The Liberal Democrat Council has kept to its promise to “fix the Local Plan by all available means” and decided that they have no alternative but to withdraw the one submitted by the previous Conservative Administration in March. A Special Full Council meeting on Tuesday 19th December will be held with the purpose of voting on the recommendation in a report that has just been published today.
The main issue between the two parties is the number of new homes that were to go on a single site north of the A4 in Thatcham entirely on green fields and taking development close to the boundary of the protected area now known as a National Landscape: the North Wessex Downs at Bucklebury Common.
“We will not accept 1500 (or up to 2500 in the longer term beyond 2039) all on one site and without sufficient infrastructure to support such a development. Furthermore we do not support a further 100 homes to be built in Theale,” said Deputy Leader Cllr Jeff Brooks, the Thatcham councillor who has worked most closely with officers to improve on the Tories’ Plan.
Executive Member for Planning and Community Engagement, Cllr Dr Tony Vickers said: “It is not a decision we have taken lightly. We have spent the past six months looking at whether we can put more of the houses we need on other sites in Newbury & Thatcham area. We didn’t think we would need to withdraw the submitted Plan and start again but we share the concerns of the community. We live here too. We deserve better and we have the talented planners and newly elected councillors to deliver better outcomes for the whole District.”
Council Leader and ward councillor for Thatcham North East Cllr Lee Dillon said: “This decision is not without its risks. However we have already found so much incompetence on the part of our Tory predecessors that we believe we can absorb any increased costs in a refreshed new Plan. We told the Conservative Administration at the time that they were rushing the process but they were determined to force the Plan through rather than waiting for the local election results. Those results showed that we have overwhelming support for this.”