Twyford borough councillor expresses 'relief' after 2,500 homes plan excluded from latest draft local plan

A borough councillor for Twyford has expressed his ‘relief’ after land proposed for more than 2,000 homes was not allocated in the latest draft local plan.

Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) previously consulted on its draft local plan in February 2020.

However, due to the proposed plan no longer being ‘achievable’, the council has chosen a ‘new approach’ and produced an updated Local Plan Update: Revised Growth Strategy Consultation.

Developer Berkeley Group previously revealed plans to build a ‘sustainable new neighbourhood’ containing 2,500 homes and infrastructure on land east of Twyford and Ruscombe, between the A4 New Bath Road and the railway line.

The site would include a mixture of private and affordable homes as well as new business space and community amenities including a health centre, primary school, parks and shops.

Also included would be a new railway station and local bus interchange, a relief road, and open green spaces and wildlife corridors.

However, the land proposed for this has not been allocated for development in Wokingham Borough Council’s (WBC) latest revised draft local plan.

Cllr Stephen Conway (Lib Dem, Twyford), said: “I’m very pleased that the Ruscombe greenbelt has not been included in the latest version of the draft local plan.

“To have given the green light for development in the greenbelt would have been contrary to national and local policy and would have had a profoundly detrimental impact not only on Ruscombe but also on Twyford.

“No doubt the developers will continue to press for the inclusion of the Ruscombe greenbelt in the final version of the plan.

“But its rejection at this stage is a very encouraging sign that the council will resist large-scale development in the green belt.”

He added: “It was a relief, though I never believed it would be included, as inclusion would have been in defiance of policy.”

A spokesperson for Berkeley said: “We welcome the opportunity to respond to the council’s local plan update consultation and the wider debate on the imbalance in growth and homebuilding between the north and south of the borough.

“Our proposals for a sustainable new neighbourhood to the east of Twyford, supported by new infrastructure and amenities, could help ease the development pressure in the south where all of the strategic development sites (including 4,500 homes now proposed in the Loddon Valley) are located, and where 95 per cent of all new homes have been built since 2007.”

A public consultation on this revised plan started on Monday, November 22 and runs until 5pm on Monday, January 24 2022.

The public consultation can be viewed at: engage.wokingham.gov.uk


Site net capacities in revised draft local plan

The revised plan also includes the updated net capacities for sites that were originally proposed in the February 2020 plan, and the additional sites proposed within this new plan.

Below are the sites within Twyford, Ruscombe, Charvil, Hurst and Sonning:

  •  Land at Bridge Farm, Twyford – The capacity has been increased from 150 to 180. The document’s development guidelines for this site state that ‘development should avoid areas of high flood risk’.
  • Land east of Park View Drive North, Charvil – Housing capacity numbers have decreased from 85 to 78. The guidelines for this site also state that ‘development should avoid areas of high flood risk’.
  • Land west of Park Lane, Charvil – Numbers have decreased from 75 to 61.
  • Land adjacent to Whistley Green Cottage, Whistley Green, Hurst – Housing capacity numbers have remained the same at three.
  • Land north-west of Hogmoor Lane, Hurst – Numbers have also remained the same at 12.
  • Land to the rear of 9-17 Northbury Lane, Ruscombe – Following the update the housing capacity has increased from seven to 12.
  • Land between 39-53 New Road, Ruscombe – Housing capacity numbers have increased from 13 to 20.
  • Land at Sonning Farm, Sonning – The proposed capacity has remained the same at 25.
  • Land east of Pound Lane (Sonning Golf Club), Sonning – This is an additional site within this revised plan, proposing a housing capacity of 24.

An outline planning application for up to 200 homes on land at Bridge Farm in Twyford has been submitted and is currently under consideration.

Cllr Wayne Smith, executive member for planning and enforcement, said: “We have assessed the proposal for a strategic development near Twyford, alongside others strategic options.

"Following consideration of the opportunities and impacts, the preferred approach we are consulting on is the creation of a sustainable new community at Hall Farm Loddon Valley.”

He added: “The Twyford proposal is on land designated as greenbelt.

"Government planning policy requires exceptional circumstances to exist to justify the release of land in the green belt for development.

"This includes examining all other reasonable options for meeting development needs.

"The Hall Farm / Loddon Valley proposal is not situated in the Green Belt, and is considered to offer the opportunity to create a sustainable community.”

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