Thursday, 23 November 2017

Amenity group joins calls for legal challenge to Thames Farm decision

THE Henley Society is backing calls for a legal challenge to be made to the approval of plans for 95 homes at Thames Farm, near Shiplake.

The civic group says the decision could lead to housing being permitted on other sites not earmarked for development on the Henley and Harpsden joint neighbourhood plan.

Last month a planning inspector granted landowner Claire Engbers’s appeal against South Oxfordshire District Council’s decision not to approve development of the field off Reading Road.

The council has until September 12 to seek a judicial review and is currently taking legal advice on what to do.

It said it was “very disappointed” by the inspector’s decision.

The Henley Society says the development would affect road safety on the A4155 for both drivers and pedestrians and that the inspector had failed to give this sufficient weight.

It also criticised the inspector’s conclusion that the district council had failed to secure enough land to meet the next three years’ housing demand.

The society says his calculations were based on “assumptions” which were overwhelmingly in favour of the development and he underestimated the number of “affordable” dwellings built since 2011, the start of the plan period.

It also says that the development would result in almost 600 new homes being built in Henley and Harpsden by 2027, almost 50 per cent above the original target for that period in the council’s own local plan.

A society spokesman said: “The decision, if allowed to stand, would not only devalue the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan, which was prepared with both the district council’s and a consultant’s support, but all other neighbourhood plans nationwide.”

Meanwhile, a petition started by Shiplake resident Richard Verrall urging the council to seek a judicial review now has 600 signatures. He said: “It is essential that we continue to gather signatories as the inspector’s decision to unilaterally disregard four levels of democracy and the neighbourhood plan sets a troubling precedent.”

Mrs Engbers says the site is not in protected countryside and any road safety concerns can be overcome, a view shared by the inspector.

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