12:33PM, Friday 09 October 2020
The second stage of hearings into the Examination of the Windsor and Maidenhead Borough Local Plan (BLP) began this week.
Louise Phillips, the inspector appointed by the secretary of state to conduct the examination into the legal compliance and soundness of the BLP 2013-2033, began proceedings on Monday over Zoom.
The first stage of hearings, held over three days in June 2018, concerned the BLP submitted in January 2018.
Following these initial hearings Ms Phillips asked for further work to be done to the plan – resulting in a ‘proposed changes version’ which is now under examination.
On Tuesday Ian Motuel, principal policy planner at the Royal Borough said there had been a ‘slight increase’ in housing allocation in the new submission for greenbelt sites to the West of Windsor rather than in the town centre.
In response, Patrick Grincell representing the Windsor Link Railway said he did not think this would lead to sustainable development and said the council should consider a 'masterplan' approach for Windsor like it had done for Maidenhead.
He said: “The proposed changes in the new submission no longer see Windsor town centre as a growth area and instead identify an area west of the town which is greenbelt, we really don’t think this will result in a sustainable pattern of development when there are opportunities to consider within the town centre.
“With current COVID times we need to look carefully at how we protect and enhance town centres.”
He said there were sites which run along the proposed route for Windsor Link Railway which could be put forward to deliver around 1,000 homes.
The Windsor Link Railway is a project which aims to build a new rail tunnel in Windsor which would connect the South Western and Great Western lines.
In response, Ian Gillespie planning policy manager from the council said he did not know what sites Mr Grincell was referring to but said if they had been submitted they would have been formally considered.
He said nothing in the plan prevents the Windsor Link Railway scheme coming forward in the future, even though it is not in the plan itself.
He said: “Part of the suggestion here, is that we should put more development into a very sensitive area with a view to providing sufficient custom, for want of a better word, for this rail link.”
Gregory Evans from Savills said he represented a landowner which had a brownfield site to the south of Maidenhead Road which was not included in the plan, despite being put forward in the call for sites, due to outdated flood mapping from the Environment Agency.
He said this had now been updated from flood zone 3 to flood zone 2 and it would be a more suitable site than greenbelt in Windsor.
The inspector quizzed the council over this site and asked if it would be a preferable site due to it being previously developed land.
Mr Gillespie responded: "I think this is a general point about the availability and timing of flood modelling from the Environment Agency and how that can be taken on board in the plan making process.
"There is a constant stream of new modelling from the Environment Agency and we as a planning authority need to draw a line over data we are using to support the plan. I suspect that may be the issue here."
When asked by the inspector if there was anything to stop the site being developed in the future, even if it was not allocated in the plan, Mr Gillespie said it could be proposed as a regular planning application.
The hearings continue on the council’s YouTube channel.
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