10:00AM, Thursday 14 December 2017
New evidence means a controversial planning application to build a care village in the greenbelt grounds of Berkshire College of Agriculture (BCA) will be debated again by councillors on Monday – nine months after it was given the go-ahead.
The application by BCA to build a care village with 108 independent and assisted-living units and a 50-bed care home, which the college had argued would help secure its financial future, was approved in principle in March against the advice of planning officers.
Councillors voted 6-3 in favour* of the plans but in September the application was ‘called in’ by the government’s planning inspectorate for a public inquiry which is due to begin in April.
But a new report from council officers has raised questions about the original decision.
It states there is no need for additional care homes and elderly accommodation in the borough, meaning the council might not be able to justify the ‘very special circumstances’ (VSC) needed to build on the greenbelt.
It also said the council could have costs awarded against it as it does not have evidence to justify the scheme.
The report states: “The view is the council’s own evidence contradicts the reason given by the panel as there is no longer an obvious case of VSC.”
It adds the care village would also mean the loss of the colleges high ropes facility [for climbing activities] which ‘weighed against the development’.
Cllr David Coppinger, (Con, Bray) cabinet member for planning, who was not in the role at the time the decision was made, said: “If it’s obvious the information we made the decision on was wrong then we should be challenging it.
“We are doing the right thing by challenging ourselves.”
He said if the planning permission is reversed on Monday, he hopes the public inquiry would be called off but he did not know for sure what would happen.
But opposition councillor Simon Werner (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green) said the borough should have listened to the officers’ recommendations in the first place.
He said: “It is a complete shambles and it is typical of this council. First of all it was in the greenbelt and there was no provision for affordable homes.
“It’s wasted taxpayers’ money and other people’s money and it’s not just a one-off.”
Joe Staunton, vice chairman of Burchetts Green Village Association, who will be speaking against the application at the meeting, told the Advertiser he hopes the council will make the right decision and listen to its officers.
BCA declined to comment.
The application is set to be discussed on Monday at the Borough Wide Development Management Panel at Maidenhead Town Hall at 7pm.
*Cllr Richard Kellaway (Con, Cookham) who put forward the motion to approve the application, voted for it, along with Cllr Paul Paul Brimacombe (Con, Cox Green), Cllr Clive Bullock (Con, Cox Green) Cllr Gerry Clark (Con, Cookham), Cllr Derek Sharp (Con, Furze Platt) and Cllr Claire Stretton (Ind Con, Boyn Hill). Cllr Adam Smith (Con, Maidenhead Riverside), Cllr Leo Walters (Con, Bray) and Cllr Derek Wilson (Con, Oldfield) voted against it.
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