Reading Road development – Decision on access

As reported previously, the planning application for 70 houses at Reading Road adjacent to John Morgan Close was finally approved last week. The approval was:

subject to receipt of an amended plan showing the access point relocated as far to the north on Reading Road as is technically possible, within environmental constraints…

As a result of this condition, the developer had proposed 4 alternative options for locating the access road and these were put before the Planning (Major Sites) Subcommittee this week for a decision. Since it was a public meeting several residents local to the site attended this meeting, despite it being scheduled for 10am on a Tuesday morning.

In advance of the meeting, the planning officer issued a short notice consultation to a few selected houses backing on to the site. Thanks to our publicity many others affected by the unsuitable proposed site access were also able to comment.

The 4 options proposed by the developer were:

  1. Move the access road 20m north; there was no objection from Highways to this option but more vegetation would need to be removed than for the original proposed access point.
  2. Move the access road 10m north; there was no objection from Highways to this option and no additional vegetation needed to be removed.
  3. Move the access 115m north; Highways objected to this since it is right at the end of Old reading Road near the B3349.
  4. Leave the access road in the original position but adjust the alignment of the internal access road (though the internal access road did not form part of the outline planning application anyway).

No other options were proposed by the developer in between 20m and 115m relocation.

The planning case officer summarised the result of the consultation as being that many people were against the site being developed in principle (which was not a matter being considered) and that the majority of the remainder wished the access road to be relocated as far north as possible. The case officer did not mention any of the numerous objections to the proposed access points that were made on grounds of safety. Access to the site from the B3349 had been ruled out entirely since that road was considered unsuitable on safety grounds.

The developer was well represented at the meeting and was asked several questions about the access road, about the various options that had been ruled out and whether they could agree to further restrictions on internal layout of the development at the full application stage.

As members of the public we were not entitled to speak at the meeting though I made verbal representations to the chairman and he agreed to allow me to address the committee. I described the safety concerns of residents about the location of the access road, the speed of vehicles on Reading Road and the ridiculous reconfiguration of traffic calming being proposed that would render the road far more dangerous than before the development. I also reminded the committee that the planning committee had requested that the access road be moved north and despite suitable points being proposed, the case officer recommendation was not to move the access. I also said that the lack of options between 20m and 115m was an insult from the developer to the planning committee as they were clearly trying to avoid complying with the committee’s wishes.

Despite all of this, the committee voted to approve the access road in the original location as per the planning application. The internal spine road will be adjusted to diverge more from John Morgan Close and the developer agreed not to place additional houses in the space that would be introduced in the intervening space to the west of the access road, only gardens of properties. Since this is a matter for the full planning application yet to come we will need to monitor that agreement. There will be a gated access road for use of emergency vehicles only from the B3349.

But our continued pressure regarding the road safety aspects has produced a result. The committee directed that the developer’s highways funding contribution must be used to fund Hampshire Highways to carry out a review of the traffic calming on Reading Road, taking into account the location of the new access road and also suggesting the use of a permanent Speed Indicator Device to inform any speeding traffic of the speed limit. We will continue the pressure to enforce the access-only status of Reading Road during the ongoing planning application for large scale development at North East Hook.