THE Government’s decision to turn down two appeals – which would have resulted in more than 700 homes being built in Thatcham – is a strong warning to developers.
That was the message from West Berkshire Council’s executive member for housing, Hilary Cole (Con, Chieveley), after the crucial ruling.
As reported in the Newbury Weekly News, the secretary of state for communities and local government, Sajid Javid, stepped in to overturn the Planning Inspectorate’s decision to approve the 495 and 225 home schemes at Siege Cross and Henwick Park.
Mr Javid said that, while the schemes would have provided some benefit, these only attracted moderate weight.
And as the council could now demonstrate a five-year land supply for housing, this generated substantial weight and led to the inspector’s recommendation for approval being overruled.
Speaking to the NWN about the decision, Mrs Cole said: “I’m delighted with this outcome and it sends a very strong message to developers that the secretary of state recognises that West Berkshire is a plan-led authority and supports us in that.”
Developers A2Dominion and Croudace Strategic had challenged the council over its housing supply and claimed that its figures were out of date.
At the time of the appeals being heard in November, the secretary of state had not approved the council’s Housing Site Allocations Development Plan Document, which outlines its preferred sites for development.
In March, West Berkshire Council was dealt a huge blow when the Planning Inspectorate overruled its decision to refuse permission for 401 homes to be built to the north and west of Vodafone’s headquarters in Shaw-cum-Donnington.
When granting approval, the inspector said that delays to the anticipated 2,000-home development at Sandleford Park had led to a shortfall and that the 401 properties would help to make up the numbers.
At the time, Mrs Cole said that the decision had been “extremely disappointing”, but had been made before the DPD had been fully adopted.
Referring to the Thatcham schemes, she said: “We can now demonstrate a five-year land supply, so to these developers who are challenging our supply, the secretary of state is sending a very, very strong message out saying that’s not the case.”