Friday, 27 November 2020

Here we go again.. time to give your views on housing

A SECOND public consultation on the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan begins today (Friday).

A SECOND public consultation on the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan begins today (Friday).

Residents have six weeks to comment on the latest draft of the document, which names 11 sites where 450 new homes should be built by 2027.

The plan is on display at the town hall and visitors can take survey forms to complete after reading it. It can also be viewed online.

Henley Town Council, which is overseeing the process, has organised several drop-in sessions where people will be able to ask questions.

The first will take place at the town hall from 10am to 4pm on Saturday, February 14. Two others will be held on March 13 (noon to 8pm) and March 14 (10am to 4pm).

The council plans to arrange more sessions before the consultation ends and will send an information leaflet to every home in the two parishes.

There will also be roadshows outside Tesco in Reading Road and Waitrose in King’s Road car park.

The council also hopes to arrange a public presentation where a guest speaker will explain the plan and its benefits.

Once the consultation ends, the draft will be sent to South Oxfordshire District Council, which will carry out its own consultation in April.

It will then be scrutinised by an independent planning inspector before being put to a public referendum in late summer.

The plan will become legally enforceable if more than half of voters approve it.

The housing sites include the former Henley Youth Centre and the offices of Wilkins removals, both in Deanfield Avenue; a field to the south-west of Fair Mile; land at Parkside, off Gravel Hill, and the former Jet garage and Exclusively Ladies gym sites, both off Reading Road.

Also included are Highlands Farm; Henley Enterprise Park and the offices of Makower textiles, all off Greys Road; the Chilterns End care home in Chilterns End Close and the former Royal Marines Reserve headquarters in Friday Street. The last site is a playing field at Gillotts School but the Government has not yet decided whether to grant permission for the disposal of the lnad.

If consent is not given, extra housing will go at Highlands Farm instead.

The plan was put together by volunteer working groups under the supervision of the town council and its consultants Nexus.

A consultation on the first draft was held last year but only 54 per cent of residents supported it.

Many people expressed concern at plans for 190 homes at Highlands Farm. The figure has since been revised.

Several new sites were also put forward, including The Henley College’s Rotherfield and Deanfield campuses.

The college was hoping to move to a new single site on its playing fields off Tilebarn Close.

However, its land was not included in the second draft as the town council did not believe this was achievable.

Councillor Dieter Hinke, chairman of the council’s neighbourhood planning governance committee, said: “We are very keen to persuade people to give their views.

“If we do not do anything, developers will go absolutely crazy in Henley and we will be fighting off planning applications from all sides.

“This is the only way we can take charge of the situation and prevent that from happening.

“We received a lot of comments on the first draft and made minor amendments based on those so we expect this draft to reflect what people want more closely.”

The authority is also set to carry out a £50,000 study of the impact that new housing would have on traffic.

Cllr Hinke said: “All the way through this, people have been asking what we are going to do about traffic.

“We can now turn round and show them that we’re actually doing something about it.”

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