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Building on 'Watership Down' - Sandleford

December 22, 2011 12:39 AM
Originally published by South Central Region Liberal Democrats


Liberal Democrats are claiming that success for the "Sandleford: the Wrong Solution" campaign will be down to their blowing the whistle on a flawed process by the Conservative run District Council. A six-week consultation, mainly about the Council's plans to designate a site in South Newbury for up to 2000 homes, ended on 16th December with a flurry of responses from local residents.

The campaign has attracted national media attention, after Wash Common resident and Newbury Lib Dems' Treasurer Dr David Cooper pointed out that local author Richard Adams set the beginning of his novel Watership Down on the same fields that would get the houses: a case of real life imitating art.

Newbury Lib Dems Chair Bryan Harper also lives near the site, which would be accessed off Monks Lane, by Newbury Rugby Club, and more than double the size of the town's Wash Common suburb. The Harper and Cooper families alerted the local community to the threat, calling on District Council Lib Dems for insight into the complex processes of planning policy and the Lib Dem run Town Council for a public meeting to air the facts. The result was a standing-room-only event on 7th December, from which the District Council planners - officials and elected councillors - stayed away.

"We are still mystified why the Council is so determined to put all the District's major housing sites in one parish - Greenham - and so overburden the facilities in South Newbury," said Lib Dem Planning Spokesman Cllr Dr Tony Vickers. "When the Independent Inspector also said the Council hadn't explained its reasoning, we realised this was the last chance the local community would get to have a say. So we've worked really hard to try and explain what's involved, where houses could be built and how to get views to the Inspector. Even if he doesn't agree that Sandleford is the wrong solution, nobody can say we haven't tried."

Note for Editors:

  1. See www.saynotosandleford.org.uk for details of the campaign.

  2. Lib Dems have twice voted against the Council's proposals for Sandleford Park this year, most recently when the current consultation was launched on 1st November - see our Press Release of that date. Instead we have identified sites for at least 500 more homes, nearer Newbury town centre, compared to the Council's planners.

  3. Consultation responses will shortly be available for viewing on the Council's Consultation Portal at http://www.westberks.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=24036

  4. The only other 'strategic' housing site for the period 2006-2026 is also in Greenham parish, south east of Newbury: Newbury Racecourse already has planning permission for 1500 new homes. The Sandleford Park site would be expected to take 1000 homes before 2026 and another 1000 after that - but all 2000 could have planning permission awarded within 10 years from now, meaning irreversible loss of the fictional rabbits' home in Watership Down.