Sat, 24 Feb 2018
PLANS for ‘floating homes’ between Theale and Burghfield are drifting towards an appeal.
West Berkshire Council refused Berfield Ltd’s plans for the 24 Can-Float homes, along with 201 conventional houses, on the edge of Theale Lake last year.
Can-Float homes are designed to adapt to changing water levels during periods of flooding, with the developers saying they are an innovative way to increase housing stock in areas usually unsuitable for normal homes.
The scheme also comprised a new vertical lift bridge over the Kennet and Avon Canal, flood alleviation works and new
facilities for Burghfield Sailing Club.
Berfield, a joint venture company owned equally between Larkfleet Group Limited and Floodline Developments Limited, said that the council’s refusal had lost the community around £60m.
The council said that other sites in the east of the district had been identified for development and that it could demonstrate a five-year supply of housing.
It added that the homes would urbanise the lake and result in the loss of habitat for bats and nightingales, a species that has undergone significant decline in recent years.
Indeed, the plans were met with 328 objections – 300 more than those in support – largely over the impact on local wildlife and the council said that the unmitigated loss of at least four nightingale territories was unacceptable.
However, Berfield is challenging the council’s refusal and is attempting to have its scheme approved on appeal and has asked for the Planning Inspectorate to rule on the plans, following an inquiry.
It states that the council’s five-year housing supply of deliverable sites is out of date and that the council has “persistently pursued a planning regime that seeks to deliver the bare minimum of homes required and has sought to suppress the development of additional homes above the bare minimum”.
The company claims that there will be a net loss of nightingale habitat of district level value, without mitigation measures.
It says that a 30-year mitigation plan will manage the area, which Berfield claims will result in 27-30 nightingale territories within 20 years.
As for the urbanising effect of the homes, the company said that the proximity of the M4 and the presence of sailing club buildings “detracted from any sense of local tranquility”, while the proposed housing would not appear alien.
The council had also said that the floating homes, by their very nature, would be built in an area of flood risk and would be contrary to planning guidance.
However, Berfield says that its measures have been approved by the Environment Agency “confirming that the local community will be furnished with the highest level of flood protection in England and Wales at no cost to the public purse”.
Before the scheme was refused, Burghfield councillors Ian Morrin and Carole Jackson-Doerge had tried to get the plans heard by councillors on the eastern area planning committee.
But theirs – and the developer’s request – was turned down because of a missed deadline.