Monday, 16 July 2018

""Traffic must improve before new homes built""

HENLEY’S traffic problems must be solved in order for 400 new homes to be built, say residents.

They fear development will make congestion worse. Some want heavy goods vehicles to be banned from driving through the town centre while others say more cycle routes are needed.

There were also calls for a new bridge over the Thames, improved bus and train services, more parking places and a park and ride scheme.

A survey of residents was carried out in December and January for the Henley and Harpsden joint neighbourhood plan. Most of the 495 people who completed the questionnaire said traffic was their highest priority for improving infrastructure.

Sixty-eight per cent said anti-congestion measures were “essential” and another 24 per cent rated them “important”. The second highest priority was investment in cycle routes, which 58 per cent deemed either “essential” or “important”.

The two parishes must find space for at least 400 new homes by 2027 under South Oxfordshire District Council’s core strategy.

The neighbourhood plan, which is being compiled by a series of voluntary working groups, will recommend where they should go. If the final version is approved by public referendum, it will be a legally enforceable planning document. Residents were asked to rate 17 sites put forward by landowners and most chose brownfield rather than greenfield sites, as the Henley Standard reported two weeks ago. This week, householders’ views on other issues such as traffic and transport, retail and business, social amenities and the environment were published.

Eighty per cent agreed Henley should be “a medieval market town which is accessible and safe for walking and cycling, has good public transport and a safe and efficiently functioning road network”.

Of those who chose to comment on traffic, 28 said congestion was a problem and 39 called for better cycle routes, cycle parking and safety measures for cyclists.

Nineteen wanted better rail and bus services and 16 said parking in Henley was a problem. Nine called for another Thames crossing, seven recommended a bypass and four suggested a park and ride scheme.

One respondent said: “Building Henley up as a small market town by overdevelopment without considering the necessary impact on traffic is very short-sighted. Henley cannot really cope with the number of residents it currently has.”

Another said: “The neighbourhood plan should look again at the possibility of preventing through traffic in Henley. There should also be consideration of... multi-storey car parking at the station with shuttle transport in and out of town.”

Residents also said schools and health services would have to expand to cope with the increase in demand.

Eighty-five per cent agreed Henley should offer “a range of high-quality leisure, education and social facilities for all ages.” Fifteen people said more social infrastructure was needed.

One said: “There was no mention... of how to accommodate the sheer volume of extra children that would come with 400 homes. I note Shiplake primary is said to be full but why is there no mention of the others? It is as though they have limitless capacity when they do not.”

Residents’ third highest overall priority was refurbishing or replacing Henley Youth Centre in Deanfield Avenue, with 54 per cent strongly in favour.

Fifty-three per cent said improved sports and recreational facilities were needed and 48 per cent expressed similar views about improving the environment in the town centre.

Thirty-six per cent felt a police drop-in centre was “essential” or “important” and 33 per cent called for a new performing arts centre or community hall.

The working groups are analysing the responses and hope to publish a draft plan in the spring. Unlike the housing site recommendations, none of the document’s proposals for traffic or amenities will be legally binding.

But town councillor Dieter Hinke, who chairs the neighbourhood plan governance committee, said money would be available for them as the developers would have to pay towards infrastructure improvements.

The town council would also be given a share of the Government’s new community infrastructure levy because it has put together a neighbourhood plan.

Cllr Hinke said: “It is very unlikely that the plan can deal with those issues on its own. Any recommendations other than the housing sites are aspirational in a sense but it’s about sitting down with the district and county councils to discuss what we want.

“The community investment levy could be in the millions. We are talking about large sums that could be spent on projects to benefit the community. Some works could also be funded by the developers if there’s a strong argument that their development has an impact on the immediate area.”

* The Henley Standard reported on February 7 that landowner Robert Hale wants to build up to 47 homes at Treetops in Gillotts Lane. This was correct when Mr Hale put the site forward last year but he now says he plans nine houses and up to 25 flats for the elderly.

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