Monday, 25 June 2018

40% of new homes in town ‘must be affordable’

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

PLANS to build 53 flats for the elderly on the site of the former Jet garage in Henley have been criticised by town councillors.

They say the proposed development is out of line with the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan, which earmarked the site for 55 homes on the grounds that 40 per cent of them would be affordable.

McCarthy & Stone, which bought the land on the corner of Reading Road and Mill Lane last summer, wants to build a four-storey complex with one- and two-bedroom “assisted living” flats for private sale.

Inland Homes, the previous owner, had been granted planning permission to build 55 ordinary flats but last year sold the land without starting work. Members of Henley Town Council’s planning committee voted unanimously to recommend that the latest application is rejected by South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority.

Deputy Mayor Julian Brookes said: “It is non-compliant with the neighbourhood plan. We asked how much affordable housing there would be. They said ‘zero’.”

Councillor Sam Evans said: “The lack of any affordable homes is unacceptable.

“Also the location of what they call it — I call it an old people’s home — is fundamentally wrong. There is a very good chance individuals aged 70-plus will not be able to walk across town. If you have younger families and people living in those properties there is a very good chance they will walk to and from town and Tesco and so on.

“The fact that they are already advertising apartments for sale demonstrates their complete lack of respect and disregard for planning.”

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak said: “We should vehemently object. The plan that the people of Henley voted on has all the sites with 40 per cent affordable housing. We have got to stick to that.”

Speaking from the public gallery, former mayor Ken Arlett, of Elizabeth Road, said: “All the developers signed up for the 40 per cent affordable units, this application has none. McCarthy & Stone knew exactly what they took on.” Mr Arlett claimed that the proposed development would set a precedent for other sites in the plan, such as Highlands Farm and the former Henley Youth Centre.

The Henley Society, a conservation group, is also opposed to the development. It said: “It would replace a planning permission that has already been granted with a scheme that would be less appropriate for the town and less consistent with the aims of the neighbourhood plan.

“These aims include achieving a balanced community and meeting the needs of those age and income groups who have difficulty finding homes in Henley. It does not provide affordable housing for young people, which is the main requirement for Henley.

“Even if this type of development was deemed suitable for Henley, this is an unsuitable location, being too far from facilities such as the cinema, theatre and library.

“This scheme does not, and could not, readily incorporate the target 40 per cent of affordable dwellings.

“The scheme should be considered in the context of other developments such as the care home and the planned 34 assisted living apartments on the Townlands site, the planning application for a care home to replace the gym in Newtown Road and the acquisition of the youth centre site by B&M Care.”

McCarthy & Stone proposes to build a single U-shaped building with access off Mill Lane and parking to the rear, which it says is smaller and set further back from Reading Road.

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

The district council will make a decision by April 29.

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