Friday, 15 December 2017

Highlands Farm site owner and house builder team up

THE owner of a piece of land on the outskirts of Henley earmarked for development has joined forces with a

THE owner of a piece of land on the outskirts of Henley earmarked for development has joined forces with a house builder.

Property developer Alan Pontin, who owns Highlands Farm, off Greys Road, has made the move as Henley and Harpsden parish councils have decided to work together to produce a joint neighbourhood plan.

The 83-acre site is one of several identified by South Oxfordshire District Council’s core strategy as being “usable in principle” for housing. Henley has been allocated 400 new homes to be built by 2027.

The neighbourhood plan will consider the sites — and any others that are identified — in more detail in consultation with residents of both parishes before a referendum takes place.

Highlands Farm, which is within Harpsden parish, is by far the biggest of the sites and is brownfield as it has a partly disused industrial estate.

Mr Pontin, who owns Associated Holdings, has teamed up with Crest Nicholson, which has been building homes for 50 years.

He said: “I looked at various people and they were certainly the most professional and caring developer. The site has been put forward as a residential site under the core strategy. We would probably be looking at houses and a little village shop. Forty per cent of that would be affordable housing.”

The move almost certainly means the end of plans for a £40 million “care village” on part of the site.

English Villages, a specialist care operator, had proposed to build a 244-bedroom development using 18 acres but the plans have been put on hold.

Mr Pontin said: “The problem with the retirement home was that the rules are that you have to have affordable housing and it did not fit the model. I do not think it has been totally scrapped, it has just been put on hold.

“We need to be careful about usage of the land. So few houses are being built nationally and there is an enormous demand on Henley. Lots of people travel in for work purposes, which is not very green.

“I welcome the neighbourhood plan. I think there is a lot that can be done for the residents of Henley and it is about taking the town forward.”

He said he couldn’t envisage the whole allocation of 400 homes being built at Highlands Farm.

“There are 83 acres up there but a lot of it should be kept because it is nice to have surrounding countryside,” said Mr Pontin. “I think we will just fit in with the numbers that the neighbourhood plan comes up with.

“It is impossible to say how many houses will be built there as there are other sites being considered. Some have benefits, some do not, but we are the only brownfield site in the equation.”

He said it was “disappointing” that the neighbourhood plan process was likely to take two years. “They are looking at having the referendum in May 2015, which is an amazing amount of time to put Henley in limbo for,” said Mr Pontin. “I think it could be done an awful lot quicker.”

Dieter Hinke, who chairs the neighbourhood planning governance committee, said: “We are starting to get things together and we look forward to working with Crest Nicholson and hope they will come to the topic group that will be looking at housing in and around Henley.

“Whatever happens up there [Highlands Farm], it is important that we get our allocation of affordable housing.”

A district council spokesman said: “The core strategy allocates 400 homes to the town, which will be identified either through the site allocations document or through a neighbourhood plan. If the proposal for a care village had been submitted as an application, and the council sought to approve it, it is unlikely the council would subsequently allocate the land.”

SUE RYDER is celebrating its diamond anniversary this year.

The charity’s hospice in Nettlebed is to mark the occasion by offering people the chance to sponsor a maple, beech or hornbeam tree at its woodland in Henley.

The cost to sponsor a tree is £120, the equivalent of one day’s specialist nursing care at the hospice.

The charity hopes to raise at least £36,000 from the initiative this year.

The trees were donated and planted by staff from Prudential in Reading.

Wendy Murgatroyd, regional fund-raiser, said: “The Sue Ryder Henley woodland project has been in existence for almost 18 months and along with our partners, Henley Town Council, Timberland and Henley in Transition, we’ve enjoyed seeing the woodland take shape.

“We are also proud to be working with the town council in supporting its Britain in Bloom entry.”

Trees can be sponsored for any reason, to celebrate an anniversary or special birthday or in memory of a loved one.

Sponsors receive a certificate and a car sticker and a dedication will be hand-painted on to the oak sign at the entrance to the woodland off Tilebarn Close.

To sponsor a tree, call (01491) 641070.

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