Residents protested at the site visit by members of SODC Planning Committee at the old LA Fitness site yesterday afternoon in preparation for their meeting on Wednesday to decide on the application to turn the site into an 80 bedded care home. The owners, Henthames, sent a representative from their planning agent, Woolf Bond Planning to let the seven councillors into the site which included Henley Town Councillors, Lorraine Hillier and David Nimmo Smith who are District and County Councillors.
At the Newton Road entrance, Michelle Horsley from Keep Henley Active was joined by past users of the leisure centre. Annabel Watts was one of the protesters, she said, “I used to love coming to LA Fitness 3/4 times a week. There was a lovely community feel and my son used to have swimming lessons here. After it closed, I had to wait 8 months before he was able to have swimming lessons at Gillotts which he doesn’t particularly like as the water is always cold.” Natalie Bowhill also a previous member came along with her son William who unlike his sister who learnt to swim at LA Fitness currently won’t be able to.
The protesters shouted “Save our Pool”, “Keep Children Swimming” and “Why don’t you call us Worthing on Thames!”
On the other side of development in Mill Lane where the proposed development is to have a new entrance. Mill Lane residents protested too and had hung photographs on trees showing how busy the road already gets with parked cars all along the road which means that the road is often just a single lane width.
Mill Lane Residents’ Association employed Red Kite Development Consultancy to submit their objection to the planning application. In their report it said, “The proposed scheme would involve a new access junction onto this part of Mill Lane, puncturing the tree screen, and opening up views of an extremely large new building and car park. This would be significantly detrimental to local character.”
“The safety implications and impact on the local network are also unacceptable. Indeed, the claim that cumulatively this development and the Inland Homes scheme on the corner of Mill Lane will have a ‘no discernible impact’ on the local highway network is, in my clients view, laughable. Because of the heavy flows on the Reading Road at all times, queues already form to exit Mill Lane, with a regular 4-5 minute wait for drivers in peak times.”
Both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor attended the protest yesterday. The Mayor, Councillor Julian Brookes said, “I’m very happy that the Planning Committee have taken the time to come out and see the site. Henley Town Council will be addressing the committee on Wednesday evening with our objections. Deputy Mayor, Councillor Will Hamilton added, “The recency of our Neighbourhood Plan over the older SODC Corporate Plan means that this development shouldn’t happen.”