Friday, 27 November 2020

Housing plan vote delayed

A REFERENDUM on the Henley and Harpsden joint neighbourhood plan will not be held until the spring at

A REFERENDUM on the Henley and Harpsden joint neighbourhood plan will not be held until the spring at the earliest.

The town council had been hoped the poll of residents would take place in January but it has now been scheduled for March and could even be pushed back to May.

The news comes as plans have been drawn up for two new care homes and a development of retirement homes — in addition to the new care home to be built at the £16million Townlands “health campus” to replace the Chilterns End home in Greys Road.

Two of these sites have been earmarked for almost 80 new homes in the neighbourhood plan, which names 11 plots where about 500 properties should be built by 2027. These are the site of the former youth centre in Deanfield Road, where a care home is now planned, and the site of the former Jet garage in Reading Road, where 55 retirement homes are now planned.

The neighbourhood plan has been approved by an independent examiner and, following some amendments that he recommended, has been submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority.

But the district council must wait six weeks before staging the referendum to allow time for legal challenges. It says it is “working towards” a poll date in early March.

However, Will Hamilton, chairman of the town council’s neighbourhood planning governance committee, believes it could be put back to coincide with the Thames Valley police and crime commissioner election on May 5.

He said: “The referendum will definitely run into March because of how the district council moves and by that time they may decide it’s more efficient to run it concurrently with the PCC elections. It would make sense to do that.

“The plan is not cast in stone until it’s passed but it’s 70 per cent of the way there once the examiner has approved it.” Councillor Hamilton said residents were already objecting to new planning applications on the grounds that they went against the plan, which is not legally enforceable until it has been approved by referendum.

But he said the district council must still take the plan’s existence into account when assessing development proposals.

A number of objections have been raised about plans by Essex developer Henthames to convert the former LA Fitness gym in Newtown Road into an 80-bed care home. The site is not earmarked for housing under the plan but the document does call for the preservation of leisure facilities.

B&M Care wants to build a care home on the Deanfield Road site, which it bought from the youth centre trustees for £3million earlier this year. The 0.6 hectares of land are earmarked for 23 homes in the neighbourhood plan.

The former garage site in Reading Road has been earmarked for 55 homes in the plan but the site was recently bought by retirement home builder McCarthy & Stone from Inland Homes, which had bought the land in 2013.

McCarthy & Stone wants to build an “assisted living scheme” for elderly people with disabilities.

The company says it will consult with the immediate neighbours and stakeholders before staging a public exhibition of its plans.

A spokesman said: “We are committed to engaging with the local community. We believe that Henley is an area where there is a local need for this type of accommodation. In addition, occupants typically looking to ease the burden of maintaining a large property would allow these homes to become available on the market.”

Cllr Hamilton said these developments would count towards Henley’s homes target and wouldn’t mean that other development sites would have to be found.

Meanwhile, Oakford Homes, of Twyford, has exchanged contracts on the site of removals and storage firm Wilkins in Deanfield Avenue, which was earmarked for 20 new homes in the plan.

The company says it is planning a development of 23 flats and has appointed DP Architects in Watlington to design the scheme.

A spokesman said: “It is the perfect location for us in terms of our prospective clients, our product and brand. Having previously developed Charlotte Mews, we are delighted to be returning to the town.”

Wilkins is planning to move to new, purpose-built premises on the Newtown industrial estate.

The Henley Standard also understands that Crest Nicholson is about to submit a planning application for 170 homes at Highlands Farm industrial estate, off Greys Road, which is earmarked for that number in the plan.

The document also identifies the following sites for development: Henley Enterprise Park (42 homes); the site of the current Chilterns End care home (27); the Makower textiles offices in Greys Road (13); a site south-west of Fair Mile (about 60), former Royal Marine Reserve headquarters in Friday Street (10); the former Exclusively Ladies gym opposite Tesco (30); a playing field at Gillotts School (50).

A South Oxfordshire District Council spokesman said: “We are working towards staging the referendum in early March and will announce the date as soon as it is confirmed.”

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