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Appeal for West Berkshire farm shop refused

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Proposals said to clash with environmental planning priorities

A planning appeal for a farm shop to support West Berkshire's rural economy has been refused because of the increased carbon footprint on country roads.

The Wasing Estate challenged West Berkshire Council's refusal of its plans to turn Shalford Farm into an estate farm shop, with overnight accommodation for wedding parties.

A bakery, fermentary, cookery school and event space were also planned for the site, on Back Lane, which is currently used for vehicle storage.

Councillors refused the plans last year over increased vehicle traffic to the non-sustainable location. And it was this reliance and increase of motor vehicles that lead the Planning Inspectorate to dismiss the scheme.

Documents said there would be around 300 net additional vehicle trips each weekday if the farm shop were to be built.

Planning inspector Stephen Wilkinson said the proposals would result in "a significant intensification" of the number of vehicle trips to and from the site.

West Berkshire Council declared a climate emergency in 2019, with the aim of being carbon neutral by 2030.

Mr Wilkinson said that although Shalford Farm was linked to a network of footpaths and cyclists could use local roads, Wasing Estate had not included information on the number of guests and visitors who could access the farm this way.

The estate had proposed a travel plan including an electric shuttle bus to bring people to the site from Midgham station.

Mr Wilkinson said that the plan lacked detail on how visitors travelled to the estate and it was unclear how a 10 per cent reduction in car travel could be achieved over five years.

The estate, which hosts an average of 150 weddings a year, had said the scheme would be a "significant step in transitioning Wasing from a traditional rural estate to a modern diversified business for a long-term sustainable future".

The council had also said that parts of the development, including the restaurant and event space, could have occupied vacant units in town centre.

Mr Wilkinson said that the size of the facilities was unlikely to result in significant adverse impacts on local consumer choice and trade.

He added that the fermentary, bakery, farm shop and restaurant would support the estate's aspiration to have more than 80 per cent of food produced on the estate sold locally within five years.

Furthermore, the restaurant and event space could be used as a local meeting place given the lack of local facilities.

Mr Wilkinson acknowledged the estate's "important contribution to the rural economy", with an estimated annual turnover of £17m, which would be boosted by the farm shop and provide a further 30 jobs – but ruled the increased carbon footprint could not be justified.

He said: "I acknowledge that the appeal scheme would result in benefits for the rural economy, the development of previously developed land and the re-use of two non-designated heritage assets.

"However, these matters are not sufficient to outweigh the harm which would result from the carbon emissions derived from the increase in vehicle trips resulting from this proposal."

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