Planning Inspectorate, Hollie Nicholls has dismissed Blockwork/Premier Inn’s appeal against SODC Planning decision to build a five-story, 115 bedroom hotel on the railway station car park site.
A public hearing took place on 10 May at Henley Rugby Club when representatives from Henley Town Council, The Henley Society, businesses spoke about their objections to the development.
In the Inspector’s report she dismissed the appeal mainly on the affect on the conservation area. She said, “In views from the Conservation Area, particularly from the entrance of the Imperial Hotel, the large mass of the building, its blocky form, and large expanse of metal clad, largely featureless flank wall would be at odds with the established character of the buildings in the fore and mid-ground which are smaller in scale, include a variety of characteristic gable and hip roof forms, largely brick exteriors and features of interest, such as bay windows.
“Therefore, my overall finding is that the proposal would not constitute good design in terms of its harmful effects on the character and appearance of the streetscene and surrounding area.”
“Through altering the way in which the site currently makes a neutral contribution to the settings of the Conservation Area and Imperial Hotel to the proposal’s effect of detracting from them, albeit in a modest way, the proposal would harm the settings and thus significance of two designated heritage assets.”
The Inspector took on board the many representations from local residents, community groups and businesses. She stated, “Though outnumbered by opposition to the scheme, a number of supportive comments indicate that a budget hotel would be beneficial to the town and would be able to offer a greater range of accessible rooms when compared to accommodation currently available in the area. I have taken account of all views in reaching my decision.”
Henley’s District Councillor Ken Arlett when hearing the decision said, “Although very pleased with the decision by the Inspectorate, I would suggest the case put forward by the Premier Inn at best was weak and wasted everyone’s time and dare I say money. For the inspector to come back within two weeks of the appeal with her decision, shows exactly that the decision by SODC to refuse the application in the first place, had numerous planning reasons that Premier Inns should have adhered to before seeking the appeal.”
“I would like to thank all the speakers that attended the appeal and spoke in favour of refusal, the information given to the inspector in my opinion gave her little choice other than dismiss the appeal.”
“I would hope Premier Inn will come back and discuss with Henley Town Council on a way forward, on how a hotel could be built in the future that would satisfy everyone that had put forward objections. The detail from the inspectors refusal would be a good starting point.”
You can read the Inspector’s full report here