Elysian Residences who offer luxury retirement apartments have submitted a planning application to redevelop The Smith Centre on the Fairmile for 100-110 1, 2 and 3 bedded retirement homes. The proposed development would see the existing buildings demolished and a large complex of 4 storey high apartments built with ancillary amenity space including a gym.
The brown field site consists of seven office buildings of varying ages many of which have been vacated for a number of years. Pitney Bowes, who leased a large area, vacated the premises 5+ years ago.
Since 2016 the site has had a number of Prior Approval Notification applications to convert the office buildings to residential use under Permitted Development (“PD”) rights. The most recent application was approved in October 2019 for 78 residential dwellings and 132 car parking spaces which allowed an uplift of circa 36 dwellings from previous applications in 2018 and 2016.
Elysian Residences have developments in Sevenoaks, Hampstead, Tunbridge Wells and Berkhampstead.
The developers sought pre-planning advice from South Oxfordshire District Council. In the officer’s report, it stated, “The site is not allocated in either the South Oxfordshire Local Plan or the Joint Henley and Harpsden Neighbourhood Plan for any development. The site was previously in use as employment, that use is protected by policy EMP3 of the Local Plan. Proposals for the redevelopment, or change of use of employment land to non-employment uses will only be permitted if:
i) the applicants can demonstrate that any employment use is no longer viable; or
ii) it is evidenced that there is no market interest in the site following one year of active and effective marketing; or
iii) the development would bring about significant improvements to the living conditions of nearby residents, or to the environment. In addition to the criteria above, where there is no reasonable prospect of land or premises being used for continued employment use, a mixed use enabling development which incorporates employment space should first be considered
The full planning application was reviewed by Henley Town Council Planning Committee last week. They recommended refusal on the grounds that the site is not allocated in either the South Oxfordshire Local Plan or the Joint Henley and Harpsden Neighbourhood Plan too. In their response they stated: The development does not meet the Local Plan policy for affordable housing. It would result in overdevelopment in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with the scale being out of keeping with the area. The Committee are also concerned over the transport links to the Town Centre and highway safety. This type of development is not needed for the Town.
The full application can be viewed and commented at Planning Application P22/S3033/FUL (southoxon.gov.uk).