Monday, 25 June 2018

Minister fails to block 110 homes on farm

A GOVERNMENT bid to block plans for 110 houses on farmland between Henley and Shiplake has failed.

A GOVERNMENT bid to block plans for 110 houses on farmland between Henley and Shiplake has failed.

Communities minister Greg Clark hoped to overturn a High Court judgement permitting Claire Engbers, who owns Thames Farm, off the A4155, to appeal against South Oxfordshire District Council’s refusal of the scheme.

However, a panel of judges has denied him the right to a hearing and the original judgement stands.

Mrs Engbers first submitted an outline planning application in July 2013 and it was turned down later that year amid opposition from Harpsden and Shiplake parish councils.

She appealed in 2014 and was again refused permission following a public inquiry at Henley town hall.

Delivering his verdict in May last year, inspector Ian Jenkins said the scheme “would have a severe, adverse, residual, cumulative effect on the safety and convenience of highways users.”

Mrs Engbers then sought a judicial review at the High Court, saying the decision was flawed as she and the district council had agreed any highways problems could be overcome. The only area of contention was whether the planning authority had identified enough land within South Oxfordshire for new housing. She argued it had not and that she expected the appeal to centre on this issue.

Last October, judge David Holgate agreed the inspector’s decision was “legally unfair” as “proper and sufficient” indication wasn’t given about how it would be reached. This didn’t mean the scheme was approved but paved the way for a second planning appeal.

However, Mr Clark believed the inspector had acted appropriately and requested another hearing to defend his verdict. But now that has failed, the new planning appeal will be heard on a date yet to be confirmed.

Mrs Engbers has also applied to the district council for outline permission for 95 homes on the same 14-acre plot, which falls within Harpsden parish but runs close to the border with Shiplake.

Her revised scheme includes 15,000 sq m of green space and she says 40 per cent of the units would be “affordable” to buy or rent.

She said: “I am very pleased with the decision to refuse the Secretary of State leave to appeal. I feel that justice has been done and I look forward to the appeal being heard again.”

At a meeting of Henley Town Council’s planning committee on Tuesday, members recommended refusing permission as Thames Farm is not set for housing in the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

The document, which names 11 sites for about 500 new homes by 2027, passed a referendum in March with more than 80 per cent of votes in favour and is part of the district council’s planning policy.

Councillor David Nimmo Smith, the committee chairman, said the new proposal should be turned down. He said: “Whilst Oxfordshire County Council’s highways officers believe the access is technically okay, common sense says it’s on a dangerous bend for pedestrians.”

But Councillor Sam Evans said: “I think this new application is actually quite a significant reduction in terms of traffic and all sorts of things. If it weren’t for the neighbourhood plan I would support it.”

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