Wed, 25 Nov 2020
PLANS to demolish historic buildings in Thatcham and replace them with flats have gone to appeal.
Young Estates and Land Ltd has appealed against West Berkshire Council’s decision to refuse its plans to tear down the buildings at 12-16 Chapel Street and construct 17 apartments on the site.
The Aldermaston-based applicant had said there was an “interesting opportunity” to create a “high-quality, sustainable development of mixed dwellings in the town centre”.
The district council and a number of residents disagreed and said the scheme would result in the “piecemeal erosion of the historic centre of Thatcham” and lead to increased traffic.
The scheme was refused for seven reasons, including the heritage of the site, the impact on neighbouring Thatcham Court care home, a lack of affordable housing and highways access.
The council said that although the development was outside Thatcham’s Conservation Area and the buildings were not listed, they were attractive and “clearly contribute to the historic core of the town”.
The developer has challenged this, saying that the council had provided no evidence to support its appraisal of the site as a non-designated heritage asset.
It added that the council had two opportunities to protect the site, but had not done so.
And, while admitting that the buildings had some architectural merit, Young Estates said they were no longer fit for modern use.
“The dwellings are neither listed, nor within a Conservation Area and therefore not deemed to be of significant architectural merit,” the company said.
It added: “While the dwellings do present some charm and sense of enclosure to Chapel Street, this would not in itself negate their removal and a carefully-designed scheme could ensure visual harm is negated.”
A lack of amenity space for the proposed flats was cited as another reason for refusal.
The developers argued that this shortfall could be covered by the site being within walking distance of various parks and fields.
The site is adjacent to Thatcham Methodist Church, out of which the Pied Piper Nursery operates, and concerns about overdevelopment and loss of privacy and security were also raised by some objectors.
The council said the development would cause “a significant impact” on sunlight levels at the nearby Thatcham Court Care Home.
The developer says that the design of the apartments into three separate buildings with gaps between each would reduce the impact on the care home and allow a “significant amount of light” in.
Planners said that “the design appears to be internally led to provide a sufficient number of flats rather than reacting to the site in an effective manner of urban design”.
Youngs countered that, saying it the would “enrich and enhance the existing eclectic style which gives this part of Thatcham its charm and character”.
It adds that the density of the scheme, at 100 dwellings per hectare, is substantially less than others in the town.
The council contested a viability report saying the scheme would be unviable with affordable housing.
The developer maintains this is still the case.
In terms of access, the developer has argued that the 3.7m wide access would provide sufficient space for vehicles and pedestrians.
It added that “motorists would be aware of the potential for vehicles to be manoeuvring in and out of accesses” along Bath Road and Chapel Street.
Representations made to West Berkshire Council on the application will be considered by the Planning Inspectorate when determining the appeal.
The appeal documents can be read in full by entering 19/01855/FULEXT into West Berkshire Council’s planning website.