The Henley Society

Registered Charity No. 234205

The Planning Sub-Committee

Reviews and comments on planning applications and general planning activity in the Henley area

Members of the Planning Committee

  • Veronica Carlton
  • Joan Clark
  • Dr Jenny Copeland
  • Ruth Gibson
  • Geoff Luckett
  • Jeannette Matelot
  • Nick Richardson
  • Monnik Vleugels
  • David Whitehead



People will have many reasons to support or oppose a planning application.  They may be entirely sensible but some of them cannot legally be considered when deciding whether to grant or reject an application.

Valid objections to planning applications are called “material planning considerations”.  These include:

  • Loss of light or overshadowing. This isn’t just a high wall – it means loss of light to the extent that you don’t get enough natural daylight to see by.
  • Overlooking/loss of privacy.
  • Visual amenity - but not loss of private view.
  • Adequacy of parking/loading/turning.
  • Highway safety.
  • Traffic generation.
  • Noise and disturbance resulting from use.
  • Hazardous materials.
  • Smells.
  • Loss of trees.
  • Effect on listed buildings and conservation area.
  • Layout and density of building.
  • Design, appearance and materials.
  • Landscaping.
  • Road access
  • Local, strategic, regional and national planning policies.
  • Government circulars, orders and statutory instruments.
  • Disabled persons’ access.
  • Proposals in the Development Plan.
  • Nature conservation.
  • Archaeology.
  • Fear of crime, with evidence to show that the fear is based in reality.

The following comments about planning applications cannot legally be taken into account. These include:

  • Loss of value to your property.
  • Competition with an existing business.
  • Loss of view 
  • Private covenants or agreements.
  • The applicant’s personal conduct or history.
  • The applicant’s motives.
  • Potential profit from the application for the applicant.
  • Private rights to light.
  • Private rights to way/access.
  • Damage to property.
  • Disruption during any construction phase.
  • Work already done.
  • Fence lines.
  • Loss of trade or competitors.
  • Age, health, status, background.
  • Work patterns of the objector.
  • Time taken to do the work.
  • Capacity of private drains.
  • Building or structural techniques.

Your objection letter should be short (no more than 2 pages), with bullet points on no more than 5-6 key issues. The Planning Case Officer will need to summarise all the objections received. It will be easier for them to do this accurately if you keep your objection to the point. Try not to ramble!

Here is a real example:

“I think this proposal is ludicrous. To put so many houses in this area is not a good idea. I use this green space regularly to walk my dog and to build on it is ridiculous. If it goes ahead then there will be a loss of amenity for the community”.

Although this is heartfelt and green space is important, it might be more likely to be listened to if it is phrased like this:

“I object to this proposal because the land it is on is used regularly by local residents for exercise and recreation. There will be a loss of an important community amenity”.

Finally, do make sure you put your name, address, contact details and a reference to the application in your response. 

April 28th 2022



Decisions on planning applications are made by the Local Planning Authority, which in the case of Henley is South Oxfordshire District Council.

To comment on any application is relatively easy if you know the planning application number (usually in the format P20/S5283 for example)-or the postal address of the property concerned.

Go to the SODC web site and select Planning Application Register. Then select either 'search for reference number' or 'location and date'. Then follow the on-screen instructions. Take care to note that each application has a cut-off time for comments.   April 2022



