Thursday, 19 July 2018

Your chance to vote on the future of Henley

A REFERENDUM on the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan will be held on Thursday, March 10

A REFERENDUM on the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan will be held on Thursday, March 10.

The plan names 11 sites where about 500 properties should be built by 2027.

If more than half of voters in the two parishes vote in favour of it, the document will become legally binding and effectively prevent developers from building elsewhere.

The plan has already been approved by an independent examiner and is now with South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority.

The council has not confirmed polling times and locations but it is understood that Henley town hall and Harpsden village hall have both been booked.

Councillor David Nimmo Smith, chairman of the town council’s planning committee, said: “It has taken the best part of three years to get to this stage.

“We’re pleased that we’ve got here and that the inspector gave it the all-clear. It’s in the best interests of Henley to actually have a neighbourhood plan. It will give more certainty about where development will happen.

“The big sites are fixed and people are going to find it very difficult trying to build on sites which aren’t in the plan, have not been successful in getting into the plan, or are new sites.”

Cllr Nimmo Smith urged residents to support the plan, saying: “You’re helping to map out the future of development in Henley. If you don’t vote you can’t complain about the result.

“I would think the people of Henley recognise the work that’s been done and the dedication of people who have put the work in to bring the plan forward and will go along with the plan as presented.”

He was supported by Dieter Hinke, a former town councillor who chaired the now disbanded neighbourhood plan governance committee.

“The houses are coming whatever we do,” he said. “This is a chance for the people of Henley to have an input on where the homes go.

“I think people will see the sense of this and vote ‘yes’ because if they don’t it’ll open Henley up to all sorts of development speculation.”

Mr Hinke said he would have preferred the referendum to take place later in the year when the weather would be better.

“I don’t think the timing is doing us any favours,” he said. “It’s a difficult enough referendum to get people out for as it is. Doing it in winter is going to make it that bit harder.”

Henley MP John Howell, who helped draw up the legislation that introduced neighbourhood planning, said: “I’m very pleased that they have a date for the referendum.

“I would hope that after all the hard work that has been done that it will meet the approval of the people of Henley and Harpsden.”

The sites outlined in the plan include the former youth centre in Deanfield Road, which was said to be able to accommodate 23 homes but where a care home is now planned, and the site of the former Jet garage in Reading Road, which was earmarked for 55 homes but has since been bought by McCarthy & Stone with plans for an “assisted living scheme” for elderly people with disabilities.

Oakford Homes, of Twyford, has exchanged contracts on the site of removals and storage firm Wilkins in Deanfield Avenue, which was earmarked for 20 new homes in the plan.

The company says it is planning a development of 23 flats.

As the Henley Standard also exclusively reveals this week, Crest Nicholson has applied for outline planning permission for 170 homes at the Highlands Farm industrial estate off Greys Road. The plan earmarked the same number.

The document also identified the following sites for development: Henley Enterprise Park (42 homes); the site of the Chilterns End care home (27); the Makower textiles offices in Greys Road (13); a site south-west of Fair Mile (about 60), the former Royal Marine Reserve headquarters in Friday Street (10); the former Exclusively Ladies gym opposite Tesco (30) and a playing field at Gillotts School (50).

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