Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West today expressed his disappointment that at a committee meeting yesterday evening, planning permission had been granted for the demolition of the existing reservoir and for the development of housing on the Bath Road Reservoir site.
In a letter to those attending the planning committee meeting Alok urged the Council to defer the decision and for the applicant to go back to the drawing board, engage with local people and work on a proposal that would be supported by the local community.
Alok Sharma said: “We had hoped, given the controversial nature of this application and the strength of public opinion against the proposals, that the Council would have rejected this application. The crying shame is that if back in 1996 Labour had not put this site into the local development plan with a stipulation of 80 homes we might have had a different outcome. Whilst the approval comes as a disappointment at least there will be a period of engagement to agree practical grounds rules for the carrying out of the works, which I had requested.”
Alok continued: “I know members of the Save the Bath Road Reservoir Campaign Group, who have worked tirelessly on behalf of local people over the past four years, continue to have serious concerns about noise, dust, increased traffic and potential structural issues for their houses from the building works and so I hope that developers will take this opportunity to meet with representatives from the local community and work out an acceptable agreement.”
Alok concluded: “It is also important that the Council can give assurances that any Section 106 money received will be spent for the benefit of local people who will be affected by the changes and on works to improve the immediate local area and not other parts of Reading.”
Full detail of Alok’s letter to attendees of the planning committee meeting is set out below:
Dear Constituents and Councillors,
RE: Planning Application for development of the former Thames Water Bath Road Reservoir site – reference 12/00980/FUL and 12/00982/LBC
I would have liked to have been present at the planning committee meeting to set out my thoughts in person. Unfortunately, as Parliament is currently sitting this has not been possible hence this letter summarising my views.
As members of the Planning Committee know, I have campaigned alongside the Save the Bath Road Reservoir Campaign Group and local residents for the past four years to stop development on this site.
I have also submitted my detailed views on this latest planning application to Reading Borough Council’s planning department, which the planning committee will have seen.
Despite the submissions made by local residents expressing their reservations about the proposed development, Council officers have recommended this application for approval.
The arguments against these plans have been clearly explained by local residents on many occasions.
• The loss of a highly valued green-space and detrimental impact on the landscape and the character of the area
• A negative impact on biodiversity
• Insensitivity to the important heritage of the site
• Overbearing nature of the plans for residents in surrounding streets
• Harmful impact on the local transport infrastructure, parking and road safety
Ultimately, the planning committee needs to decide whether these plans represent a sustainable development. I do not believe that, as they are currently configured, these plans represent a sustainable development and that is a view shared by many in the local area.
Overall, it is clear that the main aim of this application has been to do as little as possible to amend the original rejected proposal. This is evidenced by the repeated use of out of date survey data, the tokenistic approach to open community space and the ill-thought through approach to protecting vulnerable wildlife.
I do believe that the applicant needs to go back to the drawing board, engage with the local community and devise a scheme that can be supported by local people. If councillors talk to local people they will find this is a widely held view.
However, if the Planning Committee is minded to approve this application against local views I would ask it to pause and reflect on whether the conditions and safeguards are really in place to minimise, as much as possible, the obviously detrimental impact the development works will have on local residents over a long period of time.
Under those circumstances, my preference would be for a deferral of any planning decision until such time that the Save the Bath Road Reservoir Campaign Group on behalf of local residents and working with council officers, have had their specific concerns addressed and are able to satisfy themselves that robust conditions are in place to safeguard the rights of existing local residents.
Alok Sharma MP