Joint Henley and Harpsden Neighbourhood Plan – FAQs (January 2022)
What are Neighbourhood Plans?  
Neighbourhood Development Plans set out policies on local development and land allocations in a neighbourhood area. Once adopted, a neighbourhood development plan will be used when determining planning applications.
What can and what can't the Neighbourhood Plan do?
A Neighbourhood Plan can be used to set out how new development should look and where it should be to maximise the benefit to your community. It can’t be used to stop development that has already been permitted or identified through the Local Plan.
A Neighbourhood Plan can propose more development of a certain type than is currently planned for, (for example more affordable housing) if there is evidence to support your policies. However a Neighbourhood Plan can’t propose less development than is identified in the Local Plan.
The Plan does not grant planning permission for development. All of the proposals made in the Plan will require planning permission in the normal way before any development could commence.
Are there limits to what can be put in a plan?
Yes. There are a number of conditions that will need to be met:
Have regard to national policies and advice, such as the National Planning Policy Framework
Contribute to the achievement of sustainable development
Be in general conformity with the strategic policies in the development plan for the area (SODC Local Plan)
Be compatible with European obligations and human rights requirements
Plans will have to be considered by an independent examiner to ensure that they are legally compliant and consistent with these requirements.
Following the independent examination, a local referendum will be held so that the whole community has the opportunity to vote on whether or not to adopt the plan. A majority vote (more than 50%) of the local community is needed to progress the plan towards adoption by South Oxfordshire District Council.
What does the JHHNP Neighbourhood Plan say?
In a nutshell, the new JHHNP includes draft planning policies to cover a wide variety of development scenarios which, following adoption of the Plan, will be used by SODC when making decisions on planning applications. It will also identify development sites for future housing, employment, new areas of local green space, and other uses.
Why do we need a neighbourhood plan?
The review is necessary due to the requirements set out in the new South Oxfordshire District Council Local Plan which was adopted in December 2020. This includes delivery of new homes and employment land, meeting affordable housing needs and addressing environmental issues such as air quality. 
Why do we need development? 
If Henley and Harpsden do not review the existing Neighbourhood Plan, the District Council can decide where development should happen in the parishes, rather than residents being able to contribute to the decision.  
Providing new homes will provide benefits to the town including more affordable housing, community benefits from additional CIL monies.
What are the potential benefits?
Neighbourhood plans are intended to give local people a direct say in the future development of their area. A neighbourhood plan gives local people the chance to create a planning document that guides and shapes development in their local communities. In turn, this will help to influence what facilities are provided in the area. Parishes with an adopted neighbourhood plan are entitled to a higher proportion of revenues from the Community Infrastructure Levy.
What has CIL paid for? 
Since April 2020 CIL monies have paid for: 
£8,427 on particulate monitoring (after 50% contribution from SODC); 
£6,577 to support local town bus service due to shortfall from S106 funds since 13th October, less £6,500 contribution for 1 year from Harpsden Parish Council; 
£1,515 on Joint Neighbourhood Plan marketing costs, less £7,500 contribution from Harspden Parish Council towards these and upcoming marketing costs;
Further £544 on maintaining 17 new planters purchased in 2020-21; 
Further £167 on diffusion tubes, ongoing costs; 
£4,625 on design costs ref traffic calming proposals for Gravel Hill;
£1,840 on traffic survey costs; 
£12,077 on pedestrian crossing on Greys Road; 
£22,482 on 2 x Club Cars;
Gravel Hill Crossing. 
How much development is required? 
The Local Plan sets out a requirement for the JHHNP to provide 115 new houses up until 2035. 
The Local Plan also requires the JHHNP to seek to meet demonstrable local needs, for example for specialist or affordable housing, even where this would result in housing provision in excess of the outstanding requirement (115 houses). 
How much development is planned?
The 2020 Housing Needs Assessment demonstrates that there is high need for affordable housing within Henley and Harpsden. More information can be found here: 
It is therefore necessary to seek to provide more housing than set out in the Local Plan. The new Neighbourhood Plan allocates for 145 new houses over the plan period (up until 2035).
The majority of new dwellings would be delivered on Site M1: Northern Field at Highlands Farm (110 houses), 3 houses are proposed on Site Y Chilterns Centre. Additional houses are proposed at Site A: Land West of Fair Mile (12 additional houses) and Site J: 357 Reading Road (20 additional houses). 
As well as 252 houses (on 7 sites) that have been rolled forward from the existing JHHNP into the new Plan. These sites are considered to be deliverable. 
How did you determine the most suitable new sites? 
The Plan has been informed by a number of public engagement activities including focus groups, live streamed presentations from developers of potential sites and when covid rules allowed a public exhibition (July 2021) looking at site options and drop-in sessions (September 2021) at the Town Hall during the latest pre submission consultation period. 
The purpose of the public exhibition in July 2021 was to determine the most suitable sites to be developed for Henley and Harpsden. This followed a comprehensive site assessment undertaken by consultants AECOM. 
The feedback received during the exhibition was considered alongside an additional site assessment (applying locally specific criteria) and the consideration of the vision and objectives of the Plan to determine the most suitable sites for development. 
Where can I find out more about the site selection process?
We have published a number of Background Papers as part of the Baseline Report and technical evidence documents which provide more detail on the approaches proposed in the JHHNP.
These can be viewed in the at 
Have you considered the impact on local services and facilities?
Yes, we have prepared the draft Plan in consultation with a range of service and infrastructure providers such as the South Oxfordshire District Council, Oxfordshire County Council, Thames Water and others. 
We have published further details in Baseline Report which is available at
What are you doing about transport issues and climate change issues? 
The Plan includes a number of policies on transport and climate change.
We have published further details in the Baseline Report which is available at
What happens next?
Andrew Ashcroft has been appointed by the district council to carry out the examination. The examiner’s role is to make recommendations on the draft plan, and ultimately on if the plan should proceed to referendum.
The examiner issued a Clarification Note on 30 March 2022. The Committee are currently working on the responses, and these will be considered by NPC on 4 April 2022. 
The examiner will consider the responses received through the Regulation 16 consultation and the other documents submitted to the District Council. 
Will there be a referendum? 
The Examiner will consider whether the proposed modifications are significant or substantial as to change the nature of the plan. Where material modifications do not change the nature of the plan (and the examiner finds that the proposal meets the basic conditions, or would with further modifications) a referendum will not be required.
The district council will be required to decide if the modified plan should be ‘made’ within 5 weeks following receipt of the examiner’s report, or such later date as agreed in writing between the district and the town council.
Where material modifications do change the nature of the plan, the district council would publicise and consider the examiner’s report in line with the procedure for making a new neighbourhood plan. The district council would then be required to decide whether to proceed to referendum so that, if the referendum is successful, the modified neighbourhood plan becomes part of the development plan.
What is an examination and who examines the plan? 
All neighbourhood plans will be submitted to an independent examination. Examinations will determine whether the plans meet the necessary criteria and accord with national and local policy. 
How does the referendum work? 
Community support is essential before any neighbourhood plan is adopted and used in planning decisions. If the Neighbourhood Plan is found to be satisfactory with modifications at examination then South Oxfordshire will arrange for a referendum to take place. At referendum members of the community will have the final say in voting for or against the neighbourhood planning document.
Will the Plan have any impact?
The land use planning policies from the date the plan is adopted will bring some change as all new planning applications will normally be decided in accordance with the policies in it. The overall NP document will also be an expression of the community’s vision for the area and along with the policies there will be recommendations to others for actions and projects which will help achieve that vision.
What the risks if the Plan is not made? 
The District Council will allow planning application for housing and employment that meets their general strategy. The District might also encourage much larger sites than needed locally to help with their delivery of housing against targets
Where can I find out more information about the Neighbourhood Plan?
All details are available at 
Document provided by Cllr Ken Arlett
Joint Henley Harpsden Neighbourhood Plan Review Committee
April 2022



