Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Neighbouring council adds objection to watch HQ plan

HARPSDEN Parish Council has added its voice to objections over revised plans for a luxury watch firm’s new headquarters.

Bremont, which is currently based at Sawmills, off Marlow Road, says it needs to relocate as its workforce is growing more quickly than expected.

It wants to create a new purpose-built complex on land at Sheephouse Farm, off Reading Road, immediately south of the Jubilee Park playing fields.

It already has planning permission for an 18,000 sq ft building at the new site, which is a disused piggery, but has changed the design so the footprint would be 34,000 sq ft with 107 car parking spaces compared with 58 in the original plans.

The new wing-shaped building, which was designed by Henley architects Spratley Studios, would be able to accommodate up to 250 staff.

Henley Town Council has supported the plans, but Shiplake Parish Council has called the scheme “unacceptable”.

Now, Harpsden Parish Council says the company has put forward a “fundamentally different proposition”, asking for almost twice the space.

It said: “In our view this is far more than a modification of what was asked for previously and one that undermines the reasons for according the project special treatment in the first place.

“Whether or not this was all part of a deliberate strategy, we urge that the new application needs to be considered without regard to the planning permission already granted to the first scheme since it is now even more clearly at odds with the relevant development plan policies as well as national planning policy.”

The council says the application should be rejected and the merits of the former Wyevale site, off Reading Road, near Shiplake, should be considered.

This land is earmarked for industrial or commercial use in the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan, which passed a referendum in March last year.

Shiplake Parish Council said the new plans were a “huge” increase on the previous application in size of building, number of employees and vehicles.

“The location is unsuitable for such a big development,” it added. “Volume of traffic generated would further exacerbate the existing high volume of traffic on the A4155. The entrance would be on the 50mph section and would pose considerable safety risks. There is no provision for pedestrians and cyclists. The extra traffic would add to the air pollution problem in Henley.

“The scale and bulk of the buildings would have a detrimental impact on the semi-rural area.”

The plans have received a mixed response from residents.

Claudia Rowberry, of Reading Road, Harpsden, said she looked forward to the conversion of the “eyesore” that is the derelict pigsty.

“The futuristic HQ looks absolutely stunning and will be an enhancement for Henley and I sincerely hope that the local councils support the application,” she added.

Lisa Hughes, also of Reading Road, said: “As the immediate neighbour to this development site we support this application to develop a site which is currently an eyesore.”

Simon Keyte, from Shiplake, added: “The proposed development is well thought out, well designed and a good use for the site which is presently a mess. Furthermore, the economic and social benefits the development will bring to Henley and its immediate area are to be applauded and encouraged.”

But Peter Boros, from Shiplake, disagreed, saying: “This application should be rejected and the Bremont company pointed in the direction of the eyesore at the former Wyevale site. Any other solution will make a complete nonsense of the local planning process and send out completely the wrong signals inviting yet further breaches of the planning regime.”

Martyn Watkins, of Quarry Lane, Shiplake, said the scale of the development was “totally unsuitable” for the site. “The development would significantly reduce the area of countryside that separates Henley from Shiplake, which could become an urban sprawl,” he added.

Bremont’s relocation is planned to take place in early 2019. Both sites are part of the Culden Faw Estate, which is owned by Swiss financier Urs Schwarzenbach.

The application says: “Analysis showed that the business was likely to expand considerably such that employment at the site would grow by some 10 per cent per annum over a 10-year period.

“At this level of growth the permitted buildings would require expansion very soon. Bremont took the decision that the buildings provided should seek to accommodate its predicted 250 workforce, even though upon first occupation the buildings would be too large to meet its immediate requirements.”

South Oxfordshire District Council will make a decision by August 30.

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