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10,000 consultation cost for housing offer
Published 21/07/14

HENLEY councillors say they are “not convinced” that The Henley College would be able to relocate to a single site.

The college has offered its two campuses for housing development under the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

It also put forward a smaller parcel of land it owns behind Henley Youth Centre in Deanfield Avenue.

Public consultation on the first draft of the plan, which identifies where up to 479 new homes could go, closed just after the offer was made, so may have to be repeated.

The working groups of volunteers who devised the draft plan could also be reconvened to decide whether the three college sites are more suitable than the nine they have already selected.

The town council, which is overseeing the process, would also have to find another 10,000 to pay Nexus Planning, its consultants, on top of the 100,000 the project is expected to cost.

Members of the council’s neighbourhood plan governance committee met on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

Mike Phelan, who lives in Deanfield Road, near the college, and was a member of the plan’s housing group, said: “At our last meeting we were told unofficially that the college might be putting its land forward. At the time, Nexus’ comment was to suggest that all the work we had done to that point would go in the bin and we would have to start again.”

Committee chairman Dieter Hinke replied: “At this moment we are not convinced that the college site is deliverable. However, Nexus will look into it before we decide whether or not to reconvene the working groups.”

At an earlier finance and strategy management committee meeting, Councillor Will Hamilton said: “Public debate is good and what’s come out of the consultation so far is that the college sites have come into the mix. We have got to keep going and get to the point where we have a fantastic plan for the future.”

Councillor David Nimmo Smith added: “This started off as, and should always be, a people’s plan. This is the price of democracy.”

Councillor Laila Meachin said: “The college decided to come forward at a very late date as part of their own business model to suit themselves. Can we ask them to fund another round [of public consultation]?”

Councillor Jeni Wood replied: “It’s not just the whim of The Henley College, someone actually approached them with an offer. How would the people of the town feel if we didn’t look at all the possible sites?”

The college says it has been approached by “five or six” developers. Principal Tom Espley says a new campus would cost about 50 million. The college’s campuses were valued at 28 million in 2008..

Published 21/07/14

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