​Henley Society AGM:  Planning Report, 22 April 2022

The Society’s planning committee has had another busy year, assessing about 280 planning applications and sending its comments to both the Town Council and SODC.   Following the decision by SODC not to supply hard copies of the relevant plans to local councils, the committee has continued to rely on accessing the SODC website to inspect the plans, and members have then communicated with one another by email or phone.

While more than half of all applications have passed the committee’s scrutiny without comment, others have resulted in objections or in recommendations for modification.  Many of the applications have been for infill developments or house extensions, and some of these have been considered to be over-development of their site or to have an unacceptable impact on neighbouring properties.   Another downside of many extensions is they tend to increase the town’s stock of houses with four or more bedrooms and reduce the proportion of smaller houses, a category that is most needed by local residents.

There were a few major applications to which the Society objected or reinforced a previous objection. The most notable was the application by Premier Inn to build a hotel, with about 100 bedrooms, in the station carpark.  Should this be granted by SODC, it would show an irresponsible disregard of the future need for carparking space that will result from their approval of substantial housing developments, particularly at Shiplake, but also including  Thames Farm, the Wyevale site, Highlands Farm and two developments on Fairmile.  In addition to which, the design for the hotel put forward by Premier Inn is completely inappropriate for Henley, in terms of bulk and appearance, and also due to its impact on nearby properties.

Two developments for which new or revised applications have been submitted during the year are Thames Farm and the Wyevale site.  For the Thames Farm site, an application, fortunately unsuccessful, was submitted claiming that the existing approval embraced the need for ground stabilisation requiring about 6000 HGV deliveries of concrete.  As this was refused, a revised application for the whole scheme is now awaited.   In relation to the Wyevale site, it was disappointing to see the application for a more densely built scheme than that proposed in the previously approved outline application, and with 55 homes rather than 40. 

