Sunday, 27 May 2018

Controversial care home plans approved

CONTROVERSIAL plans for 53 homes for the elderly and disabled in Henley were approved last night.

CONTROVERSIAL plans for 53 homes for the elderly and disabled in Henley were approved last night.

South Oxfordshire District Council granted McCarthy & Stone permission to build the “assisted living” flats at the site of the former Jet petrol station in Reading Road.

Felix Bloomfield, who chairs the committee, used his casting vote to approve the application after members were split equally.

Henley councillor David Nimmo Smith was not allowed to vote as he chaired the town council’s planning committee, which had recommended refusal.

The decision will be seen as being contrary to the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan, which earmarked the site for 55 ordinary homes, 40 per cent of them “affordable”.

Dieter Hinke, who chair’s the plan’s steering group, claimed the district council had ignored the democratic will of residents, who overwhelmingly supported the plan in a referendum in March.

He said: “After all the promises by the Government and the district that we could shape our own future it has come to nothing.

“We were told that the new legislation would give us powers of control and how we could shape Henley and Harpsden for future generations.

“The youth of this town, both residents and workers, have been badly let down by a district council that is scared of its own shadow and will not take on the developers.

“Its main concerns are financial targets, leading to fear of appeals and not the will of the people.

“The town council should look into all legal aspects regarding the validity of this decision and immediately send a bill to the district council for all the money spent on the plan over the years.”

Henley Mayor Julian Brookes said: “It was very disappointing that the neighbourhood plan doesn’t seem to carry the weight that we thought it should.

“We could fill 53 flats six times over with young people from Henley.

“It is not a result that we accept and we will analyse this decision very carefully so that steps are taken so that we are better prepared next time. We will fight each and every application.”

Councillor Nimmo Smith added: “So much for our neighbourhood plan — coach and horses driven through it. What worth for the referendum and all the work put in by many in preparing a community/people's plan?”

There are two more applications for care homes in the pipeline.

B&M Care has applied for permission to build a 60-bed home on the site of the former Henley Youth Centre in Deanfield Avenue, which was allocated 23 homes in the plan.

Essex company Henthames is seeking to convert the former LA Fitness gym off Newtown Road into an 80-bed care home.

The neighbourhood plan, which cost £90,000, names 11 sites where about 500 homes should go by 2027 to meet Government targets by 2027.

Developers have exploited loopholes allowing them to class care homes as ordinary housing as it means they don’t have to pay a levy towards infrastructure improvements.

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