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Why axing new flats plan 'will have enormous implications for the whole of Newbury'; Plans to demolish the old newsroom and printing press on Faraday Road have been refused.

Byline: By, Alex Seabrook

A decision to reject plans a 'bold' housing scheme in Newbury will have 'enormous implications' for the whole area, councillors have warned.

Plans had been submitted for 71 flats and offices at the former newspaper building in Faraday Road.

The planning application by the former chairman of the Newbury Weekly News, Jeremy Wills, wanted to knock down the title's old newsroom and printing press building.

But councillors have thrown out the plans over flooding issues.

Members of the planning committee turned down the scheme because of a "confusing" technical policy about flooding -- the 'sequential test' which tries to steer new developments to places with low risk of flooding.

Lydia Mather, planning officer at West Berkshire Council, said: "Development should not be permitted if there are reasonably available sites, appropriate for the development, in areas with a lower risk of flooding."

The area where the development was proposed is in flood zone three, the highest risk zone.

In a report to the western area planning committee, Ms Mather said the plans fail the sequential test because there are other available sites for the housing development in areas of lower flood risk.

But Steven Smallman, from Pro Vision and representing the developers, highlighted how the council has wanted to redevelop the area for a long time.

Mr Smallman said: "The regeneration of the London Road industrial estate is a key strategic objective of West Berkshire Council.

"It has been a vision of the council for more than 10 years, but has been delayed by both changing market forces and legal proceedings.

"This is a proposal for a bold, mixed-use redevelopment scheme on a large and vacant brownfield site, in a highly sustainable location on the edge of Newbury town centre.

"It will provide new homes and office accommodation, and perhaps even more importantly, has the potential to kickstart the long overdue rejuvenation of the London Road industrial area.

"The Environment Agency are content that this would be a safe development. The accommodation will not be inundated, there are safe means to escape, and it won't increase the risk of flooding elsewhere.

"Clearly the decision to reject this development of this site based on the sequential test would have serious implications for the redevelopment of the surrounding area."

But councillors on the planning committee were concerned about the sequential test, and so were hesitant to give permission for the redevelopment.

Councillor Tony Vickers Lib Dem, Wash Common said: "It is a bit technical, for us lay committee members, this nerdy sequential test business. To me, this is an unnecessary delay and messing about.

"I just feel instinctively that this is a strange one to refuse, and would have enormous implications for the whole of Newbury."

Councillor Carolyne Culver Green, Ridgeway said: "I'm a bit confused because I thought this site was going to be redeveloped in the long term anyway. So why are now concerned about flooding, why didn't this issue arise before

"But because it's such a technical issue, I don't feel confident to go against the judgement of the officers on the basis of a flooding issue. I don't feel qualified to go against what the officers are saying."

The committee voted five to two to refuse planning permission.

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What the new flats would have looked like
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Title Annotation:Property
Author:By, Alex Seabrook
Publication:Get Reading (Reading, England)
Date:Feb 12, 2020
Words:552
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