Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Developer traffic estimates ‘misleading’

THE developer behind plans for 170 homes on the outskirts of Henley has been accused of making “misleading”

THE developer behind plans for 170 homes on the outskirts of Henley has been accused of making “misleading” claims about how much traffic they would generate.

Crest Nicholson said its planned development at the Highlands Farm industrial estate, off Greys Road, would cause fewer vehicle journeys during the rush hours than currently.

It also said there would be “no material impact” on congestion in the town centre.

But the chairman of Harpsden Parish Council said the company’s claims were based on the industrial estate being at capacity when in reality it was under-occupied.

Councillor Kester George said: “It’s very misleading and a mischievous assertion. They are comparing future traffic with levels that have never been reached.

“If the site made full use of its existing planning rights, traffic from the site would be at least equal to that from housing. However, Highlands Farm has manifestly failed to attract industrial development.”

According to a £50,000 report commissioned by Henley Town Council, the development of Highlands Farm would be the main contributor to a traffic increase from new housing developments.

The document, written by Peter Brett Associates, said about 120 extra cars would pass through the town each day if 450 new homes were built in line the original joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

The average increase would be 12 per cent but that figure would be 13.1 per cent in both directions on Greys Road and 16.9 per cent going west along St Mark’s Road, which was expected to be used as a “rat run”.

When the report was published, seven of the neighbourhood plan’s 11 development sites were in Greys Road or adjoining streets with a combined total of 315 homes, or 70 per cent of the town’s quota.

Highlands Farm was due to take 140 while the others were a field at Gillotts School (50), the Makower textiles offices (13), Henley Enterprise Park (42) and the Chilterns End care home (27) plus Henley Youth Centre (23) and the Wilkins removal offices (20), both in Deanfield Avenue.

The report said building 140 homes at Highlands Farm would generate 29 vehicle arrivals and 64 departures in the morning rush hour and 51 arrivals and 40 departures in the evening. Since then the number of houses in the plan has risen to 500.

Councillor David Nimmo Smith, chairman of Henley Town Council’s planning committee and the town’s county councillor, said: “I haven’t seen any figures to support Crest Nicholson’s claims but I would question that it would have no impact.

“Traffic in Henley is going to increase generally and Highlands Farm will play a significant part in that. I would suggest that it would exacerbate congestion at the lights at the bottom of Greys Road. It’s academic how traffic from new housing might relate to past uses — we’re only interested in what impact it will have in the future and how we can deal with it.”

Both councillors said they supported the principle of development at Highlands Farm. Cllr George said: “Highlands Farm is a necessary element of the neighbourhood plan and clearly a good building site in itself — the problems arise surrounding access.

“The developers have shown they can create a decent, village-style environment and it’s inevitable that some people will be upset by it. The plan is a compromise and must pursue the least damaging options.”

As the Henley Standard reported last week, Crest Nicholson has submitted a planning application to South Oxfordshire District Council.

It is proposing several build-outs in Gillotts Lane which would narrow it in places to one car width, discouraging drivers from using it as a short cut between Greys Road and Harpsden village.

It says it would extend the pavements along Gillotts Lane and Greys Road to encourage walking and would pay for dropped kerbs along the route to Valley Road Primary School. It would discuss the possibility of subsidising a bus route to the new estate with Oxfordshire County Council.

Cllr George said: “The parish council regards restraints on Gillotts Lane as an essential condition for any work to proceed. In our view, the build-outs should make traffic tolerable. It’s the best that can be done.”

Next week county council highways officers will meet the town council’s transport strategy working group to discuss ways of mitigating the impact from developments in general.

Cllr Nimmo Smith said: “The real issue is the cumulative impact of new housing and that’s what the traffic study was all about. In conjunction with other authorities, the county must work out how to cope with the overall increase.

“Henley is ultimately a medieval town with all the constraints that entails and you can’t just ban cars. It’s very difficult to pour a quart into a pint pot but we will do our best.”

Residents of Gillotts Lane fear the development would increase traffic. Odette Moss said she and her neighbours accepted the quota of 140 homes originally proposed in the neighbourhood plan but the addition of 30 had been made without consultation.

Mrs Moss, a former Harpsden parish councillor, claimed that up to 240 cars would use the lane each day, eroding the verges, damaging hedges and creating potholes.

In a letter to this week’s Henley Standard, Mrs Moss said that residents were being urged to approve the plan at referendum “without any traffic plans in place or  infrastructure”.

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