up to £35,000, the meeting heard.

A judicial review would challenge the legality of the DPD on the grounds that exceptional circumstances for building in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) had not been made out as required.

In addition, the meeting heard, the application had started with a five-hectare plot which had subsequently grown to more than seven hectares, apparently without proper scrutiny.

Mr Hudson warned: “If West Berkshire (council) feel they can get away with this, it creates a precedent for other locations in the AONB.”

District councillor James Podger (Con, Hungerford), who initially objected to the application because he felt there were better options available, sent a statement to the meeting in which he said: “The DPD document is well reasoned and the case for development to the south of Hungerford, including the traffic impact assessment, when read in full, is convincing.

“The town council’s preferred sites within the town boundary are fatally flawed and would not negate any traffic issues in the High Street.

“Wherever additional housing is sited in Hungerford, there would be an increase in traffic.”

He said he believed any legal challenge would be “unsuccessful and costly” and pleaded with the town council not to “waste ratepayers’ money” on one.

Mr Podger said of the scheme’s opponents: “Yes, they shout loudly and rightly make their views known – they have every right to protect their homes and local area. Nonetheless they are in the minority.

“The majority of Hungerfordians are supportive of additional housing and accept the decision as to location, which has been through an open consultation period and borne out by the independent inspector’s decision.”

Ironically, Mr Podger’s letter may have had the opposite effect to the one he intended.

Councillor Doris Colloff said: “Based on that wonderful report from Mr Podger alone I would like to propose that, in fact, we go ahead (with a judicial review).”

Councillor Carolanne Farrell said: “That’s only James’ opinion and he’s not a planning expert.”

Her council colleague, David Small, disputed Mr Podger’s assertion that the town was largely in favour of the development, adding, “public opinion is decisively against this development, as far as I can see.

“And if we get permission to go ahead it could put pressure on the other side to settle.”

Several members of the public who attended the meeting offered to donate to a ‘fighting fund’ for the legal challenge.

One resident said: “There has been complete contempt from the district council towards local views.

“The choice before you now is either to fight – with a good chance of winning, in my view, or to capitulate.”

Mrs Colloff formally proposed that the town council began the process of applying for a judicial review before the deadline the following day (Tuesday).

The motion was carried unanimously, to applause from the public.

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Article comments

  • NewburyLad

    25/06/2017 - 09:09

    If you keep importing millions of immigrants, and Labour want to increase the numbers above what the Tories are letting in, then you have to start building everywhere to accommodate them. Most brown-field sites have been developed and what's left are still due to be used like the tower recently demolished in Newbury. If you're for massive immigration then you have to be for more housing around towns and villages.

    Reply

    • NewburyDenizen

      26/06/2017 - 16:04

      Sounding like a broken record again there Lad.. Please read Eugene's post and realise you're on the wrong side of the argument.

      Reply

      • NewburyLad

        27/06/2017 - 10:10

        Whereas you are a lefty so YOU MUST BE RIGHT because lefties know everything and how dare you not follow their brainwashing. [Rolls eyes]

        Reply

        • NewburyDenizen

          28/06/2017 - 17:05

          So by that you're acknowledging that you're bought into the rhetoric? Thank you for that admission, it explains a lot. I also don't consider myself a "lefty", more someone that has a bit of compassion for our fellow man, we're all one species, how about we start acting like it hmm?

          Reply

    • EugeneStryker

      26/06/2017 - 13:01

      NewburyLad, immigration is a simple tool that the Conservatives and the right wing media deploy in order top deflect attention away from the damage that they are doing to the UK, rather than being at the root of of our problems. Two thirds of housing demand is not created by immigration but by a lack of social housing stock, an increase in life expectancy, and more households delaying marriage or forgoing cohabitation resulting in an increased number of smaller households. The OBR predicts that if the government followed a high net-migration trajectory, government debt would be halved over 50 years through the input of working migrants. Any sane macro-economic argument sees the benefits of immigration, but the flip side of that is that people need somewhere to live. If you think immigration is going away post Brexit, you're wrong but instead of Europeans living next door, you will have Indians - not a problem for me, but I doubt your heart will take it.

