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Pickles gives final approval to 1,350 Shinfield homes

Secretary of State (SoS) Eric Pickles has given final approval (273-page / 1.34MB PDF) to the University of Reading's 1,350-home development plan by the River Loddon in Berkshire after Natural England withdrew its objections to the proposals. 12 Nov 2012

Pickles had issued a letter on 22 October 2012 saying he was "minded to agree" with an inspector's recommendations to approve the plans. However, Pickles said this was subject to statutory consultee Natural England withdrawing its objections to the plans following the University's proposed measures to mitigate any effect on the nearby Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (TBH SPA).

Natural England subsequently sent a letter to the SoS saying it would withdraw its objections if the SoS concluded that the proposals are not likely to have a significant effect on the TBH SPA. Pickles said in his decision letter that he agreed with NE that a planning obligation should be put in place to require the University to make a contribution towards the Strategic Access Management and Monitoring.

"We are delighted with the Secretary of State's decision in favour of the University's proposals," said the University of Reading's chief operating officer, David Savage, in a statement.  "During the course of the public inquiry last autumn, and throughout the lengthy application process, the University put forward a robust case and established significant areas of common ground with Wokingham Borough Council."

"The release of the land for future development will provide funding for the required associated infrastructure, including the Eastern Relief Road, recreational facilities, a new school and community centre in Shinfield as well as the infrastructure to support the University's planned Science and Innovation Park for the region. We look forward to working closely with Wokingham Borough Council, Shinfield Parish Council and the local community to realise these schemes and to bringing considerable economic benefit and much needed housing to the area," Savage said.

The Shinfield scheme is part of the first phase of proposals for development in Wokingham Borough Council's South of M4 Strategic Development Location (SDL). The SDL is designated within the Council's Core Strategy as an area that will accommodate substantial development over the next decade.