Plans for nearly 250 homes to be built in Shinfield were pulled from the council’s planning meeting last night (Wednesday, February 13), after a separate application, which required approval from councillors in order for the housing proposals to go ahead, was refused.

Councillor Wayne Smith led the charge against the University of Reading’s (UoR) application to make more than 21 hectares of land west of River Loddon available for recreational use after he voiced concerns over flooding at the site. 

Legal advice given to the council’s planning committee members on the night outlined that the 249 homes could not be built at land south of Cutbush Lane, Shinfield, without planning permission first being given to the UoR to extend the existing Langley Mead natural greenspace.

A council report outlined that the existing land was "at capacity" and UoR had applied for the extension in order to move forward with future residential developments at Cutbush Lane.

Cllr Wayne Smith said: “We know this is a problematic area so therefore we have to consider what is happening today... this is a major issue for the people of Shinfield.”

Cllr Smith put forward a motion to refuse the application based on his concerns over a lack of information regarding how much of the land in Shinfield floods, and over a desire for the planning committee to visit the site.

Planning officers and committee members had acknowledged that the site, which is currently used as agricultural land, is currently flooded and typically experiences bad flooding in the winter months.

However, a drainage expert speaking on behalf of UoR had claimed that if the application was approved, the land would be dry for the “majority of the year” and planning officer Connor Corrigan said Natural England had outlined that flooding at the site was “acceptable”.

Councillor Carl Doran said: "I know we think we can walk on water, but our residents can't."

Soon after Cllr Smith put forward his motion, councillors Carl Doran, Malcolm Richards, Bill Soane, Wayne Smith and Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey voted to refuse the application.

The latter seconded Cllr Smith’s motion, adding just beforehand: “Sometimes we have to do what is best for the residents, even if it is not the best for the borough."

Dozens of audience members were present to watch the councillors’ discussions, and chairman of the planning committee Cllr Tim Holton was forced to ask members of the public to be quiet after a number of interruptions from disgruntled viewers.

One accused the planning committee of “shenanigans” and claimed the councillors were “just s****ing the residents".

Councillors Tim Holton, Angus Ross and Chris Bowring voted against the motion to refuse the application, with the latter becoming engaged in tense exchanges with Cllr Smith.

Cllr Bowring had asked his fellow councillors to judge the application “based on its own merits” but legal advisor Mary Severin told the committee that the application for the land and the application for the 249 homes were “practically linked.”

Ms Severin asked the planning officer Connor Corrigan to explain the potential costs to Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) if the application was refused and appealed against by UoR.

Mr Corrigan replied: “We would stand no chance of defending this on an appeal.”

However, the application was refused shortly after and the next application for 249 homes at Cutbush Lane, Shinfield, was withdrawn by applicants Bellway Homes.

After the meeting, Daniel Bradbury, Land Director at Bellway Homes told The News: “Bellway has submitted a joint application with The University of Reading for 249 new homes on an allocated housing site on land South of Cutbush Lane, Shinfield.  This residential application was withdrawn from Wednesday 13th February committee due to the refusal of The University of Reading’s SANG application on the same night.

“Whilst it was the intention to use the SANG capacity within the refused application, Bellway, in conjunction with The University, Wokingham Borough Council and Natural England are looking at various options in a view to moving matters forward. This work will include reassessing the existing SANG capacity within the local area, to ensure any future residential development does not harm the Thames Basin Heath in accordance with Local and National Planning Policy.”

Last year the Local Democracy Reporting Service reported that more than 1,600 Shinfield residents had signed a petition asking the council to take action against developments in the area.