Saturday, July 20, 2024

Local Plan row

An attempt to push back the West Berkshire Council Local Plan because of claims of ‘flawed’ information have failed.

The Liberal Democrats tried to stop the document – which sets out housing numbers and development areas until 2037.

They say the document has housing numbers for north east Thatcham wrong – showing a reduction from 2,500 dwellings to 1,500.

They added that the number is both a minimum and an approximate number and the supporting studies are based on an eventual size of 2,500 dwellings.

“A flawed plan should not be put forward to the planning inspector to throw out,” said Owen Jeffery (Lib Dem, Thatcham Central). 

“It’s not good enough for Thatcham and it’s not good enough for West Berkshire. Let’s do it properly.”

But the move was overturned at an extraordinary council meeting last week set up specifically to debate the issue  described as a ‘cynical ploy’.

“This is a cheap political trick to appeal to their voting power base in the district,” said Hilary Cole (Con, Chieveley and Cold Ash).

The meeting was told the plan includes 15,576 pages of Local Plan evidence.

“That’s three miles of paper. I don’t call that lack of evidence,” said Richard Somner (Con, Tilehurst South and Holybrook).

“The council officers are experts and they have put the information together.  What we have is what our officers believe is ready to go. How disrespectful to our officers who have put thousands of hours to this.”

Others spoke of concerns if more delay was caused by pushing the consultation process back.

“If we don’t have a valid Local Plan, we will have housing everywhere,” said Graham Bridgman (Con, Burghfield and Mortimer). “Look at Wokingham as an example. Developers will find green field sites, and get their plans through on appeal.”

The Lib Dem group further claimed that the Air Quality Assessment is inaccurate and that the council had not consulted properly with Thames Water over the time needed for provision of water and foul drainage, and therefore does not know if the houses for north east Thatcham are deliverable in the plan period.

It added that the new provision for secondary schools in north east Thatcham is not consistent with council guidelines for the minimum size of a secondary school and the plan has omitted any costs for a new secondary school in north east Thatcham over the plan period.