Fiercely-disputed plans for 223 homes at the former Reading Golf Club in Emmer Green have been approved.
In a heated meeting on March 2 in which councillors were frequently heckled, Reading Borough Council’s planning applications committee approved the plans by Fairfax and the golf club for the 12-hectare site in Kidmore End Road.
At one point protesters were told they should be ashamed of themselves for haranguing a council officer who recommended approval for the scheme, which attracted 4,500 objections. Before the meeting a protest was held at the front of the civic offices.
The meeting involved speakers for and against and each side included one former councillor.
Speaking against, Clare Grashoff, who was councillor for Peppard ward until last May, referred to reports of windfall payments golf club members might receive if the plans went through.
She said: “It’s a world class vanity project that has been relentlessly and ruthlessly pursued since the golf club management bribed members with possible six-figure sums of money in order to secure the vote to sell the land back in 2018.”
Objector Jennifer Leach, director of earth arts organisation Outrider Anthems, told the meeting an IPCC report on Monday will prove ‘we are on the verge of snuffing out the extraordinary miracle that is life on earth’.
She said no amount of carbon offsetting or fiddling with save the planet and added: “The applicants seek to grind us down until they get what they came for.”
Former Mayor of Reading Richard Stainthorp argued there would be a net gain of 84 trees on the site and no good quality trees would be lost.
He went on: “This application offers a reduction in the number of apartments and an increase in the number of houses – surely a change that would be welcomed by many local people who bemoan the number of flats being given planning permission and are calling for an increase in the number of family houses being built in Reading.
“I suspect, however, that many of the people who say this are those who object to the application, case of more houses but ‘oh, not in my back yard’.”
Jonathan Walton, representing Fairfax and the golf club, told the meeting he is a local and a member of the golf club. He explained the scheme and highlighted its positive points adding: “In planning terms this is what Emmer Green needs, rather than what it maybe wants.”
And he spoke of some who had raised objections and defended the council officer who wrote the report which recommending approval.
Mr Walton said: “Matt Burns is not the council. Matt Burns is a planning officer doing his job. The haranguing and public putting down of Matt Burns is absolutely abhorrent and you should be ashamed of yourselves.”
After the meeting a spokesperson for the developer said: “We are very pleased with the planning committee’s decision to approve our application on Wednesday evening. This is the culmination of extensive work to bring to this area an attractive, welcoming and thoughtfully-designed new residential community.
“It will provide a wide range of benefits for Reading, including houses and much needed affordable homes for families.“
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