Friday, 25 May 2018

Development plan ‘based on act of planning piracy’

PLANS to build more than 100 homes on land between Henley and Shiplake have been refused.

PLANS to build more than 100 homes on land between Henley and Shiplake have been refused.

South Oxfordshire District Council unanimously rejected a bid to develop Thames Farm.

Claire Engbers, who owns the 15-acre site off Reading Road, submitted an outline planning application for 110 homes.

She said the development would help Henley meet its target for 400 new homes by 2027 as set out in the district council’s core strategy.

The proposal was recommended for refusal by the council’s own planning officers and Shiplake and Harpsden parish councils.

Dozens of residents sat in the public gallery and applauded when the application was turned down.

Kester George, who chairs Harpsden Parish Council, called the application “disorderly” and “untimely”.

He said: “The applicant believes she can bash her way through planning rules by mere persistence.

“Applications for this site were all founded on an original act of planning piracy that is by erecting a large barn without permission to use as a Trojan horse to invade the neighbouring field.

“Several applications followed, either from the barn or the field, all in defiance of one or more of your policies current at the time. Now we have an application which is disorderly in a different way.

“Thames Farm lies in a rural part of Harpsden, which is now part of the Henley and Harpsden joint neighbourhood plan under which all bids for building houses, including this one, are being considered.

“It has never been considered as the right place for housing. In the words of your policy, developments in the open gaps between settlements will not be permitted.

“Thames Farm is a greenfield site providing rural relief between the two small villages of Harpsden and Shiplake and helps to keep this part of the Thames Valley green.

“Neither village has any urban development within it and putting 110 houses on Thames Farm would seriously impair the rural character of both while adding to congestion on the Henley to Reading road and overloading the very modest local infrastructure.”

Tudor Taylor, who chairs Shiplake Parish Council, said: “To consider a site in isolation does not result in sound and sustainable planning solutions.

“Instead, it results in a series of ad hoc developments which do not provide homes where they are actually needed and untenable pressure on the local infrastructure.

“Public consultation on this proposal has been, at best, superficial. The applicant provides no evidence to demonstrate that local community views have been sought or taken into account.

“Shiplake Cross, Lower Shiplake and Harpsden are smaller villages and only have the facilities and services to accommodate housing numbers suitable for small-scale infill development.

“The applicant’s claim that there is a local shortfall in housing supply is wrong. This application, if approved, could set a precedent that would make it difficult to resist widespread additional ad hoc development to the west of Henley on the A4155 and the potential that the physical distinction of the three separate settlements of Shiplake, Harpsden and Henley will be lost.

“This is not a suitable site for residential development. It’s a greenfield site and any building development would permanently erode the rural character of this corner of the village.”

Councillor Taylor said a 20 per cent increase in housing would lead to “non- sustainable” commuting on the A4155 where there had been numerous accidents and a fatality in 2006.

He added: “We estimate up to 200 extra vehicles would enter and exit this busy stretch of road and lead to pollution, congestion and safety issues.”

Hilary Andrews, who lives in Harpsden, said: “Our house is on the edge of ancient woodland overlooking green fields with the Thames Valley beyond.

“This application would not only spoil this situation but fill the green fields between us and Shiplake with mass housing which would clash with the countryside around it and would spread urban development without any urban infrastructure to support it. It would be terrible destruction of the countryside.”

Dennis Oliver, a member of the steering group co-ordinating the Shiplake community plan, said: “Residents value their community very highly and have an overwhelming desire to maintain the village’s rural character.

“In our recent survey, nearly 80 per cent said they were against extensive greenfield site development. This proposal would lead to a further 21 per cent increase in the number of dwellings in Lower Shiplake.”

David Bartholomew, who represents the area on Oxfordshire County Council, said Binfield Heath Parish Council was “strongly opposed” to the application and that Eye and Dunsden Parish Council was also concerned.

He added that the county council’s education department also objected because Shiplake Primary School was full.

Councillor Rob Simister, who represents Shiplake on the district council and lives in Harpsden, said: “Infrastructure-wise, there is no room in the school. There probably won’t be room to get a pint at the bar if this goes ahead in Shiplake. There is a tree preservation order which should count this out on its own.”

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