Mon, 21 Nov 2016
THE financial benefits that Aldermaston would reap if plans to treble the size of the village are approved were disputed between parish councillors and their district representative last week.
Praxis Real Estate Management wants to convert Aldermaston Manor into 23 apartments, but in order to restore the historic 19th-century house, the developer says it needs to build 227 homes within the grounds to cover the cost.
Additional homes are proposed through a change of use for Bridge Lodge and converting the stable block into two properties, while extending three other lodges.
Praxis also wants to demolish Blue Circle’s distinctive office block, Portland House, and Oxford House, which lie in the grounds.
A developer’s contribution of around £3m is to be paid to West Berkshire Council to help offset the impact if the scheme is approved.
But speaking at last week’s meeting, parish council chairman David Shirt said that the parish would receive around £50,000 in developer’s money once regulations had been applied.
“At least you don’t have the worry of trying to spend £1m,” Aldermaston’s district councillor Dominic Boeck (Con) replied.
Mr Boeck said that the developer’s money would be placed in a collective pot with the district council. “West Berkshire Council will spend the money on infrastructure projects across the district and you will be able to track it down because all the spending is transparent.”
However, Rob Smith said that the money should be spent in Aldermaston parish and not across the district.
“That’s not how West Berkshire interprets it,” Mr Boeck said.
“If there’s significant demand for school places then the council has a duty to provide those spaces either by potentially building a new school or providing more places.
“The money is pooled, it can’t avoid mitigating the harm that any development causes.”
Mr Shirt said: “But you can’t guarantee it will be spent here.”
Praxis paid £4.7m for the 140-acre estate in 2014 and says that building the homes is the only way to restore the house and grounds to their former glory.
Referring to the scheme, Mr Smith said: “Praxis bought it to sell it and they got their fingers burned. Now they are saying we still want our money back.”
Councillors raised no objections to the lodge house, Oxford House and Second World War building schemes.
Rob Smith said it was “a travesty” that the lodges had remained unused while the parish council had looked into increasing the amount of affordable housing in the village.
Councillors could not reach a view on the proposed extension to the stable block, feeling that its proximity to Portland House could affect the former office block’s future.
They deferred commenting on the more contentious plans for the manor house and 227 homes, waiting for the outcome of a public meeting on the schemes on November 24.
Mr Shirt said that representatives from Praxis and AWE would be present at the meeting, which will be held in the parish hall.