THE REDEVELOPMENT of the eyesore Sterling Cables sitemoved a step closer last week when a district planning committee voted unanimously in support of the scheme.
Members of West Berkshire Council's western area planning committee proposed to approve Amirantes' plans for 167 new apartment homes on Wednesday night.
It will provide 39 one-, 140 two-, 18 three- and six four-bedroom flats, built in eight blocks of between three and eight storeys.
The development will bring the decontamination of the site, the second most polluted in the south east of England due to its former use as the town centre gas works, as well as the provision of a long awaited link road to reduce traffic on Mill Lane and Kings Road.
The plans have been criticised for having no affordable housing, with council policy stating that 30 per cent of homes in new developments should be affordable.
The developer also controversially requested not to pay any section 106 contributions, which in this case would equate to £685,000 - £104,982 towards public open space, £97,557 for adult social care, £390,000 for education, £23,600 to Thames Valley Police, £34,306 towards libraries and £8,517 towards waste services.
Planning officer Derek Carnegie said: "We don't get an affordable flat in there and that's a crying shame for this authority, we are battling hard to get affordable housing in the district.
"We don't get section 106 contributions...it's an employment protection site.
"Planning is all about making balanced judgments. The cost to decontaminate the site is around £2million.
"There's a massive urgency to make sure that this site is dealt with.
"This proposal is a massive improvement for that part of the town."
Ward member Roger Hunneman (Lib Dem, Victoria) said, if the application were approved he would be campaigning for a 20mph zone to improve the environment for residents of Kings Road and surrounding residential streets.
He would also push for adequate boundary fencing around the scheme to deter occupants from parking in neighbouring Gordon Road, with only 170 parking spaces being provided for 167 flats.
Fellow ward member David Allen (Lib Dem) added: "The loss of the section 106 contributions - £100,000 for open spaces is a huge amount of money that would do good around the town, and £400,000 for education which is desperately needed.
"But this is a balanced decision and I have to say I'm in favour. I worked on that site 25 years ago and it was an awful place to work. It was in need of demolition then and it's desperately in need of it now.
"This is our last chance."
Hilary Cole (Con, Chieveley) said: "This is a much needed development. It would clear and tidy up the badly contaminated site, deliver us a much needed link road.
"Having said that it's clearly against policy. If we approve, we have got to clearly articulate the reasons why we have deviated from our policy, emphasise to developers that this is an exceptional site and an exception to our policy.
"I don't want other developers to see this as a green light for other inappropriate developments."
Virginia von Celsing (Con, Compton) proposed to approve the scheme, seconded by David Allen (Lib Dem, Victoria), and the committee voted unanimously in favour.
It will go to the full district planning committee for a final decision on Wednesday (March 25).