Council has 'no option' but offer greenbelt land to housebuilders

Council has 'no option' but offer greenbelt land to housebuilders

Reporter:

Simon Meechan

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Council has 'no option' but offer greenbelt land to housebuilders

A senior councillor has said the Royal Borough has no option but to offer up areas of protected greenbelt land to housebuilders.

Greenbelt land in Holyport

The council has released a list of 23 greenbelt locations as potential development sites which would go towards meeting its Government-set target of providing 12,627 households before 2030.

The list has been whittled down from an original 53 locations and covers Windsor and Maidenhead.

It includes Maidenhead Golf Course in Shoppenhangers Road, Spencers Farm, the site of the Littlewick Showground land in Holyport between Holyport Road and Ascot Road.

A public consultation on the issue is expected to be approved by a meeting of the borough cabinet tonight.

The plans are part of the draft Borough Local Plan, a 15-year planning framework set to be adopted next year.

When complete the document will become the main policy planning applications are judged against, guiding where and how development will happen over the next 15 years.

The council has said only 7,415 houses can be built on unrestricted land and with 85 per cent of the borough in the greenbelt, houses will need to be built on untouched land to meet the targets. Another option is to allow taller buildings as part of the town centre regeneration to create an extra 700 homes.

Government planning inspectors could reject the local plan if the borough is unable to prove it will meet its housing target.

Cabinet member for planning and property Cllr MJ Saunders (Con, Bisham and Cookham) said that without  an approved plan, developers would have more freedom to build where they like.

Kimbers Lane in Maidenhead

This is because in an appeal the council would be unable to prove that it has a blueprint for where it wants, and does not want, development.

A local plan will also qualify the Royal Borough for Community Infrastructure Payments, where money is collected from developers to fund roads, schools, parks and public space improvements.

Cllr Saunders warned that if the public think none of the sites are suitable then the council will 'pick out sites where greenbelt criteria is lowest'.

He said: "It's important for residents to be informed about these issues and participate in this discussion in a meaningful way.

"It is highly likely that some of the 23 previously undeveloped greenbelt sites will go forward for development in order that we can present to the inspector a level of supply that does not fall short of the requirement."

"It is clear that some of them will be developed on."

Cllr Saunders pointed out that one of the sites, Stafferton Way, does not have the characteristics most people associated with greenbelt sites.

He added: "Public consultation is a vital part of the process."

After consultation a final draft of the plan will be prepared. The public will have their chance to have a say on that in the summer.

See pages 6 and 7 of today's Maidenhead Advertiser for more details and reaction.

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