New Housing Sites Unveiled for Revised Neighbourhood Plan

The Town Council’s Neighbourhood Plan Committee announced the housing site allocation for the revised Joint Henley & Harpsden Neighbourhood Plan (JHHNP) at a meeting this week with The Chiltern Centre and further land of Highlands Farm being selected for inclusion.

The Chiltern Centre’s proposal is to build 3 houses on their site off Greys Road.  The money raised from the selling of the land will enable the charity to build a new purpose built centre at Highlands Farm where land has been offered.  The additional Highlands Farm land will see a mixed use site including 110 dwellings, (affordable and community-led social housing), employment and community facilities.

The South Oxfordshire District Council Local Plan 2035 requires a minimum of 1285 homes to be built in Henley.  Since the  JHH Neighbourhood Plan was adopted in 2016, 1170 houses have been completed or committed.  SODC have confirmed that there is an outstanding figure of 69 dwellings.  The Site Selection Officer report stated, “although the current requirement from SODC had been reduced to a need to allocate sites for 69 dwellings, it would be prudent to allocate for 115 as specified in the SODC Local Plan 2035 to allow for some sites that may not come forward and that Neighbourhood Development Plans for the market towns should seek to meet demonstrable local needs, for example for specialist or affordable housing, even where this would result in housing provision in excess of the outstanding requirement.”

AECOM, a planning and environmental services consultancy completed a site assessment on 35 sites last year including 20 new sites that came forward through a ‘call for sites’.   The public consultation in July asked residents to give their feedback on 15 housing sites through an online survey and were invited to an exhibition at the Town Hall on 2/3 July.

Neighbourhood Planning Committee Site Selection Working Group considered feedback from the public exhibition, survey results and AECOM site assessment.

The Site Selection Working Group also reviewed existing sites allocated in the 2016 JHHNP which have not been delivered including Stuart Turner, Land West off Fairmile, Gillotts School Playing Fields, former Chiltern’s End Care Home, 357 Reading Road and former Henley Youth Club (Deanfield Avenue).   The original TA Centre in Friday Street has been removed from the plan as it was stated it was ‘undeliverable’.  The Committee agreed to increase the number of dwellings on 357 Reading Road site from 30 to 50 homes to enable the Council to make the development of the Jubilee Park sports project viable.  The Committee considered the proposal to increase the number of dwellings on Gillotts School Playing Fields to 80 from the original 50 in the 2016 plan.  They agreed to keep it at 50 as the increase would reduce the area available for tree coverage to screen the site as required through the original JHHNP and the increase in traffic would have an impact on Blandy Road.  Members of the Save Henley Green Spaces presented their petition of 2,200 to the Committee on Monday against development of both the School’s playing fields and Lucy’s Farm which wasn’t included in the final 15 sites.  They asked the Committee to remove Gillotts School Playing Fields from the plan.  Chair of the Neighbourhood Planning Committee, Ken Arlett said, “We have been told that we have to keep it (Gillotts) in by SODC.”

Housing sites that have not been included are Swiss Farm (73 dwellings), Harpsden Meadows (Reading Road next to Watermans Allotments) (39 dwellings), Land north of Crossways (11 dwellings), Thames Poultry Farm House (3), The Bungalow (Green Acres, Harpsden Woods) (8 dwellings), Thames Farm (NE Corner) (8 dwellings) and Hallemead House (Woodlands Road, Harpsden) (20-30 dwellings).

219 survey forms were completed by the public.  Respondents were asked to rank each site, 1-3 against each criteria of environmental, physical, accessibility, landscape and visual, heritage and planning policy.  The top sites deemed by respondents to be more impacted by development in comparison to AECOM assessments were:

Environmental – Hallemead House and Thames Farm (NE corner)
Physical – Hallemead House and Harpsden Meadows (Reading Road)
Accessibility – Hallemead House and Harpsden Meadows (Reading Road)
Landscape and Visual – Hallemead House, Harpsden Meadows (Reading Road) and Gillotts School Playing Fields
Heritage – Harpsden Meadows (Reading Road) and Hallemead House
Planning Policy – Hallemead House and Harpsden Meadows (Reading Road)

The top sites deemed by respondents to be closest to the AECOM assessments were:

Environmental – The Chiltern Centre and Chiltern’s End
Physical – The Chiltern Centre and former Henley Youth Centre (Deanfield Avenue)
Accessibility – former Henley Youth Centre and The Chiltern Centre
Heritage – Chiltern’s End, The Chiltern Centre and  former Henley Youth Centre
Planning Policy – Chiltern’s End and the The Chiltern Centre

The main comments submitted by respondents regarding potential development in general was that brownfield development was preferable to greenfield, and that where development happens it should be to maximise affordable housing and minimise large, expensive housing.  There were also concerns about development contributing to the coalescence of Henley, Harpsden and Shiplake and that development should consolidate the development of existing settlements and not materially change their character.

You can read the full results of the public survey here.

There will now be 6 week consultation starting on Monday 20 September to 1 November.  There will be ‘Drop in’ sessions at Henley Town Hall on Friday 15 October (3.00-7.00pm) and Saturday 16 October (10.00-3.00pm) and will have a stall at the Eco Fair in the Town Hall on 22 September.  The draft plan will able to downloaded from the JHHNP website https://jhhnp.org.uk/ If you have any comments, please make them to j.rhymes@henleytowncouncil.gov.uk

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