Sunday, 19 September 2021
A CAMPAIGN has been launched against plans to convert a Henley microbrewery into flats.
Residents and town councillors are opposed to the proposals, which would mean the end of Lovibonds after more than 100 years in the town.
David Fitz-John, from Goring Heath, has applied for planning permission for seven one-bedroom flats at the brewery in Market Place.
He already has consent to convert the first floor offices and the existing residential accommodation at the front of the site into four flats.
Now he is proposing to create three more by demolishing the lean-to brewery shed and retail storage building and removing the internal walls and stairs in the shop.
A Save Lovibonds campaign launched on Facebook already has more than 330 supporters.
Critics have registered their opposition with South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, as well as praising brewery owner Jeff Rosenmeier for putting his business at the heart of the community.
John Savage, of King’s Close, Henley, said: “The desired outcome of this application effectively eradicates one of Henley’s most unique social hubs and destroys Lovibonds Brewery, which has been at the heart of many philanthropic and charitable events.
“It is a crucial part of Henley’s social heritage and the keystone to many unique communities. This is an unashamedly capitalistic endeavour which will result in a loss of jobs, community and trust.”
Iain Chalmers, of Harpsden Road, said: “This is a terrible planned change. The current tenant provides a critical service to the Henley community.
“Henley has lost a huge amount of character over the years and is in danger of becoming a beige, boring town.
“Lovibonds brings together all ages. [It] is a hub of the community and encourages enterprise like the pizza start-up and the Bosley Patch. It is unlike anywhere else in Henley and the owner should be celebrated, not booted out.
“If this gets the go-ahead Henley and its residents will be worse off.” Richard Guy, of New Street, voiced his concerns at a meeting of the town council’s planning committee.
“I’d urge you to consider this very carefully,” he said. “As far as I can see, the only people who will benefit are the developer and the seven people who will get flats.
“It’ll be another loss of commercial benefit to the centre of town, which happens all the time.”
Councillor Glen Lambert said the council should fight the plans, saying the brewery was an important community asset.
He said: “The Lovibonds name has been in Henley since the Twenties, if not earlier. I’ve visited the brewery many times because it’s more than a brewery, it’s a community facility.
“The owner of the business is very highly engaged with the community and is always open to allowing his facilities to be used for various different things. If you’re expanding the town by hundreds of homes, as we’re having to do, it makes no sense at all to take away town facilities — we want to expand the town centre, not contract it.”
The meeting heard that the brewery ran tours, a beer school and an annual hop-picking event, as well as showcasing live music and hosting a number of charitable and community events for the Henley Fringe Festival, Henley Youth Festival and the annual PIP Mountain Bike Challenge.
Deputy Mayor Lorraine Hillier said Lovibonds had worked extremely hard to become a community asset, adding: “It’s just so popular and a much-needed place in the centre of the town.”
Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak said: “If we’re having to expand the town with more houses then we need entertainment.
“This is brewing and retailing in the centre of the town and this is what we need.
“We do want one-bed units, and seven would help, but it has got to be at the appropriate place at the appropriate time.”
The committee agreed to object to the application on the grounds that the redevelopment would be changing the fabric of a listed building in the Henley conservation area.
The application says the site has planning and listed buildings consent for change of use of theoffices and conversion of the existing residential accommodation.
But these are now of “questionable viability” given the extensive work required to restore the listed building to a sound condition.
The design and access statement says: “As such, it is considered necessary to extend the proposals to create additional dwellings on the site to improve the viability of the scheme.
“The new-build dwellings are located at the rear of the site and linked to the existing brewery.
“It is proposed to rebuild the existing lean-to brewery shed to form two flats. The existing shed is in poor condition, is of a contemporary construction and is considered to be of little historical significance.
“The shed will be clad in timber weather boarding to reflect the character of the existing structure.
“Likewise, it is proposed to rebuild the small storage building, currently associated with the retail unit, to form a single flat.
“The storage unit will be rebuilt to reflect the character of the lean-to brewery shed and will be similarly clad in timber weather boarding.”
South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, will make a decision by November 30.
John Locke Lovibond started brewing beer in the West Country in 1834. After the business relocated to London, it expanded and bought Ives Bros in Henley in 1916.
In 1959 Lovibonds brewed its last batch of beer as the company chose to focus on being a quality wine merchant.
Mr Rosenmeier moved to Henley in 1996 and set up his business at the former home of John Lovibond & Sons.
His business makes wheat beer, pale ales ad craft lager.
Mr Fitz-John didn’t respond to requests for comment.
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