Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Developer's offer of investment fails to convince councillors

A DEVELOPER has offered to pay more than £700,000 to offset the effect of a block of 10 new flats in Henley town centre.

But the town council has still recommended Millgate Homes’ plans are refused planning permission following objections by neighbours in Parkside.

The Ruscombe developer was refused consent last summer because the
2.5-acre site was not included in the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan and the development would mean the loss of protected woodland.

Now the company has applied again, saying that since the neighbourhood plan was adopted South Oxfordshire’s housing need has increased “significantly”.

Henley has been allocated another 350 new homes on top of the 500-plus that were agreed under the neighbourhood plan.

Nicholas Jackson, land and planning consultant at Millgate Homes, told a meeting of the town council’s planning committee that it was “unreasonable” to keep the land south of Gravel Hill undeveloped for the benefit of a few residents when there was a shortage of housing.

He said the company would pay £107,000 for “green off-setting” by replacement tree planting and £600,000 for “affordable” housing elsewhere.

He said the bulk and mass of the proposed development had been decreased and there would be no impact on the adjoining conservation area or the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

But neighbour Colin Cooper said: “The reason it’s not in the neighbourhood plan is that it’s an area of protected woodland. The developers say they don’t think it should be woodland but the fact is, it is.

“It provides great amenity not only to Henley but also to residents in Parkside who live right up close. Hollowing out the middle will destroy it. It will turn it from a woodland into an apartment block with a garden.”

He also said that the three-storey block would be visible to nearby residents and would overlook part of his garden.

Fellow neighbour Daniel Freedman said approving the scheme would be an “affront” to the neighbourhood plan process and local people who were led to believe they had a say on developments in their area.

He added: “It should remain a protected woodland, having an important contribution to the local character and amenity of neighbours.”

Councillor Will Hamilton said he believed the application should be refused as the site was not in the neighbourhood plan and Millgate’s provision for affordable homes was “totally inadequate”.

He was also concerned about access.

Mayor Kellie Hinton said Mr Jackson’s words were “insincere”. Committee chairman Ken Arlett said there were reasons for allowing some sort of development in the future but now was too soon.

The committee recommended refusal and the final decision will be made by South Oxfordshire District Council by May 8.

When landowners were invited to put land forward for the neighbourhood plan, Millgate suggested building 15 homes in Parkside.

When the draft document went out to a consultation, 70 per cent of respondents supported development there but the site was ruled out because of the impact on the trees.

The district council said the land was on the edge of the AONB so should be removed from the plan unless Millgate could offset the impact.

The company said that it had done this by shrinking the proposed development, moving most of the parking underground and reducing the number of trees that would need to be felled.

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