Monday, 25 June 2018

MP opposes ex-Mayor on 110 new homes plan

JOHN HOWELL opposes plans to build up to 110 houses on farmland between Henley and Shiplake.

JOHN HOWELL opposes plans to build up to 110 houses on farmland between Henley and Shiplake.

The Henley MP says the proposal by Claire Engbers to develop Thames Farm, off the A4155, should not be alllowed because the site is not in the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

Meanwhile, a former mayor of Henley has come out in favour of the plans.

Mrs Engers has applied for outline planning permission for 95 homes on the 14-acre field, which is in Harpsden parish but close to the border with Shiplake parish.

She is also appealing a decision to refuse her permission for 110 homes for which she applied almost three years ago.

Mr Howell revealed his view at Shiplake’s annual parish meeting last week.

He told residents and members of Shipake Parish Council, which opposes the plans: “As it’s not in the neighbourhood plan, the district council will be refusing it and because it’s not in the plan I am against it.”

Parish council chairman Tudor Taylor told the meeting that the community was united in opposition to Mrs Engbers.

He said: “We are unanimously opposed to development on this site and we will fight extremely hard. Everyone we have approached is against it and so is the democratic process.”

Cllr Taylor urged residents to register their opposition on the district council’s planning portal — the deadline for comments on the latest application is today (Friday).

Mrs Engbers first submitted an outline planning application to South Oxfordshire District Council in July 2013. It was refused following opposition from Harpsden and Shiplake parish councils.

In 2014 she appealed, which led to a public inquiry at Henley town hall where the inspector upheld the district council’s decision.

She then sought a judicial review at the High Court, which overruled the inspector.

Communities minister Greg Clark then appealed against this decision but last month he was refused the right to a hearing, meaning that Mrs Engbers’s appeal must now be considered.

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. Mrs Engbers argues that she and the district council have agreed that any highways problems caused by the development could be overcome.

She claims that the only area of contention is whether the council has identified enough land within South Oxfordshire for new housing. She argues it has not.

The figures for land supply come from the strategic housing market assessment, a report on housing needs in Oxfordshire over the next 15 years.

Mr Howell said he didn’t agree with this assessment and he had been working on his own figures, which he expects to be approved by the Government “imminently”.

He told the meeting: “The inspectors are saying that the district council doesn’t have a five-year housing land supply.

“My figures will be less than those in the strategic housing market assessment and are out for consultation at the moment.

“When they come back the Government will accept them and that will make life a lot easier for the district council and for you.”

Meanwhile, former Henley mayor Jeni Wood has defended Mrs Engbers’s latest proposals, saying the development would meet growing demand for affordable homes in the area. Speaking from the public gallery at a meeting of Henley Town Council’s planning committee, Mrs Wood said: “It offers a mix of beautifully set-out houses in all sizes and it’s somewhere our grandchildren might be able to live.

“Companies in this area would benefit as it would attract young graduates who can afford it, which is what employers are looking for.

“I sat on this committee for seven long years and we always reached the right decisions for the community. I hope that spirit still remains. We’ve been crying out for exactly this sort of thing for years.”

Mrs Wood, who used to live in Blandy Road, Henley, and now lives in Peppard Common, said it was “sad” that opponents had erected signs on lampposts around Shiplake urging villagers to object.

She said: “To me, someone who loves their village wouldn’t plaster hate messages everywhere. It’s horrible.”

The committee voted to recommend refusal, saying Thames Farm wasn’t earmarked for housing in the neighbourhood plan.

The plan names 11 sites suitable for about 500 new homes to be built by 2027 and it passed a referendum in March.

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