Friday, 18 August 2017

Henley and Harpsden bury hatchet to draw up joint neighbourhood plan

HENLEY and Harpsden have agreed to work together in choosing where new housing development should go.

HENLEY and Harpsden have agreed to work together in choosing where new housing development should go.

The two parishes will co-operate in producing a neighbourhood plan in response to a requirement that 400-plus homes are built in Henley by 2027.

Three of the six possible sites earmarked for development by South Oxfordshire District Council are in Harpsden parish — Treetops, Highlands Farm and Gillotts School. Between them, they will accommodate 260 homes.

Henley Town Council will be the lead authority in setting up the plan and will pay for the majority of its cost, which could be up to £100,000.

An application will now be made to the district council to designate the new neighbourhood plan area. A six-week consultation period will follow.

Town clerk Mike Kennedy said: “The policies that will ultimately shape the plan will evolve over time and will be put together by the community, not the councils. A further series of public consultation days and community engagement will follow soon.

“The plan will be subject to independent examination and a referendum, hopefully to coincide with the Local Elections in May 2015. A great deal of work will take place between now and then.”

A timetable for delivering the plan has now been agreed by the two parish councils and Henley has appointed a neighbourhood planning governance committee to ensure the timetable is completed on time and in budget. The committee will be holding its first meeting with Harpsden council today (Friday) and they will begin to engage with key community stakeholders in the parishes, gather more information from residents and appoint working groups to deal with themes and issues raised from consultation.

Kester George, who chairs Harpsden Parish Council, said it was a “difficult decision” to join Henley but it was important that the parishes worked together.

“We very much dislike the policy of imposing houses that we don’t want,” he said.

“We will simply do the best we can in miserable circumstances with the help of a very friendly and co-operative town council in Henley.

“We will make the best of a very bad job and if in the course of it we can find a way to help the governors rebuild Gillotts School then that would be great, that would be something worth having. But if we simply increase the traffic problems and parking problems we would have clearly failed.

“It is a difficult job but I am sure we will do our best.”

Mr Kennedy said the joint group needed resident volunteers to help produce the neighbourhood plan and asked for people to contact him if they were interested.

He added: “It is important to reiterate that it will be for the working groups, not the neighbourhood planning governance committee or the councils to drive the joint neighbourhood plan and ultimately determine the policies that will feed into the plan.”

If you would like to join a working group or raise any issues, email Mr Kennedy at m.kennedy@ henleytowncouncil.gov.uk with your name and contact details, including a brief summary of the skills, experience and knowledge you possess.

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