The slow speed at which plans to build 2,000 homes at Sandleford Park is progressing has been branded an “embarrassment”, as there is still no news on when planning permission will be decided.
Paul Bryant, vice chairman of the West Berkshire Council planning committee that will eventually decide whether planning approval should be given, made the comment as he criticised the two developers for delays to the project.
The first planning application covering the entirety of the site in south Newbury was submitted in November 2015, and it had been hoped that a final decision would be made sometime in 2016.
But disagreements between the council and the developers – Donnington New Homes and Bloor Homes – on certain issues such as access into the site has led to the hold-ups.
Without the prospect of work starting any time soon, it means the council hasn’t been able to demonstrate a five-year land supply – crucial in it being able to pick and choose suitable sites for development in the district.
Cllr Bryant said: “I did ask the council officers recently if there was much movement, and it’s still pretty slow.
“I don’t know what they’re thinking of, we really do need that development to get under way.
“It’s festering around. Developers come in and say we haven’t got a five-year land supply, so it is a bit of an embarrassment not having that started, and I blame the developers.
‘The only thing we’re insisting on is we want to see it developed as one site, and not two separate sites so the developers can put a wall between them.”
Without the five-year land supply in place, a previously rejected application for 401 homes in north Newbury near Vodafone’s headquarters has already been approved on appeal.
But Mark Norgate, owner of Donnington New Homes, has said there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes.
He said: “While there may be frustration coming from certain councillors, it would be easy to assume there’s nothing happening because there’s not necessarily anything in the public eye.
“There is a lot happening behind the scenes, which is leading towards a start on site.”
Mr Norgate also played down talk of disputes between Donnington and Bloor, although it seems both are likely to submit separate proposals for their own portions of the land rather than one joint application.
He continued: “It might be two applications, but they will be linked by their features, their timing and their road positions.
“Also the contractual positions between the two developers behind the scenes that cover who pays for what and when, who does road improvements and so on.
“But these things do take time. It’s a huge housing area and it’s not like receiving planning permission for 10 houses and you just get going as soon as you get the decision, there’s an awful lot to think about.”
A statement from Bloor Homes said: “We are in continuous communication with all parties involved in the development of the Sandleford Park site.
“We are also committed to working with West Berkshire Council to deliver much needed housing in Newbury at this important allocated site and we hope to be able to provide a clear update to members of the council in the next few months.”