Tue, 22 May 2018
A 120-BEDROOM hotel could be built on Greenham Business Park as part of a joint initiative which could radically transform the economic profile of West Berkshire.
A Local Development Order (LDO) – scheduled for a period of 25 years – has been prepared by West Berkshire Council planning officers and the Greenham Trust to help the continued regeneration of the former military air base.
LDOs allow greater flexibility over how and where new buildings are set out and remove the need to make a planning application to the local planning authority.
They also establish development parameters or ‘ground rules’ – pre-approved regulations with which potential investors or businesses would have to comply.
So far, less than half (40 per cent) the permitted 1.6-million square feet of development is currently in use on the site, allowing considerable scope for further investment.
An online consultation, to which members of the public were invited to have their say on the draft LDO, closed on Monday.
Council portfolio holder for economic development and communications James Fredrickson said an LDO was the most pragmatic option to continue the regeneration of the 150-acre site
Mr Fredrickson said: “The LDO is ultimately a streamlined planning process.
“It’s streamlined in the sense that, if you obey the rules that are pre-defined, you know you’re going to move relatively more quickly.
“It certainly doesn’t cut important elements out of the planning process. In a sense, it doesn’t assist one over the other.
“It just makes the entire area far more seamless and a quicker process for going through it.”
The LDO would focus on traditional uses, including offices, research and development, industrial uses and storage and distribution.
Several other complementary uses have also been included in the draft regeneration for the site, which would be intended to sustain the business community.
These would be strictly limited amounts of small-scale retail, car sales and leisure uses.
Draft plans include a 120-bed hotel on the site, which already povides 2,000 jobs across 180 businesses.
In planning terms, the hotel is classed as a C1 use or ‘regular hotel’ – premises which are open to the general public, rather than those for guests or residents with special needs.
When questioned over the permitted development and whether it would be solely intended for business use, Mr Fredrickson promised there would be more clarity once feedback from the consultation has been gathered.
He said: “We need to bear in mind that we are still in the early consultation phase. We need to go through that feedback and work out what those parameters would be – that’s exactly why we’ve done the consultation process.
“Once we get those pre-defined parameters set, we’ll start seeing the right businesses move to the right places.”
Greenham Trust and Greenham Business Park Ltd chief executive Chris Boulton said that the hotel is nothing more than a “possibility” for the time being.
Other businesses that could set up shop on the park include restaurants and cafés, motor vehicle sales, data centres and premises for storage and distribution purposes.
Although the LDO is designed to cover a period of 25 years, both Mr Fredrickson and Mr Boulton remained confident this timescale was not unrealistic, underlining that regular review processes would be integral to its success.
Mr Boulton said: “You cannot expect to build out 1.6-million square feet of development in five years. It can be amended or revoked, if that’s what West Berkshire Council want to do.”
The feedback from the consultation will be presented to council members in July, when a final decision on the draft is expected.