Saturday, 15 December 2018

Windfall sites could double new homes total, says ex-Mayor

UP to 1,000 new homes could be built in Henley by 2027, more than double the town’s official allocation, a

UP to 1,000 new homes could be built in Henley by 2027, more than double the town’s official allocation, a former mayor has claimed.

Barry Wood was speaking at a public meeting called by United!, a pressure group made up of residents of the Blandy Road area.

Henley has been allocated 450 homes to be built in the next 14 years under South Oxfordshire District Council’s core strategy.

The town has joined forces with Harpsden to produce a neighbourhood plan to recommend development sites in both parishes, which will be subject to a public referendum.

Dr Wood, who chairs United!, claimed the total number of new homes would be much higher due to the number of “windfall” sites, such as back garden developments, which are not included in the official target.

He said: “It’s highly likely to be 1,000 houses by 2027, which means 500 to 600 children and 1,000 cars. This wonderful place might not be so wonderful if we inflict this many more people on it. I think we need to cap windfalls or we could have an explosion of houses across the region.

“It could mean that our children have to leave town to go to school or we may have to wait five days to see a doctor. Congestion on our roads could also get worse and there would be more CO2 on the streets. Get it right and the converse is true.”

United! used the meeting held at the d:two centre in Market Place to unveil a list of possible sites for development ranked in order of suitability according to certain criteria.

Top of the table came Highlands Farm, off Greys Road, and the Waterman’s allotments, off Reading Road. Other sites in the top 10 included Fair Mile, the Jubilee Park sports facility and Townlands Hospital, where a multi-million redevlopment is due to begin within weeks.

Dr Wood stressed that the list was purely speculative but it should command respect and help the debate.

He said: “It’s absolutely essential that any site is sustainable and the most important thing is that it’s acceptable to the majority of residents. We don’t wish to have anything inflicted upon us.

“Our total belief as United! is that the land is available for 450 houses. What’s in doubt is can the town manage with extra houses and where should they all go? The neighbourhood plan we hope will be the people’s plan.”

More than 30 residents attended the meeting on Wednesday last week, together with councillors from both Henley and Harpsden.

Henley town councillor Will Hamilton, who sits on the governance group of the neighbourhood plan, said: “We have to get this right but we won’t know what is right until we do it. The worst outcome would be if this failed the referendum. Henley is fundamentally changing. This plan is about infrastructure, schools and all sorts, not just an opportunity to input on housing but on everything.”

Henley Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak said: “The neighbourhood plan is non-political. We have a great opportunity to influence recreation, schooling, health facilities and also where houses are going to go.

“We do need a big amount of affordable houses in Henley, both small and large. The important thing is this is the residents’ plan, nothing to do with the town council. As a Henley resident, I have one voice just like everyone else.”

Roy Atkin, of Elizabeth Road, said nothing should be done to make the problem of air pollution in Henley worse.

Drop-in sessions about the neighbourhood plan were held on three days last week to seek the views of residents.For more information about the plan, visit www.jhhnp.co.uk or www.facebook.com/jhhnp

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