Changes include another reduction of the number of residential properties from 96 to max. 80 homes and a restriction on the overall height of development. Additionally the Grade-II listed pump house visible to the public will no longer be converted to offices, but luxury flats instead.
The sensitive site became a hot topic as campaigners were courted by politicians during the General Election period, and controversy grew when suggestions of collusion were made suggesting the then-ruling Labour party was encouraging over-development in order to fill council coffers while opposing it at ward level and tories appeared split over support for economic development or residents.
Locals were also angered by the tactics of developers to lodge their applications during periods when they may easily be overlooked (school holidays, prior to bank holidays etc).
A fresh application was submitted in March 2010 and rejected before an appeal was lodged.
A public inquiry into the issue came in November 2010 (when this blog was on hiatus) raising issues of the character and context of the proposals within the neighbourhood. These emphasised the impact of transport and the ecology of the area, particularly considering the limited access to the 5.4 acre site on a main arterial route and the additional pollution likely to be felt in an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) by additional traffic while removing a principle 'green lung' designated as a 'brownfield site'.
The appeal decision was issued at the end of 2010 upholding the earlier rejection, explaining that the coalition government had expressed it's intention within the new Localism Bill to revoke the previous regime's Regional Strategies policy promoting developments of this sort. But agreement on protection for the site failed to be secured in January 2011 when the then-lead councillor for economic development and transport on the coalition council, Conservative Cllr Richard Willis, expressed doubt over the legality of creating an official policy for a single location.
Immediately following local elections in 2009 RBC issued an order replacing 6 seperate AQMAs with one covering the whole town centre (map), but has since removed the Bath Road continuous monitoring site adjacent to the reservoir and created a specific gap in its' diffusion tube network around the site (despite, or perhaps as a consequence of, recently being pressured into re-installing monitoring equipment on the other side of the town centre). Subsequently the latest application for the site was lodged.
Spokesperson for the Save the Bath Road Reservoir Group Mel Woodward explained the proposals were an improvement but they've yet to see any details of the new plans. "We still have significant concerns around numbers, density, heights and lack of community amenities," she added,
"any development of the site would have a massive impact forever on the day-to-day lives of residents living in the vicinity, so we continue to represent residents' views and concerns about how this would be handled."Reading West's Alok Sharma MP paid tribute to campaigners who have fought 'incredibly hard' over a number of years to see reductions in the density of development down by a third, but said this was not enough for residents, indicating Reading Borough Council should bear their wishes in mind when they make their new decision on the plans.
Only 20% of the site will be retained as open space under the new plans, as a spokesperson argued turning the whole site into a wildlife haven would have 'significant cost implications' for customers of Thames Water. In the past financial year the company made £600m operating profit on £1.6bn turnover (download TWUL 2011 financial statement 3.5Mb).
Thames Water's Head of Property, Marc Selby explained,
"Our revised planning application will take into account all the recommendations made by the Government’s planning inspector at the public inquiry last November and address some of the concerns expressed locally."Thames Water has announced a consultation will be held from 2-6pm on Saturday 24th September at All Saint's Hall, Downshire Square, Reading.
Why does Reading no longer have any means of monitoring air pollution in the AQMA anywhere near the reservoir site? Who was responsible for the decision to remove monitoring stations?
previous stories about the Bath Road reservoir