In terms of actual building developments, work has continued on the construction of houses and flats at Highlands Park but there has been little or no work on other approved sites, probably due, in part, to delays caused by the Covid pandemic.

Last year at the AGM, I provided an overview of the SODC Local Plan and the Henley & Harpsden Neighbourhood Plan, both of which were being updated at the time (for text of the overview see the Henley Society website, planning section).

The South Oxfordshire Local Plan 2011-2035 has now been finalised and can be read on on the SODC website.  In relation to Henley it states, on p.94, that the town should accommodate 115 homes in addition to the 500 allocated in the 2016 version of the Henley & Harpsden Neighbourhood Plan.  As about 300 of the 500 have not yet been built we can expect to see at least 400 new dwellings either built or resulting from building conversion during the next decade.

The updated NP has not yet been adopted but has reached a stage at which it is impossible for members of the public to introduce any further changes.  The Plan is currently with a government-approved inspector who may require some modifications, but it will then be put to a public referendum.   This will require a vote either for acceptance or rejection..   The main reason to vote in favour is that the Plan should prevent speculative builders gaining approval for developments that are not included in the Plan.   The main reason to vote against it is that the Plan makes provision for more dwellings than are required by the Local Plan and that it includes, as approved sites, the controversial site of Gillotts School playing field and also a large extension of the development at Highlands Farm.

Finally. I’m sure that the Society would wish to thank members of the planning committee: Geoff Luckett, Ruth Gibson, Jenny Copeland, Veronica Carlton, Nick Richardson and, recently, Joan Clark and Monnik Vleugels.


 David Whitehead



The Revised and Updated Neighbourhood Plan, 2022

(posted 29th September 2021)


David Whitehead, the Society’s Chairman of Planning Sub Committee says -Now that a draft of the revised and updated Neighbourhood Plan, 2022, is out for public consultation (see website, we thought it would be useful to provide some background to the developments planned for Henley and Harpsden.

The numbers game

The revised NP, 2022, updates the policies of the existing NP which was adopted in 2016 and which includes plans to provide 500 new homes by 2027.   While building on some of the designated sites has been completed or is underway, other sites have not yet been started.  These unstarted sites, with the number of homes allocated, are:  Chilterns End (27), land west of Fairmile (60), Empstead Works (42), 357 Reading Road (30), Henley Youth Club (23) and Gillotts School Sports Field (50).   This total of 232 scheduled but unstarted homes is therefore carried over to the revised Plan at the same, or potentially alternative, sites.

In addition, there are various other sites, not scheduled for housing in the 2016 NP, that have been given approval within the last few years and on which construction has not yet started. These include: Thames Farm (95), the Wyevale site (40), Hallmark House (23), the Smith Centre (73), Highlands Farm additional to the NP (28) and 18 Duke Street (5).  The total in this category is a minimum of 244.

Thus, the number of homes awaiting construction and that could be started at almost any time (subject to following appropriate procedures) is at least 232 + 244 = 476, more if the unfinished allocation at Highlands Farm is included.

The South Oxfordshire Local Plan, 2011 - 2035, adopted in December 2020, specifies a further allocation to Henley, to be built between April 2020 and 2035, of 115, in addition to the 500 allocated in the first NP.  According to SODC, the 476 already-approved homes referred to above have been considered in setting the target of 115.  However, they also state that homes constructed on so-called ‘windfall’ sites (mostly infill building in existing gardens) plus those resulting from permitted development (mainly conversions of commercial or office premises), that have been approved since April 2020 can be offset against the 115.  Our records show that, as of 21 September 2021, 56 such homes have been granted permission, which reduces the number required to meet SODC’s allocation to 59. (In addition plans for 56 homes are currently under consideration.)

Now we come to the details of the Revised NP.  As mentioned, sites outstanding from the 2016 NP are included.  The only completely new sites are the extension to Highlands Farm (110) and the Chiltern Centre (3), i.e., a total of 113 against a need of 59, a surplus of 54.  At the time that the 2016 NP was under discussion, Gillotts Sports Field (50) was the least popular site to be included and, again, its inclusion in the draft of the revised NP has resulted in opposition.  If you think that it should be removed from the plan as being unnecessary to meet the required numbers, now is your opportunity to say so.  On the other hand, you may object to the inclusion of the Highlands Farm extension, a greenfield site but, to be taken seriously, you will have to propose the inclusion of about 50-60 homes elsewhere, either on new sites or by increased housing density on other sites. Thirdly, you may consider that the 615 (500 + 115) homes allocated for Henley by the existing 2016 and revised NP are insufficient for the town’s needs and, if so, you should take this opportunity to say so.

