Public Hearing on Revised Neighbourhood Plan Housing Site

A public hearing will take place on Monday 1 August at 10.15am at Henley Town Hall to consider the proposed allocation of land at Northern Field, Highlands Farm which has been put forward in the revised Joint Henley and Harpsden Neighbourhood Plan (JHHNP) for 110 homes.

Independent Examiner, Andrew Ashcroft will hear from Henley Town Council and South Oxfordshire District Council along with representatives from the proposed developer, Crest Nicholson and The Chilterns Conservation Board.

The Chilterns Conservation Board recommends that the inclusion of the Northern Field should be deleted. They state in their objection, “The principal ground being the demonstrable harm to the landscape character and special qualities of the AONB, including wider views across it from the network of footpaths that criss-cross this landscape. No exceptional circumstances exist. The AONB helps to define what is special about Henley and Harpsden.”

A public consultation on the revised JHHNP was held from 20 September to 16 November 2021. The draft plan was circulated to statutory consultees, residents, businesses and local organisations. Each household was invited to send feedback. When the consultation closed, this feedback was carefully considered, and the draft plan was revised accordingly. The resulting document was approved at a Special Full Council Meeting on 7 December 2021.

The site at Highlands Farm had 170 homes included in the original JHHNP in 2016 and there is still a large number of these to be built and/or sold.

The hearing will debate the following matters:

  • the extent to which the proposed allocation of the site has properly assessed its impact on the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and was fully addressed in the Environmental Report and the site assessment reports;
  • the extent to which the contribution that the development of the site would make to the delivery of new homes in general, and to the delivery of affordable housing in particular would be sufficiently compelling to outweigh the impact of built development in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty;
  • and the extent to which the site would represent sustainable development and would relate to the existing built form of the town

The public and other interested parties will be able to attend the hearing. However, there will be no opportunity for their direct participation.

In Mr Ashcroft’s hearing note he states, “A neighbourhood plan hearing is intended to achieve a balance between getting to the heart of identified issues and having a light-touch approach so that lay people can both understand and take an active part in its proceedings. The hearing will proceed on this basis.”