The Save the Bath Road Reservoir (STBRR) Campaign Group took part in a meeting last Friday, facilitated by local MP Alok Sharma, with the CEO of Thames Water to discuss Thames Water’s future plans for the Bath Road reservoir site. The STBRR Group and Alok Sharma proposed strongly to Thames Water that, as part of formulating its future plans, the company should engage in a genuine consultation with local people about a more sensitive and less dense development.
However, despite the RBC Planning Committee’s unanimous rejection of Thames Water’s planning application to a packed Council Chamber on 4th October 2009, despite the clear widespread public and political opposition to their application, and despite its application being dismissed at Appeal in January of this year, Thames Water appears to plan to push ahead with a near-identical application to redevelop the much-loved Bath Road Reservoir site.
The proposed development plans aim to shave off only a small number of the proposed 96 units and do not now include the Water Tower. They involve the removal of all the embankments and the complete flattening of the site, and the construction of large buildings of up to 3 storeys high which will dwarf and overshadow the surrounding properties. The character of the area will be permanently changed.
Mel Woodward, from the STBRR Group said: “We are extremely disappointed with Thames Water’s arrogance, and their consistent attempts to make only the most minimal amendments to their plans and cram in as many units as possible. We had hoped that such a public rejection would make them realise that they needed both to go back to the drawing board, and also to actually listen to what the local community wants. We have been telling them for the past 3 years that even 80 is too many units and that the local infrastructure and area cannot support this many new dwellings but they just don’t care. It makes a mockery of democracy.”
Fellow campaigner Graham Griffiths added: “It was the changes to the Water Tower that really were the last nail in the coffin for the Appeal decision so Thames Water are evidently trying to sneak around this obstacle by leaving it out altogether. This goes against what both the Inspector and RBC have dictated – the site forms part of the setting of the Water Tower and pumping station, and it must be considered as one whole application. Thames Water needs to demonstrate that they could convert this Grade II Listed building in a sensitive manner. An application that just omits it altogether is wholly unacceptable.”
Peter Finnan, local Neighbourhood Watch coordinator, said: “The amount of public money that has already been squandered over this highly valued site is a disgrace. Thames Water needs to understand that they cannot just ride roughshod over unanimous local and political opinion in this way. Just because they are owned by a huge Australian asset-stripping company does not mean they can wipe out treasured and highly valued green spaces in our local area.”
Reading West MP Alok Sharma said: “I understand it will be some weeks before Thames Water submits a new formal planning application and in the meantime I will continue to press the company to take on board the genuine concerns of local residents about an excessive and insensitive development. The Localism Bill currently going through Parliament aims to give local communities far more ability to determine the shape of the places in which they live and requires developers to make a greater effort to consult properly with local people before submitting a planning application. I would strongly urge Thames Water to respond positively to emerging Government policy on planning.”