Planning chiefs in Reading are refusing to accept a 15,000-home development proposal near a nuclear weapons factory “is dead”.

The plans for a garden village in Grazeley have been abandoned by West Berkshire Council, but Reading Borough Council (RBC) has not given up hope.

Councillor Tony Page, lead member for Planning at RBC, said: “We are not accepting that the Grazeley development is dead and it constitutes an important proposal as much for West Berkshire and Wokingham.

READ MORE: Council explains decision to abandon 15,000 home project

“Whilst it does represent an obstacle, it is one that I believe can be overcome over time but it may delay implementation of a new settlement at Grazeley.

“We continue to support a sustainable settlement at Grazeley.”

Reading Chronicle:

RBC hopes the plans will help it to meet its housing needs.

But the development proposals recently suffered a major blow after developers’ legal challenge against West Berkshire Council’s decision to extend an emergency planning zone failed.

The site in Grazeley, which is around one mile from Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Burghfield, had been earmarked for a huge ‘garden town’ but the project has been thrown into doubt.

That’s because in March 2020, West Berkshire Council extended the Detailed Emergency Planning Zone (DEPZ) around the factory, meaning it now covers the site where Grazeley was planned.

Anyone in the zone can be affected by a “reasonably foreseeable” radiation emergency and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) says it’s not safe to build thousands of homes there because it would be “challenging” to evacuate or shelter all the residents quickly during a radiation emergency.

READ MORE: 15,000-home plan near AWE could 'have impact on the nation’s security'

West Berkshire Council, Wokingham Borough Council and Reading Borough Council had been working with the developers to prepare plans for the new garden village in Grazeley.

Reading Chronicle: The area of the abandoned plansThe area of the abandoned plans

But West Berkshire Council has abandoned the project, after it extended the DEPZ and the government rejected a £252 million bid for infrastructure funding in 2020.

Wokingham Borough Council, which was leading the 15,000-home project, has not scrapped it yet but the council said it is now “looking at alternatives”.

Wokingham Labour Councillor Carl Doran, responding to Cllr Page’s comments, said the plans are an “ex-development” and “it rests in peace”.

Cllr Page was responding to a question by Lib Dem councillor Ricky Duveen, who asked how changes to the DEPZ would impact on plans for development in Reading.

Cllr Duveen suggested the council would have to move to find alternative sites.

Reading’s Local Plan, adopted in 2019, identifies that the town needs 230 new homes that cannot be built within its boundaries, and should be met within the wider area of West Berkshire, Wokingham and Bracknell Forest.

Cllr Page said, if the Grazeley proposals do not go ahead, “it would narrow the options for where the significant housing needs of the whole area can be met”.