Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Villagers volunteer to 'take control' over development

MORE than 40 volunteers have come forward to help prepare Shiplake’s neighbourhood plan.

The village has decided to press ahead with a plan in order to give it more protection from speculative developments and allow residents a say over where new homes are built.

More than 60 people attended a meeting at Shiplake village hall last week to find out more about the process and how they can help.

Tudor Taylor, chairman of Shiplake Parish Council, which is leading the process, said he was encouraged by residents’ enthusiasm for the plan.

He said: “It’s brilliant — we have more volunteers than we had for our community plan three or four years ago.”

Councillor Taylor said Shiplake was “under threat” from developers and the majority of residents wanted to control what was built and where.

“The big thing is to create a vision for the village going forward — what sort of housing, what sort of mix?” he said.

“We’re not just taking control but defining for ourselves what the village will look like over the next 15 years. It’s certainly not nimbyism. We need to take more houses but we need to control where they are put.

“We have got a significant number of volunteers to support the plan going forward and want to go very quickly indeed without compromising the quality of the plan.

“I’m sure there will be a lot of discussion in the village about sites.”

The council had previously discounted the idea of a neighbourhood plan after observing how two plans for care housing in Henley had been given planning permission despite being in conflict with the town’s neighbourhood plan.

The change of heart followed a meeting last month with Henley MP John Howell, which was attended by about 50 Shiplake residents.

Mr Howell explained how the Government had confirmed neighbourhood plans should not be considered out of date as long as planning authorities could demonstrate a three-year housing land supply. The previous period was five years, which led to South Oxfordshire District Council admitting it had failed to secure enough immediately available land to meet housing demand for that period, making its own local plan and neighbourhood plans invalid.

Shiplake has seen a wave of planning applications in recent months, most of which the parish council has objected to. 

The current applications for development include one for 110 homes at Thames Farm, off Reading Road, just outside the village, which is due to go to a second appeal.

Claire Engbers was refused permission to develop the land in 2013 and the decision was upheld after an appeal inquiry. She took her case to the High Court and a judge overturned inspector Ian Jenkins’ verdict.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid then asked the Court of Appeal to overturn the ruling and uphold the inspector’s decision but it refused following a hearing in November.

Mr Javid will decide how the second appeal will be heard.

There are also plans for a new 172-bed retirement community near Shiplake. The Retirement Villages Group wants to develop a field off the A4155 Reading Road, opposite the entrance to the Haileywood Farm industrial estate.

The company, which is working with landowner Dr Harjot Bal, a GP from Woodley, wants to build a 40-bed, two-storey care home, three blocks of “extra care” flats and 10 blocks of terraced or semi-detached “extra care” bungalows.

Alex Hersham and his mother Aida Dellal, of Fawley Court in Henley, want to redevelop the former Wyevale garden centre in Reading Road with up to 34 homes and either offices or a care home.

The 4.5-acre site, immediately north of Thames Farm, has been derelict since 2009 and was earmarked for commercial use in the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

Shiplake Parish Council has not expressed a view on this plan as an application has not yet been submitted.

Sarah Melton, from Newbury, wants to build seven detached houses at Mount Ida, a private house opposite Thames Farm.

North Oak Homes has applied for outline planning permission for seven homes on a field north of New Road in Lower Shiplake.

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