Local Plan Review Frequently Asked Questions
Find answers to our most frequently asked questions
We have prepared answers to the most frequently asked questions to assist with the understanding of the Local Plan Review. There are several sections covering multiple topics:
The Local Plan Review
1. What is a Local Plan and why does it need to be reviewed?
A Local Plan is a long-term strategic document used by local authorities to set out their vision and a framework for the future development of the area.
West Berkshire is a great place to live, work and visit - and we want to keep it that way for future generations. The Local Plan helps us to achieve this and ensure that West Berkshire is a thriving district which boasts the economic advantages of the South East and the excellent lifestyle opportunities of the South West. It's seen as a fantastic place to live by residents, who benefit from good education, health and employment opportunities. Beyond that, it has received significant investment which has allowed it to flourish as a well-connected, prosperous and desirable local economy with world-class digital infrastructure.
To ensure the district remains a great place to live, work and visit we need to ensure we are planning for future housing needs, providing land for employment (such as offices, factories and warehouses) and the infrastructure needed to meet the changing needs of our population in the years ahead. The West Berkshire Local Plan sets out how this will be achieved.
The Local Plan helps us to:
- Deliver enough homes to meet our housing needs while ensuring there is a housing mix with something for everyone.
- Provide sustainable developments which have good quality design, construction and efficiency.
- Support a strong and sustainable economy by providing land for employment, and with it a range of local job opportunities.
- Protect our environment by tackling the effects of climate change, minimising demand for energy and other resources and promoting sustainable and low-emission travel options.
- Enhance the vitality and viability of town and village centres as places for shopping, leisure and community activities.
- Conserve and enhance the distinctive character and identity in our towns, villages and countryside as well as historic and natural environments.
The current Local Plan is in place until 2026 and a review is currently taking place to extend it through to 2039. Regularly reviewing the Local Plan ensures that it continues to look to the future and is able to meet the current and emerging needs of the district. It means that new opportunities and challenges can be addressed - such as the climate emergency and the changes to how we live and work as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
2. Why is the Local Plan Review important?
The Local Plan Review determines how many new homes are needed and where they should be built. It also looks at employment needs and finds opportunities for future growth. It will also identify the places where growth should be limited.
Having a Local Plan in place also prevents speculative and unplanned development.
3. How has the Local Plan Review been developed?
Reviewing a Local Plan is a mammoth task and takes years. We started the review of the Local Plan in 2018, this has included extensive evidence gathering, thousands of hours of staff time, consultation with the public, our neighbours, and land owners in the district, and regular cross-party meetings with Councillors.
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4. How many new homes are required?
Our proposals will deliver between 8,721 - 9,146 homes by 2039 (that's 513 to 538 a year), of which 3,000 will be affordable if the total number of houses are delivered as set out in the policy. These numbers seek to meet the local housing need.
5. Where will new houses be built?
West Berkshire is a hugely constrained district, excluding built up areas, approximately only 15% of West Berkshire can be considered available through the local plan process for potential development.
The vast majority of land is not suitable for development for the following reasons:
- North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) - 74% of the district is covered by this designation.
- Flood zones - 7% of the district is covered by this designation.
- Sites of historical importance - for example this includes the site of the Battle of Newbury.
- Ancient woodlands - 6% of the district is covered by this designation.
- AWE Aldermaston and Burghfield - 7% of the district is covered by this designation.
6. What type of housing will be built?
There will be a broad mix of home types, including those for first-time buyers, growing families, downsizers, and everyone else in our community. This will range from one-bed properties to full family homes, and everything in between. At least 3,000 affordable homes should also be provided.
7. Will there be supporting infrastructure?
The Local Plan Review identifies the infrastructure needed to meet the changing needs of our population in the years ahead. It is central to the Plan that new development is served with appropriate infrastructure, including health and education services. The Local Plan Review coordinates the districts approach to development that is sustainable.
8. Why is the strategic development site proposed in Thatcham?
To meet West Berkshire's housing needs, a larger strategic development of 1,500 homes in north-east Thatcham is proposed, which can provide the necessary housing and supporting infrastructure. Given West Berkshire's restrictions in available development land (due to significant constraints such as the 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty,' this location has been identified as the best location for this type of development. The clear intention of the policy is to provide 1,500 homes on this site.
9. Does West Berkshire have any greenbelt land?
No. Greenbelt has a specific designation in land-use planning. West Berkshire does however have greenfield land.
