Saturday, 24 March 2018

Garden centre site 'is perfect for new homes'

A PLANNING application to redevelop the site of an old garden centre near Henley is expected to be submitted within weeks.

Aida Dellal, who owns the former Wyevale site off Reading Road, near Shiplake, is proposing to build up to 40 new homes and an office block.

The existing buildings, which have fallen into disrepair since the business closed in 2009, would be demolished.

The 4.5-acre plot site is earmarked for only commercial use in the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan but Mrs Dellal says this would not be financially viable.

In a presentation to Henley Town Council’s planning committee last week, her son Alex Hersham said the site required redevelopment.

He said: “It’s a classic brownfield site which the Government is pushing to bring back into use.

“Nobody doesn’t want this site to come forward for development; there’s some debate about what that development should be.

“The community clearly needs homes, especially affordable homes, which is why our mixed-use site will have 40 per cent affordable.”

Mr Hersham said 90 per cent of the 127 people who attended a two-day consultation on the plans in November agreed the site should be redeveloped. Sixty per cent agreed or strongly agreed with a mixed-use development and 75 per cent were positive about the proposed landscaping with a large open green space near the entrance.

Apart from the homes, there would be a building with office or retail units on the ground floor and flats above as well as a community centre.

There could be a mini-roundabout outside the entrance together with new bus stops.

The community centre could be used by Henley’s air cadets, whose current headquarters in Friday Street, Henley, are expected to be sold by the Ministry of Defence for new homes.

Councillor Will Hamilton said: “I believe this site does need to be developed. It has been knocking around for 10 years or so.

“I think it’s a positive step forward for this area. The only thing I’d love to see is a free-use tennis court.”

He also asked if there would be room for a council depot in the commercial area.

Councillor David Eggleton asked if the affordable houses could be allocated exclusively to people from Henley and Shiplake. Mr Hersham agreed, providing this was legally possible.

Mayor Kellie Hinton thanked him for “putting the Henley community first”.

Mrs Dellal owns the land through her business Dairy Lane and it is in Harpsden parish.

The site is next door to Thames Farm, whose owner Claire Engbers has been granted permission for 95 homes on the 14-acre plot despite it not being included in the neighbourhood plan.

Mrs Dellal, who lives at Fawley Court, off Marlow Road, bought the land when the garden centre closed with the intention of providing a new home for the Toad Hall garden centre but the move was scrapped and another occupant could not be found.

It has been vacant ever since, with huge logs permanently barricading the entrance to deter intruders.

Shiplake Parish Council is opposed to residential development at both Thames Farm and the former garden centre site but would welcome light industrial use of the latter.

Earlier this year, plans by watchmaker Bremont for a new 34,000 sq ft headquarters at Sheephouse Farm, off Reading Road, were approved even though the site wasn’t earmarked for commercial use in the neighbourhood plan.

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