Some news of another minor victory. I only wish it were the failures that were minor and the victories that were major, but it seems we’ll have to wait a bit longer for that!
Tonight’s full Hart District Council meeting considered approval of the Reading Road planning application again, following it’s return from last month’s meeting to the planning committee earlier this month. Unlike last time, this time around there had been a request from the required five councillors including two of the Hook councillors, Mike Morris and Brian Burchfield, to hold a debate on the application, though they could only discuss the reason for which it needed to come before the full council. This was that it was outside of the settlement boundary and therefore outside of existing policy. Set against this was the NPPF’s presumption to build, as long as a site is deemed “sustainable”. Debate therefore took place on whether this site was sustainable.
There was much discussion about whether walking distance and time to the existing amenities was far and long enough to warrant it being deemed unsustainable. There was no consensus so eventually rather than approve or reject the application, councillors decided to send it back to the planning committee to determine whether there are grounds to refuse it as not being “sustainable” or whether the negative impacts substantially outweigh the benefit of approving. That will need a ruling on what “sustainable” means in practice. That could be distance and routes to village facilities, impact on village services or it could even include strength of local opposition to a development. In the meantime road access issues on this application also have yet to be finalised by the Planning (Major Sites) subcommittee.
The schedule now is for the planning committee to consider this item again in early April and for it to go back before full council again in late April. It is not clear whether any further public input will be accepted on this application.