Wednesday, 16 August 2017

New homes expected to be approved at second attempt

PLANS for 17 new homes in Henley are being recommended for approval for a second time despite failing to comply with the town’s neighbourhood plan.

Ashill Land says the development off Greys Road would no longer be viable if 40 per cent of the properties were “affordable”, as required by the plan.

Instead, it is proposing to build five affordable flats, or 29 per cent, and 12 houses on the small commercial estate being sold by merchant drapers M Makower & Co.

The scheme was recommended for approval at a meeting of South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee last month but a decision was deferred for a review of the developer’s viability appraisal.

Now planning officer Emma Bowerman has again said the proportion of affordable housing is acceptable and the application should be approved when it is considered by the committee on Wednesday. Deputy Mayor Will Hamilton, who spoke against the application last month, said: “I’m frustrated that they don’t recognise the will of the people of Henley.

“Forty per cent means 40 per cent and that site is quite able to do that.”

He said this would mean providing seven affordable homes instead of five.

Councillor David Nimmo Smith who also spoke at the meeting, said: “I made the point that the viability document submitted by the applicant purported to show that even with no affordable housing the development will make a loss, which is clearly nonsense as no one would submit an application on that basis or offer five affordable houses.

“What Henley wants is 40 per cent affordable housing — that was what was overwhelmingly supported in the neighbourhood plan referendum.”

Dieter Hinke, who chairs the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan steering group, said: “It seems to me a little bit hard to understand why they can’t deliver 40 per cent.”

In her report, Mrs Bowerman says: “Although there is an aspiration that 40 per cent affordable housing will be provided on all development sites, there does have to be some recognition that there may be sites where this would render the development uneconomic and prevent the delivery of any housing.

“The application was accompanied by a viability assessment which concluded that the balance of costs and values associated with bringing forward the site restricted the ability of the development to deliver any affordable housing.

“Regardless of this position, the applicant took a commercial decision to offer the council five one-bed flats as starter homes. The viability appraisal was reviewed on behalf of the council by an independent consultant who concluded that the scheme could support a small surplus.

“Given the outcome of this process, the offer of five affordable homes is welcome and the applicant would forego a normal developer profit to provide this level of affordable housing.

“Following negotiations between the council and the applicant, the affordable housing has been secured as two one-bedroom flats and three two-bedroom flats for shared ownership. This would amount to an affordable housing provision of 29 percent.

“There is a need for shared ownership properties in Henley and the development would help towards meeting the needs of some groups which have difficulty finding homes.

“On the basis of the outcome of the viability process, I consider that the affordable provision is acceptable and would meet some localised need, as required under the neighbourhood plan objectives.”

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