Monday, 15 August 2022

Housing plan 'is being hijacked by councillors'

THE former chairman of the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan claims it is being “hijacked” by town councillors.

Dieter Hinke said the neighbourhood plan committee, formerly known as the neighbourhood plan steering group, should be run by the residents, not councillors.

The committee currently comprises three town councillors, two Harpsden parish councillors and six members of the public.

It is chaired by Councillor Ken Arlett, who is also chairman of the town council’s planning committee and a member of the ruling Henley Residents’ Group.

The committee oversees the neighbourhood plan, which was approved in March last year and says where 500 new homes should be built.

Mr Hinke, a former Conservative town councillor, said neighbourhood plans were introduced to give residents a say on where and what sort of development should take place, not to allow councillors to increase their popularity.

He said: “It was because David Cameron wanted to give people a voice in certain aspects of where they lived and their community.

“The plan was intended to be put together by the electorate. Councillors were allowed to make comments but didn’t make the final decisions.

“I’m a little bit concerned that this is now being run more by councillors than people in the town.”

Mr Hinke suggested the committee should be chaired by a non-councillor in order to show that it represents the community as a whole.

He said: “It can be used by councillors to win voices and increase popularity in the town but it was never intended for that.

“It was intended for the people of the town to get together and fashion what they want. Members of the community need to continue to have their voice and not have it hijacked by both sides of the town council. It goes against the principle of neighbourhood planning.”

Cllr Arlett said the make-up of the committee had not changed from last year, apart from Mr Hinke and district councillor Joan Bland leaving.

“I asked Dieter to come back on the committee and he refused,” he said. “We had four or five residents on it last year and we haven’t got rid of them.”

Cllr Arlett also said the committee needed to be more effective after two applications were approved last year in opposition to the neighbourhood plan.

The other members of the committee are Councillor Jane Smewing (HRG), who is vice- chairwoman, Conservative councillor Julian Brookes, Harpsden councillors Kester George and Tony Wright and Rebecca Chandler-Wilde, Joan Clark, Patrick Fleming, Jim Munro, David Whitehead and Ian Clark.

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