Sharma calls on Planning Inspectorate to reject Thames Water's appeal

Reading West MP, Alok Sharma, has written to the Planning Inspectorate asking it to reject Thames Water’s Bath Road Reservoir site plans to build up to 96 homes on the site and convert the water tower into commercial space. Thames Water’s latest planning application was rejected by Reading Borough Council in October 2009. Thames Water has now launched an appeal against this decision which will be heard by a Planning Inspector at a local public enquiry commencing on 16 November 2010.

Alok has campaigned since 2008, together with local residents and the Save the Bath Road Reservoir Campaign Group, against development on this site. As part of his written submission Alok wrote to the Planning Inspectorate: “The development would change the area immeasurably, giving a green ‘lung’ over to more than 80 residential units and office space. As well as introducing a design whose bulk and massing is too great for such a place, the redevelopment of this open space in terms of loss of amenity, loss of trees and loss of wildlife habitat is very much to the detriment of residents. A townscape like Reading needs green areas to provide a balance. The loss of the embankment at the front of the site will severely affect the streetscape, eliminating a break in the built environment. Such breaks for parks or green landscaping are prevalent travelling west on the Bath Road. These green frontages are a character of the area, symbolic of moving away from Reading Town centre.”

Alok continued in his letter of objection: “The original Development Brief states that Reading’s most pressing need is for family homes, yet this application seeks 40% of the units to be flats. The change in demographics resulting from a higher density in such a number of flats however, will place an increased strain on local infrastructure. This strain will also extend to traffic and parking. Bath Road is a busy arterial road and as such it is already difficult to park in the local area and the congestion is severe at peak times. Inappropriate development will make the resulting access a dangerous point on the road.”

Alok concluded in his letter of objection: “The appellant makes mention of the Regional Spatial Strategy whilst setting out the reasons for appeal. You will be aware that the new Coalition Government issued planning guidelines scrapping Whitehall-set density targets with immediate effect. I hope and trust that emerging policy will be taken into consideration when looking at this appeal. The forthcoming Localism Bill is to abolish Regional Spatial Strategies, bringing decision-making closer to the locality. Local people have already spoken on this matter, rejecting the plans for good reasons and I hope that you will concur that their conclusions were sound and dismiss the appeal.”

Commenting after the submission Alok noted: “Over-development is a serious issue and of huge worry to many of my constituents and I will certainly aim to raise the concerns of the Save the Bath Road Reservoir campaigners in Parliament with relevant Ministers.”

Mel Woodward, of the Save the Bath Road Reservoir Campaign, added: "Alok has supported our campaign from the start in 2008 and we are very grateful for his help and for the excellent points he has made in his letter to the Planning Inspectorate. The proposals that Thames Water have put forward are grossly inappropriate for the site and the local community has been strongly against these proposals from the start. We hope that the Planning Inspectorate will recognise that Thames Water's proposals are completely unsuited to the local area and sadly, despite our two years of campaigning, Thames Water are still failing to seriously take into consideration the views of the local community, local councillors and our local MP."