HARPSDEN PARISH COUNCIL
Minutes of Annual Parish Meeting
in Harpsden Village Hall on
Wednesday 27th April 2022 at 6.30 pm
Cllr Kester George (KG) Chairman
Cllr Catherine Rubinstein (CR) Parish Councillor
Cllr Matt Phillips (MP) Parish Councillor
Cllr Matt Leeman (ML) Parish Councillor
Cllr David Bartholomew (DB) OCC & SODC
Anne Marie Scanlon (AMS) Clerk
& Five Parishioners
- The Chair opened the meeting and welcomed the parishioners there, noting that perhaps the low turnout was a sign that people had no complaints or urgent issues.
- The Chair delivered his annual report which is available on the Parish Council Website (harpsdenparishcouncil.org.uk)
- David Bartholomew (OCC & SODC) introduced himself saying that he had represented Harpsden in OCC for nine years and at SODC for three.
He noted that there had been many changes with developments being built in the area in recent years and there was a strong likelihood that there would be more.
DB looked in detail at the various developments that had been approved along the A4155.
He began with the Retirement Village which was not in Harpsden Parish but abutted it. A new entrance from the A4155 had been formed to serve the retirement village which had 65 units. The Retirement Village had been granted on Appeal and the developer had then sold it on. The permission was granted on the grounds that it would be an extra care facility, but that intention appeared to have been abandoned as the development included luxury apartments and a gym.
The ‘Crossways’ site at the junction of A4155 and Woodlands Rd had two applications. The original application was for 20 houses and was refused by the District Council. A second application had been made for 11 houses which was put to the NPC and rejected. Planning permission had also been refused. Both applications had gone to Appeal. One of the arguments used by the developer was that the area is infill – with Woodlands Road developed on one side and Thames Farm on the other.
DC spoke about Thames Farm recalling that permission had been granted on Appeal. The original developer had then sold the site to Taylor Wimpey. When TW began to build on the site they had discovered sink holes but continued to build the entrance and remove all the trees. The issue of the sinkholes had proved intractable. TW had proposed various schemes to remove drainage water from the site without success. The site had been abandoned for the previous two years and there were no current proposals to resume building or resolve the drainage issue. DB said neither he nor the Planning Authority knew what TW intended to do. Nothing might happen for months or years yet there was a path that went nowhere, floodlights and the site was a mess and an eyesore. He said he was putting pressure on the Chief Executive of the District Council to get TW to clean up the site – to remove weeds, repair the fencing, clean the path and most importantly to start the replanting of trees. DB said that the tree replanting programme should have been completed two years ago.
Turning to the barns at Thames Farm which were intended to be converted into four residential properties. Building was meant to commence at the start of April. If it didn’t start the plan would lapse.
DB said Wyevale had been an eyesore and blight on the area for a long time. The original owners had made great promises but having obtained planning permission the site was sold on. The new developers had outline planning permission, but they’ve been trying to cram in bigger houses. Given that Wyevale was an eyesore DB said most people felt that 40 small houses with greenery was not a bad compromise. The new developers had put in an application for 55 dwellings including a three-story block of flats along the main road. DB was confident that the application would not be successful.
The applicants had been trying to get speed limits along the road changed and wanted to get an extension of the 30mph speed limit. DB said he understood that for most people their instinctive reaction would be to agree for safety reasons: but a 30-mph limit would trigger new development rules, which automatically made the area ‘residential’. He said that he wanted to keep Henley and Harpsden as separate entities and that was why he opposed the reduction of speed limits.
Referring to one of the issues that the Chairman had touched on in his report, DB said that development would become more likely if the Council could not prove a five-year land supply which was how the Thames Farm development got approval. The land supply issue was difficult and was exposed to continual challenge by developers.
DB then spoke about the grounds that residents could object to any planning application (from a single building to a development). There were misconceptions – losing a view or noise from building were not grounds to object.
Residents could object for any of the following.
- loss of privacy
- loss of light
- car parking
- traffic generation
- noise and disturbance
- character of the area
- Green Belt
- Conservation Area
- design, appearance, and layout
- national and local policies.
