Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Plan for 170 new homes on industrial estate approved

PLANS to build 170 homes at Highlands Farm in Henley have been given the go-ahead.

Crest Nicholson has been granted outline planning permission to redevelop the light industrial estate off Greys Road.

A total of 102 of the new houses and flats will be sold at the market rate while the remaining 68 will be classed as “affordable” with rents or purchase prices fixed below that.

It is expected that the development will include 25 houses with two bedrooms, 40 with three, 38 with four and 25 with five as well as 40 two-bedroom flats and two single-bedroom flats.

It will also have 2,000 sq m of offices or warehouses, a community centre and public open space.

The main entrance and exit to the new estate will be via Highlands Lane, off Greys Road, which will have a 1.8m-wide pavement and be lined with lime trees.

Highlands Farm falls within Harpsden parish and is one of 11 sites earmarked for housing in the Henley and Harpsden joint neighbourhood plan, which passed a referendum last year. The document outlines where about 500 new homes should be built by 2027 to meet government targets.

Henley property developer Alan Pontin, who owns the 12.8-hectare site, said: “I’m very pleased that the scheme has been approved and delighted to be fully complying with the neighbourhood plan.

“I firmly believe it will meet a demand for affordable housing and I’m disappointed that other applicants have provided either none or less than the expected quota of 40 per cent.”

Henley Mayor Julian Brookes said: “Highlands Farm has been a somewhat controversial site but it is in the neighbourhood plan and will deliver a 40 per cent quota of affordable homes, unlike at some sites that were approved last year.

“There are traffic issues to be resolved but we are working through this with our transport strategy group, which should ensure that they are taken into account.

“We need to get on with building those homes, especially the affordable ones as they are urgently needed in Henley.”

Henley Town Council supported the plans on the condition that any work was approved by Oxfordshire County Council’s archaeology officers following a survey which found that parts of the site have high potential for evidence of the Paleolithic era, about 2.6 million years ago.

South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, says an archaeological investigation must be conducted by an independent expert and a report of the findings must be published.

Harpsden Parish Council did not object to the scheme but expressed concern about extra traffic on Gillotts Lane, saying construction should not start until suitable mitigation measures were agreed.

The district council agreed and says Crest Nicholson must:

l Extend the pavement and create an uncontrolled pedestrian crossing in Greys Road.

l Install new signs on the Peppard Lane bridleway and resurface it.

l Install dropped pavements on the route to Valley Road Primary School and resurface it.

l Install traffic-calming measures outside homes on the access road to Highlands Farm.

l Create three build-outs to slow down vehicles using Gillotts Lane.

The Ancient Monuments Society, the Henley Society and the Henley Archaeological and Historical Group called for some of the 500-year-old buildings on the site to be maintained. These include the original farmhouse and barn, thought to be from the mid-18th century, and the stable from the 19th century. 

However, English Heritage said the buildings had undergone many alterations over the decades and could not be listed.  Crest Nicholson argued the farmstead was of “limited architectural and historical interest”.

The developer says there will be fewer vehicle movements to and from the site during the rush hours than there are now and there will be a “significant” reduction in visits by heavy goods vehicles. 

It also says studies have shown there will be “no material impact” on traffic in Henley town centre.  However, the district council says the company must carry out modelling work to gauge the impact on air quality and propose measures for mitigating any increase.

It must also write a “green” travel plan outlining ways in which residents of the estate will be encouraged to travel on foot, by bicycle or by public transport.

Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, believes the scheme will generate demand for 60 extra primary school places, 41 at secondary school and seven at sixth-form level, including at least one pupil with special needs.

This could be met by expanding Badgemore Primary School and Gillotts School in Henley and Bishopswood Special School in Sonning Common, which would be funded by a statutory contribution of £1.7million from Crest Nicholson.

Kester George, chairman of Harpsden Parish Council, said: “I’m still of the view that the access arrangements will be a blight on Henley and Harpsden because of the respective impact on Greys Road and Gillotts Lane.

“However, it is such a good, open brownfield site for housing that it was bound to get through and I trust the planning conditions will minimise the impact from traffic.”

Crest Nicholson hopes to secure full planning permission by April and begin construction by December 31.

A spokesman said: “This enables us to bring forward much-needed high quality, well designed and sustainable new housing to the area.”

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