A DEVELOPER has offered £800,000 towards affordable housing and infrastructure improvements in return for official support for new
A DEVELOPER has offered £800,000 towards affordable housing and infrastructure improvements in return for official support for new care housing in Henley.
The “without prejudice” offer was made on behalf of McCarthy & Stone following discussions with Henley Town Council.
The developer wants to build 53 “assisted living extra care” homes for older people at the former Jet garage site in Reading Road.
South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee approved the planning application at a meeting on Wednesday evening.
The proposal sparked claims that the development would be at odds with the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan, which earmarked the site for 55 ordinary homes.
The plan names 11 sites where about 500 homes, including 40 per cent “affordable” units, should be built by 2027 to meet Government targets.
McCarthy & Stone, a retirement living specialist, bought the site from Inland Homes, which had secured permission for 55 flats. The town council’s planning committee objected to the application, saying the development did not comply with the plan.
But a report to the district council’s committee recommended approval.
Planning officer Amanda Rendell said: “While it is disappointing that the previous permission has not been implemented for what is understood to be viability reasons, this application has to be assessed on its merits.
“All the letters of representation from members of the public have supported the proposed scheme, citing a demand and need for such accommodation.”
She said a primary objective of the neighbourhood plan is to “deliver an appropriate range and mix of housing to achieve a balanced community and in particular help meet the needs of those age and income groups who have difficulty finding homes in Henley”.
Mrs Rendell said these groups included older residents and people with disabilities as well as young people, local workers and small families.
“Your officers are therefore satisfied that there is a need to provide accommodation for older people within the district,” she said.
“Therefore, placing all of the relevant material considerations in the balance, I conclude that the limited adverse impacts would not significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits of the proposal and recommend the application for approval.”
Mrs Rendell said McCarthy & Stone was not obliged to make a contribution towards affordable housing or the infrastructure but added: “The applicant acknowledges the impact of the development upon the local area and the objectives of the neighbourhood plan for the local area.
“Subsequent to discussions with the town council, the applicant has made, on a without prejudice basis, a financial offer of £800,000 towards community infrastructure/affordable housing.”
The proposal is in addition to separate applications for a care home on land in Deanfield Road, which is allocated for 23 homes in the neighbourhood plan, and a care home in Newtown Road.
Dieter Hinke, a former town councillor who chairs the neighbourhood plan steering group, protested after Wednesday’s decision.
He said: “I am devastated that democracy is meaningless to the district council.
“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 this new legislation would give us powers of control and of 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 the developers on.
“Its main concerns are financial targets leading to fear of appeals and not the will of the people.”
• Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, requested a contribution of £1,000 per dwelling towards the cost of improving the bus service along Reading Road if the company is granted planning permission.