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Campaigners against Ikea store to fight on

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The Swedish flat-pack furniture giant’s proposal for a new 40,000 square metre store, with adjoining 1,179 space multi-storey car park near Junction 12 of the M4 were approved by West Berkshire planners on April 4, but now those opposing the scheme have asked that the matter be referred to the Secretary of State, which could mean more delays or even that the decision is overturned.
The request for the call-in by the Secretary of State was filed by West Berkshire councillor Alan Macro (Lib Dem, Theale) on April 10.
Mr Macro said that he called the traffic figures presented to West Berkshire Council into question. He said: “There were anomalies in the figures presented at the [planning] meeting and there is a lot of doubt locally about how accurate these figures were.”
His request for calling it in has been welcomed by some of those who opposed the scheme, including the Save Calcot Action Group.
Mr Macro admitted that there was limited scope for success, saying: “It is a bit of a long shot, but we have to try everything we can.”
Ikea declined to comment on the latest development, and West Berkshire Council did not want to be drawn on the legitimacy of Mr Macro’s objections, but a spokesman for the council, Keith Ulyatt, said: “My understanding is that an individual can request the call-in of the application as long as the application is still live. The Ikea one is, in that although planning permission has been granted, it is on the condition of the completion of a legal agreement with the developer.
“If the council were to be contacted by the Secretary of State saying he is calling in the application, then that application would be on hold pending his decision. But we have not been contacted by the Secretary of State.”
The Secretary of State has until the end of April to decide if he wants to call the application in.
In his letter to the National Planning Casework Unit - who will decide whether to refer the matter to the Secretary of State - Mr Macro claimed that his grounds for the request was for the following reasons:
• The store would attract customers from within a radius of about 50 miles, threatening the viability of numerous town centre shopping areas.
• The nature of goods sold in the store would mean that almost all customers would travel to the store by private car. This means that the proposal is not a sustainable one.
• The site of the proposed store is just inside the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the 22.5 metre height of the blue coloured store would affect views into the AONB from nearby public footpaths, public open space and the M4 motorway.
• Although it is proposed to extend one bus service to the store, the site is otherwise difficult to reach by public transport. This means that most of the 400 employees would travel to work using privater cars, reducing sustainability further.
• The large amount of traffic that would be generated would cause congestion on the M4 motorway and on roads leading from nearby Reading, in addition to local roads.
• The proposed store is not of high quality design, as required by the NPPF.

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