Monday, 23 July 2018

Affordable housing would be ‘ghettoised’

MAKING a new development in Henley exclusively affordable housing would “ghettoise” the residents, says a town

MAKING a new development in Henley exclusively affordable housing would “ghettoise” the residents, says a town councillor.

Sam Evans was responding to a call by former mayor Gill Dodds for public land next to Tesco, off Reading Road, to be used to build cheaper homes for local people only.

The land, which is owned by the town council, is currently occupied by the No Limits gym, formerly Exclusively Ladies, and changing facilities for Henley Hockey Club and AFC Henley.

These would be knocked down and replaced with about 30 houses or flats under the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

In April, Mrs Dodds urged the council not to sell the land but to let it and for every home built on it to be affordable because so many people who grew up or work in Henley were being priced out of the area.

Mrs Dodds, who is leader of Henley Residents’ Group but no longer a councillor, said this was the council’s “last opportunity” to take action as it doesn’t own any other potential housing sites.

However, Cllr Evans, a Conservative, told a special council meeting called to discuss the land last week that the 40/60 split between affordable and private housing agreed in the neighbourhood plan should be adhered to.

She said: “I’m absolutely disgusted by the proposal of 80, 90 or 100 per cent affordable social housing on that site.

“I think we would be ghettoising a group of people who have absolutely no choice about where they live.”

Councillor Lorraine Hillier said: “I think whatever we vote for with affordable housing, we want good quality housing.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that area of town. Henley is beautiful wherever you live in town.” Councillor Jane Smewing said: “Perhaps a slightly higher element of affordable would be viable.”

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak said there were “many options” between 40 and 100 per cent affordable housing that had not been explored.

“In Henley there’s a need for affordable rental and affordable housing of 333 units at the moment,” he said.

Speaking from the public gallery, Mrs Dodds said the site was “very valuable”.

“I think it’s the last piece of land that the council owns that can be used for housing,” she said.

“I object to the ‘ghetto’ comment, it would not be a ghetto. I bet 95 per cent of people in this town would go for affordable housing on this site.”

She suggested the council should have a rethink and talk to a housing association such as Soha.

Trevor Howell, chairman of AFC Henley, said: “If we start now unpicking the details of the neighbourhood plan what was the point in putting all the detail into it in the first place?”

Councillor David Nimmo Smith said the site would provide 14 affordable units for people with “strong local connections”.

It would contribute to the town’s housing needs and bring a financial return to benefit all residents, he said

Councillors agreed there should be a minimum of 40 cent affordable housing on the site and to proceed with a three-month period of exclusive negotiations with a preferred developer over the sale of the land.

It will also investigate having a legal agreement to ensure the site cannot be resold for a development that reduces the number of dwellings.

The deal would also include the reprovision of the sports club facilities for AFC Henley and Henley Hockey Club to be completed before work begins on the development.

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