BUSINESSES have been told they could prosper from the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the Henley Partnership, town councillor Sam Evans called the plan the “biggest thing in Henley for the next two generations”.
She said: “This is our legacy for Henley and it’s not a town council thing, it’s a people thing. The council is facilitating it but we’re trying to get people together.”
One of the key issues for the plan is to recommend where 400 homes will be built in Henley by 2027. Other issues include transport, the environment, economy and social facilities.
Volunteers are needed to join the working groups looking at each issue.
Councillor Evans asked partnership members to each offer a couple of hours a month.
She said: “You’ve all got reasons for being in the partnership, which means you’ve got reasons to be involved in the neighbourhood plan.
“The danger of the plan is the only people who are involved are those who are retired because they can give their time.
“We don’t only want retired people in these special interest groups, we want everyone involved. It’s individuals coming in and saying, ‘I can contribute’.
“It’s critical that every member of the partnership understands the part that they can play. There must be a wealth and breadth of knowledge here.”
Member Chris Baker said: “It worries the life out of me that people in Henley just aren’t getting the neighbourhood plan. There are so many opportunities for businesses to get involved.”
Partnership chairwoman Julie Perigo suggested working out how to get the message across to members who hadn’t attended the meeting.
In her chairman’s report, she said some people had questioned what the partnership does.
She said: “I do tend to think it’s like ‘whatever have the Romans done for us?’ If we look to the now and the future there’s a lot we’re doing and a lot more we can do.”
Ms Perigo said the members could opt to pay between £5,000 and £10,000 per year to pay staff to carry out jobs on their behalf or continue paying nominal fees and have the staff work voluntarily.
She said: “I liken the Henley Partnership to a car. It can’t go anywhere unless people are prepared to get in, work out where they want to go and start driving.”
Ms Perigo said the partnership was lucky because there were already a number of people who were striving to take it forward but wanted to see more collaborations between businesses.
“The more ways that we can find to bring people together and link them up in the most useful ways, the better,” she said.
She said the Henley as a Winter Destination initiative, which includes the Living Advent Calendar, had been successful and would continue this year, while an autumn jazz festival was being planned.
The appointment of two new directors was formally ratified at the meeting. Guy Outram is editor of the partnership’s newsletter and website while Keith Douglas is convenor of the Henley Charities Together working group.
Mr Outram said the website was “a little tired” and needed improving. He said members would have their own page on the new site, which would be more active in using social media and could go live next month.
He reported that the partnership had a balance of £12,905, an increase of £580 on the previous year. Mr Outram added: “We’re not trying to make a profit out of this, it’s about trying to find the funds to use for the better of the town.”
Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak said: “We really do value your work and it’s great that the partnership is vibrant, with sections for everything from sports to charities.”
* The neighbourhood plan is expected to take about a year to produce. A draft will be submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council in the spring and the final public referendum is due to take place in the autumn next year. For more information, visit www.jhhnp.co.uk or www.facebook.com/jhhnp