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Newbury town council hosts lively Sandleford meeting

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Councilors and members of the public quiz developers

Newbury residents and town councilors aired their concerns on the looming 2,000-home Sandleford development at a lively town council meeting held last week.

Newbury Town Council hosted four representatives from the developer Bloor Homes at a meeting on December 15 and gave councillors and the public a chance to question them now that the plans have been formally lodged.

Answering Tony Stretton’s (Con, Clay Hill) questions on the provision of a surgery at the site, Owen Jones, speaking on behalf of Bloor, said: “We have had discussions with Falkland’s surgery and the proposal is that there will be a financial contribution to effect the enlargement of that surgery.”

Margo Payne (Con, Clay Hill) noted that the inclusion of a country park in the plans was a great thing, but asked for reassurance that it would be made open to the public. Mr Jones confirmed that it would be available to everyone.

Allotment provision was also brought into question by David Fenn (Con, Falkland). Mr Jones confirmed that the developer was not planning for any allotments.

The most discussed element of the application was that of traffic generation and access roads throughout the housing development.

Asked by councillors how the developer would prevent Newbury residents using the site as a rat-run to avoid other, busier routes, group transport director Matthew Grist said: “These roads are designed for 20mph, so the travel would be quite torturous. It would be designed to deter rat-running through the site. It would be very slow-going.”

With the floor opened up to members of the public, a range of questions was put to the developer of the district’s largest housing project, asking for clarity on when the schools would open, when the junction improvements would be completed and about the proposed public transport system.

One resident, Julie Knapman, has launched a petition opposing the planned access road at Warren Road, which has gathered 264 signatures.

Her petition argues that the proposed access road would worsen traffic near to Falkland and Park House schools, leading to a potentially life-threatening situation for pupils walking to and from school.

She said: “My concern is that it could be used as a rat-run and we are also talking about increased construction traffic.”

Councillor Tony Vickers, a founding member of cyclists’ organisation SPOKES, poin-ted out that the planning document only made mention of a 30mph limit for motorists, and not the 20mph that Mr Grist had mentioned earlier with regard to rat-running.

Mr Jones dismissed Newbury mayor Howard Bairstow’s question on the possibility that household pets would kill the wildlife living in ancient woodland on the site, saying that none of the studies undertaken had identified a risk.

As a reaction to the number of times the developer referred its answers to West Berkshire Council, one member of the public said: “It feels increasingly like we have got the wrong people here tonight.

“It’s beginning to look like Bloor Homes are just the puppets of West Berkshire Council.”

On this, Mr Jones acknowledged: “There does need to be a dialogue with West Berkshire Council.”

Giuseppe Zanre, of Bloor Homes, said: “It’s not about passing the buck, it’s about accepting the advice from professionals within West Berkshire Council.”

Ultimately, no decision was taken by councilors as to whether they would object or support the application and the matter was deferred.

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