THE two Sandleford Park developers have reacted to West Berkshire Council’s claims that they failed to work together to submit a planning application for Sandleford Park.
The council said that it was “disappointed” that Bloor Homes and Donnington New Homes failed to produce a cohesive plan for the site.
Mark Norgate, the managing director of Donnington New Homes, responded by saying that in May 2015 his company invited Bloor – who are representing Sandleford Farm Partnership [a group of landowners]– to sign a developer contribution agreement.
The agreement, he said, would have allowed the two parties to work together more closely.
However, he claimed Bloor declined that invitation for “understandable” commercial reasons and didn’t want to spend a year going through legal paperwork to obtain signatures from landowners.
Mr Norgate explained: “For various commercial reasons, Bloor and the Sandleford Farm Partnership have not wanted to engage in that level of legal drafting for fear of delaying their own strategy.
“Bloor and Donnington are very different animals. We are a relatively small developer and they are a big commercial developer.
“So instead they [Bloor] made a unilateral application covering the whole site, over their area of land and ours.
“Because we, as Donnington New Homes, were not an applicant, we were not able to engage with the council or have any input in that process.
“It was all rather unsatisfactory.
“I think it is fair to say in terms of the landowners, we were always playing catch-up and trying to second-guess what was happening.
“There is a strong desire to move away from the stalemate position we were in and work positively together.
“The council has made it clear that the only way it will be approved as a whole scheme is if there is a high degree of collaboration between the landowners.
“I’m pleased to say that over the last few months there has been a great degree of cooperation between Bloor and Donnington.”
Both parties have said they expect to sign the agreement in the coming weeks.
Mr Norgate added: “We [Donnington] intend to submit our plans on December 1.
“I expect Bloor will reapply for the 1,000 homes in January and their application will sit alongside ours.
“My hope is that by the middle of next year we will see two applications for Sandleford, underpinned by the developer collaboration agreement.
“I am far more positive about 2018 than I was about 2017.”
A spokesman for Bloor Homes, Daniel Hayman, said: “We are disappointed with the decision, however we still share the council’s vision of delivering the Sandleford Park scheme, which seeks to address policy and the necessary infrastructure required to support the new residents.
“We have made progress over the last few months through our discussions with the council on various issues, including highways.
“We are now focussing our attention on how we could take this forward in the New Year.
“Donnington New Homes, Bloor Homes and the Sandleford Farm landowners are looking at how the scheme can be delivered across the two land ownerships – potentially as two complementing applications – with a formal cost-sharing mechanism between the developers.
“We believe this would achieve the aims of the council’s policy, as well as tackling the requirements for funding and delivery of new infrastructure.”
It added: “The absence of a developer agreement is not one of the reasons for the refusal of the applications.
“We expect a further more detailed agreement between the landowners to be reached in the next few days.”