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West Berkshire housing shortlist due for autumn consultation

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Following questions submitted by the Newbury Weekly News, West Berkshire Council said that analysis of the 4,500 public responses received for the draft Housing Site Allocation Development Plan Document, should be complete by the summer, following which a condensed shortlist would go out to consultation.
The plan earmarked 38 sites across West Berkshire which could accommodate up to 3,000 homes between them.
Portfolio holder for planning at West Berkshire Council, Hilary Cole (Con, Chieveley), said: “I want to say a genuine thank you to all residents who responded to the consultation.
“Inevitably, there are going to be differing views on where the houses should go, which is why it is important we have taken the time to canvass opinion and that we carefully look at what people have said.
“I also want to say a big thank you to the planning officers who have put in such a huge amount of work in getting the process to this stage.”
At the end of the consultation, the document and all further consultation responses will be put to the Government’s planning inspectorate for consideration.
However, district Liberal Democrats have slammed the positive spin put on the update, with the shortlist originally due to have been put before the council last December.
Shadow member for housing, Alan Macro (Lib Dem, Theale) (pictured), said: “From their self-congratulatory release, you would never guess that the date for submission of the housing sites has been delayed by at least nine months.
“What is worse, they refused our request to allow a couple of extra weeks for people to respond to last summer's consultation because a decision was ‘urgent’.
“We wanted that extra time because the consultation period was over the school holiday period and we wanted everybody to have the opportunity to fully look at the proposals and comment on them.
“We now know that claim of urgency was hypocritical.
“The council really ought to have put more resources into processing the consultation responses to avoid this long delay.”
The topic was also broached at a recent meeting of Speen Parish Council, at which chairwoman Caroline Holbrook said she had also had her request for an extension to the public consultation refused last year.
When asked by Speen parish councillor Ken Sullivan why the council hadn’t prepared itself for the sheer volume of responses received, given the number of residents it was affecting, district councillor Paul Bryant (Con, Speen) said: “It was because of the unprecedented number of responses... 4,000 responses is an awful lot to analyse.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing and had we known we would have formed a different timetable.
“I agree, perhaps we should have had better foresight. We were expecting something in the region of a few hundred responses.”

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