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Thursday, 25 April 2019
HENLEY may have to take fewer new homes than anticipated over the next 15 years.
The town has been expected to have to find space for 350 extra dwellings by 2033 on top of the 500 or so it accepted under its joint neighbourhood plan with Harpsden in 2016.
The increase is contained in the draft of South Oxfordshire District Council’s new local plan, which is being revised to meet Government targets.
But according to the council’s own figures it has already given permission over the last 18 months for 200 additional units on land not earmarked for development in the plan. These mostly comprise “windfall” sites which were approved because of their small size.
The total includes the 95 homes which are to be built at Thames Farm, a site which is in Harpsden parish but was excluded from the plan, following a successful appeal by the landowner earlier this year. A separate application for four units at a disused barn on the land has also been approved.
A number of applications have also gone ahead under permitted development rights, such as the conversion of offices into flats, which means full planning application is not required.
Although windfall developments can’t count towards the existing neighbourhood plan’s housing target, the district council says they can be deducted from future increases as long as they were approved after February 2017 and the houses are actually built.
This also applies to 98 windfall or permitted development schemes that the council is still assessing.
There are now approved or pending applications for 42 such sites, of which 24 comprise one or two units while 10 are for between three and five.
These include the former Northfield House business centre at Northfield End and the Girdler House office block in Quebec Road (five homes each), and the offices at the former Jolly Waterman pub in Reading Road, which have been converted into four flats.
Plans for 36 flats at the former Smith Centre, off Fair Mile, have been approved as permitted development, as has a proposal for 23 flats at The Hub in Station Road, which currently houses a number of science, IT and financial services firms.
The former RPS Energy building in Reading Road has been converted into 23 flats, which are now being marketed.
Another 11 flats are being
created at the former Anderson House office block on the Newtown industrial estate, off Reading Road. These are likely to be allowed as the district council has limited grounds to refused consent.
The district council is also assessing plans for 40 homes at the former Wyevale garden centre, off Reading Road near Shiplake, which falls within Harpsden parish and was allocated for exclusively business use in the neighbourhood plan.
Aida Hersham, the landowner, is proposing a mixed-use scheme which the town council has recommended for approval, although Shiplake Parish Council is against it.
There are also plans for seven extra units at Mount Ida, a private residence nearby, and for 10 at a parcel of woodland at Parkside, off Gravel Hill in Henley.
The latter was submitted for inclusion in the neighbourhood plan but ruled out because it prioritised building on brownfield land.
Councillor Ken Arlett, chairman of Henley Town Council’s planning and neighbourhood plan committees, said: “We’ve been told that anything approved from March 2017 onwards can go towards our figure, which at the moment is 350 although that is subject to change.
“It could be lower or it could be even higher if sufficient housing sites come forward and are deemed suitable.
“I’m sure most residents would argue we can’t take any more houses and we’d prefer that because we already have enough but the district council will have the final say.
“We’re conducting a wide-ranging review of the impact that extra housing would have on everything from schools and roads to water, gas and electricity infrastructure.
“If you look around Henley, you can find lots of plots where you could put houses in theory but it’s a question of whether we can take it in the long term.
“There are plenty of reasons not to build more houses, such as traffic, which is at saturation point at certain times of day, and a lack of car parking space.
“Additionally, if you look at the housing already built under the neighbourhood plan, a lot of it isn’t selling.
“Crest Nicholson put millions into the Highlands Park scheme off Greys Road but that only has about four reservations while only half of the units at the old Makower premises have sold.
“However, if a developer produces figures showing that the town can accommodate its proposal, it will be very hard to oppose it. “
Meanwhile, Henley Town Council has asked the district council to consider implementing an Article 4 direction in the Newtown area, which would revoke permitted development rights and preserve the rest of the estate for employment use in line with the neighbourhood plan. This could take up to a year.
• A sixth public consultation on South Oxfordshire’s local plan is expected to take place in January. The district council first sought residents’ views in 2014 then held four further consultations, the last of which took place 10 months ago. It is no longer consulting on allocations but will ask technical questions like whether the document’s policies comply with planning law or whether they are backed up by evidence. An earlier draft of the document was voted down by the full council in March.
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