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Councillors urged to reject flats plan for old newspaper HQ

A bid by a former weekly newspaper publishing boss to turn the title’s old headquarters into flats and offices is set to be rejected by planning chiefs.

West Berkshire Council’s planning committee will vote today on whether to give the green light to plans for the old Newbury Weekly News site, which would see the paper’s old Newspaper House home demolished.

Newspaper House Holdings Ltd has applied to demolish and replace Newspaper House and units Q1 to Q6 in Faraday Road, Newbury, with 81 apartments, while another application for 72 flats and office accommodation has also been submitted.

The company was formed by former NWN chairman Jeremy Willis after the 152-year-old paper was bought by a joint venture company Newbury News and Media Ltd last May.

An artist's impression of the planned development

An artist’s impression of the planned development

But council officers have recommended that the schemes be refused, saying in a statement: “The principle of the proposed office development is acceptable where the site is located in an area identified for regeneration including offices.

“The principle of the proposed residential development is not considered acceptable.

“Taking this application on its own merits the residential development fails the flooding sequential test where it is located in higher risk flood zone 3 and there are other suitable alternative available sites for housing development at lower risk of flooding.”

According to the Weekly News, the council said Newspaper House Holdings had not conducted a thorough search for land with the lowest risk of flooding elsewhere in the district, known as a sequential test, and that there are reasonably available sites appropriate for the housing development in areas of lower risk of flooding.

Officers added: “As such the principle of housing in this location is not considered acceptable and this constitutes a reason for refusal.”

Mr Willis told the Weekly News: “This has cost us £130,000 more because we have been given conflicting information by the council all the way through. The first set of sequential testing was approved.

“I believe that the council have been obstructive and have delayed the potential build of this because they are waiting to see what happens with the rest of Faraday Road.”