Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Flat on top of office block would take our light, say neighbours

Flat on top of office block would take our light, say neighbours

PLANS to build a three-bedroom flat on top of a Henley office block are being opposed by the neighbours.

Emma Lawrenson, who owns Chiltern House in Station Road, says the flat would be attractive and have a minimal impact.

But neighbours say it would overlook their homes and block their natural light as well as having a negative impact on the conservation area.

The three-storey block, which is a home to a number of businesses, was built in the Seventies and has been owned by Ms Lawrenson since 2000.

She has already been awarded planning permission to convert the building into eight flats but says she hasn’t acted on this as she wants to develop the “business hub”.

Speaking at a meeting of the town council’s planning committee, Ms Lawrenson said: “Chiltern House is a very ugly Seventies building and I invested pretty heavily. Queen Street neighbours would probably say it’s much better looking than it used to be.

“I’ve worked there ever since and provide a business hub for more than 20 businesses. We have tried to be good neighbours. We work with local businesses and I do care about the environment.”

She said the flat would be built off-site before being installed on the roof of the building.

She said: “It’s factory built and the total impact on neighbours would hopefully be two or three days.

“The north side on Queen Close and the west side on Queen Street will be bedrooms, bathrooms and studies — rooms that will be used less and overnight.

“The semi-detached nature of Queen Street means they already overlook each other’s gardens at much closer proximity.”

But Philip Taylor, of Queen Street, said: “The proposed development would result in an unacceptable loss of amenity and enjoyment of our property.

“Our privacy is already extremely compromised by surrounding high-rise developments and this proposal would amplify this effect.

“Our property already suffers from limited sunlight by virtue of previous modern developments that dwarf our rear garden.

“Our view of the sky is extremely limited. Any increase in height will significantly add to the already claustrophobic nature of this group of buildings.”

Mr Taylor said he also had concerns about parking.

Michael Hollas, of Queen Close, said property numbers 6 to 9 were already overlooked as their south sides face the north side of Chiltern House.

He said: “The office block itself is already higher than we would have wished and the sun is blocked for all but about six months of the year when it is just above the top of the building.

“The proposed flat would be high enough to block the sunlight all-year round. This is totally unacceptable.”

The Henley Society, a conservation group, has also objected to the flat, saying it would be “unneighbourly” and “over-development”.

It said: “It would be unduly intrusive for properties in Queen Street due to loss of light, overlooking and an increase in bulk, which is already dominant.

“The houses particularly affected are of special architectural interest and are in a conservation area.” The committee recommended the application is refused on the grouds of over-development and the effect on neighbours.

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak said: “I think there would be a considerable loss of amenity value. Pop an extension on top of that building and it will absolutely impact neighbours.”

Councillor Sam Evans said: “It’s part of the trend in Henley for these infill buildings and office blocks to try to go further and further up.

“We should definitely refuse this one to send out a message loud and clear that it isn’t acceptable.

“Credit for what she has done with the building — it’s a huge improvement — but the overlooking is massively increased and the neighbours are going to suffer loss of light.”

Councillor David Nimmo Smith said: “What is being proposed is out of character with the area, it’s a bit too high and too much.”

The committee asked the application to be “called in” by South Oxfordshire District Council, meaning it is considered by its planning committee rather than officers. A decision is due to be made on Friday, May 3.

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