Sunday, 29 November 2020

Residents vote YES to housing plan

RESIDENTS have backed the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

RESIDENTS have backed the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

The plan received 2,105 ‘yes’ votes and 471 ‘no’ votes with the turnout at 28.19 per cent in Thursday’s referendum. There were five spoiled votes.

The result was declared at 11.20pm by South Oxfordshire District Council's deputy counting officer Steven Corrigan and the plan now becomes legally binding.

The result was greeted with a round of applause by a handful of members of the public and town councillors who watched the count.

Hundreds of hours and thousands of pounds have been spent preparing the plan, which names 11 sites where about 500 new homes should be built by 2027 to meet Government targets.

For the housing allocations to become legally binding more than half of voters had to support it. South Oxfordshire District Council will now have to take them into account when deciding planning applications.

The biggest site on the list is Highlands Farm, a light industrial estate off Greys Road which is earmarked for about 170 homes. Crest Nicholson has already submitted an outline planning application.

Also included are the former Jet garage site in Reading Road, which is earmarked for about 55 homes and is now the subject of an application by McCarthy & Stone for 53 “extra care” retirement flats, the former youth centre in Deanfield Road, which was said to be able to take 23 homes but where a care home is now planned, and the site of removals and storage firm Wilkins in Deanfield Avenue, which was earmarked for 20 homes and where Oakford Homes wants to build 23 flats.

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

In the weeks leading up to the referendum, several former members of the volunteer working groups which wrote the plan launched a campaign urging residents to support it.

They said that if it didn’t pass, it would be “open season” in Henley for developers and the community would have less control over where the new homes went.

Voting took place from 7am until 10pm and after a slow start more people visited polling stations at Henley town hall, Harspden village hall, Henley leisure centre, the Christ Church Centre and Trinity Hall. Anyone on the electoral roll in either parish was eligible to vote.

Henley town councillor David Nimmo Smith, chairman of the planning committee, called it a “people’s plan”.

“This will be our legacy to communities we love and cherish,” he added.

“The overwhelming support for the plan is a clear mandate, telling developers what we want - and don't want - for the future of our two communities.

“This shows that the hard work, over three years, by countless people has not been in vain, and that what we put forward for referendum is exactly in tune with the electorate.

“Having got this far, it is now vital that both communities monitor the outcome, comparing each and every planning application against the plan.”

For a full report and reaction see next week’s Henley Standard.

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