Monday, 16 July 2018

Developer accused of avoiding homes quota

A DEVELOPER’S plans for 17 new homes in Henley have been opposed by town councillors who

A DEVELOPER’S plans for 17 new homes in Henley have been opposed by town councillors who say the scheme fails to comply with the town’s neighbourhood plan.

Ashill Land wants to build five one-bedroom “affordable” flats and 12 houses with between three and five bedrooms on a small commercial estate off Greys Road.

The joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan, which was approved at a referendum in March, stipulates that developments must include 40 per cent affordable housing.

However, Ashill’s proposal amounts to only 29 per cent.

It is the second site, out of the 11 earmarked for 500-plus homes in the plan, where developers have failed to meet the quota.

In July McCarthy & Stone, a retirement property specialist, was granted planning permission for 53 “extra care” flats for the elderly at the former Jet garage site in Reading Road.

The site had been earmarked for ordinary housing under the plan, which says that new developments should comprise an appropriate range and mix of housing to provide homes for young people and those with limited income.

McCarthy & Stone is proposing only self-contained flats for people who have care needs but still wish to live independently.

When South Oxfordshire District Council approved the application it said the proposals met the general objectives of the neighbourhood plan, which was not specific and was open to interpretation.

Henley Town Council’s planning committee voted to recommend that Ashill’s plans are refused permission on the grounds of non-compliance with the plan.

Committee chairman Simon Smith said: “I believe that, as a committee and a council and with all the work we spent on this neighbourhood plan, we should stand firm. Otherwise it’s just drilling holes through our plan.”

Deputy Mayor Will Hamilton said the application did not comply with the plan, adding: “In my view this site can take 40 per cent affordable.”

But Councillor Ian Reissmann warned that the same argument had failed to convince the district council when it approved McCarthy & Stone’s plans.

“We need to think of something rather better than that,” he said. “The idea that any site is not going to be able to support affordable housing, given the value of property in Henley, is absurd.”

He accused the developer of trying to “opt out” of what the community had said it wanted via the plan.

Cllr Reissmann also suggested meeting Ashill Land to discuss widening the pavements on Greys Road near the site as they were too narrow to be safe. He wanted A 2m wide pavement.

The committee also objected on the grounds of overdevelopment of the site, overlooking and the scale and bulk resulting in the loss of light.

The development involves the demolition of buildings belonging to merchant drapers M Makower & Co, which is selling the site to Ashill. The company will then move to new premises.

Three tenant businesses, Concord Fabrics, Schools Publishing and Physiolistic, will leave when their leases expire in November.

A house would also be knocked down as part of the development, which incorporates 116 to 118 Greys Road.

Catherine Allan-Notaras, of Elizabeth Road, spoke against the plans, saying the development would back on to a number of retirement bungalows in Sherwood Gardens, where her late mother had lived.

“The existing building is 10m away from the boundary. The new plans are 1m from the boundary,” said Ms Allan-Notaras.

“It’s overlooking, it’s overdevelopment and it changes the character of the area.”

M Makower & Co has been based at the site since 1945 but says this is the right time to move.

The district council will make a final decision by October 20.

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