Thu, 24 Sept 2020
DETAILED plans for 401 homes that would create “a lifeless monster” around Vodafone’s Newbury headquarters have been approved.
Councillors said they were left with no choice but to approve reserved matters applications for 222 homes to the west of the A339 and 179 homes to the north of Vodafone’s offices.
The council refused plans for 401 homes on the site in 2015, saying that it did not adequately address the impact on local roads and education and was not included in its housing plan.
Applicant Commercial Estates Group challenged the decision and won on appeal, owing to delays with the Sandleford Park development impacting the council’s housing supply.
The decision was subject to a legal agreement ensuring a new local centre, primary school, affordable housing, highways improvements and ecological mitigation.
The site has now been split, with David Wilson Homes applying to build 222 homes to the west of the A339 and Taylor Wimpey applying for 179 to the north of Vodafone’s headquarters.
The two sites will be built in seven phases, with the 222 homes west of the A339 being built from stages one to four.
The primary school will be built in stage five, the local centre in six and the 179 homes to the north of Vodafone in the final phase.
The phasing plan requires the school and local centre to be delivered before the 223rd home is occupied.
The school land must be transferred to the council by occupation of the 50th home, and the council must procure its construction by the occupation of the 100th property.
None of the properties can be occupied until details of electric vehicle charging points have been approved.
At a meeting last night Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council said it wanted the new development to integrate with the community and not become a satellite of Newbury.
Saying that the local centre was meant to be built in the first phase, the parish council said there was no guarantee it would be built and that the village hall will be unable to serve the 40 per cent expansion of the parish.
Council leader Lynne Doherty (Con, Speen) said there had been “a gradual acceptance” from residents that the site would be developed and that the council now needed to ensure it was integrated in to the existing community.
Mrs Doherty said she was not opposing the plans but wanted to ensure that “residents got what was offered to them”.
She said the local centre had been “pushed back further and further, meaning that when residents arrive they will be left with little alternative but to head into Newbury town centre”.
She said: “This early established pattern of behaviour will be harder to reset in time than if it was an alternative from the start.”
Mrs Doherty said that developers removing conditions and amending the phasing “felt like a ploy to chip away” at what had been promised, to the detriment of residents.
Asking for the phasing to be reverted, Mrs Doherty said having a local centre from the start would reduce car journeys and bring social cohesion
Fellow ward member Steve Masters (Green) called on the council to defer the applications until tougher environmental mitigation could be imposed in the council’s new Local Plan.
He said: “This development could and should be an opportunity to work together for something worthy of the climate emergency we declared last year.”
Mr Masters said the developments could have offered real green housing and a less car-centric community in and around Newbury and been a “leading light showing commitment to the environment”.
But he was told his request for deferring would be incredibly difficult to defend on appeal.
Shadow portfolio holder for planning Tony Vickers (Lib Dem, Wash Common) said that the council had no choice to approve the reserved matters scheme.
He said: “I’m really disappointed that we are now faced with a very different creature, a creature that will begin without life.
“In fact, as a monster frankly because if you take away a centre and a school from a development of this size you are left with something that is lifeless and not what you thought it was going to be when you were told about its conception.”
The developments include £750,000 to improve the Robin Hood roundabout and to improve pedestrian links into Newbury.
Access to the 222 homes will come from a new arm off the Vodafone roundabout on the A339.
Access for visitors to the primary school will come from Love Lane.
Access for buses and emergency vehicles will also come from Love Lane and includes a ‘bus gate’ to prevent Donnington and the development becoming a shortcut to the A339.
A drop-off area for vehicles coming to the new school is also proposed on both sides of the barrier.
Principal development control engineer Paul Goddard said it had been difficult to assess the traffic impact at the school as there was no application giving details about how much parking would be provided for it.
But based on a worst case scenario of no parking he said that roughly 40 to 45 parents would park outside.
Councillors asked for red brick housing and low lighting to minimise light pollution on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which is approximately one kilometre away from the development.