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West Berkshire Council: concerns grow over retrospective plans

RESIDENTS are becoming increasingly concerned over ‘retrospective’ planning applications, at a time when council cuts mean enforcement may be patchy.

There have been two major applications recently within the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), aspects of which were retrospective.

In Inkpen, a proposed boiler with underground gas tanks and roadworks was refused, but villagers claim trees had already been felled and an unauthorised road remains.

track (50464905)
track (50464905)

Meanwhile, in West Woodhay a developer has applied for retrospective permission for a road (pictured).

That has prompted protests from residents and the parish council.

One objector, Simon Hayes, wrote: “It is quite wrong to build a track/road and then expect to get retrospective planning permission in an AONB.

“The council have a duty to defend and protect the rural nature of the village rather than covering it over with unauthorised roads.”

In the Inkpen case, planners refused permission for a boiler building, “including siting of six underground gas tanks and pipework (part retrospective)”.

A planning officer’s report noted: “Since the submission of the application, development has taken place.”

The chairman of Inkpen Parish Council, David Thomas, told the Newbury Weekly News: “Any destruction of the AONB should be subject to enforcement action.

“The felling of healthy trees causes damage to our climate and hence damages us all.

“The parish council is greatly concerned that applications for development must be considered prior to any development taking place and that due care and attention be given to conserve and enhance the AONB countryside and the ecology of the landscape.

“Applications for retrospective planning consent should be dealt with such that attempts to subvert the planning process are not allowed to succeed.

In 2017 the NWN highlighted a bombshell admission by West Berkshire Council – that it could no longer routinely enforce planning rules. West Berkshire Council’s principal planning enforcement officer at the time, Richard Beech, stated that Government cuts had forced the council to “reduce the level of planning enforcement staffing resources”.

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