Mon, 17 Feb 2020
WEST Berkshire Council is taking steps to prevent thousands of new homes being built around Thatcham.
A number of sites across the district listed as potentially developable, developable in part or not developable within the next 15 years have been outlined in West Berkshire Council’s Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA).
Developers have put forward sites along the town’s northern edge that would total upwards of 3,000 homes.
However, the council’s planning and transport policy manager, Bryan Lyttle, said he feared they “wanted to surround Thatcham with development”.
(Sites put forward by developers and land owners around Thatcham)
Wary of the potential for a huge increase in housing around Thatcham, council-appointed consultants are currently drawing up a Thatcham masterplan to defend certain sites.
Following the construction of more than 800 homes at Kennet Heath, West Berkshire Council said that Thatcham needed a period of consolidation to allow infrastructure to catch up.
But with developers eyeing up the town and the council needing to supply homes, a masterplanning exercise asking community representatives what they would want to see if more homes came to Thatcham was held earlier this month.
The press and general public were not invited to the masterplan session, however the Newbury Weekly News was invited to a post-event briefing with Mr Lyttle and the council’s executive member for planning Hilary Cole (Con, Chieveley and Cold Ash).
“Members took the decision that we would commence some work about Thatcham.”
The masterplan for the town comprises three assessments. The first stage assessed the town’s history and how it had grown since the 1940s. The second assessed Thatcham now.
Mr Lyttle said: “We have heard that Thatcham is the poor town and has been neglected because it’s so close to Newbury.
“This compares Thatcham to other towns of comparable sizes and then says yes or no as to whether Thatcham is lacking and why and how is it lacking.”
“You can see that developers want to build an awful lot more than 3,000 houses in Thatcham.
“They want to surround Thatcham with development.
“What we are going to do is stop that straight way and say it’s not every single green field around Thatcham.”
However Mr Lyttle said: “If you have a lot of little developments you don’t get a lot of money for infrastructure.”
Mrs Cole said of the masterplan: “It gives us much more control over the conversation we will be having with developers.
“It’s very much a community-based conversation and we were there to listen to what they wanted and not us telling them what was going to happen.
“By having a masterplan in a specific area, if it’s something that goes ahead then we are able to deliver a good scheme, but there is also the additional benefit to those residents.
“It’s the community conversation.
“It’s the first time we have had a masterplanning workshop in West Berkshire.
“We know how important it is to the residents of Thatcham that we get this right.
“We can only get it right if they are involved in this process.”
The third step was the masterplan event held at the Regency Park Hotel on February 1.
Mr Lyttle said: “No decisions have been made. We are at the start of this conversation.
“What if development was to come to Thatcham, what would you, the community, like to see?”
The workshop event allowed community organisations and stakeholders to express views on what the town needed and where development should be focussed.
Attendees were handed iPads and asked to add homes to Thatcham, which would then trigger infrastructure requirements.
Mr Lyttle added: “If the community decide we want to go that way we know exactly what it is they want provided.
“A new doctors, school, retail – more importantly a sustainable community that’s fully integrated into Thatcham and is not a built-on commuterville.
“It has to be a community and part of Thatcham.
“It will give us the evidence to defend that area against the developers who want to develop or put forward proposals which is effectively what they want to see.”
Mr Lyttle said the press and public had been excluded from the meeting to allow those present to express their opinion freely without fear of comeback.
Consultants are writing a report based on feedback from the masterplanning exercise. A further update on the HELAA is expected in the autumn.
See the Newbury Weekly News February 13 edition for more stories on the Thatcham masterplan.
For more Thatcham news, click here.