Friday, 22 September 2017

You can't build on town green, say councillors

A REQUEST to release two Henley beauty spots for development has been rebuffed by town councillors.

South Oxfordshire District Council’s head of planning Adrian Duffield wrote to the town council asking if it would relinquish Gillotts Corner Field, off Greys Road, and Forty Acre Field, off Valley Road.

But the town council, which owns both sites, has refused.

Gillotts Corner Field was granted town green status in September 2009 following a campaign by residents and town councillors to protect the land, which had been earmarked by the district council as a potential site for 150 homes.

The area is known for its wildflowers and is popular with dog walkers and families.

Forty Acre Field was purchased in 1986 in order to prevent development.

In his letter, Mr Duffield said the district council was compiling its emerging draft Local Plan.

“We are carrying out a wide-ranging assessment of possible housing/development sites within our district,” he said. “We have identified that part of a site we are considering is registered under your name. We are therefore contacting you to ask if you would be interested in releasing this land should we need to recommend it for development.”

There were protests at the move during a meeting of the town council’s planning committee last week.

Valerie Alasia, of the Henley Society, said she was “appalled” by Mr Duffield’s letter.

She said: “Surely it is outrageous of South Oxfordshire District Council to ask if you’re interested in releasing this land for potential development after the town council went to a lot of trouble to get these sites protected for the town.”

David Nimmo Smith, a town, district and county councillor, spoke as a member of the public, saying that to develop any land registered as a town green would be a crime under the Inclosure Act of 1857 and Commons Act of 1876.

He added: “I hope South Oxfordshire District Council will be very, very disappointed with their approach to this council.”

Committee chairman Simon Smith said: “Gillotts Field had been declared a town green, which we did deliberately to stop development on it.

“I can’t even understand why they were asking that question. I’m going to say, ‘no, no way, not a chance’.”

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak said: “We should put a load of ‘nos’ in there and say ‘forget it, don’t come back’.”

The committee also voted to recommend refusal of plans by a developer to build on land that was rejected for inclusion in the town’s neighbourhood plan.

Millgate Homes, of Twyford, has applied for permission to build 10 flats in a single block at Parkside, a 2.5-acre site it owns to the south of Gravel Hill.

Councillors say the site was rejected for new housing so the development should not go ahead.

Three years ago, when landowners were invited to put land forward for the draft Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan, Millgate suggested building 15 homes on the site.

When the document went out to a consultation, 70 per cent of respondents supported development but the site was ruled out because of the impact on surrounding trees, which are subject to a protection order.

Councillor Martin Akehurst said: “We have a neighbourhood plan and residents have spent a sizeable amount of time, effort and money producing this plan and it was voted through with a large majority. It’s up to us to support it.”

Deputy Mayor Will Hamilton said Millgate’s plans made no provision for affordable housing, when the neighbourhood plan stipulated there should 40 per cent at each development.

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