Sat, 06 Feb 2021
"Dumping" 2,500 homes on Thatcham "is not a plan" and would be "devastating for the town".
Town councillors launched a flurry of criticism against West Berkshire Council identifying north east Thatcham as a strategic housing site at a meeting last week.
Masterplan documents show that the development, being drawn up by a consortium of landowners and developers, would stretch from Floral Way and along the A4 into Colthrop and Midgham parish.
The district council said that Thatcham was the best place for the scale of development proposed, which would also provide the town with the infrastructure it needs.
The Liberal Democrats have said they will fight the proposed development, which they say would increase the size of Thatcham by 25 per cent and only deliver the infrastructure to cover itself.
Responding to the district's council's consultation, town council leader David Lister (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said the "enormous development was unlike anything this town and community has ever had to experience".
He said the proposals equated to adding the population of Hungerford to the town.
"It's basically a new town being added to Thatcham," Mr Lister said.
Town and district councillor Jeremy Cottam (Lib Dem, Thatcham North East) said he was "desperately disappointed" with the scheme.
"It's going to be devastating for our community if this goes ahead," he said.
"It shows a total lack of imagination from the leadership of West Berkshire Council – let's just dump the houses on Thatcham.
"I say we can't take any major housing until infrastructure has caught up. I'm distraught that somebody would propose to just dump this on Thatcham.
"It's callous, wrong, badly thought out and we should just reject it.
"It's just over the top."
Defending the proposals, West Berkshire Council executive member for the environment Steve Ardagh-Walter (Con, Thatcham Colthrop and Crookham) said that the Lib Dems were making exaggerated claims that the houses were being dumped on the town.
He said: "One point I have not heard mentioned is that we live in a very high-cost area, and while we all have houses, and we are fortunate, I'm fairly certain that the majority of us live in houses built since the 1970s.
"Thatcham has grown and we are all beneficiaries of that growth.
"Our children, in many cases, can't afford to live in this district because of the cost and lack of supply of affordable housing.
"We can't just ignore the fact that young people need somewhere to live."
Mr Ardagh-Walter said the homes would be built to the highest environmental standards with a smaller environmental footprint.
Paul Field (Green, Thatcham Central) said the plan was in "a shoddy condition", but presented a chance for the town to plan its future.
"This is a chance to talk about not what we don't want, but what we do want," he said.
"The reality is this is an opportunity for us to engage with our community – to discuss what we want for our town, and our children's future town to look like and develop like.
"This is a chance to discuss, or rather accept, that change is essential and inevitable, as it always has been."
Mr Field said there was an opportunity to ensure that the development "addresses the climate crisis, carbon neutrality and carbon zero, so that Thatcham becomes a beacon to other towns to aspire to be, rather than a semi-carbuncle on the side of a neighbouring market town".
Richard Crumly (Con, Thatcham Central) said that 2,500 homes was "far, far to much" for the town.
But he said that the Government was calling for more housing and Thatcham had to do its bit
He said: "We are in a challenging situation with regard to the infrastructure that we need. No doubt that 2,500 homes will come with some form of benefits.
"I would suggest the way forward is that a number of individual smaller groups of houses be promoted around the perimeter of the town."
Owen Jeffery (Lib Dem, Thatcham Central) said that the district council's plan was not consistent and did not show how the proposed infrastructure would be phased.
"It's essentially dumping 2,500 homes on our town of Thatcham," he said. "That's not a plan, it's just dumping and that's exactly what it is. It's an ill thought out plan.
"This is just 'where can we chuck these houses? I know, let's chuck them at Thatcham'."