Mon, 15 Jan 2018
THE developers of a controversial scheme to build 75 new homes in Thatcham have provided an update on the plans.
However, questions are still being asked as to how the application – which was objected to by both Thatcham Town Council and West Berkshire Council – got through on appeal.
Bloor Homes Southern was granted permission to build the homes to the east of Tull Way and north of the Henwick Worthy sportsground on appeal last year.
West Berkshire Council had refused the scheme, saying that the homes would have “an urbanising and detrimental impact on the character and appearance of this attractive part of Thatcham”.
The site lies within Thatcham’s settlement boundary and was not included on a list of preferred sites for housing.
However, when the plans came to appeal, the council withdrew its single reason for refusal and did not submit any evidence to the inquiry.
Both the council and Bloor submitted a statement of common ground, in which the council said that the harm to the visual impact remained.
However, after considering the impact on boosting housing supply the council said that, on balance, it would no longer contest the appeal.
At a meeting of Thatcham Town Council’s planning and environment committee last month, Jeff Brooks (Lib Dem, Thatcham North) queried why the scheme had been approved at all.
He said: “I wonder if any of the district councillors have any understanding of how this got approved.
“It wasn’t in the Development Plan Document.
“With this [the DPD] being agreed, this has snuck in without the council’s support. It surprises and confuses me.
“I remember fighting this off with Keith Woodhams as part of the green lung between Thatcham and Newbury, but we are where we are.”
In response, town council leader Jason Collis (Con, Thatcham North) said: “The DPD looked beyond settlement boundaries. this is within the settlement boundary, with that there’s a presumption in favour of development.”
But Mr Brooks replied: “The DPD was able to say we had the numbers to satisfy the inspector.
“This was refused at 90 [homes] and came back at 75.
“I think once you satisfy the numbers you can protect your inner settlement, otherwise it’s a free-for-all even when you satisfy the numbers.”
Conservative councillor Richard Crumly (Thatcham Central) added: “West Berkshire Council did end up not resisting it because these 75 homes would keep the housing number up and keep the inspector happy.”
Meanwhile, agents for Bloor told councillors that the developers were working on the next stage for the site – a reserved matters application.
Councillors heard that a number of conditions had been imposed by the inspector and that the final design would have to be in line with the submitted master plan.
In approving the scheme, planning inspector Ms L Gibbons said: “There would be considerable potential in this scheme to create a soft urban edge retaining a visual link to the open countryside beyond.
“While the proposed development would cause some very limited harm to the character and appearance of the area, it would not do so to a material extent.
“The proposal would contribute to the supply of open market housing in an accessible location.
“There would be provision of affordable housing in an area where the local need is high.
“Temporary jobs would be provided and the local residents would make use of the services and facilities which are available in Thatcham.
“Public open space would also be provided.
“These benefits weigh in favour of the appeal proposal.”