Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Opponents pledge to continue homes fight

OPPONENTS of plans for 110 homes on farmland near Henley have expressed fears over a second planning appeal.

Claire Engbers was refused permission to develop Thames Farm, off Reading Road, near Shiplake, by South Oxfordshire District Council in 2013 and the decision was upheld after a public inquiry the following year.

Mrs Engbers took her case to the High Court and a judge overturned inspector Ian Jenkins’ verdict, saying he should not have based his decision on road safety grounds when the district council had no objections in this respect.

Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid then asked the Court of Appeal to overturn the ruling and uphold the inspector’s decision but it refused following a hearing last month.

The judges said the inspector was entitled to base his decision on highways issues but he didn’t consider whether these might be overcome by imposing planning conditions so the High Court ruling must stand.

Mr Javid will decide how the second appeal will be heard.

Kester George, chairman of Harpsden Parish Council, said: “I agree with Mr Jenkins, who took a great deal of time to investigate traffic passing the site.

“He was appalled by the danger to pedestrians at the bottom of Woodlands Road and quite rightly so.”

Tudor Taylor, chairman of Shiplake Parish Council, said: “The court supported the inspector’s right to bring in highways issues, which I think is important. We are going to go to a further inquiry one way or the other and we will fight it strongly as it’s outside the neighbourhood plan and poses a serious highways risk.”

Meanwhile, Mrs Engbers is also appealing the refusal of her “greener” plan for 95 homes on the same site, which she submitted to the district council earlier this year.

The council’s planning officers said it should be allowed as the authority had failed to identify enough housing land to meet the next five years’ demand. Although the site isn’t earmarked for housing in the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan, they said the land shortage made the plan obsolete.

However, the planning committee disagreed and unanimously rejected it.

Shiplake’s county councillor David Bartholomew said: “We’re in a very strange situation as the applicant has described her second plan as better and greener, so people will be wondering why she is still pursuing the original.

“Essentially, there’s very little difference between the two. Both have been rejected by the community and the district council and the site is outside the neighbourhood plan. I don’t understand why the applicant thinks she will be successful in pursuing this.

“The community remains resolute in its desire to protect the rural character of the area and uphold the plan’s aims.”

Mrs Engbers didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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