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Ex-planning and housing minister takes issue with constituency homes plan

Words: Huw Morris
Alok Sharma / Foreign and Commonwealth Office

A former planning and housing minister has cast major doubts over a proposal for new homes on a site in his constituency.

Alok Sharma, who held the portfolio from 2017 until he became employment minister in January 2018, is taking issue with the scheme at Pincents Hill in his Reading West seat.

Site owner U+I plc has applied to West Berkshire Council to develop 285 homes and a mixed-use building.

A proposal by developer Blue Living to build 750 homes and shops on the site in 2009 was rejected following a campaign launched by local protestors Save Calcot Action Group and supported by Sharma.

In response to the latest proposal, the MP launched a residents’ survey last autumn to gauge local reaction to which 63 per cent of respondents said the site should not be developed amid concerns about pressures on local services such as schools, doctors’ surgeries, roads and the loss of public green space.

“As a former housing and planning minister, I am acutely aware of the overall need to build more homes,” Sharma said in an opinion piece for The Reading Chronicle. “There is a great deal the government is doing, together with private developers, housing associations and local councils to encourage homebuilding.

“But ultimately homes need to be sustainable and the local infrastructure needs to be in place to support their impact.”

The MP urged his constituents to make their views clear to the council if “they want to see Pincents Hill retained as a valuable local amenity” before a deadline next week.

“The collective local voice has prevailed before, and I want to see it prevail again,” he added.

Image credit | Foreign and Commonwealth Office-Flickr