Tories slam decision to scrap West Berkshire local plan as ‘reckless’ and ‘incompetent’
Scrapping the West Berkshire local plan has been branded both reckless and incompetent.
Opposition Conservatives on the council say the decision to withdraw the plan – which determines housing numbers and developments in the district until 2039 as reported in our front page story and left – amounts to "over promising in the elections".
The Lib Dem administration decided to pull the plan as it does not want 2,500 homes in Thatcham built.
Costs for the cash strapped council, which is in the midst of a budget cutting consultation, are estimated at £1.6m, with the potential for expensive planning appeals as a result.
The Local Plan developed under the Tories was submitted before the May election date, despite the then opposition Lib Dems saying it was "flawed".
The Tories lost to the Lib Dems in the May vote.
But the Conservative opposition is now furious, claiming the Liberal Democrats are opening up West Berkshire to millions in costs and unwanted development on a huge scale, and are gambling that HM Government will intervene to stop them doing so.
They say their plan wasn’t flawed at all and purport that the pre-election stance of the Lib Dems was blatant electioneering.
"Lee Dillon [Liberal Democrat council leader] has realised he has to face the people of Thatcham and Bucklebury in the General Election, to whom he promised he would scrap the North East Thatcham development, and admit to them he cannot deliver on the promises he made," said Conservative group leader Ross Mackinnon (Con, Bradfield).
"But, as always with the Liberal Democrats, he is looking for someone else to blame for his own failure.
"Therefore, he is counting on HM Government stepping in, like they did with other councils who tried to withdraw sound Local Plans, so he can blame someone else for his failure to deliver rather than show
leadership and take responsibility for his undeliverable promises.
"The Liberal Democrats don’t want to withdraw the plan, because they know it will be a disaster, as their own paper ominously makes clear."
The council's officers have drafted a report for ratifiying at a specially convened meeting of the authority next week highlighting both the financial risks and the likely impact on officers' workloads.
The report openly states that if the plan is withdrawn, developers are circling, and the council will be powerless to stop unwanted development.
"It puts the cost of preparing a new plan as at least £1.6m, at a time where the administration is plotting to stop cutting grass, maintaining bridges and emptying litter bins to save pennies," added Mr Mackinnon.
"There will be an immediate application for 2,500 houses in North East Thatcham, the very thing the Liberal Democrats say they want to prevent.
"If ever there was a report which was an invitation to Government to stop the council implementing it, it’s this one.
"It’s the most reckless action I’ve ever seen in local government."