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Victory for Pond Close residents

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RESIDENTS in Pond Close, Wash Common, have won their battle to stop new homes being built on the estate.

Fourteen local people blocked the proposal, on land occupied by disused garages, claiming it would be over development of the area.

They argued that parking spaces would be lost and road safety would be compromised, with limited access for emergency service vehicles.

Pond Close
Pond Close

Three previous attempts to try to build on the site in the last 10 years have been refused.

West Berkshire Council officers recommended that the scheme for a pair of semi-detached two-bedroom houses, and flats spilt over two floors of a detached building be approved.

But the district’s western area planning committee criticised the developer for cynically reducing the number of homes from a previous plan to avoid having to provide affordable homes.

“These flats are three-bed – and double bedrooms – so what kind of family would need three double beds? This would back up concerns about it being multi occupancy,” said Carolyne Culver (Green, Ridgeway).

The developer said it reduced the number of flats from four to two – saying ‘because they are smaller than other houses in the area they would be more affordable for a greater number of people’.

Pond Close resident Rachel Reeve told the meeting: “We are just residents who want a safe place to live. The close is a very narrow single lane.

"If this application is approved it will become a dangerous claustrophobic corridor. Residents will be forced to walk in the road as cars are parked on the pavement."

She said the planned development area was regularly used as a turning point and to allow passing cars to get through.

She added that if the development went ahead, even more pressure would be put on parking provision as the flats' new occupants would have more cars than there were spaces allocated.

“I am getting deja vu here,” said Hilary Cole (Con, Chieveley and Cold Ash).

“The site is a derelict site, and has been since 2012. Unfortunately residents have got used to parking here.

"I am disappointed that the applicant has reduced the number of dwellings for affordable housing and instead has created two houses for multiple occupancy.”

The developer has since fenced off the area, preventing access.

“I do not think it right that the ‘general amenity’of occupants of these existing 1950s homes – ie access to a convenient nearby place to legally park their cars – should be removed in order to cram in as many new dwellings as a developer can get away with,” said Tony Vickers (Lib Dem, Wash Common).

“We don’t seem to have a policy in our Local Plan that distinguishes land for communal but purely residental parking from ‘brown field’ land in general.

"To my mind, it is reasonable for any development on a former garage block site to have to take account of the need to re-provision those lost spaces before looking at what land is available to build more homes.”

Council officers told the meeting that the proposal complies with parking standards and that the road would be widened.

But councillors rejected the recommendation to approve the scheme.

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