Residents urged to make voices heard
Local residents in West Berkshire are being urged to participate in the public consultation on the Council’s Local Plan Review which will provide the framework for development in the district including the distribution of new housing. The Berkshire Branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) believes it is vital for local people to make their voices heard so that the real needs of rural communities and the protection of local countryside are taken properly into account.
CPRE Berkshire is encouraging residents of West Berkshire district to read the Local Plan Review consultation documents and to submit their comments. The group points out that genuine housing needs in West Berkshire can more than adequately be met by regenerating ‘brownfield’ (previously developed) land, rather than sacrificing countryside in and around the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) or by swamping local villages with excessive development.
CPRE is also calling for a significant reduction in the housing numbers currently imposed on West Berkshire through the Local Plan process, pointing out that the housing targets currently used by the District Council are no longer binding on them and are merely ‘advisory’, due to a recent change of government policy announced by Housing Secretary Michael Gove.
Across Berkshire as a whole there are 359 brownfield sites across the county, which would be sufficient to build at least 21,000 houses. Despite these sites being logged by local councils in their Brownfield Registers, areas of countryside are still being allocated for housebuilding. In West Berkshire, there are as many as 53 brownfield sites totalling 46.54 hectares, which CPRE estimates would allow building of 2,837 new homes without the need to build on any farmland or countryside.
Greg Wilkinson, Chairman of CPRE Berkshire commented: “It is clear that there is no need for West Berkshire Council to plan housing estates in countryside areas which would have a seriously damaging impact on the rural environment, especially on the AONB. The Council’s public consultation is an opportunity for local residents to make their voices heard and to register their opposition to unnecessary and unsustainable development proposals which risk permanent harm to this rural area with its beautiful landscapes, pretty villages and quiet country lanes.”