PLANS to build more than 400 homes near Vodafone’s headquarters in Newbury have taken a big step forward.

Reserved matters planning applications for two large developments, that will provide a total of 401 homes, were approved by West Berkshire Council’s Western Area Planning Committee on Wednesday, September 24.

They will be built on 52-acres on countryside in Shaw-cum-Donnington.

David Wilson Homes plans to build 222 homes on the western side of the site, while Taylor Wimpey is looking to construct 179 homes on the eastern side.

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They want to build a range of properties, from one-bedroom apartments to five-bedroom detached houses, and provide 160 affordable homes.

Outline planning permission for 401 homes on the site, which is split by the A339, was refused in November 2015, but that decision was overturned by the Planning Inspectorate in March 2017, following an appeal.

The reserved matters applications contain more detailed plans for the homes and the developers could not begin construction until the applications were approved.

There are also plans for a primary school, a local centre and a large area of public space, but planning officers said “they were not for consideration” as part of the reserved matters applications.

During Wednesday’s planning committee meeting, planning officer Simon Till said the designs of the homes were of an “acceptable quality” even though the properties on the eastern side are “lacking in any innovation”.

He also said there are “comprehensive landscaping proposals” that aim to “soften the impact of the development on its surroundings”.

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The plans state that the main access to the site will be from the A339 Vodafone roundabout and car parking will be provided on streets, shared plots and private driveways within the site.

But the meeting was told that people will not be able to access the 179 homes on the eastern side without using a private road, that is owned and maintained by Vodafone.

The developer insists residents and emergency services vehicles will have a right of access to the road, but the council says the road requires minor works and neither Vodafone or the developer have been willing to carry these out yet.

The council cannot take control of the road, but the developer has plans to hire a management company to maintain the roads.

“This will come at a cost to future residents,” said Paul Goddard, the council’s highways development control leader.

Planning officer David Pearson said: “We have inherited a decision from a planning inspector, which I would argue on this issue, is substandard.

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“But our hands are tied. I feel sorry for the future residents if there are problems when they move in.

“But there is very little, if anything we can do, under this reserved matters application to address any future problems arising from this.”

At the meeting, concerns were raised about potential flooding, a secluded underpass where crime could be committed, an increase in traffic and a lack of car parking for the school.

But both developers have agreed to draw up drainage strategies to prevent flooding, install CCTV cameras that cover the underpass, create a bus gateway and provide parking throughout the site and outside the primary school.

There were also concerns about the developers plans to delay construction of the local centre.

'We’re now faced with a very different creature'

Originally it was going to be built in the first phase of the development, but there are now plans to construct it during the fifth phase.

Councillor Lynne Doherty, leader of the council, said: “A local centre will not only prevent additional car journeys but also bring social cohesion to the new area and help with integration with existing residents in the area.”

The condition which required the developer to build the centre in the first phase of the project was discharged in February 2019.

Cllr Doherty (Conservative) added: “This does feel like a ploy to chip away at the outline permission to the detriment of residents.

“I would ask that this phasing reverts to the original plan.”

Cllr Tony Vickers (Liberal Democrat) said: “We’re now faced with a very different creature – a creature that will begin without life, as a sort of monster.

“If you take away and centre and a school from a development of this size, you are left with something that is lifeless and not what you thought it was going to be.”

But the councillors were told that the phasing of the project had been agreed when outline planning permission was approved by the Planning Inspectorate and it cannot be changed.

Cllr Steve Masters, who represents Newbury Speen, also told the committee that developers often make “lofty promises” about providing affordable housing but then fail to deliver.

“Any commitment must be robustly enforced,” he said.

Both reserved matters applications were ultimately approved at the meeting.