Sunday, 29 November 2020

New homes quota increased to 500

THE maximum number of new homes that could be built under Henley and Harpsden’s joint neighbourhood

THE maximum number of new homes that could be built under Henley and Harpsden’s joint neighbourhood plan has increased.

Independent examiner Nigel McGurk says the document, which will go to a referendum in January, should allocate land for “around 500 dwellings” in the two parishes instead of “up to 450”.

The plan names 11 sites where new housing must go by 2027 to meet government targets. It was drawn up by volunteers under Henley Town Council’s supervision and will become legally binding if more than half of voters approve it.

At a meeting of the full council on Tuesday, members agreed to make Mr McGurk’s proposed changes.

The chartered town planner, who scrutinised the plan on South Oxfordshire District Council’s behalf, said two parcels of land that had been allocated as “reserve” housing sites should be earmarked for development from the outset. Highlands Farm, off Greys Road, and a field off Fair Mile were due to take 30 and 20 houses respectively but only if plans for 50 homes on a playing field at Gillotts School fall through.

But Mr McGurk argued that since these sites were acknowledged as suitable there was no reason to impose conditions on development.

In addition, neighbouring plots were earmarked for housing, so developers would struggle to draw up their schemes if there was uncertainty over the overall quotas.

Mr McGurk said: “The intention appears to be to prevent these [reserve] sites from being released if [Gillotts’ field] comes forward before 2020. However, if [Gillotts’ field] came forward on January 2, 2020, the two reserve sites would be released for development. Consequently, all three sites would be delivered anyway and the plan would provide for the delivery of 500 homes during the plan period.”

Mr McGurk’s other changes centred mostly on legal technicalities. He said some policies in areas like transport and the economy should be reworded for clarity or deleted.

He praised the town council and the volunteers’ efforts, saying the plan was “well-presented” and had followed a “comprehensive and robust” consultation process.

He said: “It’s clear that the plan-makers undertook significant and comprehensive consultation beyond that required by legislation.

“I consider it a tribute to the local community that as many as 60 residents dedicated their time and effort to producing it.

“Consultation was widely communicated and well- publicised in a variety of ways. Comments were proactively sought and duly considered.

“There is plentiful evidence to demonstrate that the neighbourhood plan reflects the views of local people.”

Town councillor Will Hamilton said the increased housing allocation would ensure the parishes met their target as some sites could fall through or deliver fewer homes than expected.

He said: “The examiner has written a very thorough report and has just made it simpler in his recommendations. We don’t need to have a hearing before the plan can go to a referendum, which is excellent news.

“The elements he has removed are covered by national policy so he has taken out things that were overcomplicating it. All the important aspects have been left in.”

Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting, Henley Residents’ Group councillor Ian Reissmann said: “Henley needs to have a good plan and I’m disappointed that it was not as good as it could have been.”

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