For many years, the development on the land south of Salisbury Road in Hungerford has been a contentious subject. Outline planning approval was granted in November 2017 and final approval in November 2019. In May 2020, a revised application was lodged – 20/01023/MDOPO (land south of Priory Road) – which sought to remove the provision for social-rented homes. Nearly 50 letters of objection have so far been received and the matter has received considerable publicity in the local press and on social media. This revision has been the subject of discussion between the developers and West Berkshire Council’s planning officers. It was recently agreed that a report would be produced into the matter, after which discussions would re-commence. These are unlikely to be concluded until early 2021. Work meanwhile continues at the site.
Although its opposition to this amendment has been strong and consistent, at its meeting on 7 December 2020, Hungerford Town Council decided that the time had come for it to make known its views and its reasons for them in one brief statement. Councillor John Downe summarised the background to the issue and then read the proposed statement: with one minor amendment (which has been incorporated here) this is reproduced below. The motion, that this statement on behalf of HTC be approved, was adopted unanimously.
This Council is appalled and alarmed at the attempt being made by Bewley Homes, Wates Management and the owners of the land south of Salisbury Road to deprive West Berkshire families of much needed social rented homes, preferring instead to extract every possible pound of profit for themselves.
They are seeking to exploit further the privilege they were granted through the planning system of building homes on this virgin AONB land and wish to renege on the formal contractual commitments they signed in 2017 in order to secure the planning consent for this site. Their application is a betrayal of the assurances they have given to the town at meetings over the last few years and confirmed in their 2017 press release.
As well as making our own objection to West Berkshire Council to refuse the application, we call on all residents to express their concerns in writing to West Berkshire Council regarding the future impact for families and young people in West Berkshire. We will also be asking our MP, Laura Farris, to support our position with her own representation to WBC.
HTC’s objections to this application are based on:
- The 28 social rented homes scheduled to be delivered by this development (but which would be eliminated by this application) are desperately needed in the town. West Berkshire Council’s Housing Department has repeatedly re-asserted this need throughout the application planning process for the site.
- This land was originally put forward for development by the applicants in the full knowledge of the WBC affordable homes planning policies which mandate the total number and split between “social rented” and “intermediate” homes to be included. The outline and detailed planning applications were also submitted in this knowledge and the signed Section 106 included these clear mandated obligations. On the basis of the current permissions the construction is already well underway – again with the existing contractual obligations on social rented homes remaining in place.
- For the majority of people in Hungerford, the ONLY redeeming feature of this development which make it even mildly palatable is the additional new affordable homes it is to deliver and, in particular, the social rented dwellings.
- As far as we can see from the figures publicly disclosed, the applicants are likely to make even more profit in 2021 on the development than they would have when they signed the contractual obligations in 2017. RightMove has recently reported an increase of 118% (more than doubled since a year ago) in enquiries for Hungerford properties. Therefore claims of insufficient financial viability due to changed economic circumstances are without substance.
NB The above is entirely consistent with the HTC E&P consultation input in May 2020.
The photo at the head of this post was taken at the public meeting to discuss the initial Salisbury Road plans in January 2017.