Thursday, 18 August 2022

'District council is disgusting... it slapped us in the face'

A HENLEY councillor has attacked South Oxfordshire District Council for rendering the town’s neighbourhood plan effectively worthless.

The plan identifies 11 sites where about 500 new homes should be built by 2027 in order to meet Government targets and was approved at a referendum in March.

But the district council, the planning authority, says neighbourhood plans no longer have legal weight because there is a shortage of immediately available housing land across South Oxfordshire and that new developments should only be prevented if it can be proved they would cause serious harm to the surroundings. Councillor Kellie Hinton said more than four years of work had gone into the Henley plan.

Speaking at a meeting of the town council’s planning committee, she said: “We have sat around this table, all of us, only to finally get it through and be slapped in the face.

“I find South Oxfordshire District Council absolutely disgusting.”

She also criticised Felix Bloomfield, chairman of the district council’s planning committee, who twice used his casting vote to approve two controversial applications for development in Henley — one for 53 “extra care” flats at the former Jet garage in Reading Road and one for a new 80-bed care home in Newtown Road. The former was earmarked for ordinary flats in the neighbourhood plan, which also states that all new developments should have 40 per cent affordable housing.

Cllr Hinton said: “He should come to Henley and stand in Market Place for a full day and hear what the residents of Henley have to say to him.”

Committee chairman Simon Smith said: “We have to fight every single application as early as we possibly can with as much information as we possibly can.”

Councillor Bloomfield has said the neighbourhood plan’s policies weren’t specific enough.

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