Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Developer can’t extend office block for more flats

Developer can’t extend office block for more flats

A DEVELOPER’S plans to extend a Henley office block to create 28 flats have been thrown out.

Ressance already has permission to convert Hallmark House in Station Road into 23 flats.

But the company wanted to add another floor to the three-storey building, known as The Hub, in order to create five more flats.

South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee refused consent last week.

It said the visual bulk and mass of the extension would appear out of character with the surrounding area and would have an incongruous impact on the street scene.

It would also fail to respect the special historic character of the adjacent conservation area and would have an unneighbourly and harmful impact on the occupier of 18 Station Road and the occupiers of Hewgate Court.

Henley Town Council had objected to the plans. Ressance wanted to remove part of the parapet wall and set the top floor accommodation further back as well as creating a work meeting space on the ground floor and relocating the bike store at the back of the building.

The company has also reduced the number of proposed flats from 29 following the council’s previous objection.

Henley Mayor Ken Arlett, who chairs the town council’s planning and neighbourhood plan committees, spoke against the application.

He said: “They wanted to take off a pitched roof, which adds something to the area, and just stick a square box on top of it for no other reason than getting more money out of the building.

“It’s not one-storey they are going to put on, there’s another storey set back. This is another developer coming into town and seeing if they can get the maximum amount of money they can out of the building.

“It’s just a cost exercise — the design of it does nothing for the area at all. Personally, I think it’s an awful design.

“If they want to come back another day, that’s fine. I would have thought there’s enough reasons in the refusal reasons we put forward that they wouldn’t win an appeal.”

Neighbour Steve Ludlow said: “We applaud the decision by South Oxfordshire District Council to refuse planning permission to extend the old Hallmark building out of all proportion to its surroundings. Any increase in size is not acceptable.

“We will be vigilant in the next six months in case Ressance lodges an appeal with the Secretary of State against the council’s decision. There is about £5 million at stake for Ressance, i.e. five penthouses at approximately £1 million each.”

There were a number of letters of support for the application from people who own or work for businesses based at The Hub.

They included Richard Garton, from Shiplake, Jackie Outram, from Sonning Common, Richard Little, from Caversham, and Lance Robinson, of Lambridge Wood Road, Henley, who are directors of the Hub Property Management Company, and Trevor Boynton and Matt Burnett, who work for the Communications Group.

Duncan Crook, of Ressance, told a planning committee meeting in June that his company had responded to comments from the committee, neighbours, the planning officer and conservation officer and the design panel.

“The top floor has been reduced quite substantially,” he said. “We have removed one unit. We have cut it back from where it sat close to the neighbouring buildings.”

He said the company also proposed to lengthen the windows on the ground floor to allow more light in.

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