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Suitable sites for development?
Published 26/11/13



1. The Jet petrol station and National Tyres garage

The Jet petrol station and National Tyres garage in Reading Road, now owned by developer Inland Homes. The 1.34 acre site also includes the tarmac yard off Mill Lane and the overgrown wasteland behind it. Inland wants to build up to 60 homes, most of which would be flats with one or two bedrooms. It is considering two layouts for the development, both made up of blocks up to three storeys. One option is to build the blocks in a square with a large garden in the middle and the other is to have one main building and several smaller blocks connected by a series of mews, gardens and courtyards. Either design would be set back from Reading Road behind trees. In its presentation to the neighbourhood plan working group, Inland said: “[This] represents an exciting opportunity to make a significant contribution to the housing requirement for Henley, importantly, through the redevelopment of a previously developed infill site within the urban area. The site is under-used at present, makes only a small contribution to the economy of Henley and does not contribute to the visual amenity of the area. With development, the physical appearance of the site would be much improved, with benefits for the amenity of those living close by.”

2. Gravel Hill

A parcel of woodland south of Gravel Hill between Parkside and Pack and Prime Lane. Millgate Homes, of Twyford, owns the 2.5 acre site and wants to build a complex with 15 apartments. The flats would be aimed at young professionals and people downsizing. The block would be built in the middle of the site and the trees surrounding it would be retained. It would be accessed via a new road linking Parkside with Gravel Hill. There would be a communal garden to the north of the flats and more than 24 parking spaces to the south. Millgate says it could be built within a year. In 2003, the site was the subject of a failed planning appeal for a two-storey detached house with an outdoor swimming pool. The inspector agreed it had “limited impact on public views” but was outside the built-up area of Henley, which at the time was against South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning policy. Millgate said: “The site is unmanaged and contains a number of generally low-quality tree species. [It] should be favoured over other options given its location outside the AONB… minimal landscape impact and proximity to the town centre. Residential development would represent an efficient and effective use of a site presently in no publicly beneficial use.”

3. Wilkins offices, Deanfield Avenue

Removals and shipping firm Wilkins has offered its offices in Deanfield Avenue, opposite The Henley College’s Deanfield campus. Director John Miles says the company is looking to move to an alternative site in Henley which would “better suit our future business needs”. The company says up to 19 flats of one or two bedrooms could be built on the 0.8 acre site, where Wilkins has operated since 1880. Mr Miles said: “We have not assessed the site capacity in detail but recognise that this is a brownfield infill site in a sustainable location within the centre of Henley, close to transport, retail and other facilities.” The company is considering moving to a vacant 0.6 acre site it owns in Newtown Road, next to Thamesview Tyres and builders’ merchants F J Williams. If this went ahead, it would want to build a mixed-use development with four new homes to the rear of the premises. Wilkins says homes could be built on both sites within five years.

4. Empstead Works industrial estate, Greys Road

Stuart Turner says it is willing to give up the Empstead Works industrial estate in Greys Road. The pump manufacturer bought the 17 neighbouring units when it merged with commercial property firm Walden & Son, the previous owner, in June last year. It is still letting the units but says there is space for up to 38 homes. Managing director Mark Williams said: “Although we have no current plans that would release the land for alternative use, the directors… feel they would be failing in their duty to shareholders not to have our combined site considered for inclusion within this new neighbourhood plan.” Walden & Son was based at the site for more than 100 years. It used to be a building contractor and joinery manufacturer but ceased this in 2007. It sought planning permission for a mixed-use development including 37 dwellings, which was refused by the district council and dismissed on appeal. However, in a core strategy document compiled this year, the council said the site was suitable “in principle” for 25 homes.

5. Highlands Farm, Greys Road

Highlands Farm, a light industrial estate off Greys Road, has been put forward by property developer Alan Pontin, who has put together a proposal for about 140 homes in partnership with house builder Crest Nicholson. They hope to build on a field at the south-eastern corner of the 83 acre site. Most of the properties would be two-storey family homes of between two and five bedrooms. The houses would be arranged in blocks around a village green with sports pitches and a village square. They would be accessed via a tree-lined boulevard off Greys Road. New footpaths would connect the estate to the town green at Gillotts Field and an existing barn could be converted into a community shop. Crest Nicholson says there would be no overall increase in traffic movements and that the number of heavy vehicles visiting the estate would decrease. A spokesman said: “The vision is to deliver a vibrant, well-balanced… small new community but integrated with Henley and Harpsden.” English Villages, a specialist care operator, proposed building a 244-bedroom development using 18 acres of Highlands Farm but has put the plans on hold.

6. Treetops House, Gillotts Lane

Robert Hale, the owner of Treetops House in Gillotts Lane, has proposed building 47 houses on the six-acre site. Twenty-four of these would have two bedrooms and the remainder would have one, three or four. Nineteen would be affordable, of which five would be for sale under a shared ownership scheme. The properties would be grouped around an “informal courtyard setting” and screened behind an existing avenue of pines. Mr Hale says it would generate 26 extra vehicle movements on Gillotts Lane during the morning and evening rush hours, which is “well within the maximum capacity of the road”. A new pedestrian and cycle path would be built alongside Gillotts Lane with a crossing to the north of Gillotts School. Mr Hale said: “The project is economically viable and there is considerable local demand for the types of housing proposed. The location of the site, contiguous with the existing built-up area of Henley, means that it is well-placed to access all local services… the adjacent green infrastructure will provide an attractive and healthy living environment for the residents.”

