COUNCILLORS bowed to “bureaucratic pressure” when giving the go-ahead for developers to build 75 new homes on the northern edge of Newbury.
West Berkshire councillor for Cold Ash, Garth Simpson (Con, Cold Ash), made the claim after members of the district planning committee voted through controversial plans to develop the land at Coley Farm in Stoney Lane.
The site, just north of Kiln Road, which lies in Cold Ash parish, had been included the council’s list of preferred development sites, leaving councillors no choice but to approve the plans, despite objections from local residents, according to Mr Simpson.
Objectors had claimed that the project would have an unacceptable impact on the local countryside, while also posing a flooding risk to the area.
However, the impact on the local road network, which Mr Simpson described as a “nightmare”, was the biggest cause for objection.
Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News this week, Mr Simpson said he was saddened by the decision, explaining that the site had initially been rejected by the council’s highways officers when it had first been considered for the local development plan.
“Members voted the site through under bureaucratic pressure to avoid departing from the local plan,” he said.
“The fact is highways did not like the site in November 2014, but planning overruled them.
“The impact on the landscape is going to be huge, while the traffic is already very, very bad.”
The council’s highways officers said in their most recent report that the impact on the local road network could not be classed as “severe” and therefore did not object to the plans.
It is estimated that 96 per cent of the traffic from the development will travel south from Stoney Lane on to the busy Kiln Road and Turnpike Road.
“The mini roundabout in Kiln Road is already very dangerous,” said Mr Simpson. “We will have injuries.”
Residents had also warned councillors over the dangers that the increase in traffic would bring during Thursday’s meeting.
However, committee chairwoman Hilary Cole (Con, Chieveley) reminded members that the council had just one year ago voted to approve the site for development by including it in the local plan.
After hearing arguments for and against, Richard Crumley (Con, Thatcham, Central) made a proposal that the committee members follow the officers’ recommendations and approve the site
Agreeing, Paul Bryant (Con, Speen) pointed to other ongoing planning applications, including those at Sandleford and Hungerford, saying: “If we are to refuse this application I think there are half-a-dozen other applications which will have to be refused.
“We have a requirement to provide so many houses that’s been laid on us by the Government and there’s nothing we can do about it.
“If we can’t provide those houses, it will be ruled by the Government’s planning inspector – not where we want to have it, not where the public want to have it, but where the inspector wants it.”
Putting the decision to the vote resulted in five votes for and five votes against the application, with chairwoman Hilary Cole ultimately casting the deciding vote in favour of the development.
The proposals from Donnington New Homes will see a mix of one-, two-, three-, four- and five-bedroom homes built on the 3.75-hectare site.
Forty per cent of the homes will be affordable.
The outline plans also include a total of 162 parking spaces and two access points on to Stoney Lane, which would also be widened in an effort to improve safety.