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Public inquiry into plans to build 1,000 homes at Newbury's Sandleford Park, which is streamed live on YouTube, ends today

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CLOSING statements from all parties are being heard as the planning appeal into the Sandleford Park development ends today (Friday).

West Berkshire residents have, for the first time, been able to hear the arguments for and against the development, after the Government agreed to live stream the planning appeal.

You can watch the closing statements today live on YouTube.

The public inquiry, which will determine whether or not 1,000 homes can be built on the site off Monks Lane, has been broadcast live on YouTube since it started on May 5, following pressure from opposition councillors.

Sandleford Park
Sandleford Park

Plans to build homes at Sandleford have been in the pipeline for more than a decade, ever since West Berkshire Council identified it as a preferred site for housing in 2010.

The first planning application was submitted by Bloor Homes in December 2015 but refused by the council in November 2017.

Bloor has since submitted a further four applications, but these have also been rejected by the council and the developer has now decided to appeal.

As reported by the Newbury Weekly News in March, the appeal was originally due to be decided by a Planning Inspector, but the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has exercised his powers to ensure that the decision is made by himself or his ministerial team instead.

The reason given was that “proposals for residential development of over 150 units would significantly impact on the Government’s objective to secure a better balance between housing demand and supply”.

A letter to the council from the Ministry of Communities Housing and Local Government says: “Although the appeal was to be decided by an inspector, the secretary of state considers that he should determine it himself.

“This means that instead of writing a decision, the inspector will prepare a report and recommendation which will be forwarded to the secretary of state.”

However, concerns have been raised that Mr Jenrick’s team could be presented with a conflict of interest as the owner of Bloor Homes, John Bloor, made a £962,000 donation to the Conservative Party in the lead up to the 2019 General Election.

He also made a donation of £400,000 before the 2017 General Election through his company, JS Bloor.

Opposition councillors from both Greenham Parish Council and Newbury Town Council have been presenting their case for refusing the application during the inquiry.

Tony Vickers, who sits on both local councils and is also the planning spokesman for West Berkshire Council’s Liberal Democrat opposition group, said before the start of the appeal: “We are very pleased that the Planning Inspectorate has agreed to our request to broadcast the inquiry live on YouTube. They had previously said they wouldn’t.

“After over 10 years and four decisions to refuse planning applications for Sandleford under delegated powers given to planning officers, this is the first time the public will be able to hear the arguments.

“It will also be the first time that councillors come face-to-face with a Sandleford developer.”

The chairman of the Sandleford Joint Working Group, councillor Roger Hunneman, has led the case for Newbury Town Council at the inquiry, while Dr Vickers presented the case for Greenham Parish Council.

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