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West Berkshire Council accused of playing politics after plans to withdraw the Local Plan

West Berkshire Council has been accused of playing politics with the district's electorate by planning to withdraw the Local Plan.

The administration's Conservative group were inadvertently copied in on correspondence from the new Lib Dem leadership saying the move would be a 'nuclear option'.

Ross Mackinnon, leader of the West Berkshire Conservative group
Ross Mackinnon, leader of the West Berkshire Conservative group

And now the group leader Ross MacKinnon has shared those emails with Newburytoday.

He claims that the Liberal Democrats are playing politics.

“These comments are a smoking gun, and reveal that not only do the Liberal Democrats know full well that withdrawal of the Local Plan will be an unmitigated disaster for all of West Berkshire and cost a fortune into the bargain, but that their actions are based on political advantage first and the interests of residents dead last," he said.

"They admit that they know the plan has been certified as sound by expert officers, but because they made undeliverable promises to win a few votes, they have do something – anything – regardless of how damaging to the district as a whole. I’m utterly appalled, as all West Berkshire residents must be, at the Liberal Democrats’ duplicity and negligence.”

Outlining the 'do nothing' option the email from Tony Vickers (Hungerford and Kintbury), portfolio holder for planning, says: "The advantage to the council would be a speedier outcome, ie more nearly meeting the deadline and not risking failure to maintain a five year housing land supply.

"However this carries the risk (for us) that we fail to change the Inspector’s mind.

"But politically we could say we tried. We would have to demonstrate to the voters somehow that we had tried..."

The email then goes on to say: "Withdrawing the Plan shows voters we are serious...

"There do not seem any advantages at this stage to withdrawal but we do need to have some costings done, because I expect this would have a major impact on budgets for at least two years."

The Lib Dems had claimed, prior to the local council elections in May, that the Local Plan developed by the Tories was flawed, and included a review of it in their party's election manifesto.

By its own admission, the council says this is financially risky, with the potential for planning appeals on major developments costing hundreds of thousands of pounds.

It has estimated the cost of developing a new plan, with these risks, is around £1.6m.

The council meets tonight (December 19) to ratify the move to withdraw the Local Plan.

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