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Mega basement plans upset West Woodhay

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Controversial plans for a James Bond-style mega basement, including a car lift and turntable are back before West Berkshire Council.

The Hong Kong-based owner of Lake House in West Woodhay – which is just inside West Berkshire district – wants to change its planning consent to have a 1,500 sq m underground car park for 16 cars, with a swimming pool, sauna, gym, games room and wellness areas.

The applicant is describing the changes as a ‘minor amendment’ to the original, approved plans.

Lake House (58432528)
Lake House (58432528)

It also wants to add more windows and lights to a previously approved new pavilion and add a pedestrian tunnel from the pavilion to the house.

But the planning inspector, on appeal, rejected this, saying the development damages the ‘dark skies and tranquility’ of the area.

So the owner/property and investment company, which is also called Lake House, has appealed again – to the fury of local residents and all four surrounding parish councils.

Dozens of locals have objected to the ongoing development at the site, saying it is ‘lit up like a Christmas tree’ with bright lights, further complaining that no consultation has taken place with them.

And West Berkshire Council’s planners' recommendation to approve the latest amendments have been slammed by parish councils

“How can the council consider a similar application that has already been refused by the council and dismissed at appeal by the Inspector in Bristol?” said West Woodhay Parish Council.

"Given that the plans state that the Western Pavilion will mirror the existing Eastern Pavilion, this will further brighten up the dark skies. Therefore this application should be refused."

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council also objected, saying the overall result that the various owners have managed to achieve is contrary to all planning policy and common sense, which an astute planning department should be able to resist.

“If further development on this site is allow the planning department will be found wanting again,” it added.

Many of the objectors and the parish councils also question what the intended final use of the buildings will be, with some suggesting the end game is for a spa resort, and say the owner, or the agent Carter Jonas, should be made to engage with the West Woodhay community.

"West Woodhay is a small and harmonious community within AONB [Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty] and is being blighted by the transformation of what was a small dwelling with an agricultural tie into a massive residence of ever increasing proportion,” wrote resident George Clowes.

“This appears to have been achieved somewhat by stealth with a number of different planning applications in different house/farm names.

"There seems to be no end in sight and it makes me wonder what end result is actually envisaged by the owner.

"I find it surprising that there does not seen to have been any environmental study to gauge the possible effects this massive proposed excavation might have on the water table and aquifers. This most especially as the village is not on mains water.”

The plans are before West Berkshire's western area planning committee next Wednesday.

Councillors are just being asked to put the council’s view on the matter forward to the planning inspector who will determine the outcome.

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