Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Homes target reduced again

Council to return to arson attack office site

THE proposed increase in Henley’s housebuilding target has been halved for the second time.

South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, now says the town should only have to take an additional 156 homes by the year 2034.

The figure, which is revealed in the latest draft of the council’s local plan, would be in addition to the 500 that Henley has already accepted under its joint neighbourhood plan with Harpsden.

An earlier version of the local plan, published last year, proposed an increase of 677 homes but the town council objected on the grounds of pressure on roads, schools and other services.

The district council then reduced the figure to 350, saying it recognised the town is surrounded by the River Thames to the east and the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to the west.

It calculated its latest figure by adding 15 per cent to the 1,117 new homes that Henley was required to take under the current local plan to make a total of 1,285 and then subtracted 1,129, the number of homes that has either been built or awarded planning permission since 2011.

Last night (Thursday), the district council’s scrutiny committee was due to vote on whether the plan should be subject to a six-week public consultation beginning on January 7.

The council must submit the document for independent inspection by March 31 in order to qualify for a share of the Government’s £215million “growth deal” for Oxfordshire.

Once the plan is approved, Henley Town Council will invite landowners to submit sites for development and reconvene the volunteer steering groups that wrote the neighbourhood plan.

Ken Arlett, the chairman of the town council’s planning committee, said there were a number of existing “windfall” sites not earmarked in the current neighbourhood plan that could reduce the new quota.

These include the 30 flats at the former RPS Energy building in Reading Road, now known as Hill View, which were approved under permitted development rights.

Hallmark House in Station Road, also known as The Hub, could be converted into at least 23 flats under the same law while the former Isis House across the street is being turned into seven flats.

Councillor Arlett said: “We were expecting to be allocated 350 homes but didn’t particularly want to accept it and I’m glad the figure has been reduced further.

“A number of additional sites have come forward since the neighbourhood plan was published in 2016 and they could go towards the new figure so we might not have to look hard for extra land.

“We must still advertise for landowners but in my view any developer coming forward will have to offer something special to the community and not just the standard 40 per cent quota of ‘affordable’ housing.

“Anyone can put forward a piece of land but they need to prove that the surrounding infrastructure can take it. We’re currently updating our traffic survey and it will be interesting to see how much it has increased in various parts of Henley with all those extra units going up.”

The district council also proposes increases for Sonning Common, Goring and Woodcote, which it classes as “larger villages”, following the same formula.

Goring needs to take 329 homes but has already built or committed to 96, reducing the total to 233. This is still more than the 94 outlined in its draft neighbourhood plan, which should go to a referendum next year.

Woodcote needs to take a total of 225 after being allocated an extra 131. Its neighbourhood plan earmarks land for 76 but the village has built or accepted 94.

Sonning Common is allocated 377 homes but it has built or accepted 269 so must only take another 108 homes on top of the 138 agreed in its neighbourhood plan.

The larger villages can opt to take fewer if they can prove the proposed number is not feasible.

Benson, another “larger village”, must take at least 383 more homes but is already due to have 854 built so no increase is necessary.

The same applies to Watlington, which needs 262 new homes but has already accepted 305.

Nettlebed hasn’t produced a neighbourhood plan so the district council is proposing 46 new dwellings across three sites.

It says the Sue Ryder hospice at Joyce Grove, which the charity is looking to sell, could be converted into 20 flats while 15 homes could go on land behind the village petrol station and 11 on land west of Priest Close off the B481.

The district council also considered making “strategic allocations” in the countryside surrounding Playhatch and at Reading Golf Club, north of Emmer Green.

The land could have been earmarked for thousands of homes to offset a proposed quota of 28,459 across the district.

However, both sites were excluded as it was felt they would not become available quickly enough.

The district council aims to concentrate development around the “science vale”, an area filled with technology businesses to the west of Didcot.

It proposes “strategic allocations” at Culham, Berinsfield, Oxford Brookes University’s Wheatley campus, Chalgrove Airfield and three sites on the outskirts of Oxford.

• The district council will hold a local plan drop-in event at Henley town hall on Saturday, January 19 from 10am to 2pm.

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