      Reply

      • NewburyLad

        27/06/2017 - 10:10

        No matter whether it's 1/3rd or 2/3rds it's still at least 111,000 each year where housing has to be found for them on top of finding housing for our own growing population so whinging that new housing has to be built on the edge of towns and in villages. As for mentioning Indians and "heart taking it" are you trying to play the racism card? Because if you are I suggest you remove that comment immediately as you have no idea of what my heart says.

        Reply

        • EugeneStryker

          28/06/2017 - 11:11

          I meant it literally, in that you might have a heart attack - it might come as a shock when you think all of problems can be pinned to immigration, at last you get a vote to reduce immigration and then you find out that that we still get the same or more immigration and all of the same problems persist. As you're having your heart attack, it would be quite an eloquent way to make the argument against your politics when the ambulance doesn't turn up quickly, it takes longer to get to the hospital because the out of area driver doesn't know the route as well and then your treatment is delayed because all of the European nurses and doctors have all returned to mainland Europe.

          Reply

    • Bombey

      25/06/2017 - 10:10

      what utter bollocks.

      Reply

      • NewburyLad

        25/06/2017 - 13:01

        Immigration in 12 months to June 2016 was 650,000. Net migration therefore was 335,000. Those 335 thousand have to be housed somewhere. Unless you want them all sleeping in parks and fields, that means more housing is required. Now see if you can work out the connection between having to build more homes EVERYWHERE and immigration. Source : Office of National Statistics.

        Reply

    • jterrier

      25/06/2017 - 10:10

      Nice one - somehow managing to link this to immigration. That must have taken some work. Or not.

      Reply

      • NewburyLad

        25/06/2017 - 13:01

        The penny will drop. One day.

        Reply

  • Zeospike

    25/06/2017 - 08:08

    Is this a bit of NIMBYism from Hungerford town council? It's okay to drop thousands of houses on Newbury because, y'know it's ugly, but Hungerford?! The big issue we face is a massive demand for good quality, affordable housing stock otherwise we doom the <25s to a life of renting rooms to save old people from having to remember when all this was fields.

    Reply

    • juzzthefuzz

      26/06/2017 - 17:05

      We're already doomed. As a 25 year old myself, I am finding, due to councils run by aging fossils, that I can no longer afford to live in the place I call home, the place where my career has been built. Once my parents retire in the next few years, I'm either going to have to move elsewhere (something which is incredibly difficult as it requires finding jobs in a low priced housing area, and moving everything I own hundreds of miles away), or be homeless. Not long until local elections however, this is a chance to make things right again.

      Reply

      • zmjrc

        27/06/2017 - 12:12

        Which political party is going to 'make things right again?' If you genuinely think that any of them will, you're delusional.

        Reply

      • EugeneStryker

        27/06/2017 - 10:10

        Juzzthefuzz, more than a third of former council houses now sit in the portfolio of wealthy landlords and social housing, rather than being considered part of the package of being a UK citizen and to keep housing costs within sensible levels, has become stigmatised and reserved for the poorest of the poor. By 1975, 80% of government spending on housing went on capital investment on the supply side (building affordable homes), but by 2000, 85% of government housing spending went on the demand side (housing benefit) - today, 40-50% of the average £23bn housing-benefit bill goes to private landlords, including our own Newbury MP Benyon. NewburyLad and those like him seem to think this is caused by immigrants rather than political decisions to favour private landlords instead of those like you.

        Reply

        • juzzthefuzz

          28/06/2017 - 15:03

          Thank you for raising this Eugene. It is clear from this how much of an issue affordable housing in the UK is. It feels almost criminal that the continuing decline and lack of housing for the increasing population is allowed to continue. Perhaps it is. There is many a paragraph written in international human rights law about the right to housing and that it should be affordable without discrimination.

          Reply

    • ChrisW

      26/06/2017 - 10:10

      Agreed, we need more housing of all ranges for local people and even new people moving in to the area. With the population growth forecasts we have all got to get used to the idea of more houses, it's either that or we start thinking of enforcing the idea of one child per a couple :-)

      Reply

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