Reading Road development approval endorsed by Full Council

The recommendation made back in February by the Hart Planning Committee to approve planning permission for 70 houses at Reading Road adjacent to John Morgan Close was finally ratified by a Full Council Meeting tonight. This planning application has been bounced between the planning committee and full council multiple times since February while councillors decided how they could handle it while under close scrutiny from Hook residents pointing out the weaknesses in the original decision to approve it.

Members of the Hook Action Against Overdevelopment team went along to the meeting this evening. They put questions to the meeting* about how this application could possibly be approved when it has been so poorly handled, and given that there are queries around access still unresolved. Despite this it was approved with no material discussion about the application taking place.

All councillors who spoke during the debate (though it was hardly a debate since nobody made the case to actually refuse the application) were keen to point out how much they regretted that they were being forced under threat of developer appeals to approve unwanted developments. The chair of the planning committee who actually proposed the motion to grant planning permission said this was only because he was required to do so and that he had significant reservations about the application on planning grounds.

The three councillors from Hook did not seek to persuade members to vote against the application. Cllr Burchfield asked for it be explained to the public in attendance what would result if council voted to refuse the application. Cllr Morris spoke to thank councillors for their patience and to thank the corporate director for planning for his professionalism and advice to the planning committee. Cllr Glen spoke against the NPPF and said that years had been wasted producing regional plans that were now ignored.

The application was approved by a clear majority of members. The Hook councillors voted against and requested that their names be recorded in the minutes as having voted against. Because the votes to approve the granting of the application had been counted before the votes against were cast, it was already clear their votes against would not block the application.

Since, perversely, the access arrangements for this now approved development are still unresolved, there was some further consultation with residents this week – this invitation was however limited to a handful of people, and they were given less than a week to respond. Thank you to those people who did respond, and by letting us know we were at least able to spread the word to our contacts in John Morgan Close and Reading Road (albeit with only a few hours to respond).

The Major Sites Sub-Committee at Hart are meeting on Tuesday morning (29th April) to discuss the access arrangements for this (already approved) development – these are decisions that have safety implications, but it is seemingly normal process that an application can be approved in advance of issues such as this being resolved.

* For ayone interested, the questions and response from Cllr Parker, cabinet member for planning can be viewed on pages 7 and 8 of the minutes of the meeting here: