Three months after councillors refused planning permission for a controversial scheme of up to 165 homes at Pincents Lane in Tilehurst, the same authority is set to approve it.

West Berkshire Council’s (WBC) eastern area planning committee refused the hotly-disputed proposals, put forward by U+I and Town, on January 19.

But the council then referred the decision to its district planning committee and officers have recommended approval. It meets on Wednesday, April 13 to make a new ruling.

Councillors from both WBC and Tilehurst Parish Council paid a site visit to the 17.5-hectare site, a former golf course and equestrian area, this week.

The January refusal, as stated in WBC’s agenda for the April 13 meeting, was based on three grounds:

  1. The scheme is not on land identified as suitable for residential development.
  2. Unsuitable access onto Pincents Lane.
  3. Failure to provide homes such as affordable, custom build and homes for older people.

The third reason also lists a lack of community building, emergency vehicle access, public open space, public rights of way, sustainable travel, climate change and resilience measures.

However, the council’s development control manager referred the decision to the district planning committee, a procedure which can happen when a decision is considered to conflict with council policies.

The reasons are stated as impact on the strategic direction of the Local Plan Review and the likely costs of an appeal.

Vice-chair of Tilehurst Parish Council Cllr Clive Taylor said: “We were very disappointed with West Berks Council’s decision to refer the application to its district planning committee after the unanimous decision of its eastern area planning committee to refuse the application, but we appreciate they were entitled to do so.”

Cllr Taylor provided a list of some of the key reason the parish council and thousands of residents oppose the scheme.

They are stated as:

  • The application site is outside of the Tilehurst settlement boundary, is a greenfield site, and there are no exceptional reasons for building here. It is contrary to WBC planning policy.
  • WBC is currently demonstrating that it is fully meeting, and indeed exceeding, its housing supply numbers and, therefore, has no need to develop this site.
  • Traffic access to the site is via what becomes a single vehicle access point at the site entrance. This, together with delays experienced on the one access road, which passes the IKEA store, at weekends and particularly on Bank Holidays, is likely to create a landlocked site, causing severe inconvenience to residents of the proposed development.
  • Due to the proximity of the M4, A4 and the Sainsbury’s retail park to the development there is excessive and constant traffic noise at the site.
  • The site has several public rights of way across it and is used daily by many local residents for exercise, dog walking and observing local nature and wildlife. It also provides a natural corridor link from ancient woodland through to the North Wessex Downs AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), both of which the site borders.

Cllr Taylor added: “We are concerned at the impact of further large development on local infrastructure, particularly GP services and local school places. We recognise the over 3,000 letters of objection and many valid reasons these have also given for refusing the application.”

He said the parish council recognises the need for housing, including affordable, but favours brownfield development.

The council has told residents the number allowed to attend the April 13 meeting in person will be limited due to Covid restrictions.

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