Sunday, 26 September 2021

Council rejects plea to not allow homes on school sports field

Council rejects plea to not allow homes on school sports field

A GROUP of campaigners has presented a petition against the development of a playing field at Gillotts School in Henley.

The secondary academy off Gillotts Lane says the field at the eastern edge of its estate is surplus to requirements and hopes to make up to £20million by selling it to fund new amenities and improvements to its ageing infrastructure.

The 3.4-hectare site, which is earmarked for development in the town’s joint neighbourhood plan with Harpsden, is one of 16 which landowners have submitted for inclusion in a revised version of the document.

But campaigners want the site left out of the plan and presented the petition signed by more than 2,300 people to the town council’s neighbourhood plan steering group.

The group, called Save Henley’s Green Spaces, says the development would place intolerable pressure on surrounding roads and public services.

Group spokesman Domenic Bertelli, of Peppard Lane, Henley, said: “We have been overwhelmed by the support and help we have received from the people of Henley.

“We are living in a climate and ecological emergency, which has been recognised nationally and locally.

“We believe that further developments in Henley would be disastrous to wildlife and that green spaces should be left untouched and unspoilt for future generations to enjoy.

“We would like to take the opportunity to say that the community should be grateful to this committee for giving up so much of their time for the best outcome for this community.

“I have not met anyone who is in favour of this development — we give you a document in which a large proportion of the people of Henley have commented really strongly about it.

“The vast majority said that the school should be looking for money elsewhere.

“We think that the development would work in the short term and the school would be refurbished but they would still have to fund an academy. It would be a quick fix but won’t work in the long term.”

The steering group resolved to leave the site in the new draft of the plan said it could accommodate 50 homes, not the 80 suggested by South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority.

Councillor Ken Arlett, who chairs the steering group, said: “The whole plan could be scrapped if we take the Gillotts site out of the equation. Sometimes we have to make a decision that doesn’t please everyone — the people around this table have been working on this plan for the past four years and we have to get it to the district council by December 10.

“We will do our best for Henley but we know it might not be what everyone wants.

“The number of houses that we are proposing should cover the need for affordable housing. We are doing okay in terms of that and it could be a lot worse.

“Hopefully, the plan will be accepted but we will have to build on a patch of green grass and we have to accept it.”

Joan Clark, a member of the steering group, said: “I strongly support the Gillotts development because the school needs the money.

“It would be several years before the school could raise the amount of money it needs.”

Patrick Fleming, of Greener Henley, said removing the site from the plan could jeopardise that and it was voted for at the referendum on the original plan.

The existing neighbourhood plan names 10 sites where about 500 houses should go by 2027 but it must be updated to reflect an increased quota under the district council’s latest local plan, which runs until 2035.

The new sites include the Chiltern Centre (three homes), the former Chilterns End care home next door (27) and land at Highlands Park (110), all off Greys Road, Henley.

Also on the list are land to the south-west of Fair Mile (72), the former Henley Youth Centre in Deanfield Avenue (56 care beds), the Stuart Turner offices and neighbouring Henley Enterprise Park, off Greys Road (42 homes with at least 3,000 sq ft of employment and retail space) and the town council’s land next to Tesco, off Reading Road (50 homes), all in Henley.

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