THE first homes at the proposed Sandleford Park development may not be completed for another five years, if the 2,000-home scheme is eventually approved, West Berkshire Council has conceded.
The news comes as a decision date on 1,000 of those homes has again been delayed by the council, with the planning application not now expected to be considered before December.
The ongoing delays and stretching of timescales have led to calls for the council to provide residents in south Newbury with some certainty over the scheme, as many are left wondering how the sprawling development – off Monks Lane – will affect their day-to-day lives.
Developer Bloor Homes has been seeking planning permission for the Sandleford development since 2015 and had initially envisaged completing the first homes on the site by 2018.
A deadline for a decision was initially moved back from February to November 2017, and has now been delayed once again until December.
However, a number of additional housing developments in West Berkshire have since been approved on appeal, which has meant that the council is no longer relying on the site to be able to demonstrate a five-year land supply, as required by national planning policy.
And last week, West Berkshire Council spokeswoman Peta Stoddart-Crompton said the local authority had to take a “pragmatic” approach to the development now it was no longer on the list of sites needed in the next five years.
She added: “However, the council is committed to the delivery of Sandleford and any delivery on that site that may occur within the next five years will be a bonus.”
Almost two years since the first application was submitted, negotiations are still ongoing between West Berkshire Council and developer Bloor Homes over a number of key aspects of the development, including access roads and schools funding.
However, Wash Common residents and spokesman for the ‘Say No To Sandleford’ campaign group, Peter Norman, has labelled the current situation “disgraceful”.
While accepting that removing Sandleford from the five-year land supply would put the local authority in a stronger position for negotiations, Mr Norman slammed the possibility of five more years of uncertainty for residents.
“If they are taking Sandleford off the table for the next five years, it puts the council in a strong negotiating
position with Bloor Homes – that’s a positive,” he said.
“But for the local residents it just means they have got this sword of Damocles hanging over them.
“People can’t sell their houses in Warren Road. I know a couple who moved in thinking it would be their final move and they’d be there for good.
“But one moment they are being told they need to think about selling up and leaving, then finding out is it, or is it not, going ahead and being left in no man’s land.
“I, personally, think it’s disgraceful.”
And while Sandleford has stalled, the planning inspector has approved an application for 400 homes in Donnington to the north of Newbury, leaving the potential, if Sandleford is given the go-ahead, for two significant housing developments at each end of the A339.
As such, Mr Norman has said West Berkshire Council must re-examine its housing policy, which was agreed earlier this year.
“To deliberately have a housing strategy that develops both ends of the A339 is a total dereliction of their duties.
“I think Sandleford should be put to bed and I think people need to know where they stand.
“You can’t just continue with a housing strategy when some of the underlying principles of that strategy have been pulled away from underneath you.”