A controversial plan to build 223 homes on Reading Golf Course has been approved despite receiving over 4,000 objections, breaking a council record.

At a crucial meeting last night (Wednesday, March 2) Reading Borough Council’s planning committee accepted the latest application for the former golf course, located off Kidmore End Road in Emmer Green.

Representatives from the council’s Labour administration, while acknowledging the level of residents’ concern, agreed on balance that the development would provide much needed affordable and family sized housing.

Councillor John  Ennis (Labour, Southcote) said : “Thousands have opposed this, and rightly so.

“But there will be a lot of interest from young families, particularly in Caversham, who’ll be looking at the prices, affordability in a highly desirable area.

“They will want their families there. Local people are interested in them houses.

“They will be built better than most of the houses in Reading.”

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Support for affordable housing was echoed by cllr Ellie Emmberson (Labour, Minster).

Now it has been approved, 67 affordable homes will form part of the development.

Of these, 12 four-bedroom homes, four three-bedroom homes and six two-bedroom homes and two one bed maissonettes would be made affordable through shared ownership.

Two four-bedroom homes, 11 three-bedroom homes, 11 two-bedroom homes, five two-bedroom flats, six one-bedroom flats and two one-bed maisonettes  would be made affordable through affordable rent.

Cllr Karen Rowland (Labour, Abbey), lamented that the golf course could not be turned into an arboretum or open space, but acknowledged that the land is private and it is up for developers to apply for what they wish.

Ultimately supporting the plan, she said: ”The opportunity of open space, the opportunity for real affordable housing, and not affordable housing in flats, is just really an incredible thing that we can’t overlook.”

The golf course has been vacant since Reading Golf Club moved to The Caversham course.

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But the plan to build on the golf course in Emmer Green has proven controversial, as over 4000 people submitted objections to it, including Matt Rodda, the Labour MP for Reading East.

Opposition to the development has been led by the Keep Emmer Green campaign, who have accused developers Fairfax of ‘bully boy tactics’ by submitting an appeal for a previous plan for 257 homes which was rejected by the council’s planning committee last year.

They also held a demonstration outside the council offices and spoke at the meeting.

Reading Chronicle: The aerial plan for the 223 home plan for Reading Golf Club. Credit: Paul Hewett Chartered ArchitectsThe aerial plan for the 223 home plan for Reading Golf Club. Credit: Paul Hewett Chartered Architects

The plan was also opposed by Conservative and Green members of the council’s opposition.

Cllr Paul Carnell (Conservative, Peppard) said: “With parking for 442 vehicles there is the potential for 900 or more vehicles a day.

“Each will be along Kidmore End Road, a small local road with parking on one side, there’s the potential recipe there for chaos.

“After visiting I spent about 15 minutes queuing at The Last Crumb junction, that’s 15 minutes of cars sitting there putting out fumes, not achieving anything, just pollution. The development can only make this worse.”

Clare Grashoff, a former Conservative councillor, said: “This is not the Reading that our community wants. This is not the Reading you councillors signed up forwhen you declared a climate emergency.

“It is not ok to turn Reading upside down and destroy 12 hectares of beautiful parkland and trees.”

Meanwhile, cllr Josh Williams (Green, Park) argued the 223 homes applied for doesn’t comply with the Reading Local Plan, which envisaged 90-130 homes for the site.

He said: “If the developer doesn’t wish to conform to the Local Plan, they can sell it to someone who does.”

You can view tweet coverage of the meeting here: 

Extensive conditions have been imposed on the development by the council, which includes investing hundreds of thousands in healthcare, open space and leisure facilities and highways improvements.

The golf course development will be the subject of future planning applications as it was only given outline consent at the meeting.