The conundrum of ‘Affordable’ Homes

In responses to planning applications and various consultations, the Society has always supported proposals to increase the amount of ‘social housing’ in Henley (eg. The Society’s Nov 2017 response to DOSC’s Local Plan consultation.) Social housing is the type provided by SOHA, which is subsidised and where ‘affordability’ is retained through different occupancies.  Our emphasis on social housing is due to the minimum requirement for a home to meet the government definition of ‘affordable’ being so low.  It is merely that its price or rental should be less than 80% of the market rate. And the provision of ‘affordable’ homes meeting these minimum requirements will do little to assist either workers on a low wage, or most first-time buyers in Henley.  So long as Henley is more attractive as a place to live compared with other towns and cities, and so long as we have a free-market rather than a commandeconomy, it is difficult to see how the price differential with other towns could be eliminated.

If you think that Henley’s most pressing housing need is for more social housing and that this could be achieved by stipulating that a higher proportion of the ‘affordable’ allocation should be social housing, then do say so.  Or if you think that more homes in total should be built and that 35% of the 40% of the total number (as suggested in the revised NP) provides a solution, do say so.                                                  


Planning Report presented to the AGM

(16 April 2021)

 Anyone, or any organisation, that attempts to maintain the character of Henley and ensure that it continues to be an attractive place to live, faces a constant battle. The threats are more numerous and wide-ranging than ever and the results are obvious in traffic congestion, the loss of surrounding countryside etc. In fact you may wonder what word ‘planning’ means in the context of some recent developments. What planning reasons could support, for example: the housing estate at Thames Farm; the excessive number of retirement flats at the McCarthy & Stone development in Reading Road; the new Bremont factory on a green field site when what appears to be an appropriate brownfield site (the Wyevale site) was available on the other side of road; and the cramming of new housing into tighter and tighter spaces as is currently happening eg at 170 Greys Road? After that introduction, I think it would be useful to spend the rest of this report updating members on the Local Plan and the Neighbourhood Plan. I think many people find it confusing that there are two plans with names that mean very much same thing and both undergoing updates at the same time. So what’s the difference between the two plans? The Local Plan covers the whole of South Oxfordshire, including Thame, Wallingford and Didcot, and is the responsibility of SODC. And SODC, of course, is the planning authority that makes the decisions on planning applications for this whole area including Henley. The government expects all Local Planning Authorities to have a Local Plan, which has to conform with National Planning Policy, and to keep it up to date. The Neighbourhood Plan, on the other hand, covers just Henley and Harpsden; and one way to remember which plan is which is to remember that N for neighbourhood is also N for near. However our NP, like all other NPs, is not an independent plan but has to conform to the policies contained in the LP, particularly in terms of the amount of new housing to be accommodated. Brief History of Local and Neighbourhood Plans Now a little historical background. Some of you may remember back to 2011, ten years ago, when the concept of Neighbourhood Plans was introduced by the government in the Localism Act. There was, and is, no obligation for any area to produce a Neighbourhood Plan but doing so ostensibly gives residents more say. Henley Town Council decided quite quickly to produce a Neighbourhood Plan and, because many of the potential building sites outlined at the time in the draft Local Plan were actually in Harpsden parish, it was decided to produce a joint Henley & Harpsden NP. A committee was set up, and the planning consultancy Nexus was appointed to steer the process. A lot of consultation and argument took place and various drafts were produced, but the final outcome was a 63 page NP which was duly approved in a public referendum. This certainly did not satisfy everyone and I think many people voted for it reluctantly because the only alternative was worse, and effectively a ‘free-for-all’ for developers. But it met the requirements of both SODC and a government-appointed inspector, and so was adopted and came into force in April 2016. However during the consultation process the importance of NPs was diluted. The first printed draft stated that the plan would ‘determine where development would go’ but the word ‘determine’ was soon replaced by the word ‘influence’ which is obviously much weaker. The need to have the NP satisfy both SODC and government inspectors also saw the amount of new housing increased from 400 in the early drafts to 450 and finally to 500 housing units. This adopted version is still current and if you wish to read it, copies should be available in the Library and at the Town Hall.As I mentioned, the main feature of the NP was that Henley and Harpsden should provide an additional 500 housing units in the years up to 2027, in addition to any housing provided by infill developments in gardens or by the conversion of offices to housing. Eleven sites were allocated and four of them have been completed or are well on the way, and we are at the halfway stage to 2027. These four sites are