PLANS to convert offices at Overbridge Square Business Park into more than 100 flats could set a “dangerous precedent” as opposition grows.
The claim has been made in a letter of representation by the Newbury Society, which has become the latest party to object to proposals that would see more than 60,000 sq ft of office space converted into one- and two-bedroom apartments.
The application from Overbridge Development Ltd is asking if prior approval is required from West Berkshire Council to change the use of the five buildings on the Hambridge Lane site from business to residential units.
Objecting to the application on behalf of the Newbury Society, Dr Tony Vickers wrote: “We have a strong in-principle objection to this proposal to change the use of a part of Newbury’s major employment area to housing.
“It is inconceivable that it would result in living accommodation of a high quality and it would not be a safe environment in which to live, especially for families. It would be a dangerous precedent for the whole planning policy and character of Newbury.”
Newbury town councillors expressed their objections to the plans at a recent planning and highways meeting, while neighbouring businesses have also stated their objection to the plans.
In a letter of representation, one neighbouring business owner wrote: “Given the location of the property a more suitable use for this land would be industrial/warehouse and not housing.
“There is already a significant shortage of good-quality industrial property in Newbury which is driving businesses away from the town.”
Questions were also raised over the additional traffic which the development would create – a concern echoed by council highways officers in terms of parking and vehicle movements.
Officers said the proposals would create “considerable” highway and transport impacts and last week requested the developer submit a full planning application for the change of use of the office blocks.
However, in an attempt to allay the concerns, architect Brooks Murray, acting on behalf of the developer, said a total of 301 parking spaces would be provided (91 more than current council standards would demand), while also claiming, based on available traffic models, that there would actually be a reduction in peak-time vehicle movements to and from the site.
A decision will be made by West Berkshire Council in the coming weeks.