Thu, 26 Mar 2015
BUILDING nearly 500 homes at Siege Cross Farm would be a disaster for Thatcham if they were approved.
That was the view of Thatcham Town Council when it met to discuss A2Dominion’s outline application for up to 495 homes, provision of a primary school and a community facility.
The developer is challenging West Berkshire’s housing supply figures, saying the council should “take the positive step” of releasing the site for development, owing to the absence of an updated five-year housing land supply.
Speaking at the meeting last Thursday, the town council’s technical consultant, Chris Watts, said: “This is a straightforward pre-emptive strike against the planning authority and it’s not going to be the only one.”
Mr Watts said the application was contrary to West Berkshire Council’s local plan and would have significant strategic implications if it were approved as sites across West Berkshire could be unlocked for development.
And suspecting that the application would go to an appeal, Mr Watts recommended that refusal was the only proper response, while the district council updated its local plan and housing figures. Only then could appropriate options for future development be assessed following a public consultation and in accordance with planning rules; something Mr Watts said was not the town council’s place to comment on.
But Lee Dillon (Lib Dem, Thatcham North) said that West Berkshire Council was putting the town at risk from developers as it had had three years to update its figures to safeguard residents.
District councillor Shelia Ellison (Con, Thatcham North) responded that Thatcham would have minimal housing as the town was still adjusting to the 800 homes at the Kennet Heath estate and that Newbury would be the focus for development.
“We have to support the local authority on this. They are working on everything. It’s a shame there’s an election coming and Lee Dillon had to make some drumming,” she said.
Mike Cole (Lib Dem, Thatcham North) said that Thatcham “needed a break from housing” and that he had many concerns about the application, including traffic, flooding and the impact on local schools.
“If we are not careful the catchment area for Kennet will stop on one side of Stoney Lane,” he said. Mr Cole added that he would prefer to see brownfield sites in the town developed over sites outside the settlement boundary.
Concluding the discussion, Gary Johnson (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said: “If this development goes ahead it will be a Thatcham disaster.”
Mrs Ellison has asked for the application to be called before the district council’s eastern area planning committee should planning officers recommend approval.