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Willowmead Field
(Land adjacent to School Road & Orchard Road)

Proposed Planning Development - Application 230074

Outline planning application for the proposed erection of 23 dwellings with associated access and 15 carparking spaces for the local Primary school. Access only to be considered (with Appearance, Landscaping, Layout and Scale to be reserved).

Planning Decision Notice - 21 February 2024 - view here

Update on the meeting of Wokingham Borough Council's (WBC) Planning Committee held on the 14th February 2024.

The Councillors voted by 5 votes to 4 to refuse the outline planning application for the proposed erection of 23 dwellings with associated access and 15 car parking spaces for the local Primary School. The officer report being considered by the Committee recommended approval but a counter recommendation recommending refusal was put forward and voted on by Members. The main grounds for refusal was that the site was not a sustainable location but any subsequent decision letter from WBC will need to confirm the precise planning reasons for refusal.

Notification of Committee Date

The planning application is due to be reported to the planning committee.  The committee meeting will be held at the Council Offices and will start at 7.00 pm on 14 February 2024. The application has been recommended for approval and you can see a copy of the committee report online at the Council’s Committee meetings page.

You can attend the meeting in person or virtually by watching live on the Council’s You Tube page. If you would like to speak on the application, either in person or virtually via Microsoft Teams, you need to register with Democratic Services on the Council’s ask to speak at Planning Committee web page by 5:00pm on the last working day before the meeting. Please note that the time to speak is limited to three minutes in total. Democratic Services can be contacted via emailing

HVS response to WBC regarding revised planning application - 10 January 2024 - View here

HVS Letter to WBC re Revised Willowmead Planning - 17 December 2023 - View here.

HVS Letter to WBC 9 March 2023

Public Consultation starts 09 February 2023 and ends 09 March 2023

The HVS Committee thought it would be helpful to provide some background information on Willowmead Field. Members are encouraged to read this in conjunction with The Design and Access Statement, and The Planning Statement, both of which form part of the technical detail included in the formal planning application in order to gain a greater understanding of all the relevant issues.

The HVS Committee would welcome any comments you may have, which will be treated confidentially and used to inform our response. Please email

HVS responds to all planning in accordance with it's Planning Guidelines and Framework.

Willowmead Field Site

The Willowmead Field Site has been in the ownership of a popular and highly respected family who have lived in Hurst for over 40 years. The site originally included some additional land which the family gifted to the Primary School for use as a playing field. For over 40 years the Willowmead Field has been available free of charge for such annual community events as The  Hurst Show and Country Fayre, The Horse Show, The Horticultural Show  and Party in The Park, all of which have raised funds for the local school, local clubs and other good causes.

•    In October 2017, Willowmead Field (Site 5HU006), was assessed by WBC (The Local Planning Authority) officers in The Growth and Delivery Team as the most suitable site for development in Hurst. This was due to its location, particularly in relationship to the settlement pattern, in that it does not protrude into open countryside and there are relatively few planning restraints., However Willowmead Field,  despite being assessed as HEELA suitable, was omitted from the Draft Local Plan.

•    The Site was again omitted in the January 2020 Draft Local Plan Update, the reason given by the Sustainability Appraisal was that it was the venue for the Hurst Show.  The Hurst Show was last held on the Site in June 2019 and permission for any social events to be held on the field was withdrawn in October 2020.

•    The WBC Growth and Delivery Team was informed that the Site was no longer available for the Hurst Show/other village activities in July 2021.  The site was again omitted from The Draft Local Plan Update; Revised Growth Strategy published in November 2022, the reason again being given that it was the “Hurst Show Ground”. WBC officers have confirmed  that as a result of the change in circumstances this site  will be reassessed, but that details of any revised decision is unlikely to be shared as part of a public consultation document until the end of 2023 at the earliest. 

•    A proposal to have the Site designated as a Local Green Space was submitted in September 2020 by Hurst Parish Council. There was no consultation with the landowner (who was unaware of the proposal), and the proposals were withdrawn shortly afterwards, view here for details. (A further proposal has been submitted in the most recent consultation on The local Plan Update in November 2022 ).  
Local Green Spaces situated on the edge of village settlements such as this are expected to have a demonstrable value and significant features that require protection eg. recreational activity, specific landscape character value, country parks, significant ecological value, contain ancient woodland or Grade 1 Heritage Assets.

Planning Policies.

•    The Draft Local Plan Revised Growth Strategy is still at an early stage of preparation and therefore currently carries only limited weight in accordance with The National Planning Policy Framework. 

•    WBC, in its role as The Local Planning Authority, is unable to demonstrate a 5 year housing land supply, and as such those planning policies that an application of this kind would be assessed against, are considered out of date, and  therefore to which little or no weight can be given, resulting in   the “Tilted Planning Balance” being engaged. There is therefore a presumption that permission will be granted unless the “impacts do not significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits of the proposed development when assessed against the policies in the NPPF as a whole.

•    The Hurst Village Local Neighbourhood Plan Working Group has yet to publish a plan or identify a timescale by which any such plan would be subject to the statutory local public consultation, and therefore is unable to offer any evidence that would be given any weight, in an application of this kind.

General Comments

Hurst is faced with multiple planning applications and the HVS Committee works hard to implement a constructive rational strategy for dealing with   development proposals recognising that by making any representations on behalf of all the members of The Society these must be consistent,  accurate, credible, and evidence based.

This is such a case where consideration must be properly given prior to submitting any response to WBC as to whether any objections on material planning considerations can be sustained. This is particularly so in relation to this site where it has to be recognised that this is a site from which the village has already benefitted both in perpetuity eg. the school playing field, and in terms of community events, over a number of years. In addition to this undoubted community value generously provided by the owners, the site has clearly provided a sense of well-being to a number of local residents and there can be no doubt the loss of part of this well contained field would result in some loss of environmental value but that apart from the public right of way (which is to be retained) there is now no public access to the site, so the reality in pure planning terms is that  this loss is of limited significance.

This is not perhaps what some members will want to hear and the Committee in recognising those very real feelings has to balance them against material planning considerations, having reviewed the application in detail and before submitting any comments to WBC as referred to above. If you have any comments, please email us at

Key Documents

(all documents are also available on the WBC Planning Portal under Planning Application Reference 230074)

Willowmead Field: About Us
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