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Hospital site could be on Roman ruins
Published 17/09/12

OBJECTIONS have been raised to plans to redevelop Townlands Hospital in Henley.

They follow a report that the 8.7million “health campus” could be built on an area of “archaeological potential”.

A decision is expected next month on a planning application for a new three-storey hospital and 44 new homes submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council by developer Amber Solutions for Care.

Richard Oram, a planning archaeologist at Oxfordshire County Council, says the site should be surveyed before building work begins.

He said: “The proposed development is located in an area of archaeological potential located close to, but outside, the area of the planned medieval town.”

An excavation 200m east of the hospital site found chalk foundations of a “substantial” rectangular Roman building and some Roman pottery. A Roman coin was found 180m north of the site.

Mr Oram said: “The Roman settlement of the area is not well understood and further evidence may survive on the site.

“It is possible that archaeological deposits relating to the late prehistoric and Roman periods may be present and could be disturbed by this development.”

Ruth Gibson, secretary of the Henley Archaeological and Historical Group, said: “We would certainly support field work before building work starts.

“I am very pleased to see the archaeological officer has been quite firm in saying that it should be looked at so as not to miss the opportunity to find out more about Henley’s Saxon and Roman past.” Amber says it is willing to carry out the ground assessment but believes little would be found.

Planning agent Pete Stockall said: “Our archaeological team is working out what trenches might be needed and where — it is standard procedure. It is for those bits of the sites that haven’t been touched to see if there is anything potentially.”

Mr Stockall said that it would take up to three days to dig a trench and about two weeks to report back but longer if something like a Roman settlement was found.

He said that if something was found then the usual process was to leave it in situ and build over the top of it using piling rather than putting in foundations to avoid major ground disturbance.

Mr Stockall said: “We are not aware of there being a major issue. Normally a condition is put in at the start but we are fairly confident that most of the ground has been disturbed at some point.” Meanwhile, Thames Water has written to the district council saying that the existing water supply infrastructure has “insufficient capacity” to meet the demands of the development.

The company says: “Thames Water will aim to provide customers with a minimum pressure of 10m head and a flow rate of nine litres a minute at the point where it leaves Thames Water’s pipes.

“The developer should take account of this minimum pressure in the design of the proposed development.”

Mr Stockall responded: “We are comfortable that what we have proposed will deal with their comments.

“So far, touch wood, we haven’t had anything that would result in additional costs for infrastructure that we haven’t planned for. We have engineers who have done a detailed design and it is a case of explaining that to the relevant bodies.”

More than a dozen residents have sent in comments on the plans to the district council with the majority opposed. Daphne Bewes, of Hop Gardens, said: “We do not want large trees planted on the borders of our property and the hospital as shown on the plans.

“Please, no shrubs higher than our hedge because we have a view over Henley to the hills beyond, which hopefully will only be partially obscured by the portion of the new hospital to be built directly in front of our garden.”

Daniel Jones, of West Street, said the proposed care home on the site would be too near the properties in his street, which is part of the conservation area.

He said: “The three-story structure with balconies overlooking the properties around the courtyard ensures lack of privacy, noise, daylight and sunlight.”

Morten Illum, also of West Street, said: “The proposed care home will be an excessively imposing three- storey block, positioned only a road’s width from existing housing and therefore overshadowing these houses and those at the south end of Hop Gardens.”

Marilyn Shah, of York Road, said: “The new hospital building is of an aggressively contemporary design out of keeping with the surrounding listed buildings on the site and the immediate locality.

“The height of the new building — three floors plus a further level of heating apparatus — will have an overbearing impact on and will overlook York Road.

“The position of the new building on rising ground will considerably increase this adverse impact.”

Mr Stockall says Amber will consider any changes to the design suggested by the district council.

He said: “If anything that could benefit the scheme or any major issues crop up, we will look at them.”

Henley Town Council has recommended the plans are approved.

Published 17/09/12

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