Tue, 28 Jul 2020
PLANS to build more than 100 homes on the edge of Theale have been approved, but questions were asked over whether they are the right type of homes needed in the village.
West Berkshire councillors approved Englefield Estate Trust’s outline application for up to 104 homes on land north of The Green at a meeting last week.
Conservative councillors declared a personal interest in the scheme as former MP Richard Benyon is a director of the trust.
The interest was not deemed prejudicial.
The site was listed as a preferred housing site, for approximately 100 homes, in West Berkshire Council’s development plan document.
The land was also considered an alternative site for a new primary school in the village – but had been earmarked for housing.
Plans were submitted for up to 110 homes, but the estate said it had reduced the amount “to ensure a high-quality scheme sensitive to its edge of settlement location adjacent to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty can be delivered”.
It said the homes would provide more people to “support and sustain local services and facilities and the prosperity of the village”.
It added that environmental benefits included new public open space, and a net gain in biodiversity through new woodland copses and recreational routes.
However, the types of homes were questioned by Theale councillor Alan Macro (Lib Dem), who also declared a personal interest as he lives near the site.
He said: “I was a lot happier with the emphasis on family homes in the policy.
“However, on this application one-and two-bedroom flats make up 32 per cent of the housing mix and I don’t think small flats can be regarded as family homes.
“Many people over the years have said we love Theale, but they are having to move out as they have a larger family and can’t find a larger home to move into.”
Mr Macro added that he was concerned that the traffic impact traffic survey didn’t mention the long queues that often form on the A4 or A340.
“I think it puts a big question mark on how accurate that model is,” he said.
Planning officer Emma Nutchey replied: “Policy says there should be an emphasis on family homes.
“It does not quantify that, it states an emphasis.”
She said 67 per cent of the 104 were houses, with the remaining 33 per cent flats, which would meet “a broad spectrum of needs”.
She added: “I note that concern has been raised over the number of flats and smaller units, but from an affordable housing point of view I know housing colleagues are keen to see smaller units delivered because that’s where the demand currently is.
“I think the scheme will meet various needs within the local area.”
On the lack of queues mentioned in the traffic report, principal engineer for traffic and road safety Gareth Dowding said that some issues had not been identified, but the assessment was “still pretty robust”.
He added that some queues were caused by accidents on the M4, which was outside the council’s control.
Access is proposed to come off a new priority-controlled T-junction on The Green.
A vehicle-controlled emergency access is also proposed on to The Green, west of the site access.
A second emergency access to the north and a pedestrian link to Theale Green School is also included.
Mr Macro and Graham Pask (Con, Bucklebury) asked for the pedestrian access to be moved, but were told this would form part of a detailed reserved matters application.
Supporting the scheme, Mr Pask said: “Nothing causes greater controversy in the local area than new housing, but the bottom line is it’s in the Local Plan, so the principle has been established.”
Mr Macro said: “My big concern is that housing mix.
“I think we should be looking for family homes and I don’t think this mix is providing enough of them.”
The application was approved by six votes to three.
The development also proposes a community orchard, play areas for pre-school and primary age children, and walking routes through woodland and open spaces.