THE opening salvoes have been fired at a planning inquiry
that will determine whether more than 400 homes will be built off the A339 north of Newbury.
At stake is what campaigners call ‘the beautiful Donnington Valley’ where Commercial Estates Group (CEG) could build up to 401 homes to the north and west of the Vodafone’s HQ in Shaw-cum-Donnington.
Members of the Donnington Valley Action Group have also criticised the flood risk the development would pose, along with increasing the strain on Newbury’s already creaking road network.
Shaw resident Eric Win told planning inspector Phillip Ware on Tuesday that local roads were gridlocked and that he felt that “Newbury was being overrun by development”.
He added that assurances were made that there would be no infill after Vodafone’s headquarters was approved.
“There is no A&E and no maternity unit in Newbury... with all the added housing, people and cars, this could be a problem to the town,” he said.
The inquiry heard that the district council would no longer be contesting the application on the grounds of highways capacity, however it would be disputing access to the development and its sustainability.
In his opening statement, Peter Village QC, representing CEG, said that the development was “the paradigm of sustainable-development” and would provide “numerous weighty benefits”.
Most notably, he said, would be up to 241 market homes and up
to 160 affordable homes in a district which “palpably lacked a five-year supply and with acknowledged affordability problems”.
The scheme also includes a new primary school, bus service and a local centre, which could be used for shops, a nursery or community hall.
“The council should be welcoming the appeal scheme with open arms,” Mr Village said.
“Instead, it wrongly claims that the scheme is in overall conflict with its development plan policies.”
Countering the claims, Emmaline Lambert, representing the council, said that the authority could demonstrate a five-year housing supply.
She added that the site was outside the settlement boundary and, if approved, would undermine the council’s plan-making process.
The homes would be built on either side of the A339, with access to both sites coming off the Vodafone roundabout, with pedestrian access via an underpass.
Thames Valley Police had objected to the scheme, saying that the underpass and layout of the development would see fear of crime undermine community cohesion.
For this reason, the council said that the site would not be sustainable.
“This proposal includes land of the wrong type in the wrong place,” said Miss Lambert.
“The eastern parcel of the proposed development will be cut off in terms of accessibility and occupants will be reliant on the private car,”
But Mr Village said that the council had “sought to resuscitate” the since-withdrawn police objection “on the use of what will be the most over-looked underpass in Newbury”.
Residents will present their arguments against the development this morning (Thursday) and the inquiry will also hear the council’s statements over traffic mitigation.
A decision will be made by the secretary of state in the coming months.