The decision of West Berkshire Council’s Western Area Planning Committee on the final scheme for 100 houses on the southern edge of Hungerford (widely known as the Salisbury Road development) at the end of November 2019 was extremely disappointing, and unfortunately it was subsequently reported inaccurately in some sections of the press. As a result, and now that the General Election and the Christmas and New Year break are over, we feel it necessary to offer a correction to some misconceptions:
- Councillor Dennis Benneyworth, acting as Conservative ward councillor for Hungerford and Kintbury, made clear that Hungerford Town Council wanted a better mix of housing in the private element of the scheme – more smaller houses and less larger ones to allow young people to buy houses and older people to downsize – and to ensure protection for existing residents of Kennedy Meadow. It was self-evident from the plans and the available space that planning officers could have negotiated a better outcome to minimise the impact, in particular by relocating two of the new houses.
- Councillor James Cole, acting as Conservative ward councillor for Hungerford and Kintbury and not as a member of Western Area Planning, made clear that the application was not acceptable to the AONB authority, that the design was not good enough (the developer had been pushed harder elsewhere to achieve a better design) and that there was nothing in place for the long-term maintenance of the proposed planting of trees. He said that the developer had stated publicly in Hungerford that they did not have to worry about any environmental considerations in respect of the development, such as insisting on solar panels, rainwater harvesting or greywater handling, because West Berkshire Council still has no relevant environmental policy. He commented however that West Berkshire Council had declared a Climate Emergency and that everybody would look stupid if the committee let the application through.
- Councillor James Cole also proposed deferring the decision to allow further negotiation of the revised scheme with Bewley Homes to achieve a better outcome for Hungerford.
West Berkshire Council planners appear to have elected to ignore all of these issues. When it came to the Committee discussion, Councillor Claire Rowles, Conservative Ward member for Hungerford & Kintbury, acting as a member of Western Area Planning, reinforced the views of her co-ward councillors, and in particular, she highlighted support for Councillor James Cole’s proposal to defer the decision to allow further negotiation of a revised scheme which would address the concerns raised.
West Berkshire’s Western Area Planning Committee ignored the option to defer, in spite of this process having already been followed in another case earlier in 2019 and being subsequently followed by another in December 2019. The only voting members to vote against the scheme were Councillor Claire Rowles and Councillor Caroline Culver (Green Ward member for Ridgeway).
Hungerford had already accepted that further housing would be built – indeed Hungerford has identified a real need – but Hungerford feels that once again it has been ignored by West Berkshire Council in respect of the detail. As Hungerford and Kintbury ward members we feel that it is also totally unacceptable that in spite of this subject being on the political agenda for a number of years and so many months after declaring a Climate Emergency, West Berkshire Council is only now addressing a new Environmental policy for planning through the Local Plan which will take a considerable amount of time to implement.
Cllr Dennis Benneyworth, Cllr James Cole, Cllr Claire Rowles
West Berkshire District Councillors, Hungerford & Kintbury ward
The photograph at the top was taken at one the first meeting to discuss the Salisbury Road development at the Hungerford Corn exchange in January 2017.