Thursday, 24 May 2018

Now it's all over to you

A SIX-week consultation on plans for at least 400 new homes in Henley and Harpsden begins today (Friday).

The first draft of the parishes’ joint neighbourhood plan is available for inspection and residents are being invited to give their views.

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The 60-page document names nine sites where up to 485 homes could be built between now and 2027 and outlines policies on improving social infrastructure, traffic and transport, the town centre, retail, the economy and the environment. Councillor Dieter Hinke, chairman of the neighbourhood plan governance committee, said the plan process was at a crucial point.

“This draft plan was put forward by about 70 local residents and we now need to know what you think,” he said. “Let’s all participate — register your opinions and complete questionnaires.

“That way, when we go to the referendum, the plan should pass as it reflects your views. This has been a ‘people’s plan’ from the start and it must continue that way. When the houses are built, it is too late. Now is the time to speak.”

The plan says 400 homes is the ideal figure but this could increase if necessary. It says 190 could be built at Highlands Farm and 53 could go at the former Empstead Works site, both off Greys Road. The latter would be part of a mixed-use development also including employment.

A further 55 are proposed for the Jet petrol station and former National Tyres garage in Reading Road. The filling station is due to shut at the end of this month.

The plan proposes 30 dwellings at the former Exclusively Ladies gym opposite Tesco and relocating the Henley Hockey Club and AFC Henley headquarters to an improved home at Jubilee Park sports ground.

Another 27 are earmarked for the site of the Chilterns End care home in Chilterns End Close, which will move to Townlands Hospital once it has been rebuilt.

The plan says 20 homes could go at the offices of removal firm Wilkins in Deanfield Avenue, 15 on land at Parkside, off Gravel Hill, and 10 at the former Royal Marines Reserve headquarters in Friday Street. The document also says Gillotts School is the only other site where more housing would be “acceptable”.

The academy in Gillotts Lane has offered a 3.4 hectare field to the east of its estate for development. It says it must sell the land as its buildings need extensive refurbishment and it cannot fund this any other way.

The plan says the school is a special case because it “provides an extraordinary benefit to the town”. It would approve up to 85 new homes but any development would have to be screened from public view and the school’s sports facilities would have to be open to the public.

Developers would have to contribute to local amenities by either building them or providing funding. These would include schools, health centres, play areas, sports facilities, halls and youth centres.

The plan says many community groups are working from outdated premises, including Henley Youth Centre in Deanfield Avenue, the Over-60s club in Greys Road car park and the scout hut in Greys Road.

Developments with more 10 dwellings would also have to contribute to the improvement of outdoor amenities such as Makins recreation ground, Jubilee Park, Freeman’s Meadow and Mill Meadows. There might also be demands to fund new public parks, gardens or allotments to offset Henley’s “deficit” of green space.

The plan says the market place should be promoted as a retail and restaurant hub and that plans for more restaurants in the northern half of the square should be encouraged, as should plans for market stalls. A bike rack should also be provided.

Drivers should be encouraged to park at the station and there should be a signed pedestrian route from there to the town centre. The plan says more parking spaces are needed generally and multi-storey or underground bays at the car parks in King’s Road, Greys Road and the station should be considered. The former Latino’s nightclub in Hart Street is recommended for redevelopment, preferably a covered market. Similar plans were mooted in 2010 but never materialised.

The document says temporary “pop-up” shops should be encouraged to take up vacant town centre premises.

Certain shops should be listed as assets of community value, meaning only local people could bid for them in the first six months they were on the market, to discourage developers from turning them into homes. Other suggestions include more arts and crafts markets and food festivals, the promotion of Henley as a tourist destination and a scheme to encourage affordable retail rents.

The plan also calls for late-night shopping evenings, a loyalty scheme for local traders and a bus service to and from Heathrow Airport.

To support the economy, it recommends setting up a new hub for small to medium-sized businesses at Highlands Farm and says new commercial premises should be built at the former Wyevale Garden Centre on the A4155 near Shiplake and at the southern end of the station car park.

It also calls for more office space in the town centre and for the expansion and renovation of the light industrial estate off Reading Road. Developments of more than nine homes or 500 sq m would require a transport assessment to gauge their impact on traffic and air quality.

Developers would be required to provide improved walking or cycling routes and charging points for electric cars and to help set up car sharing schemes. The plan recommends a cycle path from Henley to Shiplake and beyond to Twyford and another from Fair Mile to the town centre via Luker Avenue.

It says a park and ride scheme could be set up using either bus or boat and recommends increasing the frequency of trains to and from Henley as well as investigating the possibility of a halt at Tesco.

The draft plan was put together by a series of volunteer steering groups under Henley Town Council’s supervision. It can be viewed online or in the foyer of Henley town hall until the consultation ends on June 27. There will be drop-in exhibitions in the council chamber on May 30 from noon to 8pm, May 31 from 10am to 4pm and June 25 and 26 from 5pm to 9pm.

Town councillors will also host public exhibitions, details of which will be announced on the neighbourhood plan website. Residents can comment on any aspect of the plan by filling out a form or completing an online survey. Feedback will be reviewed and, if necessary, the document will be amended before it is submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council for independent inspection.

If it passes, it will then be put to a referendum which will be open to registered electors in both parishes. If more than half of voters approve it, it will become a legally binding planning document. It is hoped that the referendum will be conducted before the end of this year.

To read the draft plan or download a questionnaire, visit The complete the survey, visit

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