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Proposals for industrial and logistics warehouses at Thatcham Business Park

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Councillors have cast doubt on proposals to expand the Colthrop Industrial Estate.

Ptarmigan Land is drawing up proposals for four units on land east of the estate south of the A4.

A planning application is being prepared and the developer is hopeful of submitting it later this month, a Thatcham Town Council meeting heard recently.

Head of planning at Savills Reading, Rebecca McAllister, said the plans were being prepared within the context of "a significant need" for additional employment space, particularly in industrial and logistics.

She said that the market had grown through a rise in online shopping accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in a demand for more warehousing while supply had fallen at its fasted pace ever.

Mrs McAllister said the scheme, with a total floorspace of 19,536 sq m, would bring substantial benefits to the local economy and a significant boost post-Covid.

Up to 150 full-time equivalent construction jobs would be created and between 250 and 300 operational jobs.

She said that salaries in industrial and logistics were higher than the national average, resulting in overall investment into the local economy worth approximately £27.6m and bringing revenue from business rates of £750,000 a year.

Further benefits would include a net gain in biodiversity, extending the footpath on the A4 and carbon reduction measures.

Despite the benefits councillors questioned whether more industrial use was the right application and raised concerns about the traffic impact.

Owen Jeffery (Lib Dem, Thatcham Central) said: "I think you'll find, in Thatcham at least, there is not a great desire to increase the amount of logistics operations within the town.

"I think that because Thatcham has ended up with logistics depots that there is some kind of group think that Thatcham has got a very ideal template for being a logistics base and it actually hasn't."

Mr Jeffery said that between 70 and 80 per cent of the lorries that used the town's depots went through the town along the A4, which he said "was not a suitable lorry route but it carries a vast weight of lorries in both directions 24/7".

He said: "You need to find somewhere like Theale or Membury, where you are going straight on to the motorway and not trundling through three or four miles of Thatcham and the eastern part of Newbury."

Mr Jeffery said that the Colthrop estate was "absolutely ideal" for high-tech industry like Xtrac, "but the idea of developing yet more logistics supplies this side of Thatcham is not, in my opinion, a good idea and I think you will find there are a number of residents in Thatcham and Newbury who will be opposing very strongly to such an idea".

West Berkshire Council identified a need for 62,000 sq m of employment floor space in the district up to 2037 in its Local Plan Review, which is proposing to allocate the site for 20,400 sq m.

Mrs McAllister said that logistics covered a huge range and that a needs assessment outlining the case would be submitted with the application

Ptarmigan Land senior development manager Peter Dowling said it would difficult to gauge trip numbers at this stage as it depended on who the occupier of the site would be.

Access would come from the A4 and the developer is proposing a left turn only exit.

He said that talks had been held with Xtrac about connecting a cul-de-sac on its land, but the company was clear that it "didn't want any vehicles associated with our site going through".

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