Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Offices to homes plan worry

CONCERNS have been raised about the number of offices in Henley being turned into homes.

CONCERNS have been raised about the number of offices in Henley being turned into homes.

Town councillor Stefan Gawrysiak said he was worried about the loss of jobs caused by the conversion of commercial premises.

He spoke out as the town council‘s planning committee considered an application for Chiltern House in Station Road to be converted into eight flats and another to turn the former Henley Festival offices in Friday Street into residential use.

Councillor Gawrysiak said: “My concern is we do seem to be having quite a few conversions from offices into residential accommodation coming through. Does that have an impact on the business accommodation in Henley?“

Commercial premises can be converted for residential use under permitted development rights, which allow certain work and alterations to be carried out without planning permission.

Councillor David Nimmo Smith said that South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, had to comply with the legislation but said the effect would be to reduce the ability of people to live and work in the same town.

Councillor Gawrysiak responded: “Therefore every office in Henley could be converted into flats under permitted development? It seems absolute madness.

“What we should be doing is retaining employment in the town. We want to keep a vibrant town in terms of residential and in terms of business in the town.“

But Councillor Sam Evans replied: “With the level of unemployment in Henley, I don‘t think we‘ve got too much to worry about. I don‘t think we’re losing businesses, I think they’re finding better premises.“

The Henley Festival has sold it former offices and is expected to sub-let two ground floor offices at the River and Rowing Museum.

The Friday Street property was formerly in residential use and the committee recommended the application is approved by the district council.

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