FIFTY-FIVE flats for the former Jet petrol station in Henley have been approved — but are unlikely to
FIFTY-FIVE flats for the former Jet petrol station in Henley have been approved — but are unlikely to be built.
Inland Homes, which submitted the planning application in November 2014, has since sold the site off Reading Road.
McCarthy and Stone, the new owner, wants to build an “assisted living scheme” for elderly people with disabilities. It has already announced that it will consult the public before submitting a new application to South Oxfordshire District Council.
The company asked the district council to determine Inland’s proposal anyway as it was included in the joint Â Henley and Harspden neighbourhood plan.
A spokesman said the new scheme was likely to have fewer units.
Inland’s proposal was for six blocks, up to three storeys in height, with underground parking. There would have been 11 single-bedroom flats, 42 with two bedrooms and two with three.
Henley Town Council initially opposed the application, saying there wasn’t enough green space.
Inland revised the scheme but the council objected again, complaining that there was no information about the amount of affordable housing.
Councillors finally gave their approval in November, following McCarthy and Stone’s purchase of the site and proposal for 21 affordable units, one less than the number required by planning law.
The company said it was not practical to fit 22 such units on the site but offered to pay for one more elsewhere.
Inland’s application was approved by South Oxfordshire’s planning committee despite objections from four residents and the Mill Lane Residents’ Association.
Opponents said the development would be too big and out of keeping with the area and would cause congestion in Mill Lane by attracting extra traffic.
The developer was required to make financial contributions totalling almost £235,000 towards improving local infrastructure and amenities.
This sum included £17,642 for a new clubhouse and gym at Jubilee Park off Reading Road, where AFC Henley and Henley Hockey Club are based.
There would also need to be £15,227 towards swimming facilities, £34,666 towards a new over-60s community centre and £16,510 for doctors’ equipment at the new Townlands Hospital.
The biggest contribution would be £55,000 for bus services, most of which would go towards the 800 route from Henley to Reading, Marlow and High Wycombe.
Planning officers recommended approval, saying the develiment would help provide much-need smaller properties in Henley.
They said would be a high-quality development” and the design was appropriate for its surroundings.
They accepted there was a slight “under-provision” of amenity space but it did not represent “material planning harm” as an extra contribution would be made towards public open spaces elsewhere.
The petrol station shut in June 2014, shortly after the land was submitted for inclusion in the neighbourhood plan.
The land was earmarked for 55 dwellings in the final draft of the document, which names 11 sites in the two parishes where about 500 homes must go by 2027 to meet government targets.
It will go to a referendum by May.
South Oxfordshire district councillor Joan Bland, who appoved of the Inland Homes plans, said she was “horrified” that McCarthy and Stone intended to revise them.
She said: “The original scheme was well designed and I particularly liked the underground parking. It was a good fit with the neighbourhood plan and secured a decent amount of funding for the town.
“It’s frustrating that McCarthy and Stone may change it after it took so long to get planning permission. Henley needs new housing as soon as possible and can’t afford to wait around.
“I have no idea what they’re going to come up with next but I shall be watching very closely.”
But town councillor Will Hamilton, who chaired the council’s neighbourhood planning governance committee before it was dissolved, said: “We can only deal with what’s actually on the table and will have to see what happens next.”
McCarthy and Stone says it is “committed to engaging with the local community”.
Henthames, a developer from Essex, has submitted plans for an 80-bed care home at the former LA Fitness gym off Newtown Road, which it bought for £1.8million last year.
The town council opposes the application, as do several neighbours who fear it will increase traffic and congestion on Mill Lane as this is where the main entrance will be.