Sat, 19 May 2018
MORE than 100 new homes could soon be a part of Newbury Business Park after the district council gave the green light to the plans.
West Berkshire Council overruled objections raised by Newbury Town Council, which described the proposal to convert an office block into residential units as “unsuitable” .
The town council had previously urged the planning authority to respect the park’s zoned commercial use and honour the district’s core strategy.
The proposal involved a change of use application to convert empty office space at Emerald House, into 138 residential units under Permitted Development Rights
These enable developers to carry out certain building works and changes of use without having to make a planning application.
In justifying its decision, the district council said it “regrettably” overlooked the business park’s status as a protected employment zone – as stipulated in West Berkshire Core Strategy (2006 to 2026) – which it said it could not take into account “without prejudice”.
At a planning and highways committee meeting in March, the town council argued that a planning application should be submitted for the two-storey, 1980s building.
In the same meeting, members also objected to a separate planning application by developer Stonegate Land and Property to develop 10 two-bedroom flats at another building on the business park, Watson House.
This objection was upheld by the district council, which acknowledged the space as a designated employment area protected under the core strategy.
Maintaining the balance between residential and business use in the town was cited by Newbury Town Council as an integral reason for objecting to both proposals.
It is the second change of use application under permitted development rights that the local authority has approved at Newbury’s premier business park, on London Road, in just over a year.
A previous application to transform three office blocks into 129 flats was approved last May after West Berkshire Council ruled that no prior planning approval was required.
The town council’s planning and highways chairman, Anthony Pick, said he was strongly opposed to the principle of converting parts of the business park into residential areas, which appear to contradict the core strategy.
Mr Pick told the Newbury Weekly News he had written to the housing and planning minister, Dominick Raab, and several of his colleagues on the issue.
Mr Pick said: “The fundamental issue is that it is contrary to the core strategy.
“A huge amount of work goes into the core strategy to get the local plan approved.
“After all this effort, offices can be converted into residential purposes whether or not they are zoned under the plan – that’s the point I do not like.”
Referring to the business park itself, he added: “It’s not an area which is attractive for people to live.
“We need to maintain Newbury as an attractive area to live and to work, especially if Newbury is to retain its character.
“It has always been a residential area.”