Plans to build 23 ‘tightly-packed, suburban’ homes on countryside land just outside Hurst have been refused by Wokingham Borough Council.

Developers, Helmsley Land Ltd, wanted to build the new estate on School Road, near St Nicholas primary school.

But neighbours argued that the development would harm the countryside, and that it was too far from necessary services to be accessible. And councillors on Wokingham Borough’s planning committee voted against it, claiming it would be only accessible by car.

Hurst resident Jessica Lake told councillors on the committee that children living in the new neighbourhood would struggle to find nearby school places. She said: “There is not enough room at the village school or the pre-school and there is no secondary school.”

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She added that the government's planning inspectorate had ruled local bus routes are ‘inadequate’ for children commuting to school, when it ruled against a 200-home development there last year.

She also said the development would spoil a field linking Hurst to the countryside. She said: “The overall vision will be that of tightly-packed suburban dwellings with little green space.”

Hurst parish councillor Tony Robinson said several rulings by planning inspectors had ‘concluded that Hurst is an unsustainable location’ for new housing development.

He said: “This is the wrong development in the wrong location.”

Planning agent Douglas Bond argued that the proposed site was ‘well-related to Hurst and is sustainably located’. He said: “The site lies at the heart of Hurst adjacent to the primary school and village hall and within walking distance of other village facilities.”

He said the development would provide affordable housing, allowing families to stay in Hurst.

And council planning officers recommended that councillors vote to approve the plans. They said Hurst has ‘several walkable facilities and services which would serve some day-to-day needs'.

But they acknowledged that the frequency of the local 128 and 129 buses – with waits of up to an hour – do not make a ‘good service'. They said these buses were ‘unlikely to be seen as an attractive alternative to the private car'.

Yet officers said that the harms would not outweigh the benefits of providing new homes, noting that Wokingham Borough has a shortage of land designated for new housing.

But councillor Wayne Smith, who is a member of the planning committee and represents Hurst, proposed that the plans be rejected. He said this was ‘mainly down to travel’ as residents of the new development would rely too much on cars to access it.

The planning committee rejected the plans by five votes to four on Wednesday, February 14.