The Henley Town Council Neighbourhood Plan (NP) Committee have agreed that a review of the Joint Harpsden & Henley Neighbourhood Plan (JHHP) should be carried out after a presentation and discussions with Senior Planning Officers from South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC).
Senior Planning Officer, Mr Ricardo Rios said, “A review of the JHHNP is optional however it is recommended by SODC for consideration as existing ‘made’ plans can become out of date. A review offers the chance to amend, improve and strengthen current plans.”
The JHHNP was adopted in April 2016 after a public referendum and included 11 housing sites for 500 new homes. The plan was approved by SODC however their Planning Committee has not always adhered to this including the approval of the McCarthy & Stone retirement complex on the old Jet Garage on Reading Road which was allocated for 55 flats including 40% affordable.
Mr Rios said, “The review process would be to take the existing plan and look at updating rather than starting again. The Town Council can make a decision on how and when to involve the public and if there are significant changes to the original plan then a referendum is likely.”
The revised plan will need to take into account the emerging SODC Local Plan 2033 which has allocated another 350 homes for Henley. Mr Rios stated, “The Neighbourhood Plan must link with the Local Plan. If there is a conflict from having the current JHHNP and the new emerging plan – the Officers will always favour the emerging plan.”
If the revised plan passes a public referendum then it will carry the full weight of a ‘made’ Plan which is different to the first tier of Neighbourhood Plans.
Representatives from Harpsden Parish Council are considering whether to join in with the review of a Joint plan.
The government ministerial Statement on housing and land supply runs out December 2018. Mr Rios felt that there should be no rush to amend the JHHNP by this date. SODC cannot currently demonstrate a five year supply of land to cater for its housing need. It is more effective and therefore better to go beyond the date of December 2018 to ensure that the review has the best focus. The result of the review should make the Plan more effective. He said, “Communities who have positive plans are looked on favourably by the Government.”
Grants are available to revise Neighbourhood Plans both SODC and Locality (a body set up by the Government to offer professional support through Consultants) offer grants of £15,000. The NP committee agreed to look further at employing a consultant to start a review. They also discussed the need for a policy for affordable housing for each site and that the plan should be a People’s plan which would have to be ‘sold’ to residents after a bit better success with the existing plan.