‘BRUTAL and uninspiring’ apartment blocks near Maidenhead town centre have been given the green light subject to conditions.
The two vacant office buildings known as Moorbridge Court and Liberty House on Moorbridge Road will be demolished for five buildings, ranging from three to 10-storeys, compromising of 129 flats.
The scheme will have a mix of one, two, and three-bed flats, and includes 66 car parking spaces, cycle storage, associated refuse, and communal amenity space in the centre of the apartment blocks.
Five units will be affordable and the majority of the flats will be one-bedroom apartments.
Ward councillor Gurch Singh (Liberal Democrat: St Mary’s) urged members of the Royal Borough Development Management Panel to refuse the plans and conveyed residents’ descriptions of the scheme of being ‘brutal and uninspiring’.
Voting for refusal, councillor David Hilton (Conservative: Ascot and Sunninghill), lead member for finance, criticised the scheme for having no communal facilities in the blocks, the lack of amenity space, and the “tiny” lobbies.
He added the developers were building a “dormitory”.
Cllr Hilton said: “I wonder if the applicant is being a bit greedy in seeking to develop 129 dwellings at 258 dwellings per hectare.
“This is quite eye-watering and it’s something I have not seen in the past.”
He added: “What they [the developers] should be doing is helping to build a community and as far as I’m concerned that’s as much about placemaking as the buildings in which we live.
“I am certain a significant development on this site would be appropriate – but I can’t help thinking that this isn’t it and I would urge the applicant goes away, reconsiders what he’s doing and take some more humane approach to his proposals.”
Cllr Geoff Hill (The Borough First: Oldfield) described the designs as a “pigeon coop” where he had concerns with the lack of parking and the traffic congestion on the busy road.
And Cllr Joshua Reynolds (Liberal Democrat: Furze Platt) said he preferred this scheme because even if the panel decided to refuse the application, the developers, Bellway Homes, could just convert the two office buildings into flats without any affordable accommodation and conditions set by the council.
The chair of the panel, Cllr Phil Haseler (Conservative: Cox Green), said: “I have to say, the existing buildings are pretty shocking and which would you prefer, having purpose-made apartments than having ones shoved into a carcass of an old office block that’s seen better days.”
Agent Ben Thomas urged members to approve the scheme, saying it would make ‘good use’ of derelict land where the designs have been changed to address previous concerns of its density and scale.
He added the plans have not been identified to overlook and overshadow neighbouring properties.
Planning officers – who recommended the proposal be given the green light – argued the amenity space is acceptable for a town centre development as future occupants will have access to nearby open spaces and leisure facilities and that it’s not common to see communal facilities in apartment scheme.
With the plans looking like they were going to be refused, a slight majority of members gave the nod.
Five councillors voted for approval and four against where it will be delegated to the head of planning subject to the scheme completing its agreement of securing onsite affordable housing.
The meeting took place on November 18 (Wednesday).