Ikea given the green light for Calcot store this evening (Wednesday)
The decision did not come as a surprise, as the plans were recommended for approval by the district council’s planning officers, but nonetheless, many of the more than 80 people who attended were disappointed with the outcome.
Speaking on behalf of Ikea, Sally Miles told councillors: "The regeneration of this brownfield site will provide many benefits for the local community."
Also on behalf of Ikea, Melanie de Wet assured councillors that concerns over traffic were unfounded. She said: "Clearly it is in Ikea's interest to make sure that the traffic systems do work."
Unsurprising, many of those who spoke were concerned about traffic, including Save Calcot Action Group's Joan Lawrie and parish and district councillors.
Speaking on behalf of nearby supermarket Sainsbury, Stephen Eyton asked councillors to consider imposing further improvements to traffic management, including a system that will automatically identify traffic queues and change traffic light cycles accordingly.
There was widespread opposition to the plans prior to the meeting, with 260 letters of objection citing the scale of the development and its impact on traffic and pollution as the major concerns. There were also concerns expressed over the impact on the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
But there was also support for the development, with 17 letters written in support and 51 providing comment. Most of those in favour pointed to the positive impact it will have on employment in the area with approximately 400 new jobs up for grabs.
Among councillors, the most vehement opposition to the plans came, unsurprisingly, from Calcot member Brian Bedwell (Con). Mr Bedwell launched a ferocious attack on council traffic planning officers, calling their figures into question and giving them such a grilling that he had to be reigned in by the chairman.
In the end, the view of fellow conservative councillor, Alan Law (Basildon), that all planning is about reaching a proper balance, and that in this case the economic benefits outweighed the hyper-local issues, prevailed and the vote went seven to four in favour of the developers - with added conditions that further traffic management features, along the lines suggested by Sainsbury be considered, and that the store agrees to schemes that will see it hire people from the local area.
Under the plans, a new store will be located at Junction 12 of the M4 near Theale on 140,000 sq ft of land acquired by the firm in December 2009.
After the event, Ikea project manager Roger Cooper said he was "over the moon" with the decision: "We were very confident with the plans that we put forward and were delighted that it has been approved.
"This has taken 14 months to reach this stage, when it should have taken 16 weeks. We now have to take a step back and then decide how we move forward."
He would not be drawn on how long it will take for the store to open its doors for customers, saying there were several legal requirements that have yet to be met.
For more detailed coverage, check back on www.NewburyToday.co.uk later.