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Thatcham's 91 new homes on Lower Way recommended for approval

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A long-ongoing planning application for just over 90 new homes in Thatcham has now been recommended for approval.

The land south of Lower Way has been requested as a spot for 91 residential dwellings, together with associated infrastructure and landscaping, by developer Persimmon Homes.

The application was due to be discussed by West Berkshire Council's eastern area planning committee as this paper went to press last night (Wednesday) and is sitting comfortably for a potential approval.

The superseded plan for the Lower Way developmet. Picture by: Persimmon Homes. (54413904)
The superseded plan for the Lower Way developmet. Picture by: Persimmon Homes. (54413904)

Situated by the Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre and the Thatcham Reedbeds, which is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI), the potential development site has been met with a number of objections.

The application, originally made in 2018, for 97 homes faced an objection from Thatcham town councillors in August of the same year.

However, the site, which comprises a broadly triangular parcel of land of approximately 4.2hectares, was proposed as a ‘preferred’ housing site four years prior.

The site, which is within the town's settlement boundary, would be accessed via a single vehicular entrance off Lower Way.

West Berkshire Council planning officers this week said that the proposed buildings are of an “architectural form and scale which is appropriate to the character of the existing development along Lower Way”.

The proposal was also called “respectful to the open countryside to the south and longer views from the lakes”.

However, representations have been received from 24 contributors, all of which are objectors. The main problems highlighted have included the loss of footpaths, insufficient parking, loss of greenfield land, impact of street lighting, flooding and future potential overdevelopment.

Thatcham town councillors, in 2019, suggested that there should be a promotion of green transport, with easy cycle and pedestrian access, a pedestrian crossing reinstated and planting along the eastern boundary.

Then in October 2020, upon amended plans, councillors expressed disappointment over the removal of a crossing on Lower Way. They also requested a public footpath to be upgraded to a cycle and pedestrian path.

Concern of the removal of the zebra crossing was also raised with residents.

Planning officers, however, said such a crossing was "not justified or required" as the level of pedestrians to vehicles does not meet the thresholds set by the Department of Transport guidance.

Finally, in 2021, the council reiterated similar concerns and sought clarification on "who will adopt the footpath running through the site" but planning officers said it was "likely to be maintained by the Rights of Way team".

However councillors welcomed the additional provision for bat and bird boxes and log piles.

Despite receiving approvals from relevant departments in highways, ecology and waste management, the application is subject to conditions.

Despite Thatcham Town Council's concerns over flooding and how the development will impact on flood risk off site, particularly with regard to those properties to the north of Lower Way, planning officers have now said that the application is supported by a comprehensive drainage strategy.

Conversations are ongoing with regard to a drainage strategy but West Berkshire Council ecology has said that the applicant has “demonstrated commitment” to work to resolve points raised by drainage engineers.

It needs to provide further details on refuse and recycling facilities detailing collection points for the flats, officers have said.

The planning officers concluded that the “public benefit of the proposed housing in this location attracts substantial weight in the planning balance and that the residual adverse impacts would not outweigh the benefits”.

A committee site visit was held on January 19 as a result of the plan receiving in excess of 10 objections.

It has been concluded, by planning officers ahead of the meeting on January 26, that planning permission should be granted subject to conditions.

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