Membury warehouse size of two Wembley pitches plan approved
PLANNERS have given permission for a 40ft high warehouse "the size of two Wembley football pitches" to be built in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
The decision came despite "unprecedented local opposition" and some concern from West Berkshire Council's own highways officers.
The fiercely contested project was brought before the district council's western area planning committee on Wednesday, April 28.
Walker Logistics sought outline permission for a new warehouse building with ancillary office floorspace, an aircraft museum building and associated access, car parking and landscaping and had threatened to leave West Berkshire if permission was refused.
At the meeting, ward member Howard Woollaston (Con, Lambourn) said: "I've seen unprecedented levels of local opposition. Lambourn Parish Council has objected in the strongest possible way. Apart from the fact that Walker Logistics is a responsible local employer I can't see a single, logical reason to support this application.
"Membury has been allowed to develop haphazardly over the years with little or no respect for local residents."
He said material supplied by the applicants showing the scale and landscaping was "to be generous, deceptive" and added: "This 40ft high building, the size of two Wembley football pitches, is just not going to sink into the hazy background as depicted in the literature."
Mr Woollaston referred to a "damning" report opposing the application from the North Wessex Downs AONB group and said he feared that, if approved, the application could prove "the thin end of the wedge".
He concluded: "Now is the time to draw a line in the sand and say 'no' to further environmentally unfriendly industrial development in this protected rural environment."
Committee member James Cole (Con, Hungerford & Kintbury) said the application did not meet the 'exceptional circumstances' criteria for major development in a supposedly protected AONB.
Hilary Cole (Con, Chieveley & Cold Ash) said the project would bring "economic growth and productivity" and pointed out: "This site is adjacent to a protected employment zone."
Adrian Abbs (Lib Dem, Newbury Wash Common) agreed: "I think the economic benefit will be there. The fact that it's a local company sways me a lot. There are lots of other businesses uncontrolled there, by the sound of it, so we're trying to close the door after the horse has bolted somewhat."
The committee voted five to four in favour of granting the application.