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Anger as Thatcham field remains as preferred development site

Lower Way field remains in West Berkshire Council development document

John Herring

John Herring

john.herring@newburynews.co.uk

Contact:

01635 886633

Call for action by Thatcham Lower Way field campaigners

THE listing of Lower Way’s field as a preferred site for housing has caused disappointment and anger.  

Residents formed a campaign group to stop development on the field after the site appeared in West Berkshire Council’s housing site allocations development plan document last year.

Thousands of people objec-ted to the field being chosen following a consultation last year.

Nevertheless, the Lower Way field remains on the council’s final list of sites, published last week.

In a report, the council said that some 85 properties could be built on the field, which has a developable area of about three hectares.

It added that the site should be accessed via Lower Way and that a planning application should include two access roads. Thatcham’s settlement boundary should also to be moved to incorporate the Lower Way field.

Developer Persimmon Homes Thames Valley has expressed interest in building on the field, which forms part of the Thatcham Moors Nature Reserve and is located next to the Nature Discovery Centre.

However, the council has said that the development would not adversely affect the special area of conservation, rather that it would make a positive contribution to the West Berkshire Living Landscape project.

Campaigner Brian Ruddock said he was disappointed but not surprised about the listing.

He said that, as only one preferred option for Thatcham had been put forward, the council had not given itself opportunity to consider other sites.

“It seems it’s more palatable for them to take away green land in south Thatcham.

“Does a 2,400-signature petition not matter?

“Do legitimate pathways requests not matter?

“They’re ruining a lot of people’s access to the countryside in south Thatcham.”

Mr Ruddock said that development on one of Thatcham’s few green sites would be contrary to the council's policy.

Residents, wildlife trusts and historical societies have raised concerns about developing the field, with fears over more traffic and flooding, and the impact on the conservation site.    

“There’s so many issues you could raise about this. Vociferous objection will continue because none of them has been addressed,” Mr Ruddock said.

Thatcham town councillor Jeff Brooks (Lib Dem, That-cham West) said that more than the some 900 homes needed in the town had been built and yet Thatcham was being asked to take more.

“It’s totally unnecessary. The field should be left alone,” he said. “It’s integral to the Nature Discovery Centre and another green space gone forever. I hope sense will prevail, but I’m not confident with this Tory administration.”

Mr Brooks added that, by including the site in the document, the council had made it easier for developers to build on the field.

“I’m pretty furious to see it still in... people will be very angry about this.”

The council said any planning application would be shaped by a landscape and visual impact assessment that would determine the design and number of homes that can be built.

It anticipated that any homes would be set back from the existing public rights of way to the east and west of the site.

Councillors are expected to approve the development plan document at a special meeting next Thursday, after which it will go out to consultation from November 9 until December 21. 

Campaigners are holding a public meeting at Precision Dental Studio off Pipers Way at 8pm tonight (Thursday).

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