Monday, 18 February 2019

Planning chairman denies irregularities in homes decision

Planning chairman denies irregularities in homes decision

THE chairman of planning at Henley Town Council says the redevelopment of the former Wyevale Garden Centre, near Shiplake, should go ahead.

Ken Arlett was responding to a call by Shiplake Parish Council for the Government to “call in” the planning application after it was approved by South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority.

Shiplake claims there were “serious procedural irregularities” at the district council’s planning committee meeting last month when permission was granted for 40 houses and some commercial units on the 1.8-acre site off the A4155 Reading Road.

It wants housing minister James Brokenshire to revoke the decision and order a public inquiry chaired by a planning inspector.

The parish council, which fears the scheme will put pressure on the village’s shops and services, claims the district council should not have allowed Councillor Lorraine Hillier to vote as she is a councillor for Henley, where the town council supports the development. It is also upset that Councillor David Nimmo Smith, who is also a Henley town councillor, chaired the committee meeting.

In a letter to Mr Brokenshire, Shiplake parish councillor Susan Mann said: “There were serious procedural irregularities at the planning committee... the district council has a long-standing policy of barring councillors from voting on planning applications in their own wards.

“It acted irrationally in not extending the policy to planning applications in neighbouring wards which are part of a joint neighbourhood plan and for which the relevant ward would benefit from the allocation of housing numbers.”

Councillor Arlett said the letter was “opinion, not
factual”.

He said that when the town council was invited to comment on the scheme, Councillor Hillier declared an interest and abstained from discussions and voting in order to avoid prejudicing her views at the district council committee meeting.

He said there was no conflict for Cllr Nimmo Smith as he represents Rotherfield and Woodcote ward, not Henley, on the district council and he stayed out of talks at town level.

Shiplake is also upset that the district council has allowed the new houses, as well as the 95 due to be built at the neighbouring Thames Farm site, to count towards Henley and Harpsden’s new homes quota, having previously indicated that it agreed they should count towards the village’s figure.

Councillor Mann wrote: “Support for the application was led by Henley councillors as a direct result of [this] change in policy… this has resulted in substantial controversy across local authority boundaries.

“Allocation of the housing to Henley, although it is two miles away... has given Henley councillors a perverse incentive to support development in a neighbouring parish, against its own neighbourhood plan and the wishes of both affected parish councils.

“The policy is both intrinsically perverse and conflicts with a national policy which encourages local authorities to co-operate in making joint neighbourhood plans.”

But Cllr Arlett said the application was recommended for approval by the district council’s own planning officers.

He said: “Henley Town Council holds all its meeting in open session. Councillors are encouraged to declare interests they may have in planning applications and the councillors mentioned have all done so.

“I would suggest that Cllr Mann chooses her words more carefully in future.”

Mr Brokenshire has yet to respond to Cllr Mann but the Goverment generally only calls in applications which have implications for national policy.

Aida Dellal, who lives at Fawley Court, near Henley, owns the land, which is in Harpsden parish and was earmarked for commercial use only in the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

Harpsden Parish Council, which had opposed the appplication, has agreed to work with Ms Dellal and her company Dairy Lane.

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