Highlands Farm, the McCarthy & Stone flats on Reading Road, the houses by the shops at the top of Greys Road and the flats on the old Wilkins site on Deanfield Ave. Six of the other sites on which construction has not started are included for re-assessment in the current updating of the NP. Going back now to the Local Plan, in about 2017, SODC was pressured by the government to produce an update and, as a result of this, NPs are also having to be updated. And the time period for both plans now extends to 2035. Recent and current issues SODC’s recently updated Local Plan has had a particularly controversial history and is still being challenged by some South Oxfordshire councillors. The main reason for controversy was the huge increase in housing in South Oxfordshire proposed by the government-sponsored Oxfordshire Growth Board. This specifies an incredible 40% increase in the housing stock of Oxfordshire, with South Oxfordshire taking 30,000 units, admittedly most of them at some distance from Henley. A second reason for controversy was the action of Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing who in 2019 refused to allow the newly-elected South Oxfordshire councillors to modify the figures which had been agreed by the previous administration. And, under the direction of Mr Jenrick, the Local Plan to 2035 was adopted in December last year and is unlikely to be changed. One legal challenge was turned down last month though, according to last week’s Henley Standard, the fight will go on.So now to the process of updating our NP. The decision to update was taken in January 2018 and the consultancy Aecom was appointed to guide the process. As before, it has to conform to the Local Plan which, in its adopted version, has allocated 156 new homes to Henley in addition the 500 specified in the existing NP. However, an important difference this time is that infill developments and office conversions can be counted as contributions to the 156. This is a positive change for Henley. On the other hand, it is important to remember that only about half of the homes stipulated in the existing NP have actually been constructed, and so at the present time there is an expectation that about 250 homes plus the 156 will be constructed over the next decade. It is difficult to calculate precise numbers due to uncertainty regarding the availability of some of the sites in the existing NP, and also because there is ambiguity over which developments are counted in particular time periods. And yet another issue is the proportion of so-called affordable homes and the proportion of social housing in the mix. So far, the proportion of affordable homes is below the target of 40%. Anyway, at a fairly early stage the Town Council invited landowners to submit potential sites for consideration and at present 16 sites have been put forward. Six of these are sites that were included in the first NP but have not yet been started; the others are new. The intention was, and still is, to hold a public exhibition on the 16 sites at the Town Hall, with the owners or developers present to answer questions, and with the public able to give their opinions. This event has been delayed at least twice by the Covid restrictions but is now scheduled for July 2 and 3. The weeks following 3 July will be the time when important decisions are taken. Following the feedback from the public consultation, a draft NP will be produced and this will go forward to a public vote in the autumn in time for it to be submitted to SODC by the deadline in December this year. The public consultation in July is particularly important, as this is when the public can exert most influence. Numbers do count. So I would encourage everyone to take part and help to ensure that the NP is as good as it can be. Finally a comment on the demand for more and more houses in Henley and three reasons why the demand is only going to get greater. The first one can be summed up in the words of David Coleman, Emeritus Professor of demography at Oxford University. In a letter to the Times he wrote “For as long as net migration continues at about a quarter of a million per year, Britain will be trapped in a treadmill of housebuilding without limit”. The second reason adding to housing demand in Henley is a side effect of Covid and the shift to working from home. If the pattern of commuting is changed to just 1, 2 or 3 days a week, then Henley becomes even more popular as a dormitory town for London. And local estate agents are actively encouraging this trend. The third reason is Crossrail which, when it’s completed, will increase the feasibility of commuting to the city and again tend to add to the demand for housing in Henley. So as I said at the beginning, many challenges are on the way and I would reiterate the Chairman’s hope that more members will volunteer to become involved in the Society’s activities.                                                                                                                                                   DCW


Planning Update presented to the AGM of the Henley Society, September 2020

During this lockdown and semi-lockdown period, the Society’s planning committee has continued to examine all the planning applications for addresses in Henley; and we have continued to send comments to the Town Council and to SODC.  We have had to adapt to looking at the plans on the SODC website rather than paper copies, and then communicating with one another by email or phone.  However our aims have been the same - to conserve the historic buildings and green spaces in the town for the future, and to maintain Henley as far as possible as an attractive place to live.


