Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Developer wants to add more smaller homes to lift sales

Developer wants to add more smaller homes to lift sales

A DEVELOPER is seeking an increase in the number of homes it can build at a former industrial estate on the outskirts of Henley.

Crest Nicholson already has planning permission for 85 houses or flats at Highlands Park off Greys Road, previously known as Highlands Farm, but wants to add 28 more.

It also has outline permission for 163 units overall, with the remainder to be approved through a separate planning application, so this would bring the final total to 191.

The company’s general layout for the south-west corner of the 5.5-hectare site, which South Oxfordshire District Council approved in 2017, remains unchanged.

However, it wants to replace several four- and five-bedroom detached properties with a larger number of semi-detached or terraced properties with two or three bedrooms.

The revised scheme comprises 113 dwellings, of which 45 would be “affordable” housing schemes in line with the district’s quota of 40 per cent.

There would be three single-bed flats, 37 houses or flats with two bedrooms, 51 with three bedrooms and only 22 with four or more.

Some gardens would be smaller as a result, in a small number of cases below the minimum size outlined in the South Oxfordshire housing design guide.

A number of architectural designs would be introduced to ensure the estate kept a varied appearance.

Despite the larger number of homes, the applicant’s statutory contribution towards local infrastructure would be slightly less as the total floor space would decrease slightly.

Crest Nicholson says sales at Highlands Park have been slower than expected, particular for larger homes, as market conditions have “evolved significantly” since permission was granted. It began discussing a change in the housing mix with the district council in December and says officers accepted an increase in principle as long as there were enough affordable units.

It first considered an increase of either 18 or 25 units but says this wouldn’t have been viable while also hitting the 40 per cent target.

By better reflecting demand, Crest Nicholson says it can deliver new homes more quickly while meeting the recommendations of a government-backed market assessment conducted in 2014.

This said at least 70 per cent of homes sold at the market rate should have two or three bedrooms to accommodate younger families.

Highlands Farm was earmarked for about 170 homes in the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan, which passed a referendum in 2016, but the firm says the increase is “modest”.

It told the district council: “The increase… results in minimal change to the urban form or design principles of the previously approved scheme.

The proposals all accord with the approved application and its scale, architectural style and proposed materials all reflect the character of the surrounding area.

“Although the application only looks to re-plan parts of the Highlands Park site, the overall impact on the wider development should be considered a major benefit.”

The scheme is yet to be discussed by Henley Town Council’s planning committee but its chairman Ken Arlett said: “If they aren’t going to be able to sell the larger houses, and they do seem to be struggling for one reason or another, this makes sense.

“If they can sell the two- or three-bedroom homes, for which there seems to be more buyers, while making more affordable housing available then you’d hope it would be a ‘win-win’ situation for everyone.”

The plans also include a “community hub”, for which an occupant is currently being sought, plus up to 2,000 sq m of office space, playing fields and other public areas including an “oak green” around an existing oak tree.

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