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Plans for Newbury "Urban Village" enter next phase

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Developers request council decision on environmental impact assessment

PLANS for a major redevelopment in central Newbury have moved a step closer after developers submitted an environmental impact assessment screening opinion, arguing that the further scrutiny isn’t necessary.

The application, submitted on behalf of developer Grainger to its project partner West Berkshire Council, will determine whether the new development would have enough of an environmental impact to warrant a full environmental assessment for the council-backed project.

The request, submitted last Thursday, includes an overview of the latest shape the so-called ‘urban village’ has taken since it was first touted in 2006 as part of the council’s Newbury Vision 2026 document.

The latest report prepared by Savills on behalf of the developer states that the development, which lies between Newbury railway station and Market Street, will include up to 250 residential units and up to 1,550 square metres of “flexible commercial floorspace”.

In addition, a new multi-storey car park of up to 550 spaces is proposed for the use of Network Rail and West Berkshire Council with “potential” use for the public.

Describing the potential impacts the new development may have, the report describes the increase in traffic and the impact on access as “negligible”.

The visual impact is described as “positive” and adds: “The local townscape character will also be subject to beneficial change.

“The removal of the large areas of surface car parking, bus station and the semi- derelict houses along Highfield Avenue will permit the development of an appropriate urban structure of residences, mixed use and commercial units, a new station plaza and a compact enclosed multi-storey car park to serve the station and adjacent offices.

“The design of the built form and interconnecting public realm will reference the vernacular styles and materials to be found throughout Newbury town centre, and will be subject to extensive greening through the careful positioning of street trees, ornamental planting, private gardens and a series of greened urban spaces.”

Daylight implications on the development, which will include buildings as high as seven storeys, are described as having “limited potential for impacts”.

In terms of its ecological impact, most of the site is considered to be of “negligible value to wildlife” because of its urban location.

The report notes, however: “There is a small area concentrated towards the centre of the site with greater value for reptiles, bats, invertebrates, small mammals and nesting birds.

“This area comprises the rear gardens along Highfield Avenue and car parking, and the grass bank surrounding the train station car park.

“Without suitable mitigation, disturbance in this area would result in negative impacts upon ecological receptors.

“Mitigation schemes are being developed for inclusion within the scheme which may include reptile translocation pans, compensation for loss of bat foraging and invertebrate habitat through living roof installation, bird and bat box installation and seasonally timed clearance works to avoid nesting birds.”

The report also describes the impact on archaeology, noise and air quality as either non-existent or low.

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