Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Henley set to be Eastbourne of the Chilterns?

ANOTHER plan for a care home in Henley looks set to be approved

ANOTHER plan for a care home in Henley looks set to be approved.

B&M Care wants to build a 64-bed unit on the site of the former Henley youth centre in Deanfield Avenue.

The company, which bought the land last year, has been given advice by South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, that a planning application would be likely to succeed, according to the man responsible for implementing the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

Former town councillor Dieter Hinke, who chairs the plan steering group, says the district council planners gave a “positive response” in pre-application advice.

The site is earmarked for 23 ordinary homes in the neighbourhood plan but Mr Hinke told a meeting of his group on Tuesday that B&M Care was told this no longer mattered.

The district council says neighbourhood plans no longer have legal weight because there is a shortage of immediately available housing land across South Oxfordshire.

It says this invalidates its own local plan, of which all neighbourhood plans form part, and no development should be hindered unless it can be proven to cause serious harm to its surroundings.

Furthermore, the district council says that the Henley’s neighbourhood plan’s requirement that all new developments should provide a 40 per cent “affordable” element was not worded strongly enough.

It has already approved an application by McCarthy & Stone for 53 “extra care” units at the former Jet garage site in Reading Road, which was earmarked for 55 ordinary homes in the plan. Planning officers have also recommended approving plans by Henthames, of Essex, for an 80-bed unit at the former LA Fitness gym in Newtown Road.

Meanwhile, Retirement Villages Group, which owns the Thamesfield nursing home in Henley is preparing an application for a 172-bed care “village” on the outskirts of Shiplake.

Mr Hinke, of Elizabeth Road, Henley, said B&M Care was likely to submit its application in a few months.

He said: “The district council has told it that, although the neighbourhood plan suggests around 23 homes for the youth centre site, this doesn’t carry enough weight to overturn its local plan, which says the site isn’t allocated for residential development. Perhaps it should have mentioned this when it sent our plan off for examination last year.

“I think we’re fast becoming the Eastbourne of the Chilterns. The thinking is that moving elderly people into care homes will release their existing properties into the community but that is nonsense.

“The district council is treating our neighbourhood plan with some contempt even though it vociferously asked us to prepare one.”

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