Sunday, 22 October 2017

Councillor warns of undermining town plan

A TOWN councillor has warned against “driving a coach and horses” through the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan by supporting planning applications not involving one of the sites approved for development.

A TOWN councillor has warned against “driving a coach and horses” through the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan by supporting planning applications not involving one of the sites approved for development.

A meeting of the council’s planning committee heard that plans by luxury watch manufacturer Bremont to move to new premises at Sheephouse Farm, off Reading Road, was “the first test to the validity” of the plan, which was approved in a referendum earlier this month.

Of the 11 approved sites, only the former Wyevale garden centre between Henley and Shiplake was agreed exclusively for commercial development, while both Highlands Farm and Henley Enterprise Park, off Greys Road, can be used for housing and businesses.

Sheephouse Farm was considered as a possible site for housing but rejected.

Committee chairman David Nimmo Smith said: “I don’t have an issue with what they [Bremont] are trying to do, in fact I welcome it. On the other hand, this is not a site in the neighbourhood plan and that is the dichotomy. This is the first test to the validity of the neighbourhood plan and if we drive a coach and horses through it what does that say for future applications?”



Councillor Will Hamilton added: “We looked at Sheephouse Farm. We didn’t allocate it for either housing or commercial, so this application doesn’t currently comply with the neighbourhood plan.”

Bremont wants to move from its current premises off Marlow Road.

The new 1,800sqm premises would have an airfield theme, with a hangar-style building topped with grass and two “wings” on the sides.

A new access road would be constructed and there would be extensive work on car parking and landscaping of the site.

Bremont says Sheephouse Farm provides the “ideal” location for its new premises and its plans would provide a “bespoke sustainable facility” and allow the company to stay in Henley.

The application is supported by Doug MacGregor, whose land borders the site.

He said: “As the immediate neighbours, we welcome this application and the improvement it will bring to what is currently an unused, dilapidated area. The disused buildings and the area around them have been an eyesore and detrimental to the area for many years.

“The application for a new eco-friendly building for the use of a local company and its workforce can only be seen as a benefit to the parish and the area as a whole.” Several councillors supported the application. Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak said: “The neighbourhood plan has been passed but that doesn’t preclude good development.

“We have a good neighbourhood plan but it’s going to last 15 years and there will be application sites coming along that are outside it.

“We have to look at them on their merit and I think this is a good use and a business we want to support.”

Mayor Lorraine Hillier added: “I know it causes a problem but we need small industry and that’s what worries me. It is absolutely necessary for the lifeblood of the town. The neighbour has given the thumbs up so I think it’s acceptable.

“The neighbourhood plan is there to help the planning authority and sadly this is just down to timing.”

Councillor Simon Smith said: “I don’t have a problem if someone wants to develop a new area for a business to go.

“If it was a piece of land on Fair Mile or the top of the hill I would say no but I don’t have a problem with this.”

Councillors agreed to support the application and a final decision will be made by South Oxfordshire District Council in May.



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