Friday, 27 November 2020

Neighbourhood plan costs extra £40,000

HENLEY and Harpsden’s joint neighbourhood plan has cost £40,000 more than originally expected.

HENLEY and Harpsden’s joint neighbourhood plan has cost £40,000 more than originally expected.

The document, which is expected go to a referendum next year, names the sites where 450 new homes should be built by the year 2027 to meet national targets.

When Henley Town Council agreed to produce the plan in early 2013, it estimated the cost would be £50,000.

However, in a report to the council’s finance strategy and management committee this month, accountant Liz Jones says the final total is £91,600.

Most of the increase was due to a year-long delay in preparing the final draft and sending it off for independent scrutiny.

The first draft went to public consultation in June last year but only 54 per cent of respondents backed its overall findings and choice of housing sites.

In addition four new plots for development were offered by the owners after the consultation had finished.

The council then had to reconvene its working groups, which were made up of local volunteers, in order to write the second draft.

This version went to public consultation in February and this time 77 per cent of respondents supported it.

It was sent to South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, in June and is now awaiting a Government inspector’s approval.

Until then, the town council had to retain the services of its planning consultant Nexus. This cost an extra £28,493.

Nexus had offered a discounted rate as long as the work finished by early last summer. Its charges increased by 22 per cent thereafter.

The council also paid Nexus an extra £6,935 for additional group meetings in the run-up to the first  consultation.

The remaining £6,172 covered the cost of leaflets and other promotional materials during the second consultation.

Town councillor Will Hamilton, who sat on the neighbourhood planning governance committee, said the cost could have been higher but the council saved money by submitting the second draft without waiting for the results of a £50,000 study into its impact on traffic.

The study was carried out in May but the findings were not published until late July.

Cllr Hamilton said: “It’s come in at a lot less than if we’d let it carry on drifting. That is the final bill so there will now be no further cost to Henley.

“In its response to the inspector, the district council has complimented us on the thoroughness of the neighbourhood plan.

“It has recommended a few changes but those are mostly stylistic — there’s certainly nothing major. As long as the inspector approves it on time, it should go to a referendum in late January, as expected.”

The plan says up to 140 homes should go at the Highlands Farm industrial estate, up to 42 at Henley Enterprise Park, up to 27 on the site of the Chilterns End care home and up to 13 at the Makower textiles offices, all off Greys Road.

It calls for up 40 homes on a field south-west of Fair Mile, up to 10 at the former Royal Marine Reserve headquarters in Friday Street and up to 20 at the offices of removal firm Wilkins and up to 23 on the site of the former Henley Youth Centre, both in Deanfield Avenue.

The former Jet garage in Reading Road is earmarked for up to 30 while up to 55 are recommended for the former Exclusively Ladies gym opposite Tesco, also in Reading Road. A 3.4-hectare playing field at the eastern edge of Gillotts School’s land is earmarked for up to 50 homes.

If more than half of voters in the referendum are in favour, these allocations will become legally binding.

The plan also makes recommendations on issues such as employment, the economy, transport, leisure and the environment.

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