10. Shouldn't brownfield be used before greenfield?
We fully support a 'brownfield first' approach, and since 2006 82% of all new housing development has been on brownfield. We will always seek to prioritise development sites that will help us protect greenfield land.
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11. West Berkshire Council has declared a 'climate emergency'. How does the plan reflect that?
The Local Plan Review puts the environment at its heart. Although the Local Plan Review is primarily a document that identifies land use (what should be built and where), it interlinks with other Council policies and strategies that seek to protect and enhance our environment.
12. How does Nutrient Neutrality affect the Local Plan Review?
Nutrient Neutrality legislation requires that new developments do not discharge harmful phosphates in to our watercourses. Any new development proposed in a designated zone must demonstrate how it will mitigate any negative effects. This is good news for our vital waterways, such as the River Lambourn, but it poses a challenge to any developer hoping to build in the zones. The Local Plan Review responds to this challenge by limiting proposed development in this critical ecological zone. A separate Supplementary Planning Document on Nutrient Neutrality is proposed. Further information on nutrient neutrality can be viewed here.
13. How does the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) affect the Plan?
74% of West Berkshire is covered by the North Wessex Downs AONB. AONB is land protected by legislation, which strongly restricts development within it. Where we have proposed housing allocations in the AONB, extensive consultations have taken place with Natural England and the AONB as well as being advised by our own landscape consultant. Given that it represents 74% of our district this significantly constrains where we can propose development. The AONB has been described as the 'green lung' of Berkshire.
14. Why can't development be proposed around the Atomic Weapons Establishments in Aldermaston and Burghfield?
There are two Atomic Weapons Establishment facilities in our district. We are restricted from proposing any development within a 5km radius around either site for safety reasons - this is known as the 'Detailed Emergency Planning Zone' (DEPZ) in policy terms. This represents significant constraints on the land we can propose for development to take place.
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15. What sort of infrastructure will the Local Plan Review provide?
Larger scale sites are required to provide land for new infrastructure or facilities (for example medical and education facilities) in addition to financial contributions. This simply cannot be accomplished through piecemeal development throughout the district, which would provide much smaller financial contributions and lack the resources to provide land and/or building services.
16. How will it be paid for?
New developments will typically need to make financial contributions to local services - this normally through the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) or Section 106 obligations. This money is spent on local services. Larger developments may provide land or buildings for local infrastructure, for example new GP surgeries or schools.
17. Local services are already stretched, won't this plan make matters worse?
The Local Plan Reveiw specifically examines the impact of development on local services and identifies opportunities to improve them through new development.
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18. How is the plan 'business friendly'?
West Berkshire is a business-friendly district that has already attracts major blue-chip companies and the racing industry, to name a few. We want to maintain our reputation for attracting strong business. To that end, the Local Plan Review includes a number of policies designed to help both existing and new businesses. The Plan specifies where businesses should expand and safeguards economic hubs in our towns and villages.
19. What areas are you proposing to develop?
The Local Plan Review includes six extensions to existing industrial areas at Colthrop, Membury, Beenham and Padworth.
20. How will this plan make West Berkshire a place for business to invest?
The Council has enacted a number of policies to assist businesses in the district to grow and flourish. These policies have aided in the expansion of business in the district. For example, policy DM32 identifies designated areas for employment, or policy SP20 which aims to address the industrial space shortage. There are numerous other policies that the Council has adopted to assist businesses and make West Berkshire an attractive location for investment.
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Representations and next steps
21. What changes can be made before the Local Plan Review is submitted to the Secretary of State for indpendent examination?
No further changes to policy will be made before submission to the Planning Inspectorate. In accordance with the resolution agreed at Council on 1 December 2022, following the consultation the Plan will be sent to the Planning Inspectorate for independent review of all the issues raised.
22. What are you asking me to comment on?
Guidance on making representations is available with the online Local Plan Consultation Portal. Representations should relate to the 'legal compliance' and 'soundness' of the Local Plan Review.and on the
It is advisable that you follow the guidance notes which are available with the representation form and on the online consultation portal. All representations must be accompanied by your full name, address and contact details.
23. How can I make a comment?
It is easy to comment and the simplest way is online using the Council's Local Plan Consultation Portal.
You can however submit a response by email or post using the representation form that can be downloaded here. Comments should be returned:
- By email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- By post to the Planning Policy Team, Development and Regulation, West Berkshire District Council, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD.
24. What are the immediate next steps?
Following the close of the consultation, officers will record, categorise and summarise the responses received (they will not be altered) with the intention to submit them to the Planning Inspectorate along with the Local Plan Review, its supporting documents, and evidence base.
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