Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Historic office building to make way for flats

PLANS to demolish an 18th century building adjacent to Henley Bridge to make way for flats have been approved.

PLANS to demolish an 18th century building adjacent to Henley Bridge to make way for flats have been approved.

Cullum White Properties has been granted permission by Wokingham Borough Council to build three two-bedroom flats and a one-bedroom flat on the site of Thames Bridge House. The disused office building, which is thought to have been built before 1820, is a two- and three-storey property with attic rooms and a basement.

It sits in the green belt, flood zone and conservation area and is separated from the Grade I listed bridge by the Henley Royal Regatta headquarters.

The building has been used in a number of ways over the last 50 years and was once known as Regatta House after it was bought with the intention of it becoming the regatta headquarters.

In June 2011, an application for five flats to be built on the site of Thames Bridge House was withdrawn after town councillors said the area should be protected as it is an entry to the town.

District council officers had said the volume and height of the development should be reduced and the flats designed in a more traditional style.

The revised plans have been scaled down and no longer include balconies overlooking the regatta headquarters.

Thames Bridge House has been described by the developer as having no architectural merit.

He said: “The potential to re-let the buildings as offices is very limited as the internal quality is generally not of a very high standard, coupled with the poor state of the commercial office market.

“A better option is to return it to its original residential use. The interior spaces do not lend themselves to creating good-quality residential accommodation without a significant amount of alteration work.

“Together with the owners, we have concluded that the best option for this site is to demolish the existing buildings and replace them with one new building which would provide high-quality flat accommodation in line with its original use and is appropriate for this site and its relationship with Henley town.”

Stephen Power, of chartered surveyors Simmons & Sons, said: “Given the nature of the property and the current state of repair and condition, coupled with the extremely poor demand for offices in the South Oxfordshire area, it is unlikely that we would find an occupier within a short marketing period.”

Planning officer Hannah Wilson said: “Construction of new buildings in the green belt is considered to be inappropriate unless they are for certain purposes, including the replacement of a building.

“It is noted that the use of the teplacement building would change from office to residential but it is acknowledged that Thames Bridge House was previously in residential use in the Fifties and in part up to the Seventies before being progressively converted into offices.

“In this regard, the return of a building on this site to residential use is not considered to represent a fundamental conflict with policy.

“The existing building is unsuitable for residential conversion because of its age and layout. The internal quality of the offices is not high and these are difficult to refurbish given the age, layout and deteriorating quality of the building.

“This, combined with the poor state of the commercial office market with very low demand, has resulted in the property being vacant for some time and would make it commercially unviable to refurbish to the extent required to be re-let as modern offices.”

District council officers had said the volume and height of the development should be reduced and the flats designed in a more traditional style.

The revised plans have been scaled down and no longer include balconies overlooking the regatta headquarters.

Thames Bridge House has been described by the developer as having no architectural merit.

He said: “The potential to re-let the buildings as offices is very limited as the internal quality is generally not of a very high standard, coupled with the poor state of the commercial office market.

“A better option is to return it to its original residential use. The interior spaces do not lend themselves to creating good-quality residential accommodation without a significant amount of alteration work.

“Together with the owners, we have concluded that the best option for this site is to demolish the existing buildings and replace them with one new building which would provide high-quality flat accommodation in line with its original use and is appropriate for this site and its relationship with Henley town.”

Stephen Power, of chartered surveyors Simmons & Sons, said: “Given the nature of the property and the current state of repair and condition, coupled with the extremely poor demand for offices in the South Oxfordshire area, it is unlikely that we would find an occupier within a short marketing period.”

Planning officer Hannah Wilson said: “Construction of new buildings in the green belt is considered to be inappropriate unless they are for certain purposes, including the replacement of a building.

“It is noted that the use of the teplacement building would change from office to residential but it is acknowledged that Thames Bridge House was previously in residential use in the Fifties and in part up to the Seventies before being progressively converted into offices.

“In this regard, the return of a building on this site to residential use is not considered to represent a fundamental conflict with policy.

“The existing building is unsuitable for residential conversion because of its age and layout. The internal quality of the offices is not high and these are difficult to refurbish given the age, layout and deteriorating quality of the building.

“This, combined with the poor state of the commercial office market with very low demand, has resulted in the property being vacant for some time and would make it commercially unviable to refurbish to the extent required to be re-let as modern offices.”

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