Monday, 30 November 2020

Town ‘could become one huge retirement home’

HENLEY is in danger of becoming a “giant retirement home”, it has been claimed.

HENLEY is in danger of becoming a “giant retirement home”, it has been claimed.

The warning was given by a member of the Henley and Harpsden neighourhood plan steering group as it discussed plans for new care homes and sheltered housing.

Developer Henthames wants to build an 80-bed care home on the site of the former LA Fitness gym in Newtown Road, while B&M Care plans to build a 60-bed care home on the site of the former Henley Youth Centre in Deanfield Avenue, which was allocated 23 homes in the plan.

Meanwhile, McCarthy & Stone has applied for planning permission for 53 flats at the former Jet garage on the corner of Reading Road and Mill Lane. These would be for older people who need care due to illness or disability but do not want to go into a care home. This site is earmarked for 55 homes in the plan.

There are already two care homes in Henley — Acacia Lodge in Quebec Road and Chilterns End in Greys Road, which is due to move to new premises at the redeveloped Townlands Hospital complex.

Under planning laws, developers who build care homes do not have to pay the Community Infrastructure Levy, which goes towards facilities such as schools, transport, flood defences and community, leisure, and health and social care facilities.

Dieter Hinke, who chairs the steering group, said: “Building these is the most profitable way for developers. They give nothing to the community and nothing towards affordable housing.”

Patrick Fleming, a community representative on the steering group, said the developers were being clever.

He said: “They get the over-55s coming out of London who want to live somewhere nice like Henley. Henley could become a huge great retirement home. It is already impossible for the people brought up on the estates here to buy a home.”

Town councillor Jane Smewing said that when the council’s planning committee had discussed McCarthy & Stone’s application the company had conceded that about third of the residents would come from outside the area.

“There is a propensity to draw people in,” she said.

Mr Hinke said the previous owner of the site, Inland Homes, had been given planning permission for 55 homes and then sold the land to McCarthy & Stone, a retirement homes specialist.

He said the group could ask South Oxfordshire District Council to support the view that the site should be used for ordinary flats, including some affordable units.

Joan Bland, a member of the district council, said: “We are in danger of having about five care homes, which is really scary. The Inland Homes application was fantastic.” Rebecca Chandler-Wilde, vice-chairwoman of the group, said: “Professionally, I work with care homes and they may be profitable to build but they are not profitable to run. I do wonder if there is a limit to demand.”

She added that care homes would need staff who required somewhere affordable to live.

Mr Hinke said figures from the district council showed many people who worked in Henley did not live there.

He added: “The number of people over 65 is increasing. As long as the developers are doing their market research and plan their catchment area they will keep building.”

Mayor Julian Brookes said: “There will be people lobbying for the care homes but who is lobbying for affordable houses? Nobody is representing affordable homes for the younger generation. How can any council make a balanced judgement?”

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