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Henwick Park promoters continue to push for 225 homes at Thatcham

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Representatives of Croudace Strategic say West Berkshire Council plan 'does not tell whole story'

PROMOTERS of a scheme for 225 houses in north Thatcham have said that West Berkshire Council’s refusal “does not tell the whole story” and will continue to advocate it.

Croudace Strategic had promoted land at ‘Henwick Park’, between Bowling Green Road and Cold Ash Hill, to be included in the council’s Local Plan Review.

The review allocates new housing sites and the council has proposed 2,500 homes at north east Thatcham as its preferred option.

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.

It also said that substantial flood attenuation measures would be required to mitigate for the flood risk, which would reduce the developable area.

Responding to the council’s refusal, public relations consultancy firm SP Broadway director David McFarlane said: “We continue to think it’s an excellent site and it’s deliverable because it’s not too big. Big sites require a lot of initial spending on infrastructure.

“We’re going to carry on promoting it. That’s the loud and clear message.

“We think it’s a good, achievable, deliverable scheme.”

A Planning Inspectorate appeal recommended Henwick Park for approval in 2017, along with plans for up to 495 homes at Siege Cross, which now forms part of the 2,500 home allocation in north east Thatcham.

The secretary of state for communities and local government at the time, Sajid Javid, overruled the appeal, saying that it was not the right time for development.

The council said it had made the “conscious decision” to leave out Henwick Park from its revised plan, mainly because it could not deliver the infrastructure Thatcham needs.

Nexus Planning associate director Steven Doel said: “Henwick Park is demonstrably deliverable.

“There’s no technical issue which means the site can’t come forward.

“It’s deliverable in entirety within five years and I don’t think the council disputes that fact.

“The decision from the secretary of state, that surely should be the starting point in terms of allocation and it would be deliverable in that five-year period, and if additional housing is required, you can look elsewhere in Thatcham.”

Mr Doel said building 2,500 homes in north east Thatcham would not deliver anything in the first five years and it would be “a very considerable period of time” before it delivered anything at all.

He said that Henwick Park would not provide schools or a doctor’s surgery, but financial contributions to infrastructure would be made along with a large amount of public open space.

Mr Doel added that council concerns over the impact on the area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) and merging Thatcham with Cold Ash were not founded.

He said that a revised developable area had been agreed with the council and that “it was accepted by everybody that development was kept to that lower, less visible area and didn’t have any adverse impact on the AONB or the separation between Thatcham and Cold Ash”.

He added: “I think that’s a bit of a hangover from older landscape assessments. We have never proposed or promoted housing across the entirety of the site.

“It’s not the full story. We didn’t propose that.

“Landscape issues or a coalescence with Cold Ash isn’t a factor that means development of this site can’t come forward at all.

“Housing across the entirety is harmful and we are not at odds with anybody on that.

“The HELAA [council assessment] is not telling the whole story.”

Mr Doel said that the council’s refusal on planning represented “quite a sea change”, which wasn’t the case.

“We had a statement of common ground signed with the council as part of the public inquiry.

“The plan has evolved because of discussions with the council

“We continue to work with the council.

“The council wants to use our land to provide attenuation ponds as part of the SWMP [flood defence plan for Thatcham].

“These plans would not prevent in any way the future residential scheme.

“We are working with them to make the land available.

“There’s a solution here which is being looked at in great detail.”

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