Business owners are celebrating after a planning application which could have forced them out of Henley was rejected.
Long-established companies based at Empstead Works feared for their futures after land owners Waldens announced plans to redevelop its premises and build homes and apartments on the site.
But South Oxfordshire District Council last week kicked out the application, labelling the development ‘cramped, intrusive and out of character’ and warning the loss of employment land would be ‘detrimental’ to the balance of Henley.
Some of the town’s best known companies, including Courtenays Garage, RHL and Lawlors Bakery, have units on the site.
Courtenays Garage started at Empstead more than 15 years ago and dealt with more than 2,500 customers in 2007, predominantly from the nearby area.
Delighted owner Casey Courtenay told the Standard: “It is fantastic news.
“We were extremely worried about what might happen. So many of our customers come from Henley, and there is no way we could have afforded to stay here is the application had been approved.
“The planners have been very clear about what these plans would have done to Henley, and we just hope they don’t go back on their word.
“A large number of our customers have mentioned how unhappy they were with the plans, and asked us where they were going to go if we left.
“We are just happy to be staying in the town and look forward to continue working for our loyal customers.
Simon Smith, of fan manufacturers RHL, said: “It is not only a great result for the businesses on the site, but good news for the town as a whole.
“There are two few of these smaller units in Henley where one man bands can start up their own businesses. It is a perfect area for people to launch a company, because many other places around here are so staggeringly expensive.
“Hopefully this will give the small companies around here peace of mind and let them carry on doing what they do.”
In refusing the application, the planning inspector pointed to a list of reasons why the development would not benefit Henley. “The proposal fails to reinforce local distinctiveness and will result in a cramped environment and an overdevelopment of the site detrimental to the character and visual amenities of the area.
“The development does not demonstrate a high standard of sustainable design [and] it fails to make provision for affordable housing in accordance with the South Oxfordshire Local Plan.”
Waldens declined to comment.