DEVELOPERS AIMING FOR 950 HOMES AND BRIDGE AT THATCHAM RESPOND TO COUNCIL REFUSAL
A CONSORTIUM pushing for 950 homes and a bridge south of Thatcham have said their scheme has been "erroneously dismissed".
The Colthrop Village Consortium wants to build the homes and bridge, along with a two-form entry primary school, on land at Rainsford Farm and the former Colthrop Paper Mill site.
The consortium had put forward its proposals as part of West Berkshire Council's Local Plan Review, which allocates new housing sites across the district.
The council has proposed that 2,500 homes, a new secondary school, two primary schools, a country park and shops, be built in north east Thatcham on land off Floral Way to Midgham parish.
The council said that a development of the scale proposed would provide Thatcham with the infrastructure it needed and build in environmentally friendly thinking and active travel routes.
Critics have said that the proposal is "dumping" a new town the size of Hungerford on to Thatcham and that the proposed infrastructure will only benefit the new development.
JSA Planning, representing the consortium, has said that the council needs to look again, arguing that the 2,500 homes proposed would be less sustainable.
It added that one quarter of the developable area of its site was brownfield land and the proposals include removal of old redundant structures, while adding better transport links to Thatcham Station.
It also said that the council had "misrepresented" its scheme and that the bridge, proposed off a new roundabout on Pipers Way, would be a merit.
A council assessment of the site said that it was not suitable for development within the next 15 years, owing to the "overwhelming and unacceptable impact" on Thatcham level crossing and Crookham Hill.
JSA said that the council had made its conclusion on "erroneous understanding of the facts" as the level crossing would no longer be the only route.
Planning consultant Mark Berry from JSA said: "There is no intention to load more traffic on to the crossing as the proposal is actually to relieve congestion on it and reduce the delays caused by it.
"The fact that this fundamental aspect of the proposals has not been understood undermines confidence in the council’s overall assessment."
The council also said that significant parts of the site were located within Flood Zones 2 and 3, and that alternative sites should be looked at.
JSA said that approximately one-third of the site was in Flood Zone 1, roughly one-third Flood Zone 2 and one-third Flood Zone 3a.
Mr Berry said that "a substantial proportion of the site is developable in principle" and that alleviation measures would be considered.
A planning appeal in 2017 assessing plans to build 495 homes at Siege Cross ruled that it was not the right time to grant planning permission.
At the time, the council said "the incursion into the countryside and the consequent harm to the character and appearance of the countryside was unacceptable".
JSA highlighted the council's suitability assessment for 2,500 homes at north east Thatcham, which concludes that suitability of the site is unknown.
The assessment includes concerns that development would not be appropriate, further transport modelling is required, a high risk of adverse nature conservation impacts, and flooding assessments are needed.
Mr Berry said: "There is sound planning logic in the location of substantial new housing development in proximity to a railway station which has more frequent and faster connectivity to other urban centres than ever before.
"The Colthrop Village proposals will deliver a bridge across the railway and resolve a long-standing traffic bottleneck.
"However, the benefits are much wider than that and the project offers to create a truly sustainable development with major environmental enhancements."