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Lib Dems forced to accept Local Plan they believe to be ‘flawed’

West Berkshire Council has confirmed it will not challenge the Government on the Local Plan.

It means, in the words of one councillor, that somewhere the size of Hungerford will now be attached to Thatcham.

West Berkshire Council will not challenge the government over the local plan
West Berkshire Council will not challenge the government over the local plan

The Government had threatened to take over planning control if the Liberal Democrat authority carried through its threat to ditch the Local Plan, which was formed under the previous Conservative administration.

The same day that the council received the letter, Secretary of state for levelling up Michael Gove told local councils they would lose planning control unless they sorted their Local Plans out.

These plans set out what, where and how many homes will be built until 2039.

The Conservative opposition, former Labour Party campaigner Richard Garvie and residents who are supportive of all of the political parties, had come together to put aside party political differences to lobby West Berkshire councillors, Newbury MP Laura Farris and the Government after the administration announced it planned to withdraw the plan – costing council tax payers around £1.6m.

Then in a dramatic twist, just hours before a meeting in December, scheduled to approve the withdrawal, the Government intervened to stop the move.

So the Liberal Democrats had to fall on their sword at the specially convened meeting that same night.

But they went down throwing spurs at the Tories.

The Tories, however, said the move to withdraw the plan was done to tick off a manifesto pledge made by the Lib Dems at the local elections – in the full knowledge that it would not go through, allowing them to ‘blame the government’ for its failing.

The motion to withdraw the plan was itself withdrawn.

The council had until January 12 to go back to the Government to argue its case, but has now decided not to.

It means that up to 2,500 homes could now be built in Thatcham in the next 15 years.

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