Saturday, 21 October 2017

Neighbours fight private club's plan

RESIDENTS have spoken out against plans for a new health centre at Phyllis Court Club in Henley.

The private members’ club wants to build the two-storey complex with a gym and swimming pool on its visitors’ car park and tennis courts.

New floodlit tennis courts would be built next door and the car park would also be extended.

The club says the development is necessary to secure its future and retain its existing members.

But residents of the 57 homes in Phyllis Court Drive oppose the development, saying:
• It would erode the quiet character of the cul-de-sac due to the increase in traffic and noise from people using the centre.
• It would give the area a more urban appearance.
• The floodlighting would disturb them.
Their concerns were outlined in a letter of objection to South Oxfordshire District Council from property consultants Kemp & Kemp, of Oxford, which represents the two residents’ associations.

Partner Huw Mellor said the scheme went against the council’s policy of encouraging new retail and leisure developments in town centre locations.

He said: “The proposed development will likely cause significant additional activity in what is currently a relatively quiet location on the fringe of Henley. As such it will have an adverse impact on the vitality and viability of the town centre and the amenities of the neighbouring residential properties. It is disingenuous for the applicant to suggest otherwise.

The sleepy character of the locality is clearly very important to the existing residents and if this were eroded it would have a serious impact on their quality of life.”

Mr Mellor claimed it was “misleading” to suggest the health centre would not help the club attract new members and there was no mechanism to limit numbers.

Individual objectors include residents Dame Stephanie Shirley and her husband Derek who said: “Although this is planned as an amenity for Phyllis Court Club members, there is no guarantee that it would remain so. Once open to the public, it would significantly add to the traffic on Phyllis Court Drive.”

Neighbour Dorothy Irons said: “We already have too much traffic going to and from the club, particularly huge lorries. The drive was not designed for this.”

CBRE, the club’s agent, said it had consulted the council’s planning officers who had not expressed concern about the development.

In a letter to the authority, senior director Ian Anderson said the out-of-town location was acceptable as the centre was for members of a private club, not the public.

He said the floodlights would not be on before 8am or after 9.30pm and the amount of light would be below the guideline figures for rural areas.

The centre’s opening hours would be restricted to reduce traffic disturbance.

Mr Anderson said: “The council’s environmental health officer is satisfied that the building has been designed to minimise the impact on surrounding properties and that the health club would be able to operate without causing disturbance to local residents.” When the plans were first submitted last year, Henley Town Council recommended refusal.

Councillor Lorraine Hillier, who is a member of the club, described the look of the centre as “boring” and like a “warehouse”.

The club has since amended the plans to remove a footpath from the main clubhouse and change the size of the windows.

The town council’s planning committee, which met on Tuesday, recommended the amended application is approved.

Chairman Dieter Hinke said that trees would be planted to minimise the impact of the centre. Councillor Sam Evans agreed, saying: “I will struggle to vote against this.”

Deputy Mayor Martin Akehurst said: “It seems like all of the issues, except the design, have been addressed.”

Talking about the design, he added: “I think the retro Cold War bunker has come back into fashion.”

Cllr Hillier said she still thought the the building would be “aesthetically displeasing”.

“I think it is an awful legacy to leave,” she said. “It will be up for years and years and it is patently ugly.”

Councillor David Clenshaw said he had no strong feelings and would have voted for both applications.

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