Thursday, 15 November 2018

Town and village at odds over who can claim new homes

Town and village at odds over who can claim new homes

NEW houses built on two sites near Shiplake should count towards Henley’s housing quota rather than the village’s, says Henley Town Council.

It is to ask South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, not to let Shiplake claim the developments at Thames Farm and the former Wyevale garden centre towards its neighbourhood plan.

The first site has outline permission for 95 homes following a successful appeal by the landowner while a planning application for 40 homes with offices at the latter is yet to be decided on.

Both sites are immediately west of the A4155 Reading Road and in Harpsden parish.

Shiplake Parish Council says the residents would look primarily to the village for shops and services so the total number of new homes should be subtracted from the village’s quota.

But councillors in Henley, whose joint neighbourhood plan with Harpsden passed a referendum in 2016, say the developments would place a far greater strain on the town’s roads, schools and other infrastructure.

The plan names 11 sites where about 500 homes should go by 2027 to meet Government targets but that figure is likely to increase as the district council is producing a new local plan to run until at least 2033.

The town council expects to take an extra 350 homes but hopes to deduct some of the 200 “windfall” units that have been approved or completed since the document was published.

A meeting of the council’s neighbourhood plan committee on Monday heard that the district council’s planning officers were expected to side with Shiplake.

Committee chairman Ken Arlett said: “We can’t understand why the officers are suggesting that this housing would go to a small village with no infrastructure.”

Kester George, chairman of Harpsden Parish Council, said: “We feel very strongly that someone high up in the district’s planning department has seen a possible way of squeezing more houses into Henley by discounting the windfalls which have already been incurred.

“All the planning authorities in Oxfordshire are working towards a total of 100,000 new homes by 2031 in return for infrastructure money from the Government but the district council should not throw the baby out with the bathwater as this won’t get them anywhere near their quota but will cause a great many problems.

“The argument that the homes are physically nearer to Shiplake is specious. Everyone in both Harpsden and Shiplake ultimately depends on Henley for a whole range of services and there is no alternative access other than the A4155, which can’t be widened or have a ring road.”

Fellow Harpsden councillor Tony Wright said: “There are some services in Shiplake that might be used but they also exist in Henley along with 20 or more other things besides.

“They’re trying to unilaterally take some of our neighbourhood plan area and possibly up to 135 houses, leaving us to find another 135 elsewhere in our parishes.”

Shiplake began writing its plan, which will outline the locations for about 33 new homes, before the Thames Farm scheme was approved.

Tudor Taylor, who chairs Shiplake Parish Council, said: “Although I sympathise with Henley and Harpsden, in reality Thames Farm is at least a mile from Harpsden and certainly isn’t in Henley but it is within the signage for Lower Shiplake, as is part of the Wyevale land.

“On top of that, the applicant in the Thames Farm appeal said its proximity to Shiplake was key to its sustainability. If a development puts pressure on a settlement’s resources, it must follow that it’s part of that settlement.

“We certainly never wanted another 95 houses and are keen not to have to build another 30 or 40 on top of that. The planning officers share our view that a parish like Henley or Harpsden can’t meet its needs through building housing at its very boundary, where it strongly impinges on other settlements.”

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