Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Neighbourhood plan put on hold again

HENLEY and Harpsden?s joint neighbourhood plan is now unlikely to be published this year

HENLEY and Harpsden?s joint neighbourhood plan is now unlikely to be published this year.

The document, which names 11 sites where 450 homes are to be built by 2027, was expected to go to a referendum in the autumn and could have been adopted by December if it had passed.

But at a special meeting on Monday, Henley Town Council voted to delay the process until the results of a £50,000 study into the potential impact on the town?s roads are available.

Consultant Peter Brett Associates, of Reading, is not expected to finish the work for another six weeks and it could take several more weeks to compile the findings.

Once the town council receives the report it may reconvene its volunteer working groups and neighbourhood planning governance committee, which were disbanded last month.

The finished document will be sent to South Oxfordshire District Council, which will carry out a six-week consultation then forward it to a planning inspector for scrutiny.

The inspector will decide whether it is ready to go to a referendum. It will become legally binding if more than half of voters approve it. The delay was proposed by Councillor Ian Reissmann and supported by fellow Henley Residents? Group councillors Sara Abey, David Eggleton, Kellie Hinton, Jane Smewing, Sarah Miller and Stefan Gawrysiak.

Conservative Councillors Dylan Thomas and Simon Smith were also in favour while their party colleagues Will Hamilton, Sam Evans, Helen Chandler-Wilde, Martin Akehurst, Deputy Mayor Julian Brookes and Mayor Lorraine Hillier opposed it.

Councillor Reissmann argued the plan might fail the referendum if residents did not believe it offers solutions to traffic problems.

He said: ?I support the principle of the plan but it is clearly lacking on transport infrastructure. We should have a complete plan, not just one about housing ? you can?t do these things separately.?

Councillor Gawrysiak said developers would not take advantage of the situation as the district council must consider emerging neighbourhood plans when deciding planning applications.

He said: ?We are asking for a short delay so that we can come up with some headline figures from the transport study.

?The voters of Henley may look at the current plan and think, ?fine but where are the plans to mitigate the effects of this???

Councillor Thomas said the council had not consulted widely enough and many people in the north of Henley opposed plans for up to 40 houses on a field off Fair Mile.

He said safety measures like a pedestrian crossing on Fair Mile would be needed if this went ahead.

He said: ?The plan is fundamentally flawed. We need a transport strategy to address these anomalies so we can convince the people of Henley to accept it.

?It pains me to split with my Conservative group but if this is not properly considered I will personally campaign for people to vote ?no?.

?We can?t have things rushed through and rubber-stamped without debate just because a few members of the previous council think it?s best.?

Matthew Kinghan, of the council?s consultants Nexus Planning, said: ?The district council is very keen to move forward as soon as possible.

?If it cannot demonstrate that its own allocations are deliverable, South Oxfordshire becomes vulnerable to speculative development.

?This means sites not even in the plan may be granted planning permission on appeal.?

Councillor Akehurst said: ?It is a planning document which will be legally binding and I see no reason to link it with [transport].

?A vote against the plan doesn?t mean development won?t happen, it just means there are no agreed sites for development.?

After the meeting, Councillor Hillier said: ?We should have pushed the plan through as the delay will leave the door open for developers to submit planning applications wherever they wish.

?The danger is we could end up having to take more than 450 houses.

?The neighbourhood plan has no legal power over transport strategy. Whatever the outcome it will not make any difference as transport is down to Oxfordshire County Council.?

But Cllr Reissmann said: ?There is a lot of talk about developers waiting to pounce but we?ve spent £100,000 on this and the worst-case scenario would be to lose the referendum. We?d be back at square one.?

Initially, it was hoped that the plan would go to a referendum in October last year following a public consultation last summer.

However, the process was delayed when several landowners came forward offering additional housing sites. A second draft was drawn up over Christmas and a second consultation held in February and March.

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