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Work on 2,500-home Thatcham development could begin in 2024

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170 hectares of land earmarked by West Berkshire Council

Council planners are expecting construction of 2,500 homes in Thatcham to begin in 2024, if all goes to plan.

West Berkshire Council has earmarked 170 hectares of land in north east Thatcham in its new Local Plan for 2020 to 2037.

The local authority is hoping the detailed plan, which sets planning policies and reveals which sites can be built on, will be signed off by the Government by 2023.

The council wants half the homes to be built by 2037 and it states that two primary schools, a secondary school, a local centre with shops and a new country park will be needed.

Developers would be required to ensure the new homes are energy efficient and 40 per cent of them are affordable.

More than 2,500 people have signed a petition that claims this project should be scrapped because it will put "excessive strain" on local roads and other infrastructure.

The council's planning policy manager Bryan Lyttle said: "I understand people's concerns about transport, but this is a plan for the future. It's not a plan for now.

"There will be mitigation measures that traffic engineers can put in place to sort those issues out."

Mr Lyttle said that a bridge over the railway and river, and a relief road around the north of the homes would not be possible.

He said: "There's a saying 'if you build it, they will come' and unfortunately in highways planning that's true.

"If we build a bridge then the traffic will come and not go to where we want our traffic to be dispersed in West Berkshire.

"It would become a rat run to go into Basingstoke and Greenham.

"Everyone that travels along Crookham Hill knows it's not suitable for that level of traffic."

Pavements and cycleways will be improved to encourage more people to walk or cycle.

Full-fibre broadband will be installed to allow more people to work from home instead.

Mr Lyttle gave 2024/25 as a rough estimate for construction beginning.

Mr Lyttle said: "Once we have granted planning permission we are at the mercy of the developers.

"Most will build out as fast as they can fill the houses and they do not wish to flood the local market."

He said that the 1,500 homes at Newbury Racecourse were still being built 10 years after planning permission was granted.

Mr Lyttle said the homes would be built to a high environmental standard as councils could impose higher standards than current Government regulations.

"What we are looking at is giving the developers advanced notice that by 2029 you will be building carbon neutral," Mr Lyttle said.

He said there would be a net increase in biodiversity of around 10 per cent and a new country park could be tailored to West Berkshire's geography.

"We are ahead of the game in that we are taking proposals currently in the Environment Bill and putting them in the Local Plan," Mr Lyttle said.

He also said there will be "on-site renewable energy" but did not rule out a biowaste incinerator on the site.

"There are no proposals as yet for a biowaste burner," he said, "but certainly it could happen as part of the green credentials for that site."

The council has installed flood defences around Thatcham following the devastating floods of 2007.

One of the attenuation ponds is at Dunston Park, which forms part of the land put forward for housing.

The ponds were funded by Defra and the Environment Agency, with the most recent ones having to be backed by community and council funding for approval.

Mr Lyttle said that any new defences at north east Thatcham would have to be provided by the developers.

He said these would "provide additional benefit to the people of Thatcham".

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