TWO housing schemes that would have seen more than 700 homes built on the outskirts of Thatcham have been halted by government intervention.
A2Dominion had appealed against West Berkshire Council’s refusal of its scheme for up to 495 homes and a primary school at Siege Cross Farm.
At the same time, Croudace Strategic had taken its scheme for 225 homes with provision for a GP surgery at Henwick Park to appeal.
Planning inspector John Chase had ruled that both schemes should go ahead, owing to the council being unable to demonstrate an up-to-date housing supply.
But Mr Chase was overruled by the secretary of state for communities and local government Sajid Javid, who said that the situation had changed since the appeals were heard in November last year.
In a letter to the developers on behalf of Mr Javid, the DCLG said that the council could now demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites, which carried ‘substantial weight’ in his decision.
He said that a number of applications, including the approval of the 232-home redevelopment at Market Street, Newbury, 400 homes surrounding Vodafone’s Newbury HQ in Donnington – won by developers on appeal – and the adoption of the council’s development plan document could boost the district’s housing stock.
It goes on to say “The Secretary of State concludes that, as the council can demonstrate a 5 year housing land supply” the appeal by the developers is not upheld.
Thatcham Town Council leader Jason Collis (Con Thatcham North), and who represents Thatcham South and Crookham at West Berkshire Council, said he was pleased with the decision.
He said: “It was close, but it was thanks to submissions from West Berkshire Council with the updated DPD, which proves the need for having the local strategic plan sorted.
“We need to have future development in partnership with the town rather than against it.
“The town needs to have a stronger voice in how it grows.
“I look on these appeals as giving us a breather.”
However, Mr Javid also said that up to 198 affordable homes at Siege Cross Farm would be a considerable boost to the supply of low-cost housing, while increased education choice from a new school also attracted significant weight.
Furthermore, improvements to the road system and flood defences on the site would provide benefits for the town.
He added that the development would be in an accessible location, with the potential to minimise the use of private transport.
He also agreed that concerns about traffic congestion and the capacity of Newbury to cope with the additional housing were not valid reasons to dismiss the scheme.
West Berkshire Council policy indicates that approximately 900 homes are to built in Thatcham during its current development plan.
But Mr Javid agreed with Mr Chase that this figure should not be viewed as a ceiling and that development should not be restricted to this level.
Liberal Democrat town councillor Mike Cole (Thatcham North) said: “It’s a bit of a torn one in terms of residents, and especially the younger residents who need new housing, but for a development that size in the location it was, especially when it breached the settlement boundary, I think would have been difficult for Thatcham to swallow.”
Mr Cole disagreed with the dismissal of residents’ concerns and said that the impact on Kennet School and traffic on to Floral Way and the A4 would have been dramatic.
Building the homes so close to the historical farm was judged to have some detrimental effect and would lead to a loss of elements of the landscape.
However, Mr Chase noted that its location made it “a logical choice for expansion” in Thatcham and that the proposed housing would not be out of keeping with the prevailing suburban character.
An A2Dominion spokesperson said: “We are currently reviewing the outcome and will consider our options.”