Bucklebury says NO to Thatcham NE development
Development at Thatcham North East is planned to extend from Cox's Lane in the east at Colthrop almost to Lawrence's Lane to the west in Thatcham, and spread most of the way up the slopes between Thatcham and Upper Bucklebury.
It is the equivalent of bolting a new town the size of Hungerford onto the side of Thatcham.
We believe this is wrong.
Impact of Thatcham North East
There is a bitter irony that West Berkshire Council (WBC) fought, right up to ministerial level, against the proposed development of 500 houses north-east of Thatcham at Siege Cross in 2015. Their vigorous defence highlighted potentially devastating harm to the local environment and setting of the AONB, stating that the development would:
Urbanise the key areas of sensitivity […] including: the lower slopes of an important ridge line; Big Gully, a local landmark; good views across the area and long views across the Kennet Valley; the lack of development with scattered farmsteads and minor roads; and the rural setting of the historic settlement at Siege Cross Farm.
Detract from the enjoyment of the character and appearance of the AONB in views from the escarpment south of the River Kennet.
Erode the identity of Thatcham as being separate to that of the surrounding rural settlements.
Fail to conserve the historic landscape setting and rural context of Siege Cross Farm.
These are WBC’s own words.
Now, Siege Cross is back, this time contained within a development proposal five times larger, and this time we are told by WBC it’s an improvement to the same environment and AONB setting!
Make no mistake, this development would take a green field site and destroy the local environment and landscape. It would adversely affect the AONB that WBC is required to protect. Damage would be irreversible; there is no replanting an ancient woodland; animals and plants once lost to housing and population growth are gone forever.
In addition to unacceptable environmental issues, other impacts include:
Increased traffic through Thatcham and up into the narrow lanes of Bucklebury, Midgham and Cold Ash
Loss of historic sites
Potentially greater flood risk to Thatcham
Increased light, noise and air pollution
Other potential development sites are available that may reduce WBC’s reliance on Thatcham North East to achieve a workable Local Plan. It is our opinion they are not being given proper consideration.
We expect very little to change in the Thatcham North East proposal when it returns from review in the autumn for stage 2 consultation. Bucklebury Parish and Thatcham Town Councils are working together to ensure we are ready to deliver the best possible response for Bucklebury parishioners and Thatcham residents when this happens.
In addition to Thatcham, we are engaging other local parishes, environmental groups and local organisations, not only to help build our argument and improve our response, but to explore opportunities for sharing costs along the way. A compelling case needs professional help. We are speaking with ecological and environmental consultants and planning experts who agree that this proposal is dangerous, and understand where best to apply pressure.
But we need your help.
For this strategy to work there are two direct and real needs: people getting involved and money to help fund the cost of the expertise.
Updates will also be available on:
WBC is required by the Government to ensure sufficient sites for building are allocated to meet future housing and economic needs.
As part of this ongoing process, West Berkshire Council (WBC) are updating their Local Plan, the ‘Local Plan Review 2020 - 2037: Emerging Draft’ (available on WBC website, link at end)
Within the emerging draft of this update, WBC has proposed a site for 2500 houses and associated infrastructure to the north east of Thatcham.
Stage 1 consultations are now complete. WBC is expected to publish the Draft Local Plan in the autumn (Stage 2) for further consultation.
WBC response to some of the questions raised can be seen here:
Wildlife photography by Oakmist Photography