THE public consultation on the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan has been extended by a week, writes James Burton.
Residents are being urged to have their say on the first draft of the plan before the new deadline of 5pm next Friday. The document names nine sites where up to 479 new homes could be built by 2027 and sets policies on the local economy, environment and transport.
A six-week consultation was launched on May 16 by Henley Town Council, which is overseeing the process with the help of consultants Nexus Planning.
Almost 3,000 questionnaires have been handed out at various public events but only 250 have been returned.
Deputy Mayor Jeni Wood said: “The sad thing is that we have not had enough forms back but hopefully this extra week will encourage people to fill one out.”
Councillor Dieter Hinke, chairman of the plan governance committee, said: “There’s a sense that people who are happy with it may not bother replying because they think it’s fine and don’t feel they need to. Others may think it’s a done deal already but we want and need people’s opinions.”
He said only 214 people responded to the consultation on Thame’s draft neighbourhood plan, which was approved earlier this year.
There has been a permanent display in Henley town hall for the past six weeks and councillors have run stalls outside shops and at summer fetes.
Mayor Martin Akehurst said: “Every time I go to these public sessions a lot of forms are taken but very few come back.
“There are a lot of forms out there waiting to be filled in so I don’t think there’s a lack of interest.”
Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak said: “The important thing is that we’re hoovering up any refinements we might need to make. If people are unhappy about anything in it, they will write in.”
Following the consultation, the draft will be amended and sent for independent inspection. If it passes this and a subsequent public referendum, it will become a legally enforceable planning document.
Cllr Akehurst said: “People often only fill in questionnaires when they’re dissatisfied. The fact that we’ve not had many back could be a good sign.
“However, it’s going to be open season for developers if this plan doesn’t get through the referendum.
“There’s a lot of money in it for them and they don’t live in Henley so they will just take the money and leave us with any problems.”
Cllr Hinke added: “Without the plan, sites may start to come forward on a ‘first come first served’ basis, so it is important that it is supported.”
To respond to the consultation, collect a questionnaire from the town hall or visit www.jhhnp.co.uk