Twyford parish councillors warned to watch out for 'threats of development' following doubts over proposed Grazeley garden town

A borough councillor for Twyford has warned the village parish council to keep an ‘eye open’ for ‘threats of development’ in the area.

Cllr Stephen Conway (Lib Dem, Twyford) made the comments after the proposed development of a garden town at Grazeley was ‘thrown into some doubt’.

The development of the garden town, which is proposed within the draft Local Plan, would take up a ‘significant portion’ of the housing allocation for the Wokingham borough.

But a legislative change led to emergency planning requirements around the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Burghfield to be extended to include the Grazeley area.

The Defence Nuclear Organisation, part of the Ministry of Defence, now objects to the proposed garden town and is requesting its removal from the local plan.

Last month, a High Court judge ruled against a developers consortium which was challenging the expansion of the emergency planning zone around the Atomic Weapons Establishment.

Following this, Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) is now looking for alternatives to a garden town and is using masterplanning to explore two potential areas.

These include: a site south of the M4 corridor between Arbourfield, Shinfield and Sindlesham and another site which consists of an area of land within the existing South Wokingham major development.

The new areas will be considered alongside others from across the borough. A consultation on the revised local plan is expected to be carried out later this year.

Speaking at a Twyford Parish Council meeting on Tuesday, February 23, Cllr Conway said that the draft local plan has been ‘thrown into turmoil’.

He added: “[This] obviously has consequential effects for other parts of the borough.

“Our concern is the sites that fell out of the process in the last local plan stage may now come back in because Grazeley is not going to be deliverable.

“Currently, the council is masterplanning two sites to see whether they might accommodate at least some of the housing that would have gone into Grazeley.

“However, I don’t think that’s the end of the story. I don’t think those two sites will be capable of accommodating everything that would have gone into Grazeley.

“So we’re going to have to keep our eye open for any threats of development in our area.”

He added: “My personal view is that for the greenbelt site in Ruscombe, the arguments against it are pretty compelling, but there are other sites that are not in the greenbelt that do include agricultural land close to us, which may now be more vulnerable.

“I’m hoping that’s not the case, of course, but I think it would be wrong of me not to alert you to the fact that that’s a possibility.”

Cllr Wayne Smith, executive member for planning and enforcement, said: “The recent high court decision on the extension of the emergency planning zone around AWE confirms our need to look at alternative strategies to meet our future housing and employment needs.

“It doesn’t mean we are having to go back and start again; much of the work we’ve done to date is not impacted.

“What it means is that we need to look again at how best we can manage development, including relooking at all the sites that have been submitted as part of the local plan update process and see what makes the most sense.”

He added: “No decision has been taken regarding the future strategy and all options remain on the table.”

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