A PLAN to convert a popular Wokingham town centre car park into 77 homes has been thrown out by planning officers.
It was rejected as Wokingham Borough Council’s planning department felt that the ‘size, scale, massing and layout’ of the development would result ‘in harm to the character of the area’.
The decision was published by Wokingham Borough Council on Wednesday, July 31, and relates to a plan submitted earlier this year to convert the Euro Car Park in Denmark Street, plus several buildings including the old police station, into a mix of apartments with underground parking for the proposed new residents.
The scheme outraged residents and councillors alike, with the council receiving hundreds of complaints to the idea.
Had it been approved, it would have seen the large space in a conservation area turned into the apartments, built in three buildings.
The planning officers noted that the scheme failed to provide a clear and convincing justification for the loss of town-centre car parking which “is necessary to support the planned growth and renaissance of Wokingham town centre and maintain its position in the Berkshire retail hierarchy”.
The report added: “It would also have a disproportionately negative impact on the ability of residents with impaired mobility to access social, recreational and cultural facilities and services”.
It also cited concerns over the areas suitability for proposed tree planting, a lack of affordable housing, a lack of a bat survey or flooding assessment.
And there were also concerns that residents in neighbouring Sale Garden Cottages would be affected as the balconies and windows on the second and third floor level of the buildings would overlook their homes.
The planning department received notes of objection from the council’s conservation officer, while Berkshire Archaeology wanted to carry out a dig had the scheme been approved: “the site is located near to the medieval core of Wokingham Town Centre and may contain important deposits of medieval date”.
A petition from residents had 646 signatories, while around 200 letters of complaint were received.
Wokingham resident Dave Davies, who was Wokingham Town Council leader before the May elections, led the campaign against the plans. He was elated by the decision.
He told The Wokingham Paper: “I’m extremely pleased to see that the application for this unsuitable development has, rightly, been refused and in a way that shows how completely inappropriate this was. The developer may appeal but I have complete confidence this would also fail.
“I am delighted and grateful so many people joined this campaign and registered their objections so as to stop this sort of opportunistic development is our wonderful town. My sincere thanks to everyone who participated and helped secure this outcome.”
The developer, Lunar Office Sarl, now has six months to appeal. The planning documents noted that some of the reasons for the application’s refusal could be addressed by completing a Section 106 legal agreement.