The open Hungerford Town Council (HTC) meeting on Monday 9 January was convened to enable Hungerford residents have their say on the proposed development of 119 houses to the south of the town. An estimated 250 people attended, more than the number of available chairs – standing room only for some, including your correspondent.
Cllr Martin Crane, the Mayor, introduced the meeting and after a few items of municipal news (including thanks to all those who had helped with the Christmas lights and the news that the lease for the Marsh Lane Allotments had been extended) the meeting turned to the question of the proposed development.
The Mayor stressed that HTC recognised the need for more housing in the town: the purpose of the meeting was to gauge local feeling as to whether this proposal, which West Berkshire Council supported, to build all the houses on one site south of the town was the best solution. He said that after an introduction to the issue he would allow for about 40 minutes of questions and opinions, after which a vote would be taken as to whether or not people were in favour of the development.
District Councillor Paul Hewer expressed a conflict of interest as he sat on West Berkshire Council’s (WBC) Western Area Planning Committee.
Cllr Richard Hudson then made a brief presentation the main points of which are largely reflected in our previous post which can be seen here.
Questions were then invited from the audience. It was stressed at one point that the issue at hand was to take views about the current application and not to discuss any others, such as HTC’s own ‘pepper pot’ proposal.
About 30 people spoke. With one exception (where the question was mainly about the viability of HTC’s own plan, discussion of which was ruled inappropriate) all voiced concerns about one or more aspects of the application. These included:
- Increased traffic on the High Street to access the station, the M4 and the A4;
- The use of Priory Road, the Common and Lower Denford as a rat run;
- The increased risk of flooding, already real in the adjacent areas;
- The fact that 119 homes was more than the 100 homes originally proposed by WBC for Hungerford;
- The impact on the AONB;
- The possible change to a footpath with no obvious alternative route;
- The number of affordable homes (which was suggested to be 40%);
- The impact of perhaps 100 extra schoolchildren on Hungerford’s schools;
- The fact that the proposed site was entirely greenfield;
- The fact that other parts of the town had had infrastructure, such as sewerage, improved in expectation of future development, whereas this site had not.
During the questions, it was pointed out by Cllr Farrell and the Mayor that approval of this plan did not necessarily mean that no further applications would be considered at that Hungerford could thus end up having perhaps double the number of houses. District Councillor Podger disagreed with this. On being challenged as to why he did not object to the plan, Cllr Podger said that he had, on the grounds that it was in advance of the Draft Development Plan and that 119 houses was too many. He later explained that his time spent dealing with planning experts at West Berkshire Council had shown him that there were positives to this application. The decision to consider the application before the approval of the DDP did, however, set an alarming precedent.
Henry Oliver, Director of the North Wessex Downs AONB, was then invited to say a few words. He explained that part of the job of an AONB officer was to advise councils such as WBC on the landscape implications of their plans and policies. AONB’s advice to WBC since at least 2010 had been consistently against developing this site. National planning policy states that major development like this should only be approved in AONBs and National Parks in exceptional circumstances. The AONB’s advice to WBC was, and remains, that no such circumstances exist in this case. The Inspector examining WBC’s Core Strategy requires that the total of 2,000 houses proposed in the AONB parts of West Berkshire (including Hungerford) should be a maximum: however, because of the number of developments that have already been permitted, WBC would be in danger of exceeding this were this development to be approved. The Core Strategy also states that if the housing could not be built in the AONB without unacceptable landscape harm, sites should be found outside the AONB instead.
Those attending were then asked to use a voting slip to record whether they were in favour of or against this development. The Mayor was asked if he felt that the question should also be posed to those who had not attended the meeting. He replied that thanks to the publicity generated by local media groups (of which Penny Post was one) everyone had been given notice of the meeting and that a good number had attended. The meeting was then closed.
The result of the vote was that five people voted in favour of the application and 155 against it.
Making your views known
HTC will forward the voting forms to WBC and would expect these to be treated as individual representations. If, however, if you wish to submit comments on why you object to or support and haven’t already done so then we urge you to contact WBC asap to make your views known.
Please click here for more information on objecting to or supporting a planning application.
Please click here for a post including a map and a summary of HTC’s position on the matter.
Please click here to view the application on WBC’s website.
There are three ways you can object to or support the application:
On WBC’s website – please click here.
By email – contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments quoting application number 16/03061/OUTMAJ.
By post – contact The Head of Planning, West Berkshire Council, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD quoting application number 16/03061/OUTMAJ.
Note that comments made on social media will not be accepted.
Please make your comments as soon as possible. West Berkshire Council is likely to make a decision in the middle of February.
Penny Post advises, should you wish to object, that your comments be based at least as much on fact and evidence as on emotion, as these are likely to carry more weight. We also suggest that five half reasons do not add up to a full one and that it’s better to concentrate on one target with a forceful argument than make a series of general objections. Supporting evidence (such as photographs of past flooding), references to specific planning policies which the application might be in breach of and criticisms of any aspects of the technical submissions made by the developers (which can be seen by clicking the Documents tab on the WBC page for the application) will also be useful. Ideally, you would also lobby the WBC councillors who will be voting on the issue.
Please use the Comment section below if you have anything to say about this post. Comments about the application itself can be posted here but will not be considered by West Berkshire Council (see ‘Making your views known’ above).