Friday, 20 July 2018

Neighbourhood plan ‘weak’ claims opposition

THE opposition group on Henley Town Council is calling for the neighbourhood plan to be rewritten.

THE opposition group on Henley Town Council is calling for the neighbourhood plan to be rewritten.

Henley Residents’ Group, which was in power when the plan process began in 2013, is opposing the third and final draft that has been submitted to a Government planning inspector by the Conservatives, who won control of the council at the elections in May.

The document names 10 or 11 sites where up to 450 houses should be built in Henley and Harpsden by 2027 in order to meet national targets. If it is approved by the inspector it will go to a referendum in January.

HRG has urged the inspector to seek amendments, saying the party supports the plan in principle but that it has “inadequacies”.

It claims the plan focuses too much on housing at the expense of other issues and should not have been submitted while the results of a £50,000 study into the impact of new housing on traffic were awaited.

It says there has been no formal opportunity to assess whether the results of the study call into question any of the housing sites and that the document is “weak” and “thin” on transport, when most people think that should be “the highest priority”.

Writing on HRG’s behalf, Councillor Jane Smewing also says the plan does not specify how the jobs lost by redeveloping employment sites will be replaced nor how funding for new amenities would be allocated.

Councillor Ian Reissmann, another HRG member, claims the plan is “flawed and incomplete” with “very little on infrastructureâ?¦ other than vaguely aspirational words”.

The council voted to submit the plan in June and not to wait for the traffic study.

The Conservatives feared any delay could leave Henley open to speculative development as the plan was already a year behind schedule.

Meanwhile, several landowners and developers whose sites were excluded from the plan have also objected. They include Bloor Homes, which wanted 60 houses on Drawback Hill behind Blandy Road; Dairy Lane, which wanted to redevelop the former Wyevale garden centre off the A4155 near Shiplake; and Robert Hale, who had offered land at Treetops, off Gillotts Lane.

All three say the plan should allocate more than 450 homes as South Oxfordshire District Council is writing a new local plan. This will run until 2031 and is likely to include a higher annual house building target.

Crest Nicholson, which hopes to build at Highlands Farm off Greys Road, has also objected, even though the site is included in the plan.

The land has been earmarked for up to 140 homes and could get an extra 30 if proposals to develop a playing field at Gillotts School fall through.

However, the developer says the quota should rise to 170 and the Gillotts plan should be ruled out as Highlands Farm is brownfield land, which the plan favours.

Marks & Spencer, which had hoped to build a Simply Food outlet as part of a “mixed-use” development at the former Exclusively Ladies gym off Reading Road, has objected after the site was earmarked for up to 30 homes.

It says 80 per cent of residents it surveyed backed the idea of a store and it would help the plan hit its target of creating an additional 9,200 sq m of retail floor space by 2027.

Of 42 comments to the inspector, 25 were against the plan while seven were in favour and 10 were neutral.

Objections included an alleged lack of detail on air quality improvements, complaints about specific sites and minor wording amendments.

The district council said several policies should be rephrased but that the document was “very well produced, ambitious and comprehensive”.

Henley’s Conservative Mayor Lorraine Hillier said: “The transport study will still form part of the neighbourhood plan. We had to submit the draft so the district council could argue our plan was in the pipeline and protect us from inappropriate planning  applications.”

The consultation closed on September 18 and the inspector’s decision is expected within weeks.

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