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2023 Archive

20th December 2023

Government intervenes to prevent withdrawal of Local Plan Review

Plans to withdraw the Local Plan for West Berkshire have been blocked after an intervention by the Government.

West Berkshire Council had published a proposal to withdraw the Local Plan ahead of it going to Public Examination and subsequent adoption. The objective was to create a new plan which meets the aspirations of the new administration to put the environment front and centre, while prioritising new homes and employment spaces within existing town and village boundaries.

You can read more about the proposal to withdraw the plan online. Councillors discussed, but did not vote on, the proposal at this evening's Extraordinary Council meeting.

The Minister of State for Housing, Planning and Building Safety, Lee Rowley MP, has today written to West Berkshire Council to instruct the Council to progress with the Examination of the Local Plan, which was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for examination in March 2023. The letter warns that further action will be taken unless the Council agrees to halt its current path.

The letter cited powers the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities can exert under Section 27 of the 2004 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act.

Councillor Lee Dillon, Leader of West Berkshire Council said:

"It is bitterly disappointing that central Government has intervened to prevent the council from withdrawing this flawed Local Plan, which doesn't provide for the future of our villages and leaves our towns overburdened with little infrastructure gain. A fresh start for the plan would allow the Council to address the concerns raised by our residents to the plan. It means that the course for future development in West Berkshire will be determined by Westminster and not by us. Local decisions should be made by local people, and we want our communities to feel that they have a strong voice on what happens in their district."

The Council will now take legal advice and consider its response to the letter.




12th December 2023

The Local Plan Review 2022-2039 is proposed to be withdrawn in favour of a new approach which focuses on new developments within existing town and village boundaries.

An Extraordinary Council meeting has been called for Tuesday 19 December where a report proposing the withdrawal of the Local Plan Review will be discussed and voted on.

The move delivers on a commitment made in the Council Strategy, adopted in September, which commits to revising the Local Plan. Prior to being elected in May, the Liberal Democrat group (then in opposition) had raised concerns about the level of development in green spaces and specifically in north-east Thatcham and Theale. Instead, the preference is for more of a spread across the district. The Local Plan Review was submitted to the Planning Inspector in March 2023 without these concerns being addressed.

Since forming a new administration in May, officers have been working with the Executive to address their concerns within the submitted Local Plan Review. It has not been possible to change the plan to meet the aspirations of the new administration. Instead, a proposal has been made to withdraw the Local Plan Review and to begin work on a new one.

When the Local Plan Review was submitted, the Secretary of State appointed an Inspector to carry out an independent examination. This examination will assess whether the submitted plan has been prepared in accordance with legal and procedural requirements. This examination is currently scheduled for 2024.

Speaking about the proposal Councillor Tony Vickers, Executive Member for Planning, said:

"The existing Local Plan Review allows too much development on our valuable green spaces and without the necessary infrastructure to support such large developments. We have said all along that we will look to make changes which put the environment front and centre, while prioritising new homes and employment spaces within our existing town and village boundaries. After looking carefully we have concluded that this cannot be done without withdrawing the plan and starting again. It is not a decision we have taken lightly but we know this is an important issue for local people and we are determined to follow through on the commitments we have made."

Adding his support, Councillor Lee Dillon, Leader of the Council, said:

"The decision to ask Council to withdraw the plan has been considered very carefully, and it is not without its risks, but we feel these are outweighed by the benefits of pausing now and developing a better plan for the coming years."



26th November 2023

One of the commitments of the new administration at WBC was to undertake to revisit the Local Plan. However at first ,and from May through to September, officers at WBC were engaged on answering the Planning Inspector’s 77 questions on the LPR. That done WBC looked to re-examine the Local Plan with a view to withdrawing THA 20(1500 house proposal in NE Thatcham) and including a proposal to build houses on a part brownfield site at Colthrop that would also fund a bridge over the railway. This change, to only about 15% of the LPR approved by the previous WBC administration, enjoyed the strong support of Thatcham District and Town councillors and our own councillor, Chris Read. There was an understanding that this work had to proceed at pace in order to be completed before the Inspector commenced public hearings into the LPR in the first half of 2024.

Among the issues WBC had to address were the cost of this change and the impact of the impending retirement of senior experienced members of WBC’s planning team. New Central Government advisory housing targets are also awaited. There was also a risk that the Inspector might decide the proposed changes to the LPR were main modifications which he would only consider if they were essential to make the Plan sound or legally compliant.

The situation with the LPR is a standing agenda item at each monthly meeting of the PC. Any significant developments over the LPR and the PC’s position on them may well need airing at a public meeting.

Barry Dickens - Chairman Bucklebury Parish Council                                                                                 




Dear Parishioner

Thank you all for sending letters to West Berks Council.  I hope they will be successful in persuading the public inspectorate to prompt a rethink.  The representations on behalf of the Parish Council were also sent and are available on the parish council website.  I have also posted those from Thatcham Town Council and Cold Ash.  These are all supportive of each other and reflect different aspects of the failure of this plan to meet expectations.

The process we are following has three stages (Regulation 18, Regulation 19 and public enquiry); we’re two down and one to go!  WBC reports that it has assessed the responses, collated them into an accessible format and prepared and made the submission for the independent planning inspector.  However the next step is less well defined in time.  The inspector will hold a public enquiry, if he/she deems the submission to be legally sound.  When this will happen is an open question but it will not be immediate.  WBC’s LPR will join a queue.

I think our work on the second phase is done for now but will revive once we have a view of the totality of what WBC files.  We will then plan additional work and our representations to the inspectorate.  These steps will be largely professionally led but we will keep you informed by email and using the Facebook page.

Thank you for the donations towards the costs; these have been generously given by residents, and both Bucklebury and Midgham PCs.  An account of the expenditure is shown below.


Parishioner donations:        6,470.00

Midgham PC donation:       1,000.00

Bucklebury PC funding:      3,730.00

Total income:                     11,200.00


Clerical:                                                           28.00

Publicity:                                                     1,189.83

Oxford & Country Planning Ltd                      250.00

Andrew Black (Planning Consultant)          3,750.00

Nature Bureau Ltd (Ecology Consultant     1,350.00

Paul Willis- YES (Traffic consultant)           3,000.00

Total expenditure:                                       9,567.83

Balance remaining:                               £ 1,632.17

I want to take this opportunity to thank all the team who have worked on this project; their work has been extraordinary.  You may have seen a few names on Facebook but the team is much bigger and has put in hours of work, much of it technical and all in their spare time.  In addition, we are indebted to our professional consultants who have provided reports on ecology and traffic to add to BPC’s representations.  I appreciate your work and support and I’m sure the community does too.

Thank you again for sending your representations; these all add weight and reinforce the message to WBC.  Once there is more news we will let you know.

Best wishes

Peter Spours

Chair ‘Bucklebury Says No’ Parish Council Working Group