Developer’s plan for homes at old garden center site rejected

Developer’s plan for homes at old garden center site rejected
Written by MAGASIR

PLANS to build 55 homes between Henley and Shiplake have been rejected.

Beechcroft Developments bought the site of the former Wyevale garden centre, off the A4155 Reading Road, in April last year.

The purchase came with outline planning permission for 40 houses and some commercial buildings, which was granted by South Oxfordshire District Council in November 2019.

When Beechcroft took over the land, which has been derelict since 2009, it wanted to increase the number of homes to 55 to include 10 two-bedroom flats, nine one-bedroom flats, two three-bedroom houses and one two-bedroom house, all classified as “affordable”.

There would also be 20 three-bedroom houses, seven two-bedroom houses and four one-bedroom flats and two two-bedroom flats to be sold on the open market.

The council received 74 objections from residents, who complained the development would be out of keeping with the area and its density and height would be unacceptable. Henley Town Council, Harpsden and Shiplake parish councils, the Chiltern Society and the Henley Society also objected.

Thames Water said the existing foul water network infrastructure would not be able to cope with the needs of the development.

A report outlining the council’s reasons for refusing the application says: “The proposed affordable units would be heavily weighted towards small apartments, which would not provide appropriate living conditions for families. The proposal fails to secure dis affordable.

“The application is not supported by a biodiversity metric assessment. As such, it is not possible to assess whether the proposed development would enhance biodiversity and if any impacts can be avoided, mitigated or, as a last resort, compensated fully.

“The proposal is therefore contrary to the South Oxfordshire Local Plan 2035 and the joint Henley and Harpsden neighborhood plan.

“The drainage features associated with the proposed development would be within the root protection areas of trees that are protected by a tree preservation order. The proposal would therefore threaten the health and longevity of trees on the site that are significant landscape features.

“The extent of built development across the site, combined with the scale and height of some buildings and the lack of open space to break up the built form, would result in a dense development that would not be in keeping with the character of this rural edge location.

“The layout would not provide space to incorporate planting to mitigate the impacts of the development and the proposal would be harmful to the local landscape.

“The proposed development would not incorporate an adequate amount of quality amenity space for each residential unit.

“The amount of the usable public open space would also be limited and the quality of the space would be poor.

“As such, the proposal would not provide appropriate living standards for future occupants, or suitable access to recreation and play.”

The report also criticizes the location of the proposed electricity substation and pumping station as they would not meet the minimum statutory distances to residential properties while stating that Beechcroft had failed to provide an appropriate drainage strategy.

David Bartholomew, who represents Shiplake on the district council, said 55 homes was too many but he supported 40.

He said: “Something has to be done on that site as it has been derelict and an eyesore for some time and in general terms people are not against some development.”

The site is next door to the former Thames Farm, now called Regency Place, where Taylor Wimpey has planning permission for 95 homes but construction has not begun because the company has not received approval for its controversial drainage plans.

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