Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Village excited by visit of Hollywood stars

HOLLYWOOD stars descended on a Chilterns village to shoot scenes for a new film, writes Sian Gordon.

HOLLYWOOD stars descended on a Chilterns village to shoot scenes for a new film, writes Sian Gordon.

George Clooney, who stars in and is producing and directing Monuments Men, was among those who had their photos taken by star-struck residents of Fingest.

Other actors who were spotted included Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett and Jean Dujardin, star of The Artist.

Scenes for the wartime drama were shot at St Bartholomew’s Church and the cast and crew visited the village pub, the Chequers.

Andrew Morgan, of Greys Hill, Henley, went to the village specially to see the actors. Mr Morgan, who owns the Morgan Dental Clinic in Duke Street, said: “I was just buying the Henley Standard at W H Smith when I overheard the lady in front of me talking to a vicar, who was behind me. He said that George Clooney was filming at his church.

“I duly took myself up there, taking my dog as an excuse, and found they had taken over the whole village.

“They had used the church and apparently given strict instructions that the vicar should not cut the grass at the church for a month. They had made it look like a medieval church.

“George Clooney was sitting down and I walked up to him and said that I was a great fan and was there any chance of a photograph. I gave him the camera and he took the picture. I think it was my golden retriever that won him over.

“I also saw Matt Damon but was told that Cate Blanchett had left the set for the day. It was wonderful to see them all — you just do not expect something like that to happen when you are going about your normal day.”

Rev Jeremy Mais, associate priest, said: “I do not know how long the filming took but there was a fair bit of planning. They must have been there for one or two days setting up.

“All we got as local residents was a letter saying that a film crew was coming. Quite a few people went down and had a look.”

Monuments Men is based on the book, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M Edsel.

It tells the true story of a special Allied task force, including art historians and museum curators, which recovered masterpieces stolen by Hitler during the Second World War.

Clooney stars as George Stout, former director of the Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts, and Damon plays James Rorimer, an art historian and former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The film, which also stars Bill Murray, John Goodman and Hugh Bonneville, is due to be released later this year.

MORE than 100 homes could be built on land between Henley and Shiplake.

Claire Engbers, who owns the 15-acre site at Thames Farm, off Reading Road, is to submit an outline planning application for up to 110 houses on July 1.

The plans have already been met by objections from residents of both Shiplake and neighbouring Harpsden, the parish to which the land belongs.

The move could also lead to speculation about the neighbouring site of the former Shiplake garden centre, which was once owned by Mrs Engbers but now belongs to Aida Hersham, owner of Fawley Court.

The development would be made up of nine one-bedroom flats and 101 houses ranging from 30 with two bedrooms to eight with five. Forty per cent of the properties would be affordable.

The current access route would be moved 25m south towards Shiplake, which has already been approved by highways officials at Oxfordshire County Council.

Surveys and assessments have been carried out to back up the suitability of the site for development. It is not in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Mrs Engbers told the Henley Standard that her proposal would help Henley meet its target of 400 new homes by 2027 set by South Oxfordshire District Council in its core strategy.

She said: “Henley needs to find sites for 400 to 450 houses but is constrained by the Henley conservation area, the AONB, the river crossing, flood plain and a wealth of listed buildings. It is a town with a medieval street pattern that suffers from congestion and high levels of air pollution whereas Thames Farm is located around 2km from the centre of town.”

She said the site was sustainable because it is on a bus route, within walking distance of Shiplake station and has access to the A4155, a main road as well as being screened by trees and hedges.

Planning agent Shaun Whitfield said that on sites where housing was acceptable in principle, a minimum density of 25 dwellings per hectare was required unless this would have an adverse effect on the character of the area.

“The maximum figure of 110 dwellings gives a density of around 22 dwellings per hectare,” he said. “We consider that, given the character of the area, it would not be desirable to propose a density that complied with the policy.

“Therefore, 110 dwellings is very much a maximum figure and it is possible that a scheme proposing fewer dwellings could be more appropriate, for example, were it considered that the landscape strategy should include wider buffers around the periphery of the site.”

Letters have been sent to residents, Harpsden and Shiplake parish councils and Henley Town Council for comment prior to the application being submitted.

Tudor Taylor, who chairs Shiplake Parish Council, said: “We will strongly oppose any potential development of that site.

“We have a mandate from our residents as part of the community plan which says that they don’t want to see any residential development outside the village curtilage.

“The primary school is also at over capacity and with further housing people would not be able to get primary school education for their kids in the village.

“We see this as a Henley housing problem, not a small village housing problem. The core strategy recognises that towns need to develop and take on more housing and the small villages do not.

“We are a rural county made up of rural villages and if we start building houses then they become large villages and then a town.”

Kester George, who chairs Harpsden Parish Council, said: “I see no merits in it. We have had nothing but objections from residents and neighbours in Harpsden — nobody likes the idea.

“The application raises difficulties like infrastructure and taking up the green belt between Shiplake and Harpsden. In my view, it doesn’t make sense.”

Dieter Hinke, who chairs Henley Town Council’s planning and the neighbourhood governance committee, was reluctant to discuss the application.

In October last year, Mrs Engbers had a plan to store heavy goods vehicles at Thames Farm refused by the district council, which said it would detract from the “essential rural character” of the area.

In November 2010, she upset residents after calling for Shiplake to be reclassified as a “larger village” so it could be considered for more homes.

Earlier that year, she offered Thames Farm to the district council for development but the authority couldn’t consider this because it classifies Shiplake Cross and Lower Shiplake separately and not as one village.

Simon Myles, a senior planner at the London office of real estate agents Savills, wrote on Mrs Engbers’ behalf to Adrian Duffield, head of planning and building control at the council, saying that Shiplake was a “sustainable settlement” that could grow because it had the “necessary services” including a station, primary school and shops.

* What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, Station Road, Henley, RG9 1AD or emailletters@henleystandard.co.uk

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