SODC Overrules on Former Nat West Building Planning Application

South Oxfordshire District Council have approved the planning application to convert the old Nat West Bank building in Market Place into six residential flats with a retention of a retail unit on the ground floor despite Henley Town Council recommending it should be refused.

The planning application includes reinstatement of residential entrance door to vestibule, retention of a retail unit on the ground floor, construction of a new extension to accommodate a stair and lift, six new residential flats on the ground, first and second floors, including associated rear terraces and conversion of existing attic space, and new in-line roof tile vents to the main roof, and new rooflights to the rear slope of the main roof.

Henley Town Council recommended objection on the following points – overdevelopment of site, out of keeping with the character and appearance of the area, concern over lack of assessment on right to light for neighbours, low quality accommodation and excessive use of rooflights, no refuse storage or cycle storage provided and lack of space. Chair of HTC Planning Committee, Councillor Tom Buckley spoke on behalf of Henley-on-Thames Town Council, objecting to the application.

The Henley Society wrote an objection stating, “We are concerned that there are no dedicated parking provisions for this redevelopment which puts added pressure on the Kings Rd car park, and we are concerned at the loss of light to neighbours. The storage of waste internally for two weeks is also a health hazard.”

There was no inclusion of parking spaces or cycle storage in the proposed plans.  The Planning Officer stated in his report, “Officers do not consider it necessary to require the provision of parking for these residential units given the highly sustainable, town centre location.  The site is within close proximity to shops, employment opportunities and public transport.  No cycle storage is proposed but officers do not consider it necessary to provide cycle storage in such a central and sustainable location.”

At the SODC Planning Committee meeting, the Planning Officer informed the committee that the local highways authority had no objection to the application, including on the amount of parking provided, nor did the waste team regarding the refuse aspects of the development. For these reasons, he recommended that planning permission be granted.

The SODC Planning Committee asked about the design of the apartments and if there was additional ventilation required and the Planning Officer confirmed that there was a ventilation condition attached to the approval of the application. In addition, he noted that building regulations would cover the effectiveness of that condition.

In response to a question about if the building was of specific architectural merit, the Planning Officer confirmed that it was not listed but was considered a building of local note in the neighbourhood plan.  He also highlighted that the units conformed with national space standards, and that the local plan was not specific on the space needed for conversion of town centre units into residential accommodation.

In order to better understand the proposal and any implications it might have with overlooking the neighbouring properties, a site visit was proposed. However, members agreed that the officer’s report provided sufficient information in order to determine the application.  A motion to defer the item for a site visit was NOT carried upon being put to the vote.

Members discussed the neighbourhood plan and noted that it referenced parking and the provision of cycle parking, something absent in the application. The committee also agreed that the plans for the collection and disposal of waste was a concern, despite the waste team having no objection. Some members also indicated that six flats in the building would be an overdevelopment of the site.

However, as the committee recognised the sustainable location of the development as it was in a town centre, that there was no objection from the waste team, and that the flats all met nationally prescribed space standards, they did not believe these to be sufficient grounds for refusal.

Although some members believed the development to be overlooking of the neighbouring property and potentially resulting in a loss of privacy, this was not agreed by the committee. Although the lack of cycle storage and concerns around waste remained, the committee agreed that overall, these factors were not sufficient grounds alone to refuse the application.  A motion to refuse the application was NOT carried on being put to the vote.

Overall, the committee could not see any material planning reasons to refuse the application as they did not believe the application to negatively impact neighbouring amenity by overlooking and due to the lack of objections from technical consultees.  A motion to approve the application was carried on being put to the vote.


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