UNHAPPY residents of Coley Park have hit out at the council's decision to build 46 new homes in the area, claiming the planning process was "deeply flawed" and "biased".

The Coley Rise Residents' Group was formed last year to "fight" Reading Borough Council's (RBC) proposal to build homes and demolish 29 garages, which the group say would lead to a loss of 60 per cent of open space.

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A spokesperson claimed: "We feel the planning process within RBC is deeply flawed and biased in favour of their own application.

"During the first meeting with ward councillors, it was suggested that there were three possible sites - Coley Park, North Street and the third, which has never been disclosed even though requested on several occasions."

Last month (August 12), a majority of councillors at a virtual planning meeting voted for plans to build the 46 flats and houses at Wensley Road.

RBC is set to demolish the garages and build new homes - with at least 37 of these being sold at social housing affordable rates.

But the residents' group claim that plans were decided unfairly, stating that 650 people signed a pre-submission petition and a further 350 sent in objections after the application was made.

"The people of Coley Park almost universally reject these plans due to the numerous contraventions of the local plans material considerations," one member said.

"The committee councillors who voted for this application were the same councillors who recently rejected the Collier’s Way application 182114 and 171219.

"Reasons for refusal included: scale of buildings; loss of open space; parking; risk of accident; harm to existing trees; amenity; outlook and daylight.

"These are but a few of the evidenced reasons our group submitted in our 46 page objection document, which was disregarded by the planning officer and six councillors.

"We believe this application should never have been passed - it was passed by a vote of six 'for' and four 'against', all six that voted 'for' being Labour and Labour and Cooperative."

The group also stated that they had been informed that RBC had been allocated a grant to help build homes from Home England, and that the money had to be spent by a certain date before being lost.

Their argument went on: "We believe this is why the Labour councillors voted 'for' the proposals, despite the fact they will contravene the council's own Local Plan policies and cause harm to existing residents."

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Responding to the claims, RBC said that the new development will bring much needed affordable homes for local residents, built to high energy efficient standards.

A spokesman added: "In addition, there will be overall improvements to the area including a new play area for children of all ages, new garages and improved parking facilities.

"Although classed as open space, the new development will predominantly be built on hardstanding currently used as garage forecourts."

They stated that every single planning application submitted to the council is "carefully considered on its own merits" and that members are entitled to consider all material considerations in coming to a decision.

Speaking about claims made by the residents' group, RBC went on: "The Collier's Way application proposals are not comparable to the one for Coley Park.

"The two Colliers Way applications were refused, with two subsequent planning appeals dismissed by the independent Planning Appeal Inspectors who completely upheld the council’s reasons for refusal.

"In both cases the harm identified was found to be too significant to be outweighed by the benefits of the proposed schemes, solely the provision of housing.

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"In the case of Coley Park, members of the Planning Applications Committee heard representations from all sides, both in support and in objection.

"The planning committee report prepared by officers carefully set out all material planning considerations and the committee decided that, on balance, the merits of the scheme outweighed the deficiencies.

"Councillors have to balance the needs and interests of residents, and other stakeholders, to reach a decision which is in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework and the Local Plan."