12:55PM, Thursday 19 November 2020
Grove Park Industrial Estate. Ref:110930-3
Controversial plans to build 79 homes on a former RAF barracks in White Waltham are one step closer to fruition after outline planning permission was granted by councillors.
At a Royal Borough Development Management Panel held yesterday (Wednesday) on Zoom, councillors voted to approve outline plans to build 79 two, three, four and five-bedroom houses on Grove Park Industrial Estate, in Waltham Road.
The application sought to demolish the majority of buildings on the site, many of which are home to small and medium-sized businesses, leaving only three offices standing. The plans also include building a new nursery to replace the one that is already on the site, and four affordable homes.
Councillors approved the outline application, approving the plans for access and scale. A further planning application will have to be submitted to determine the appearance of the site.
The plans have received strong opposition from residents from the White Waltham area, as well as the parish council. In total, 131 letters of objection were sent to the council regarding the application.
Some of the major concerns included the loss of businesses, overdevelopment of a site in the greenbelt, and increase in the number of people at risk from aircraft crashes (from White Waltham Airfield, next door).
Speaking at the meeting, Charles Donald, representing the White Waltham Village Association, took issue with how the application had been brought to panel at short notice.
He said: “We only received notice of this meeting on Tuesday, November 10, just seven days ago.
“We believe calling this meeting at such short notice, when England is locked down for COVID-19, is inconsistent with the high standards of democratic process that we are sure you’d wish to demonstrate.
“The village association does not object to some houses being built on this site, but it objects to the proposed density within the greenbelt.”
Despite the outcry from residents, councillors on the panel spoke in favour of the plans.
Councillor Geoff Hill (TBF, Oldfield) said: “The thing I like the most about this, particularly post-COVID, is it’s for two and three-bed houses and its not for blocks of flats.
“It’s totally for family dwellings. For me, that’s what’s pushing me over the line with this application because it actually does what the public demanded. We don’t need flats in White Waltham but houses would be extremely desirable."
Cllr Neil Knowles (OWRA, Old Windsor), added: “I have history with White Waltham, the area of Grove Park is the domestic site of RAF White Waltham up to the early 1980s, a bit earlier than that I first learned to fly and was accommodated in the old barracks there.
“That's what it is, an old barracks, and the buildings there are the temporary buildings put up with a limited life in the 1940s, so they’re well beyond their useful life."
Councillor David Hilton (Con, Ascot and Sunninghill), was also in favour of the plans, but did have some concerns.
He said: “The Hurley and Waltham Neighbourhood Plans states that there should be two-storey dwellings and we can see from the proposals that have been made they are going to be 12 metres high, it calls them two-and-a-half storey dwellings, I call them three.”
At the end of the discussion, councillors on the panel voted unanimously in favour of the plans. Cllr Phil Haseler (Con, Cox Green) was not present for this part of the meeting, as he had previously written a letter of objection to the plans before he was a councillor.
Cllr Leo Walters (Con, Bray) was also not allowed to participate in the debate or vote, as he suffered from technical issues at the start of the meeting meaning he missed the first part of the presentation.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for developer Sorbon Estates said: "Nearly 40 per cent of the commercial floorspace at Grove Park, in the form of the largest four office buildings along with their parking, will remain on the estate.
"The adjacent Waltham Park totalling 35,000sq ft of office space, owned by another party, will also remain. These buildings are purpose-built, modern offices with ample space for many businesses.
"The buildings at Grove Park that are earmarked for development are older buildings, mainly wartime, prefabricated, temporary buildings."
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