Saturday, 21 July 2018

Council to sell land but rejects call for more social housing

A LAST-DITCH bid to create a new social housing site in Henley has failed.

A LAST-DITCH bid to create a new social housing site in Henley has failed.

The land next to Tesco, off Reading Road, is to be sold by Henley Town Council for development with a clause stating that just 40 per cent of the new homes should be “affordable”.

It is currently occupied by the No Limits gym and changing facilities for Henley Hockey Club and AFC Henley. These buildings would be demolished and replaced with about 30 houses or flats under the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

The proportion of “affordable” housing on the development has been in dispute between the two political parties on the council. The ruling Conservatives wanted 40 per cent while the opposition Henley Residents’ Group wanted as much as possible.

Gill Dodds, leader of HRG and a former councillor, told last week’s meeting of the council she wanted a “social housing project, not a money making project”.

Mrs Dodds, who lives in Greys Road, said: “You are still talking about 40 per cent on this town council. What you should be doing is 90 per cent or 100 per cent. I happen to know that the residents’ group is very much in favour of 90 or 100 per cent. I know the Conservatives are against it — you are the nasty party and you want the money.”

Dick Fletcher, of Mill End, who is also a member of HRG, said: “I was one of many people working extremely hard at evenings and weekends to put together an imaginative and viable neighbourhood plan.

“If we had been well-advised in the first place we would have had a definition on housing needs in the town. As it is, we came up with housing locations and hoped that 40 per cent affordable would win the day.

“This [site] is owned by the townspeople of Henley. I would ask you to consider seriously the option of increasing the affordable allocation on the site as far as you can.

“We need the nurses, the teachers, the bank clerks living in the town. We have the opportunity to make sure it provides at least some of the allocation that is necessary and I would suggest it is much better than squirreling away another two million quid. If you don’t, then this town will be full of even more white-haired men like me.”

Councillor David Nimmo Smith, leader of the Conservatives, said that selling the site would provide a windfall that would benefit the whole town.

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak (HRG) proposed that the council agreed to the sale on the basis that 90 per cent of the proposed homes were affordable and the rest sold on the open market.

“The district council guidelines state there is a need for 333 affordable homes in Henley,” he said. “We are getting a profusion of care homes in the town and we desperately need homes for young people, teachers, cleaners and shop workers.

“We are trying to keep Henley as a diverse community and not a retirement town. We should be using our resources to provide more affordable homes. We as a town council should be plugging the gap.”

Simon Smith (Con) said: “I work in a shop and most of the people who work in the shops already live in Henley anyway.

“I do believe the money we will get for providing 40 per cent will give us a far better opportunity to benefit the whole town.”

Deputy Mayor Will Hamilton (Con) said: “We have the view that 40 per cent is the right way to go. It provides homes for Henley, it follows the neighbourhood plan and it allows us to provide for the town.”

Councillor Ian Reissmann (HRG) said: “Everyone who lives in Henley knows that we have a shortage of housing, specifically affordable. I can’t believe that anyone is suggesting we have enough affordable housing. We don’t need a £2.5million return.”

Councillor Sarah Miller (HRG) said: “I have lived in Henley all my life. There are a lot of people who work in shops that don’t live in Henley. There are shops looking for staff and people can’t afford to live or rent or buy here. I want houses for the kids, for the youth. Henley, at the moment, is a pit-stop to the pearly gates.”

The council voted against Cllr Gawrysiak’s proposal by seven votes to six with Conservative Lorraine Hillier voting for it, against her own party. A second proposal for 70 per cent affordable homes put forward by Cllr Miller was similarly defeated.

The council then voted to approve the sale of the land.

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