Friday, 12 August 2022

Both parishes will be in new housing plan

THE new version of the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan will include both parishes.

The document is to be updated to find sites for another 350 new homes on top of the 450-plus that were accommodated in the original plan, which passed a referendum in 2016.

There were fears that Harpsden Parish Council wanted to be left out of the rewrite as the largest development of 96 homes at Highlands Farm off Greys Road is in the parish.

But Councillor Ken Arlett, who chairs Henley Town Council’s neighbourhood plan committee, said: “Harpsden has decided to come back in with us and we will be appointing a project manager in the coming days.”

Councillors hope the updated plan will have more weight in planning decisions.

The original plan, which cost £90,000 to produce, was effectively disregarded by South Oxfordshire District Council on a number of occasions, including with the approval of 54 flats for elderly and disabled people at the former Jet garage site in Reading Road when the land was earmarked for ordinary flats.

Meanwhile, plans to convert an office complex in the town centre into flats are back on the table. Ressance. of Newbury, has again asked South Oxfordshire District Council for consent to redevelop The Hub at Hallmark House, off Station Road, into 23 flats.

The developer doesn’t need full planning permission as such conversions are “permitted development” in law. It only needs to show the site is safe and habitable.

Ressance first applied in January but then withdrew the plans so that a flood risk assessment could be carried out.

This has now been completed and concludes the risk is “low”, or less than one in 1,000, for the entirety of the 2,050 sq m plot.

The site isn’t earmarked for housing development in the neighbourhood plan, which encourages the provision of shared office premises and the retention of commercial sites generally.

The Hub, a three-storey Nineties complex, is divided into about a dozen suites occupied by mostly IT and science firms which have been notified of the plans.

Henley town councillors have previously expressed concern at developers using permitted rights as it means they don’t have to make contributions towards community infrastructure.

The district council will make a decision by May 8.

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