Network Rail are again seeking to dispose of the car park land at Henley railway station to build a hotel on. This is the second time in 4 years that this has been put forward. This time though the site proposed is on the small car park opposite the train station entrance.
The proposal was discussed at Henley Town Council Planning Committee last night (Tuesday). The proposal says, “The disposal is being progressed with the support of the train operating company, GWR. The site currently forms part of an underutilised car park and will result in the permanent loss of 61 car parking spaces. There will also be a temporary loss of an additional 50 spaces for use as a construction compound for an anticipated 14 months. Under the Network Rail/GWR collaboration 55 new parking spaces will be provided at Twyford station where station park is undersupplied and further land will be made available at Goring and Streatley station. Post development a car park capacity study will be carried out at Henley station to confirm the remaining number of parking is sufficient to meet future demand.”
Completion of the Henley development and the ultimate disposal is expected to be September 2020, subject to the success of the planning application. However, construction is not anticipated to start until early 2020. The land at Twyford station will be made available to GWR before April 2019 and there will be a focus on delivery the car park extension before April 2020.
The joint Henley and Harpsden Neighbourhood Development Plan identifies a need to increase hotel and visitor bed space in Henley and earmarks Henley station car park as a possible suitable hotel site. The site proposed in the Plan though was further down Station Road on the left past the coach parking spaces which have been temporarily leased to Invesco for car parking.
Chair of the Planning Committee, Councillor Ken Arlett said, “The Committee supported a 100 bed hotel subject to no loss of parking. Parking to be made up of either undercroft or decking the car parking area. One concern was that the planning application for The Hub (corner of Station Road) was to have 20 car park spaces where the hotel is proposed. An agreement was made with the Hub developer Ressance and Network Rail to buy/lease these spaces before the land disposal/hotel development was proposed.”
Neil Gunnell from Henley Trains commented, “A hotel sounds like good news for the Henley economy, especially in the evenings where turnover of visitors could be good for restaurants etc. However, the requirement for no loss of parking is a serious issue. Checking just yesterday afternoon, there were fewer than sixty spaces available across the station car park as a whole so without parking protection the station car park will be full from day 1, before any guest or staff car parking is considered.”
“The current site is used to a large degree by businesses for parking. At the very best, a good number of people would have their parking displaced further away from where they need to be, and at the very worst no ability to park at all. There is already insufficient rail parking elsewhere on the branch line so this is a problem in the making.”
Could this hotel development be the answer to bring more footfall and night time diners into Henley and would attract those large restaurant chains or shops many residents would love to have in the town that have previously discounted Henley because we don’t have the numbers to make it viable? The loss of those precious car parking spaces though needs to be overcome. Please leave your comments below.