Monday, 16 July 2018

Listed office building could become home

PLANS to convert a listed office building in Henley into living accommodation have been criticised by town councillors.

PLANS to convert a listed office building in Henley into living accommodation have been criticised by town councillors.

The owners of Northfield House Business Centre in Northfield End want to turn it into a house with seven double bedrooms, all with en-suite bathrooms and dressing areas, a one-bedroom staff flat, cinema, gym, library and wine store.

They also want to build a two-storey “coach house” with four garages with large workshops on the ground floor and a hobbies room, playroom and offices on the first floor.

The planning application says: “Northfield House is perhaps the most dominant building in Northfield End and the most ‘polite’ Regency-style house in this part of Henley.

“In the main house we have sought to minimise any disruption to the historic plan form and historic fabric.

“Not surprisingly, the internal plan lends itself to residential use — after all, that was the purpose for which it was designed.

“The proposed external alterations are very limited, with just the repositioning of one window in the stair tower on the north-west wing.

“In our opinion, the proposed coach house will sit comfortably with its neighbours as it is now lower than the new dwelling at 98 King’s Road.”

Near-neighbour Mr I MacGregor has written a letter of objection to South Oxfordshire District Council, saying the garage block is “very large”.

He said: “We object to the proposed size, which will have an overbearing impact on our property. A single-storey garage block would fit in much better with the surrounding buildings.”

The 19th century building, which is Grade II* listed, was converted into offices in 1993.

The business centre was placed in liquidation in 2008 by multi-millionaire entrepreneur Robert Gaines-Cooper amid claims that the Inland Revenue used the business as an “umbilical cord” to investigating his other companies.

Speaking at a meeting of Henley Town Council’s planning committee, planning consultant Jeff Lowe said: “We consider that our client’s proposal for residential use responds positively to the history of the site, the amenity and the conservation area.

“This is a golden opportunity to return this building to its intended use, which is residential. We do not feel that the loss of unemployment is unacceptable and we are mindful of the fact that as far back as 1993 people were reluctant to allow the house at that time to be converted to office use.”

Dieter Hinke, who chairs the committee, said he had concerns about the garage block.

He said: “I think the house is absolutely beautiful and we all commend what is going on in the house but we would like the applicant to speak to the neighbours to come to a conclusion over the garages.”

Councillor Sam Evans said she was “not happy” about the garage block and that it should be single storey.

Councillor David Clenshaw said: “I have no objection to changing the house back to a residential dwelling — I would think that would be welcomed in a historic building like this.”

He said the garage building was not “objectionable”.

The committee recommended the application is rejected and a final decision will be made by the district council.

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