Liberal Democrat councillors from across West Berkshire have been commenting on the start of the consultation on the new Local Plan.
Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on West Berkshire Council Cllr Lee Dillon (Thatcham North East) said:
“We are pleased to see new policies on Climate Change, Health & Wellbeing and Water Quality prepared by our officers, because these have not been part of ‘spatial planning’ until now. But there’s a ‘health warning’ on the Plan’s reliability for guiding development for at least 15 years ahead, because the evidence base dates from before Covid-19.”
Planning spokesman Cllr Dr Tony Vickers (Newbury Wash Common) added:
“We want to share with the public our somewhat different vision for the future. Whilst we would maintain a high priority for preserving the beauty of our countryside and our heritage generally, the highest priority must be to tackle climate change.”
“We also value the social dimension to ‘sustainable development’ highly. We will push hard for no get-out by developers from provision of truly affordable housing in the mix and for local facilities and shared space (indoors and also outdoors) to be provided generously along with some homes that include workspace.”
"However, local planning professionals had agreed, during the last Local Plan hearings in 2011, that it was a mistake for any Local Planning Authority to ‘put all its eggs in one basket’. My Wash Common ward contains Sandleford Park, which was the main new housing site allocated then for 2000 homes, with the new site for 2,500 homes at NE Thatcham, our planners are making the same mistake.”.
Cllr Jeff Brooks (Thatcham West), Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats on West Berkshire Council, said:
“We cannot see how more land for offices is going to be needed when many offices are empty and have been converted to what pass for ‘homes’ already. London Road Industrial Estate, by the Council’s own admission as landowner, can take more than 500 new homes and still provide increased employment. There are other sites in need of redevelopment in Newbury where the same should be encouraged.”
Cllr David Lister (Thatcham West), Leader of the Liberal Democrat controlled Thatcham Council, said:
"It's disgraceful that Thatcham Town Council had no visibility of the Local Plan before its publication. The view of the Liberal Democrat Town Councillors is that a development of 2,500 houses in the green spaces of Thatcham is completely unreasonable.
There has been a total failure over many years by the Conservative led West Berkshire Council to invest in Thatcham and its most basic infrastructure - the town centre, roads, public transport, schools, GP surgeries, leisure facilities, maintained green-spaces, youth facilities, care support and community centres. These are all needed for our community to prosper and have all been neglected. A new development won't make good on these shortfalls, it will make them worse.
Nobody who is familiar with Thatcham would believe that the town can support an expansion of 2,500 new houses. The transport links are already at full capacity with congestion on the A4, and at busy times the level crossing can be shut for more than half of the time causing 1km queues. The last thing the town needs is thousands of extra cars compounding these problems and competing with the HGV's from the industrial area and distribution centres.
The Conservative Council's strategy of 2012 identified that, after a period of rapid housing growth, the infrastructure in Thatcham had failed to keep pace and there should be a period for regeneration and new facilities. Since then, there has been no such regeneration nor significant new facilities, so their conclusions of 2012 must still stand.
Thatcham Town Council has already notified West Berkshire Council that these sites are not suitable for development and objected to a smaller development in previous years.
The Liberal Democrat Councillors will oppose this proposal and we expect the Town Council to reach a similar conclusion when it considers the consultation. Our focus will continue to be on building a strong community, and making Thatcham a safe, healthy and great place to live, where everyone has access to the services they need."
Cllr Alan Macro (Theale) said:
Theale will also have its hands full assimilating the over 440 homes at the western end of the village that have been given planning permission.
The proposal for more offices also does not take into account the fact that there is already a large number of empty offices in Theale."
You can give your feedback on the draft local plan here: http://consult.westberks.gov.uk/kse .