TWO sites under threat from development have been excluded from a list earmarking land in west Berkshire for new homes.

Pincents Hill in Tilehurst and White Hart Meadow in Theale were named in a draft list earlier this year as preferred options in the east of the district for accommodating up to 1,000 homes.

But this week a final version of the list, which will go before Tory-controlled West Berkshire Council for approval in January 21, reveals 500 homes will be spread around Tilehurst, Calcot, Theale, Pangbourne and Purley instead.

Reading West MP Martin Salter said he suspected an imminent general election is responsible for the change of heart, adding: "This is an amazing and welcome u-turn by West Berkshire councillors who stood accused last April of stabbing my constituents in the back.

"But however flawed the process, and however disgraceful the behaviour of West Berkshire councillors in the past, this represents good news for the people I represent in Tilehurst and Theale who would have lost a vital green wedge that separates these two communities."

Theale Lib Dem councillor Alan Macro said: "It's good news that the immediate threat has been lifted, but the developers are likely to come back. There is still a requirement for 500 homes which will cause some problems but it is better than the alternative."

The list has been drawn up as part of the Local Development Framework (LDF), a council strategy for meeting the Government housing target of building 10,500 homes in the district by 2026.

Out of the 10,500 homes, 2,275 have already been built, 2,228 have planning permission and the majority of the rest are being directed towards Newbury and the west with rural developments being encouraged in the largest villages.

Executive council member for the LDF, Cllr Alan Law, said West Berkshire had listened to public opinion and is sensitive to the need to protect the district's "green lungs".

Reading West Tory Parliamentary hopeful Alok Sharma said: "I am absolutely delighted. This news will come as a wonderful early Christmas present for all local residents."

If approved the list will go for consultation before being submitted to Government planning inspectors.