Sunday, 17 December 2017

Flats for elderly ‘would release more homes’

PLANS to build 53 flats for the elderly on the site of the former Jet garage in Henley

PLANS to build 53 flats for the elderly on the site of the former Jet garage in Henley have gone on display.

McCarthy & Stone, which bought the land on the corner of Reading Road and Mill Lane last summer, exhibited blueprints and artists’ impressions at the town hall on Thursday last week.

The developer, which specialises in retirement properties, wants to build a four-storey complex containing one- and two-bedroom “assisted living” flats for private sale.

The flats are aimed at older people who need care due to disability or illness but do not want to go into a care home. They would be self- contained with their own kitchens and bathrooms and owned by the occupants but have carers and other services on site.

The company, which is working with architect Lewis and Hickey, is proposing a single U-shaped building with access off Mill Lane and a car park with about 40 spaces at the back the site.



There would be a large communal lounge on the ground floor plus staff offices, a function room, a communal restaurant with associated kitchen, larder and refuse store plus a laundry room. The two upper floors would mostly consist of flats with space to store and charge mobility scooters.

The inward-facing parts of the building would be up to four storeys but the frontage on Reading Road would be up to three storeys.

The height would vary along its length and it would be built in different styles to give the appearance of multiple smaller buildings.

The developer says it would use “a mixed palette” of local materials, including red brick, render and clay roofing tiles. Some of the upper-floor flats would have large dormers with glazed double doors leading out on to a balcony.

The development would feature “attractive landscaping”, including a community allotment, and would be fenced off with a low brick wall and wrought iron railings.

Inland Homes, the previous owner, secured planning permission to build 55 ordinary flats on the site but pulled out without starting work.

Henley Town Council objected to the proposal twice but supported it after a series of amendments.

McCarthy & Stone says its proposal is smaller than Inland’s, which would have been spread over several smaller buildings broken up by a series of courtyards, and is set further back from Reading Road, increasing privacy for people living opposite.

It says the development would generate less traffic as assisted living residents tend not to drive so the only traffic would be from staff and visitors.

The company says most of the residents would be people downsizing from within a five-mile radius, thereby “releasing local family housing back into the market”.

It also says there is a proven need for specialist housing for older people in the area. McCarthy & Stone plans to submit a planning application to South Oxfordshire District Council in the spring as it wants to discuss the scheme with planning officers first.

The site is earmarked for about 55 homes in the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan, a document which names the sites where about 500 new homes should go by 2027. If McCarthy & Stone’s scheme receives planning permission, it will count towards this quota.

David Nimmo Smith, who chairs Henley Town Council’s planning committee, said councillors would prefer mostly ordinary housing on the site, not an assisted living scheme.

He said the neighbourhood plan says developments of 10 or more dwellings should “meet the needs of different groups in the community” and “provide an appropriate mix in the size, type and tenure of housing”.

Additionally, none of McCarthy & Stone’s flats would be classed as “affordable” with a value fixed below the market rate.

Cllr Nimmo Smith said: “The design appears broadly acceptable as it was similar to the one proposed by Inland Homes, which we eventually recommended for approval and which now has planning permission.

“However, affordable housing isn’t McCarthy & Stone’s line of business so there won’t be any on that site. It’s out of kilter with the neighbourhood plan and we’re very uneasy about that. It would still be classed as housing but it isn’t what we were expecting.

“We will have to wait and see the final application before we come to a conclusion.”

About 45 residents attended the exhibition.

A McCarthy & Stone spokesman said: “We are encouraged by the feedback we have received and would like to thank people for their constructive comments.”

Responding to Cllr Nimmo Smith, he said the company could be required to make contributions towards affordable housing elsewhere in return for being granted planning permission.

He said a neighbourhood plan couldn’t specify the type of housing that should go on a site but Department for Communities and Local Government guidance said it might “influence the type, design, location and mix of new development”.

A care home is also proposed for the former LA Fitness gym in Newtown Road, which would have an entrance on the opposite side of Mill Lane.

Developer Henthames, of Essex, submitted a planning application for the 80-bed, three-storey complex in October.

The district council was due to make a decision on it this month but this was delayed following objections from Network Rail, which says the scheme encroaches on to its land and could affect upgrade work.

Scores of residents are opposed to the plans, as is the town council. Opponents claim it would add to the existing traffic burden on Mill Lane, especially if McCarthy & Stone’s development went ahead too.

Anyone who could not attend the exhibition can see the plans at www.mccarthyandstone-consultation.co.uk/henley or call 0800 298 7040.



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