COUNCILLORS have turned down controversial plans for additional holiday chalets in Newbury – estimated to generate £770,000 to the locally economy – and accused the applicant of misleading government inspectors.
Dream Lodge Group had applied to build the 40 chalets on land south of Lower Farm, Hambridge Lane.
But councillors went against their officer’s recommendation and threw out the plans.
The chalets would have been an extension to the 25 chalets won on appeal in 2014 submitted by Rivar.
This was despite the council refusing the scheme at the “unacceptable” location, which it said could set a precedent for further development.
And this was the concern raised at a meeting last Wednesday, when councillors felt that the initial scheme was a ‘Trojan horse’ for further development.
The 25 chalets are restricted to holiday use only, but, speaking against the application, Adrian Abbs said there was a big question mark over the scheme as Dream Lodge was advertising the holiday chalets as retirement homes.
Countering the claims, planning agent Nick Laister said: “There’s a fairly strict condition that applies to most of the Dream Lodge sites.
“It’s fairly strong to enforce the holidays-only condition.
“The occupants have to provide details to register and they have to be able to demonstrate another permanent property.
“If they can’t, they can’t stay.
“You can holiday in there as many times as you want but you can’t live there.”
“What’s the difference?” asked Virginia von Celsing (Con, Compton).
Mr Laister replied: “You have to show another address.
“You have to have a permanent home and you have to sign a contract which says you will not live there.”
Unconvinced, Mrs von Celsing said: “However they could be on holiday for 12 months of the year.”
Mr Laister said that there were a lot of tried and tested case studies and that “if someone lived there permanently they would be found out by the council”.
He added that other Dream Lodge sites comprised 50-plus chalets to provide “economy of scale in terms of operating it”.
He said: “There’s a lot of interest in this site and they believe a second phase will be viable.
“I know they are very popular for retirement investments. [The sales] may relate to another site but it certainly can’t for this one.”
Councillors also heard from objector Frank Chitty, who said that the new chalets would not be hidden from view and would be out of character with the wider area.
He added that Dream Lodge had underplayed the impact on the listed buildings at Pigeons Farm, while noise levels would increase from the additional chalets; something he said had already occurred at the existing chalets.
Sarah McGonnell said that the area would become urbanised through a 160 per cent increase in traffic in a “dangerous area to allow a large scale development”.
Going against her officer’s recommendation for approval, Hilary Cole (Con Chieveley) questioned the developer’s motives.
She said: “It’s interesting. I’m maybe being cynical but was 25 a deliberate ploy to get this past planning?
“We have heard from the applicant that the normal size is 50 and 25 was phase one.
“I feel that we ought to refuse this and send a very strong message to the Planning Inspectorate that we feel they were wrong about this application. After all, two wrongs don’t make a right.”
Mrs von Celsing added: “I don’t see why we should be saying yes to another 40.
“The situation is far from ideal.
“There are questions about holiday lets. It seems quite obvious that people can live in them year round.
“Everything about it is awful.”
Summing up, Paul Hewer (Con, Hungerford) said: “In my opinion the first application was a Trojan horse and I can’t feel I can support this application.”
The 10 councillors unanimously voted against the scheme.