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Flood fears put an end to homes plan north of Thatcham

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Council gives reasons for turning down Henwick Park scheme

A SCHEME for 225 homes north of Thatcham was dismissed from a strategic plan owing to flood concerns and its inability to provide significant infrastructure.

Land at Henwick Park for up to 225 homes was put forward by developers in West Berkshire Council’s Local Plan Review.

The council has proposed that 2,500 homes be built in north east Thatcham to meet its housing requirements and provide the town with the infrastructure it desperately needs.

The council twice refused plans for Henwick Park, land between Bowling Green Road and Cold Ash Hill, and its promoter, Croudace Strategic, appealed the decision along with A2Dominion’s plans for up to 495 homes at Siege Cross.

The Planning Inspectorate recommended both schemes for approval in 2017, owing to the council being unable to demonstrate an up-to-date housing supply.

But the then Secretary of State for communities and local government Sajid Javid overruled that recommendation.

Mr Javid said that the situation had changed since the appeals were heard in 2016 and that the council now had a five-year housing supply.

The council plan at that time had also said that Thatcham needed a period of consolidation following the 800-home development at Kennet Heath.

But it now views Thatcham as “the most sensible place” to build 2,500 homes.

In an assessment of proposed sites, the council rejected Henwick Park from the review as it would not be able to provide the infrastructure required and would lead to coalescing with Cold Ash.

The council said it had made the “conscious decision” as it believed Thatcham needed a site on the scale of 2,500 homes to deliver the necessary infrastructure.

A landscape sensitivity/capacity assessment (LSA/LCA) said that development on the whole of the site would result in harm to the natural beauty and special qualities of the area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).

The council said that although Cold Ash had expanded towards Thatcham, it retained a distinctive separate identity.

“The development of the whole of this site would lead to the perception of a merging of the two settlements and would therefore have an adverse impact on the AONB settlement pattern,” documents said.

“Due to the scale of development that could take place on THA20 [north east Thatcham], it is considered that there should be no further allocations in Thatcham in the period to 2037, particularly as development of both north east and north Thatcham would result in the loss of the separate identifies of Cold Ash and Bucklebury, and would harm the setting of the AONB settlement pattern.”

The council assessed land at Henwick Park as potentially developable in part as a “major surface water flood flow route” passes through the site.

Substantial attenuation measures would be required to mitigate for the flood risk, which would reduce the developable area.
Henwick Park would have fallen within the catchment for Cold Ash St Mark’s Primary School.

The council said the development’s impact on primary education would equate to around a one-form entry or one class.

The council said: “While the catchment school might struggle to accommodate these numbers, currently the wider Thatcham area could absorb this scale of impact at primary.

“However, schools are starting to review their accommodation and some may remove spaces, affecting the ability of Thatcham as a whole to meet any changes to population demand.”

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