Thu, 24 Sept 2020
RESIDENTS looking to move into homes north of Vodafone’s Newbury headquarters have been warned to take due diligence after councillors reluctantly approved plans.
West Berkshire councillors approved Taylor Wimpey’s reserved matters application for 179 homes in Shaw-cum Donnington despite “inherited problems” surrounding access to the site.
Access will come off the The Connection roundabout serving Vodafone’s buildings.
But the road is owned and maintained by Vodafone and no ground has been made in the council adopting it as a public highway.
As a result, the roads within the development will be private and a management company, funded by residents, will be responsible for their upkeep.
At a meeting last night, the council said it had inherited the problem when the plans were approved on appeal and it had to make the best of the situation.
West Berkshire Council’s principal development control engineer Paul Goddard said: “We have an unprecedented situation where we have 179 dwellings whose only link to a public highway, the A339, is via a private road owned by Vodafone.
“We are assured by the developer that residents will have rights of access over it and emergency and refuse vehicles will have rights of access over it.”
Mr Goddard said the council had tried to adopt the road but neither Vodafone nor the developer had been willing to work with it.
“We can’t adopt the road,” he said.
“It’s been confirmed by the developer that a management company will be appointed to maintain the roads and this will come at a cost to future residents.
“There’s no way to avoid it in this case.
“We must do the best we can.”
Planning officer Simon Till said that there was nothing in planning law or policy to force the issue, only that the roads would have to be of sufficient quality.
Planning officer Dave Pearson said: “We have inherited a decision from a planning inspector, which I would argue in this issue is substandard, but our hands are tied.
“I feel sorry for the future residents there if they move in, but there is very little if anything we can do under this application to address any future issues arising from this.”
Committee chairman Clive Hooker (Con, Downlands) said that “due diligence would be paramount” for anyone buying a property on the site.
Executive member for planning Hilary Cole (Con, Chieveley and Cold Ash) said: “It’s disappointing that Vodafone and the developer haven’t worked together to come to some agreement about this road.
“We had a big issue around the development at Kennet Heath [in Thatcham] some years ago about the upkeep of public open space, which was a management company.
“Residents can actually form their own management company, which would probably deal with the issue.”
Shadow portfolio holder for planning Tony Vickers (Lib Dem, Wash Common) said: “These people will be paying the same council tax and not getting the same service and this is the same on the racecourse development and it’s already causing problems.”
Concerns were also raised about the provision and maintenance of CCTV monitoring the underpass under the A339, where a footpath will connect the 179 homes with the 222 homes on the west of the road.
CCTV and ‘natural surveillance’ from flats near the underpass had been proposed but Mr Goddard said: “We have been promised CCTV but my concern is in the long term will the CCTV there.”
Council leader Lynne Doherty said: “The underpass, it is secluded and I’m very concerned about the safety of anyone, particularly school children, coming back on a late dark evening.
“I don’t think it’s acceptable to have a car park in front of a block of apartments and then the hope that the people in the block of apartments might hear something that’s happening under the 339.”
Mrs Cole said she also had concerns about the gloomy underpass but added “if both sites are developed then it will be a much more used site anyway”.
Councillors approved the plans, with Carolyne Culver (Green, Ridgeway) voting against.