“Feels like blackmail”: Controversial homes plan rejected by council

Controversial plans to build homes on green space in Tilehurst have been rejected by the council.

The proposal would have seen see a large six-home terrace built on green space next to Thorpe House, Colliers Way.

Sixteen Kirton Close, a bungalow which encloses the cul-de-sac, would have been demolished and replaced with a road and three parking spaces.

This is the third time plans have been refused at the site in the last three years.

Hilda Fortnum, a resident of Kirton Close since 1974, said the land was left as green space for 46 years, enjoyed by residents and a play area for children, before it was recently fenced up.

She added: “A few people who have money in mind are causing so much distress to so many people. It really is a bit of a nightmare now.”

Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) Planning Applications committee unanimously opposed the plan on Wednesday (March 4).

More than 50 residents objected to the large six-home plan on land next to Thorpe House, Colliers Way, describing the plans as “greedy”, “unsuitable” and “unacceptable”.

Neighbours, councillors and council officers raised concerns the development would:

  • Alter the character of Kirton Close as it will no longer be a cul-del-sac
  • Destroy a valuable piece of green space used by young children
  • Make the popular footpath unsafe by allowing cars access cross it
  • Impact on privacy of neighbours

John Wollenberg, agent for the developer, said the fence was put up at the request of some local residents to avoid constant fly-tipping and drug use.

But Norcot ward councillor Jo Lovelock, along with many vocal members of the public in attendance, disagreed.

She said anti-social behaviour started when the fence went up and the open space had been very well used beforehand.

Mr Wollenberg called for a decision on the proposal to be deferred to allow for negotiations with the council to find the best way to transform a “wasted and under-utilised private site”.

Councillors rejected this idea. Councillor Jane Stanford-Beale said she has never approved an application with “so many things against it”.

Cllr Josh Williams added: “It feels like the committee is being blackmailed by a fence around a piece of open space that residents should have access to”.

Plans to demolish 16 Kirton Close and build 18 flats were refused by RBC in 2017.

Revised proposals at the site reducing the number of flats to 14 were also rejected by the council, in 2018, with a planning inspector also rejecting the developer’s appeal.