Newbury MP Laura Farris: 'Is Thatcham right place for 2,500 homes?'
MP questioning West Berkshire Council allocation and asking about Newbury Showground suitability
NEWBURY MP Laura Farris has questioned whether West Berkshire Council’s proposals for thousands of new homes is “Thatcham or nothing”.
The council has proposed 170 hectares of land at north east Thatcham for development of up to 2,500 homes in its Local Plan Review. A thousand homes have been proposed at Sandleford Park in Newbury, and smaller allocations have been proposed across the district.
Mrs Farris said at a Thatcham Town Council meeting on Monday that she was in ongoing discussions over whether it was the right location for the huge development.
Town council leader David Lister (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said the proposals to add the “entirety of a new town... to Thatcham” were “a looming concern” for residents.
Mrs Farris said she had raised the possibility of other sites with the council, including around Newbury Showground, which she said “seems to have its future somewhat in doubt”.
“I don’t know if that is suitable for housing development because of its proximity to the motorway,” she added.
“I’m really trying to probe whether it is Thatcham or nothing. I’ve also challenged whether it needed to be such a huge amount of houses.
“I think the fairest summary is I’m in the middle of an ongoing conversation about whether this is really the right location for it.
“The alternative I have suggested has been around the showground area, where it seems there’s some land, or whether or why it would be suitable for some residential development.”
The district council’s planning policy manager, Bryan Lyttle, said recently that Newbury Showground had not been promoted for residential development and could not be considered in the current plan.
Mr Lister said that Thatcham had previously been identified for a period of consolidation to allow its infrastructure to catch up following the 800 home development at Kennet Heath.
He asked Mrs Farris: “What do you think has happened since 2012 that means Thatcham can support more houses when we were expecting investment?”
Mrs Farris said from her understanding that at the time of Thatcham being proposed a legal challenge was made over the council not allocating land for the garden town at Grazeley in its plan. This was because the detailed emergency planning zone around AWE sites was extended. The council won the legal challenge.
She said the district had limited space for development because of the area of outstanding natural beauty, AWE sites and flood zones.