Saturday, 13 August 2022

Developer wins appeal over 25 homes to fill 'green gap'

PLANS for 25 new houses on land opposite a primary school have been approved on appeal.

Hicks Developments can now go ahead with developing land west of Park Lane in Charvil following the decision of a planning inspector.

Each house will have up to five bedrooms, a garden and parking.

The decision comes more than two years after Wokingham Borough Council refused to grant planning permission.

The council said the plans were “unacceptable” as the developer had not made enough provision for local infrastructure or affordable housing.

It said the development could increase the risk of flooding on the site and it would “urbanise” the countryside as the site was outside the permitted boundary.

Charvil Parish Council also opposed the plans, saying the development would be unsustainable as the houses would be more than 800m away from key services, such as a bus station or places of work, meaning most residents would need to drive.

Residents said the extra traffic would put children at Charvil Piggott Primary School in Park Lane at risk and that the green space “barrier” between the village and Woodley would vanish.

Dr Thomas McBride, of The Hawthorns, said: “The layout of the estate is cramped and does not provide adequate parking.

“The existing infrastructure is already overloaded. There is only limited public transport service and an inadequate pathway structure.” Ann Ward, also of The Hawthorns, said: “Granting permission for this development will take away the last piece of undeveloped green space in Charvil and destroy the green field gap between Woodley and Charvil.

“It will create a precedent for a piecemeal development of 25 houses every year or so.”

But John Hicks, of Hicks Developments, of Woodley, said the scheme would have no negative impact “in ecological and traffic generation terms” and was sustainable in terms of its location and scale.

He said: “It will contribute positively to the supply of housing in a borough where current supply is inadequate and has been carefully designed to avoid harm and provide an excellent place to live.”

Mr Hicks appealed against the borough council’s decision, saying the settlement boundaries in the Wokingham local plan were out of date and that the borough council had underestimated its five-year land supply.

He argued that the houses would have “no significant adverse impact” on the character of the countryside.

Mr Hicks said: “While it is acknowledged that any new development will affect a change in the character of this undeveloped site, evidence will be given to demonstrate that the effect will not be so significant that it should be refused planning permission.” The company removed proposals for allotments with associated parking on another field it owns next to the site.

The borough council withdrew some of its objections prior to a planning inquiry late last year after Hicks submitted further information on the impact.

These objections included the lack of services, amenities and infrastructure at the site as well as the increased risk of flooding.

However, the council maintained that the plans were outside settlement limits on a site not identified for housing and the scheme would “urbanise” the countryside.

Inspector Jameson Bridgwater said that while the development was contrary to the development plan and would result in “moderate” harm to the character and appearance of the area, it would provide 25 new homes and some affordable housing.

He said: “Taking everything into account, including all other material considerations, I conclude that the adverse impacts of granting planning permission would not significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits of the proposed development.”

A separate application by Hicks for costs against the council was refused.

Meanwhile, an appeal has been lodged against the council’s decision to refuse plans for a gypsy site on land between Charvil and Sonning.

Jade Nolan wants to use the land off Bath Road for caravans and mobile homes, along with utility and day rooms, to create “an area to facilitate a gypsy lifestyle”. The council said the plot is outside permitted development boundaries and that the plans failed to demonstrate the development would not harm protected species.

Charvil Parish Council also objected along with dozens of residents.

Prime Minister Theresa May, the MP for Maidenhead, wrote to the council to oppose the application.

In her appeal notice, Ms Nolan said gypsy and traveller sites were acceptable in the countryside under planning guidelines and the plans would not harm the character of the countryside.

She said the development did not fail to protect the separate identity of settlements and that the lack of a five-year land supply or any alternative sites lent weight to her case.

The council said it could demonstrate a five-year supply of gypsy pitches and called for the appeal to be dismissed and an enforcement notice for the site to be upheld.

It said: “There are no personal circumstances that weigh in favour of permanent occupancy.

“The appellants have failed to demonstrate that the biodiversity and ecology has been protected on the site or that there was no impact as a result of the development.

“Furthermore, the appellants have failed to demonstrate that the site is suitable for human habitation in terms of potential contamination within the site.

“No lesser steps than those required in the notice would overcome the harm.”

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