Saturday, 21 July 2018

£4m in return for new homes

HENLEY is set to receive a windfall of more than £4 million in return for allowing housing development.

HENLEY is set to receive a windfall of more than £4 million in return for allowing housing development.

At least a quarter of the money would be spent on projects that benefit the community.

The town council should be given around £1 million for producing the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan, which says where at least 450 homes should be built by 2027, and would make millions more by selling land for development.

The smaller sum would come from the Government’s community infrastructure levy, which rewards towns which complete plans with 10 per cent more money than those that don’t. The grant is based on the footprint of development in square metres that the town agrees to take.

The money would be paid to South Oxfordshire District Council when construction work starts and then passed on to the town council in instalments.

It could only be spent on community projects like those recommended in the neighbourhood plan, including new schools, health centres, play areas, sports facilities, green spaces, halls and youth centres or improvements to existing ones.

Councillor Dieter Hinke, chairman of the town council’s neighbourhood planning governance committee, said: “I expect the full amount to be about £1 million. This can be spent on community projects in the plan area.

“We will also receive money from the developers, called Section 106, which will help to resolve some of the problems in the areas where the houses will be built.”

The plan also recommends having more restaurants and market stalls in Market Place and for temporary “pop-up” shops to be encouraged to use vacant units.

It says there should be underground or multi- storey parking at one or more of Henley’s car parks with a signed pedestrian route to the town centre.

It also calls for improved cycling routes, including one between Henley and Shiplake, electric car charging points, a park and ride scheme by either bus or boat and more frequent train services.

The town council also expects to earn about £3.5 million by selling the former Exclusively Ladies gym site, off Reading Road.

The site is one of 10 or 11 plots that have been earmarked for housing in the second draft of the neighbourhood plan, which is expected to go out to public consultation later this month.

In a letter to this week’s Henley Standard, Cllr Hinke says: “This all means we should be able to help financially with the problems these extra homes will bring.”

The council would have to pay about £500,000 so that Henley Hockey Club and AFC Henley, whose clubhouses are on the land, can relocate to new facilities at nearby Jubilee Park.

Residents will have six weeks to comment on the second draft of the plan.

These include Henley Youth Centre and the offices of Wilkins removals, both in Deanfield Avenue, a field to the south-west of Fair Mile, land at Parkside, off Gravel Hill, and the former Jet garage and Exclusively Ladies gym sites, both off Reading Road.

Also included are Highlands Farm, Henley Enterprise Park and the offices of Makower textiles, all off Greys Road, the Chilterns End care home in Chilterns End Close and the former Royal Marines Reserve headquarters in Friday Street.

The last site is a playing field at Gillotts School but the Government has not yet decided whether to grant permission for the land to be disposed of. If consent is not given, extra housing will go at Highlands Farm instead.

The sites were chosen by a working group of volunteers from within the parishes on behalf of the town council, which is overseeing the process with its consultants Nexus Planning.

The first draft of the plan was published last summer and was followed by seven weeks of public consultation.

However, only 54 per cent of residents endorsed it and several new sites were put forward by landowners during that period.

Cllr Hinke said the second consultation was vital as the plan must pass independent inspection before going to a referendum. He said: “We would like to shorten the process but were advised that the public had to have a chance to comment on the new sites. It is going as fast as it can.”

If the plan is approved it will become legally binding.

So far, the council has agreed to spend more than £75,000 on the plan, mostly on Nexus’ consultancy fees.

Cllr Hinke said: “The costs of the plan are more than covered by the extra money we will be getting. It is costing a lot and I know some people are concerned about that but it will pay for itself.

“It will be for the town council to decide how it spends the proceeds from the sale of its land.

“However, I would expect it to use some of that money on schemes that mitigate the impact of the extra homes.”a homes.”

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