Datchet

Land lying on the East Side of Slough Road, Datchet January 2019

As previously advised, our Datchet site has been identified within the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) Draft Local Plan for a mixed use development of 175 homes and some commercial use and Draft Allocation for this given.

The Plan has progressed through its review process with Public Examination taking place in the first half of 2018 and Stage 1 Examination hearings being held thereafter. The Secretary of State (SOS) has appointed Mrs Louise Phillips from the Planning Inspectorate to act as the Inspector in this review and she is assisted by Programme Officer, Ms Charlotte Glancy. The role of the Inspector is complex but, in short, her responsibility is to ensure that the mandate laid down by National Government is delivered through viable Local Development plans which are supported by sound evidence bases and have been subjected to vigorous public scrutiny. Should there be areas of concern identified by the Inspector, these will be advised to the local council with recommended courses of action for amendment before final comment and recommendation for approval is made to the SOS. Thereafter the plan will be adopted and implemented.

During the Stage 1 hearings following the public examination, the Inspector advised RBWM that, in essence, she was dissatisfied with the level of flood analysis and sequential testing that the council has provided in support of its proposed allocations. Whilst the reasons for this are complicated, it stems mainly from the fact that the analysis done was based on data provided from the Environmental Agency (EA) that dates from 2014. This was done as there was no more recent data available and with the approval of the EA as their latest models are only scheduled for release in late 2018 and 2019. The Inspector has advised that the flood work will need to be redone and has suggested that the hearings proceed on all other matters whilst this is completed.

In a letter to the Inspector dated 4 December 2018 and contrary to the Inspectors suggestion, RBWM have requested that the Examination process be paused. The reasons for this are twofold:

  1. Whilst some of the necessary data was released by the EA in December 2018, the critical modelling will only be available in May 2019 meaning work can only commence thereafter.
  2. RBWM are holding local elections on 2 May 2019 and will enter the prelection period from 21 March 2019. They therefore believe they will only be able to carry out the work once the election is over.

The above means that RBWM's scheduled date of May 2019 for adoption will be missed. Whilst no formal revised timetable has been published yet, we anticipate the timeline for the balance of the work to look as follows:

We remain confident that our site will be unaffected by the flood analysis and that our inclusion within the draft plan is not at risk.

Outline Planning

As mentioned in previous communications, we remain of the position that submitting an application for outline planning upon adoption remains in the best interest of all parties. Current indications suggest that a sale of the site upon adoption but without outline planning would achieve an approximate £18m sale price which would fall short of the projected returns we hope to achieve. In comparison, a sale price of £30-35m would be achievable with outline planning approval secured, significantly greater than initial projections.

An Outline Planning application is a much quicker process and, depending on the point it is submitted, should receive approval within 12 months. This means that we would see the sale of Datchet occurring in Q2 2021. However, given the strength of our position within the Draft Plan, we are exploring the option of submitting an OP application prior to the examination period being completed. This will require us to apply the required flood analysis to our site specifically meaning we would need the data scheduled for release by the EA in May this year. Hence no decision can be taken until then.

We will continue to keep all parties appraised of developments both with the local council's revised timetable when it is made public and with our decision in respect of the OP application. However, we do not expect any changes to the status quo prior to end May.