Habitat issues resolved on new community

The secretary of state has approved expansion of a Berkshire village subject to the developer providing a contribution towards managing its impact on the Thames Basin Heaths special protection area (SPA).

The scheme comprised 1,200 homes, 150 homes for elderly people, a local centre, community facilities and a relief road. Natural England objected to the proposal on the basis that the developer should make a contribution towards a strategic access management and monitoring (SAMM) programme to keep the project's impact on the SPA, which lay within three miles of the appeal site, under review.

The inspector found that plans to create alternative natural greenspace for recreational use elsewhere in the area meant the residential development would have no net effect on the SPA. On that basis, he advised that limited weight should be attached to the Natural England objection.

However, after taking further soundings from Natural England, the secretary of state accepted that the SAMM contribution was necessary to ensure that the scheme would have no significant effect on the SPA.

On other aspects, the secretary of state concluded that the scheme would make a significant contribution towards meeting strategic housing requirements in an area lacking a five-year land supply and would reduce flood risk in the area. He was also satisfied that the scheme would leave an adequate separation distance to avoid coalescence of the host village with two neighbouring settlements.

Inspector: George Baird; Inquiry

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