7. Lucy's Farm, Gillotts Lane

Lucy’s Farm in Gillotts Lane has been offered by owner Pat Hiscock to Bloor Homes for development. The company says Lucy’s Farm is “clearly the most appropriate” site for development as it is not in the AONB. In a report to the neighbourhood plan committee, Bloor said it would screen the new homes with “generous” tree planting along the northern and southern edges. It said the houses would be kept in the centre of the site to leave room for two play areas and a new footpath between Blandy Road and Rotherfield Road. The streets would run in parallel lines from north to south to “allow long vistas within the site”. A row of mature trees along the western edge and a small coniferous copse would be retained. A spokesman said: “The Bloor team has considerable experience in creating places of character and local distinctiveness and will work with the local community to create a development that preserves and enhances the area.” Mr Hiscock did not want to comment. The district council says up to 130 homes would fit on the 20.3 acre site and the town council has offered a site which could be used as an access road. This is a narrow copse in Blandy Road which backs on to Drawback Hill, to the west of Peppard Road and Rotherfield Road.

8. Exclusively Ladies gym, Reading Road

The former Exclusively Ladies gym off Reading Road, which shut in 2010, is owned by Henley Town Council. It is one of two council-owned sites that members agreed to put forward for development at a confidential meeting earlier this month. The site, which is next to the Tesco supermarket, is still used as a clubhouse and changing rooms by AFC Henley and Henley Hockey Club as well as several businesses including the Chi hair salon and de Lange Health and Beauty. If the council was to sell the land, it says it would use part of the money to build new facilities on the fields behind Jubilee Park. If Inland Homes is given permission to build on the neighbouring Jet garage site, it says it would be willing to buy the council land and develop it.

9. Waterman's Spinney

Waterman’s Spinney, behind the Waterman’s allotments, is one of two sites that town councillors have agreed to offer for development. The wooded area to the south of Lawson Road is protected by a tree preservation order but the council says this does not matter as it is “unattractive” and has “no aesthetic value”. It says it would be an ideal location for affordable housing.

10. Luker Avenue and Fair Mile

A 9.1 acre field immediately north-west of Luker Avenue, which the district council says could accommodate up to 75 homes. The site is jointly owned by estate agent Bilben Estates, of Maidenhead, Thames Properties, of Richmond, and Domus Developments, of London. Domus has told the district council it intends to build there within the next five years. If the houses were built, the main entrance would be off Fair Mile with a pedestrian and emergency vehicle entrance at the end of Luker Avenue. The main entrance would be on a stretch of road that has a 60mph speed limit and the company says this should be reduced for safety reasons. The town council has said it would offer a section of grass verge along the southern half of Fair Mile for access. Between 1965 and 2002, there were 16 attempts to get planning permission for homes on the site but all were either refused or withdrawn.

11. Thames Farm, Reading Road

Thames Farm, between Henley and Shiplake. A planning application for 110 homes was unanimously rejected by the district council earlier this month. Owner Claire Engbers’ proposal was recommended for refusal by the council’s own planning officers and Shiplake and Harpsden parish councils. The development would have comprised nine one-bedroom flats on the 15 acre site and 101 houses ranging from 30 with two bedrooms to eight with five. Forty per cent would have been affordable. The district council said it was inappropriate development of a rural site and there was not enough local infrastructure to support it. In a statement to the working group, Mrs Engbers’ agent DPDS Consulting said: “The location is highly sustainable, having good transport links to Henley… and a range of local facilities within Shiplake. The site does not have any sensitive landscape designation such as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it is not within the designated green belt.”

12. Wyevale garden centre, Reading Road

The former Wyevale garden centre, next door to Thames Farm. The garden centre shut in 2009 and there were plans to relocate the Toad Hall garden centre, which is based at Fawley Court, to the site. However, the deal fell through and the 4.5 acre site has been abandoned ever since, prompting concerns that it is becoming an eyesore. Last year, security guards blocked the main gate with large logs to deter intruders.

13. Mount Ida, Reading Road

Mount Ida, a private residence off Reading Road almost immediately opposite the entrance to Thames Farm. Owner Richard Garton says 30 homes could fit on the 1.9 acre site. Mount Ida is currently the only house on the plot and Mr Garton’s agent RPS Planning says this is a “profligate use of land… and is clearly at odds with [the district council’s planning policies], which encourage far higher densities than this.” RPS does not say what type of homes could be built. It says Shiplake is clearly the most appropriate village in the district to develop because of its rail and bus links and proximity to Henley and Reading.

14. Sheephose Farm, Reading Road

Sheephouse Farmhouse, a private residence to the east of Reading Road and south of Jubilee Park and the Tesco supermarket. The 0.75 acre site, currently accessed by a private driveway opposite the right-hand turn towards Harpsden, is mostly used for farming and has a private garden to the rear. Owner Vaughn Tanner volunteered it for the district council’s core strategy in 2010 but it was not included.He is yet to submit a detailed proposal but Nexus Planning, the neighbourhood plan’s consultants, believes the site could accommodate up to 30 homes. However, the land would not be available for at least 10 years.

15. The Chilterns End care home

The Chilterns End care home in Chilterns End Close is due to move to the new Townlands Hospital when it is redeveloped. Nexus Planning says an unnamed developer believes up to 25 homes could go on the home site. These could be built within the next three to five years. The home, owned by the Order of St John Care Trust, currently has 46 beds but will have 64 after it relocates. However, the redevelopment of Townlands has been delayed nine times and slipped back more than three years from its original start date. The work is not due to begin until next spring at the earliest. In 2011, Oxfordshire County Council, which is responsible for adult social care, said the home needed to move as it was not fit to meet the future needs of Henley’s elderly. It said the town was “grossly undersupplied” by care home places and that the fabric of the buildings at Chilterns End were starting to suffer.


Published 26/11/13

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