Monday, 08 March 2021

Golf club development of new homes back on table

Golf club development of new homes back on table

REVISED plans to build houses at Reading Golf Club have been submitted.

The main aspects of the application remain the same, although the number of homes proposed has been reduced from 260 to 257.

The club in Kidmore End Road, Emmer Green, withdrew its original application in December after it prompted more than 2,000 objections, believed to be a record for a single application received by Reading Borough Council.

Residents complained about the loss of green land, the increase in traffic and pollution and the extra pressure that would be placed on the local infrastructure and facilities such as schools and GP surgeries.

The club said it withdrew the plans to give it enough time to consider the responses.

The council says that only responses to the new application will now be considered and that the previous objections will not be taken into account.

The normal three-week period for public consultation has been extended to six weeks, which means the deadline for comments is March 18.

The golf club is working with developer Fairfax to deliver “family and affordable houses”, a medical centre and public green space.

It is merging with Caversham Heath Golf Club in Mapledurham, where plans for a new clubhouse were approved by South Oxfordshire District Council last year, and is due to move by the end of next month. The new club will be known as The Caversham. Declining membership meant both clubs were losing money and 83 per cent of members at Reading supported the move.

Gary Stangoe, general manager of Reading Golf Club, said the plans were about leaving an “appropriate legacy” for the community.

He said: “Following consultation with the local stakeholders and the local authority, there have been some small technical changes made.

“I think the pandemic has highlighted the need for green space and our plans will be very important to the community.

“A lot of people are saying they need family housing with gardens and this development offers that opportunity. It has always been the aim of the club to have an exit policy and this delivers housing and a new medical facility.

“I’m not sure there are many developments across the country that offer so much for the community. I would urge everybody to take time and look at what it brings. There is a lot to gain from it but we also understand the concerns.”

He added: “My job is to try to secure the future of the club and we needed to change the model. The Caversham is a hugely exciting project and hopefully we will increase our employment going forward.

“We are doing our best to ensure there is a legacy here that does benefit the local community. We leave here in a matter of days and unfortunately we’ve had to spend tens of thousands of pounds on legal fees on the various challenges that have come in. This is about trying to do the right thing and have a responsible, managed exit.” 

Campaign group Keep Emmer Green says the development would be unsustainable.

Spokesman Julian Ansell said: “The new application makes no changes whatsoever in repsonse to the objections raised by residents and community groups to the original plan.

“The traffic congestion and pollution will continue to increase, school places will be at a premium and the pressure on doctors’ surgeries will be untenable. In short, the health and welfare of adults and children alike will continue to be threatened.

“KEG will be strongly opposing this unwelcome and unnecessary application which, if approved, would result in the loss of precious green space and be detrimental to the community as a whole.

“This application completely ignores the local plan and shows a cynical disregard for the time and money spent on this by residents of Reading and the council.”

Matt Rodda, MP for Reading East, said: “The issues are still the same — they are still trying to build houses on the edge of Reading and that would inevitably cause more traffic and air pollution.

“I’m still concerned about the impact on traffic and the disruption to residents of Emmer Green.

“I would like to appeal to the developers to re-think the plans because I think the whole thing is completely mistaken. It is the wrong place for a new large development.”

Mr Rodda reminded residents that they would have to respond to the latest application if they wanted their view considered.

He said: “The way that planning law works means that every application is its own entity and so people will have to make their opinions heard again, however frustrating that may seem.”

Under the new plans, a total of 122 trees would be removed, four more than previously, and the proportion of public space has been marginally reduced.

Other changes include:

• Shared surface areas of road now have a footpath on one side.

• A reduction in the size of the health centre.

• The removal and repositioning of plots to reduce pressure on trees.

The club decided to sell the land four years ago as it was at risk of insolvency due to declining membership.

About a third of the 109 acres of land has already been earmarked for 90 to 120 homes by the council and is included in its local plan. The other two-thirds of the course is in South Oxfordshire and has not been included in the district council’s local plan. 

The club is still developing plans for a family golf centre, which would offer nine-hole family golf and football golf.

To respond to the application (number 210018), email golfclub
comments.planning@reading.gov.uk or visit planning.reading.gov.uk/
fastweb_PL/welcome.asp

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