He added that boundary disputes were a legal matter and not a planning issue.
Covenants were also a legal issue rather than a planning one.
- Open Forum
A Parishioner questioned the status of the NP. KG said that it had been finished and was with a Government Inspector. He said that the Inspector was pleased with the present text and had commended the Planning Officer in Henley for her good work.
He said if the NP was accepted it would save the green fields on both sides of Sheephouse Lane.
Parishioner SP said she hoped the planning authorities would take into consideration that the far field was in the flood plain. She added that loss of that open space would wreck the rural aspect of the parish. KG said that the Bremont factory was an unfortunate intrusion which stopped HPC from asking for the AONB to be extended as far as the river.
Henley Golf Club
SP said she was concerned about possible plans to move the Golf Club House to the top of Chalk Hill. She was particularly worried about traffic and safety of the entrance being in a dangerous narrow lane, having herself been hit by a car and seriously injured there while on horseback.
KG said that when the Golf Club had previously suggested this HPC had opposed the idea not just because the road was (and remained) unsuitable but also because it would spoil the AONB. It wasn’t just the Club House but all the ancillary buildings and a car park.
Another parishioner asked what would happen with Pat Hiscock’s barn, at the foot of Chalk Hill. KG said that the owner was not in a position to have it restored but he hoped it would be restored eventually as it had been part of Harpsden’s history for hundreds of years, being shown on the Estate map of 1586.
Parishioner TC asked DB what was happening about Gillotts School. DB said that Gillotts was in Henley so not under his jurisdiction. KG said that unfortunately the fields at Gillotts School were included in the JHHNP, but the advantage of Highland Park was there was enough room there to meet the housing requirements without having to use Gillotts. Most of the JHHNP committee (which had two members from Harpsden Parish Council) were in favour of avoiding building on Gillotts Field if other means could be found for funding the repair or replacement of the school buildings. They agreed that the playing fields were important for the students at the school and that as Henley’s main secondary school they should have the best games facilities possible.
CR asked DB if Thames Farm continued to be in suspended animation could the site be designated a green field site. DB said as the developers had a Certificate of Commencement of the development they had an indefinite amount of time to finish building. If the situation continues for a few more years the DC could issue a Notice to Complete, and planning permission would lapse, and it would become a green field site again.
DB was not aware of any other development site that had got as far as Thames Farm and then stopped. If Taylor Wimpey wanted to change the development they would need to put in another planning application. An option could be a smaller estate with lakes, but TW would need to go through the entire planning process again to bring it about.
SP asked if TW could be made to restore the land and DB said that was part of the issue he was trying to address with them about tidying up and replacing the trees
Planning Appeals System
SP asked if it was likely that Appeals situation could be resolved?
DB said the Appeals process was one of the biggest flaws in the planning system. system. Some developers did not even bother putting in decent proposals but waited for the chance to go to appeal when they could hire top QCs to exploit the complications. The system was unbalanced and unequal. The Planning Inspector was not elected, and it was up to the public to lobby their MP for change. Unfortunately, though all the political parties had huge housing targets and wanted to build more houses.
SP said the traffic on Sheephouse Lane was phenomenal and that it had increased significantly in recent years. She said that cars were trying to avoid the traffic build-up in the centre of Henley and that the damage was substantial especially on the little bridge where flooding was a problem. Speeding was another. DB said it was also a consequence of the Highland Park development.
KG said that HPC was aware of these problems and had had meetings with OCC Highways. The repairs were going to happen, but the date had not been fixed yet.
Harpsden Woods and the Woodland Trust
SP was concerned about the amount of littering in Harpsden Woods and would like to see a ‘Don’t Litter’ sign. CR said that HPC was in the process of getting another litter bin and would welcome suggestions as to where to locate it.
DB said littering was a national problem and government should start a national education campaign. TC asked DB about fly-tipping. DB said it was certainly a problem but that the Council system for removing fly-tips was very good. Parishioners should report fly-tipping on Fix My Street and usually the trash would be removed in one to two days.
As there were no further questions the Chairman brought the meeting to a close.