Saturday, 05 December 2020

From industry to new homes

PLANS have been drawn up for up to 170 new homes on the outskirts of Henley.

PLANS have been drawn up for up to 170 new homes on the outskirts of Henley.

Developer Crest Nicholson has applied for outline planning permission to build on Highlands Farm, a light industrial estate off Greys Road.

The development would include housing, a community hall, three junior sports pitches and up to 2,000 sq m of office or warehouse space.

The existing trading units on the 12.8-hectare esate, which is owned by Henley businessman Alan Pontin, would be demolished.

A total of 102 of the new houses and flats would be sold at the going market rate while the remaining 68 would be classed as “affordable”, meaning their price would be fixed below that rate.

The exact type and size of the houses would not be determined until full consent is sought — this application is only seeking agreement on the principle of development and the access arrangements.

The site, which is in Harpsden parish, is earmarked for about 170 homes in the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

It’s expected that the development would include 25 houses with two bedrooms, 40 with three, 38 with four and 25 with five as well as 40 two-bedroom flats and two single-bedroom flats. The housing would probably be on the north, western and central parts of the site with business units and the 500 sq m community hall to the south and east.

The affordable homes would be scattered throughout the development rather than being concentrated in one place.

The homes would be a mixture of red brick, red tile and flint with features such as timber-boarded gables and the offices would be built in a barn style with a mixture of wooden boarding and red brick.

There would be a “village green” at the south-eastern edge of the site as well as the sports pitches and a play area. A large historic oak tree to the north-west of this would be preserved.

The main entrance and exit would be via Highlands Lane, off Greys Road, which would be upgraded with a 1.8m wide pavement and lined with lime trees. There would be a series of “build-outs” to narrow the road and slow drivers down as well as a gravel-paved “entrance square” similar to one in Hambleden.

The estate could be screened by additional hedging and tree planting as well as a landscaped earth mound to the west of the site. There would be gaps in the planting to the east so the residents could look out over Gillotts Corner Field, the town green.

A footpath and cycle path would run around the perimeter of the site with links to the existing paths between Henley and Rotherfield Greys.

Crest Nicholson says there would be fewer vehicle movements to and from the site during the rush hour than there are now and there would be a “significant” reduction in visits by heavy goods vehicles.

It also says studies have shown there would be “no material impact” on traffic in Henley town centre.

A traffic-calming scheme with three build-outs would be installed in Gillotts Lane, which could be affected.

The pavement leading to the estate entrance would be extended and new dropped kerbs would be installed along the route to Valley Road Primary School.

In the estate, there would be space for buses to turn and the developer says it would talk to Oxfordshire County Council about subsidising new bus routes, which could be a condition of being granted planning permission.

Crest Nicholson says there would be no harm to a quarry bank immediately north of the site, which is both a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a scheduled ancient monument.

It says there would be no “substantial” groundworks or tree planting near this area and kissing gates would be installed to deter cyclists.

In its application to South Oxfordshire District Council, the company says the development represents a well-considered, landscape-led proposal, incorporating high-quality design principles that would “comprehensively transform the brownfield site into a vibrant mixed-use neighbourhood”.

Crest Nicholson held an exhibition about its previous plans last year and says 91 of 140 visitors either supported or strongly supported the scheme.

It also wrote to more than 10,000 residents and says it will consult again if outline permission is granted.

The neighbourhood plan names 11 sites where about 500 homes should go by 2027 to meet Government targets. It will go to a referendum in the spring and will become legally binding if it passes.

Highlands Farm is the largest on the list but there are several others on or near Greys Road.

They are a disused playing field at Gillotts School (50 homes), the Chilterns End care home (27 homes), Henley Enterprise Park (42 homes), the Makower textiles offices (13 homes) and Henley Youth Centre in Deanfield Avenue (23 homes).

The last of these was bought last year by B&M Care, which wants to build a 60-bed care home.

According to a transport study commissioned by Henley Town Council last year, about 120 more cars would pass through Henley during peak hours if 450 new homes were built.

Councillor David Nimmo Smith, who chairs the town council’s planning committee and is also a district and county councillor, said: “We knew Crest Nicholson planned to apply for the full 170 houses, as detailed in the neighbourhood plan, so this comes as no surprise.

“The county council didn’t support development at Highlands Farm when it was first proposed six years ago because of the highways impact.

“However, with the advent of the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan, a lot of development is proposed on that side of town and we have to look at the bigger picture.

“We can no longer look at Highlands Farm in isolation. The county will have to consider the wider implications and mitigate them as much as possible.

“We know a lot of additional vehicle movements will be on Greys Road because that’s where many of the new homes are set to go.

“However, things would be worse for Henley if the neighbourhood plan failed at the referendum. We would be a hostage to fortune and have no say on future development.”

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