Plans to build a care village on the greenbelt grounds of the Berkshire College of Agriculture were approved by councillors last night (Wednesday), despite concerns about potential harm to the historic site.
It means 108 independent and assisted-living units and a 50-bed care home can be built at the Burchetts Green Road further education institution.
Students and staff at the college have backed the plans, believing it will secure the long-term financial future of BCA.
But some residents from nearby Burchetts Green opposed it, citing issues such as an increase in traffic and harm to the greenbelt, and claimed there were alternatives to secure the institution’s future.
Royal Borough officers had recommended councillors on the Maidenhead Development Management Panel, sitting at Maidenehad Town Hall, refuse the proposal.
They said it would cause substantial harm to the greenbelt, the nearby Grade I-listed Hall Place and Grade II historic garden, and increase the flood risk.
Cllr Richard Kellaway (Con, Bisham and Cookham) said the plans would provide money to the college, which would prevent it from merging with another further education provider to secure its long-term future.
He said the education of young people was ‘more important than some minute detail of the planning law’.
“Here, we have got very special circumstances.
“10 years ago, we lost the Maidenhead campus of East Berkshire College, and we don’t want to lose any more.
“I ask myself – who loses? Nobody seems to lose,” he added.
Cllr Paul Brimacombe (Con, Cox Green), said if BCA needed to merge with another further education college ‘they will go in as a junior partner’, and that arrangement would not necessarily stop developments nearby residents oppose.
He said the estate ‘will not lie dormant’.
“Someone will come along and want to do something with it.”
The debate, which lasted more than 90 minutes, required an intervention from a council officer to remind councillors to consider only the planning merits of the application.
Cllr Leo Walters (Con, Bray) opposed the plans and said: “It looks as if the way we are going is ‘the greenbelt is up for grabs’.
“That is what it looks like to the public.”
The plans were approved by councillors, subject to further discussions with the applicants about the site.
Cllrs Brimacombe, Kellaway, Bullock, Clark, Sharp and Stretton voted in favour while Cllrs Walters, Smith and Wilson voted against.
In other items, plans to redevelop Mercia Road-based Brill House were approved, meaning seven homes can be built at the site.
A two-storey extension to the science block at Newlands Girls School in Farm Road was approved, and the conversion of Ockwells Country Park, in Ockwells Road, to a public open space was also permitted by councillors.
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