Sunday, 15 July 2018

School housing plan could affect poll

PLANS to build homes on a school playing field could affect the result of a referendum

PLANS to build homes on a school playing field could affect the result of a referendum on the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

Almost 74 per cent of the 592 people who took part in the recent public consultation on the plan endorsed it.

However, 240 of them only supported it under certain conditions while 59 opposed plans for up to 50 homes on the sports pitch at Gillotts School.

The academy’s trustees hope to sell the 8.4-acre field to fund £14million of new buildings and improvements.

However, if the site is included in the plan, 379 respondents — or 64 per cent — said they would still be in favour of it.

Additionally, 33 people opposed building up to 40 houses on a field south-west of Fair Mile and north of Luker Avenue. If this site was included 459 people, or 68 per cent, would support it.

Thirty-one people who gave conditional support said the plan should prioritise housing for residents of the Henley YMCA in Lawson Road.

Seven were against plans for up to 42 homes at Henley Enterprise Park, formerly known as Empstead Works, off Greys Road.

Seven said plans for up to 140 dwellings at the Highlands Farm industrial estate off Greys Road were “too large.”

Out of 153 people who rejected the plan outright, 19 opposed building at Fair Mile while 11 were against Gillotts.

The six-week consultation finished on March 20 and the council published the headline figures early in April but by the time it had broken down the comments, it said it was too near the election to release them.

The neighbourhood plan, which is now in its second draft, was written by volunteer steering groups under the council’s supervision.

It will be sent to South Oxfordshire District Council for independent inspection over the summer before it goes to a referendum in the autumn. If more than half of voters approve it, it will become a legally binding planning document.

Next week the town council will hold an extraordinary meeting to appoint a new neighbourhood planning governance committee chairman after Dieter Hinke, the previous chairman, was not re-elected at the poll on May 7.

It will also discuss whether to make minor changes to the plan.

Councillor Will Hamilton, who sits on the committee, said the council was not worried by opposition to the Gillotts site because the plan allows for extra housing at Fair Mile and Highlands Farm instead.

He said: “Gillotts is a sensitive area but we have put in reserve sites that will allow those homes to go elsewhere should those sensitivities arise.

“We don’t believe the comments about Gillotts mean there is any risk of the plan failing the referendum.

“We will not be removing any housing sites before we send it off because we feel very strongly that the people of Henley have got what they wanted and we should not meddle with that.”

Another 104 people from surrounding villages responded to the consultation.

When their views are combined with those of Henley and Harpsden residents, support for the plan drops to 71 per cent. However, they are counted separately as they cannot vote in the referendum.

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