READING FC’s former training ground will be converted into 140 homes, despite falling outside the Arborfield Strategtic Development Location.
The planning committee approved an outline proposal, which has originally been mooted in 2016 but withdrawn to allow for the Local Plan Update to be completed. As the football club has moved to its new site in Sindlesham, it asked for the application to progress.
Of the homes, 56 would be affordable, mixed between social rent and shared ownership.
There would also be a SANG parkland in one corner of the site.
The existing entrance on Park Lane would be retained, while a second entrance would be created.
Barkham Parish Council had raised concerns about the traffic and lack of pavements around the development. Planning officers said that appropriate footpaths would be created to connect the SANG to the northern part of the SDL, and a feasibility study has shown that it was not possible to create a footpath on Park Lane, a busy main road.
Finchampstead Parish Council felt that it was an inappropriate development for the countryside, but planning officers said that benefits of the scheme outweighed the location.
They also called on the council to let the site be considered as part of the Local Plan Update’s call for sites process.
Planning officers said that the site has been recommended for inclusion and, as the application is sustainable and does not result in significant harm, it should be supported.
Graeme Dexter from Barkham Parish Council said that the development did not sit well with the existing homes and industrial estates. He also said there was no direct route to the estate except for Park Lane, which will force more traffic on to it. “I don’t believe sufficient thought has been given to this proposal,” he said and urged the committee to reject it.
Nina Sharp, speaking on behalf of Reading Football Club, pointed out that the development was close to Bohunt School and there would also be a safe cycling route to local shops and amenities. The club would also upgrade the surfaces used in the SANG so it could be used all year round.
“The application had no technical objections from planning officers,” she said.
Barkham ward councillor John Kaiser spoke against the proposal: “This development drives a coach and horses through the council’s policy and if approved we might have well disregard the council’s local plan. It gives carte blanche for developers .. and will set a precedent that the council’s policy has no merit.
“The development has been tacked on to the SDL … it is not in line with the overarching vision of the SDL.”
He added: “Road access will be by a dangerous country lane, it is inconceivable that a development of 140 homes cannot provide safe crossing points or a safe pavement.”
There were also no photos from the adjoining industrial estate, he said, warning that the there would be unacceptable noise and air pollution to the site.
“It is a poorly designed cul-de-sac,” he warned.
Cllr Stephen Conway raised concerns that the infrastructure hadn’t been developed meaning that there was a risk the development could be built before the roads were.
Planning officer Sophie Morris said that it was unlikely that thesite would be available before 2023, so more of the infrastructure wouldbe in place.
Cllr Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey wanted to know if a Second World War pillbox on site would be protected. Planning officer Connor Corrigan said that there must be a mistake as there is one on Nine Mile Ride.
After a long discussion about the site, which included concerns over smells and sounds from the nearby industrial estate, and whether it was possible to install a footpath on Park Lane, Cllr Chris Bowring moved to a vote.
The committee approved the outline planning permission on the condition that Reading FC’s Section 106 commitment be completed within six months and that noise and smell from the nearby industrial estate would also be taken into account.
Now it has outline approval, Reading FC’s agents can work it up into a formal proposal.