Wed, 11 Jan 2017
PLANS to build more than 300 homes in Theale have gone to appeal, owing to a dispute between West Berkshire Council and the developer over payments towards affordable housing and education.
The two parties had been locked in negotiations, but after a number of extensions to the original deadline, the council has run out of time to make a decision.
Central Corporation Securities Ltd submitted plans in October 2015 to build 325 homes at Lakeside.
And because of the council’s failure to determine the plans, the developer said it had reluctantly decided to launch an appeal.
It added that negotiations had stalled in key areas and that the issues of landscape and visual impact, affordable housing and contributions to education and highways were outstanding issues.
Central Corporation Securities had argued that it could not provide any affordable housing because of the increased cost of decontaminating the site.
In its reasons for appeal, the developer said that the council’s independent assessor, Dixon Searle, disagreed with its view and it has accepted that a 10-per-cent allocation may be possible.
However, the developer has said that the amount it must pay to mitigate the impact of the development will affect the number of affordable homes it can provide.
Planning permission for 350 homes and an office building at Lakeside were approved on appeal in 2007.
West Berkshire Council is also battling to build a new and expanded primary school in Theale to take account of the extra homes.
The council has been awarded £7m government funding for the new school, but has asked the developer to pay £1.4m towards education.
Central Corporation Securities is questioning why it should pay, saying that contributions towards education and highways will affect the level of affordable housing.
It said: “We are concerned that the proposed £1.44m contribution is not justified, given that the construction of a new primary school at Theale has already been fully funded, taking account of approved development in the area (principally, the 350 dwellings at South Lakeside).
“The outcome of the ongoing discussions between the appellant and WBC education will have a significant impact on the appellant’s ability to provide affordable housing in connection with this residential development.”
Speaking about the appeal, Theale’s district councillor Alan Macro (Lib Dem) said it had further confused an already complex situation.
He said that the developer had owned the site for years and should have realised the impact of decontaminating the site, but, as negotiations had broken down, it now felt that going to appeal would get it a better deal.
He said: “They should come to some agreement.
“They have from the outset known the school needed to be expanded if the development goes ahead.
“Again they should have known all of this – to argue anything else is a bit perverse.
“They have already paid some money to education and they should be paying S106 (Section 106 money) because of the size of school.”
Central Corporation Securities is also appealing against an application for 25 homes at North Lakeside.
The developer wants to include the site in its wider application, but the district council said that the land should be left as open space with an access road connecting the larger development.