The pandemic seems to have caused no reduction in planning applications, and plans for house extensions and infill buildings have been coming through at the usual rate.  The pandemic has, however, resulted in a slowdown in actual building activity.  For example, the development at Gardiner Place is still not finished and, as predicted some years ago, there are now plans to convert some of the space previously allocated for retail use into apartments.  On other developments, building has been reduced at Highlands Farm and ceased altogether at Thames Farm, though presumably only temporarily.  This situation probably reflects the fact that there are quite a lot of new-builds on the market at the present time - at Highlands Farm, at Laureate Gardens, at Deanfield Avenue, at Gardiner Place and at the McCarthy and Stone retirement development on Reading Road.


Other matters that we have been concerned about during the year have been the new SODC Local Plan and the updating of the Henley/Harpsden Neighbourhood Plan.  As highlighted in last year’s report, the South Oxfordshire Local Plan has had a controversial history, partly due to the extremely large scale of proposed development and partly due to Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State, stepping in to stop the new SO Council members making substantial changes to the Plan.  In this context, you may have seen an item in last Friday’s Henley Standard in which the leader of the Council expressed disappointment at the comments of the inspector appointed by the government to examine the Plan.  However in a token nod to public opinion, SODC is inviting the residents of South Oxfordshire to comment, via their website, on the minor modifications that have been proposed and I would encourage you all to do so.


The number of extra houses to be accommodated in Henley/Harpsden as a result of policies in the new Local Plan is still uncertain but is likely to be appreciably greater than the number in the current Neighbourhood Plan.  It will be set out in the updated NP which is currently under consideration by a Town Council committee.  Again there will be a public consultation on the NP, probably in the late spring of 2021.  Meanwhile Henley and its surroundings, with or without a NP, is particularly vulnerable to speculative developers seeking to profit from the trend for London residents to move to a more rural environment while, at the same time, curtailing but not eliminating their need for commuting.

                                                                                                                                                                                           DCW 18/10/2020




by the Society's Chairman of Planning David Whitehead


The first Henley/Harpsden Neighbourhood Plan, 2012-2027, was finally adopted during the period November 2015-February 2016.   Copies are available for consultation in the Henley Library.  A major reason for the prolonged preparation time was that it had to conform to SODC’s Local Plan as well as taking local opinion into account.  The main outcome, after consideration by a government inspector, was a commitment that 500 new houses would be built at specified sites in Henley, in addition to houses built on various small infill sites and those converted from commercial properties.  Then, despite the short time since its adoption and the size of its commitments, SODC gave notice in 2017 that an update of the Neighbourhood Plan was required in order to reflect the changes being introduced into its own Local Plan.  And the Local Plan required changes in order to reflect, among other considerations, the government-sponsored Oxfordshire Growth Strategy.   


Since 2017, discussions have been held on potential changes to the Local Plan and the Neighbourhood Plan but progress on both has been slow.  One reason for the slow progress is that the majority of SODC members after the 2019 election disagreed with the draft Local Plan supported by the previous administration.  After the refusal by the government to allow SODC to withdraw its draft Local Plan, it is now (June 2020) in the hands of a government inspector who may accept a limited amount of modification.  Meanwhile discussions on the Neighbourhood Plan, within the committee set up by the Town Council, have proceeded on the basis that the draft Local Plan will emerge little changed.  Nothing of substance has yet been decided though there are plans to carry out a public consultation in Henley and Harpsden.  Since March 2020, of course, meetings have been curtailed by the Covid-19 lockdown, causing further delay.  And, perhaps more importantly, the impact of the pandemic on the priorities for government expenditure remain to be seen. (2nd June 2020)



Decisions on planning applications are made by the Local Planning Authority, which in the case of Henley is South Oxfordshire District Council.

To comment on any application is relatively easy if you know the planning application number (usually in the format P20/S5283 for example)-or the postal address of the property concerned.

Go to the SODC web site and select Planning Application Register. Then select either 'search for reference number' or 'location and date'. Then follow the on-screen instructions. Take care to note that each application has a cut-off time for comments.   May 2020



Planning Sub-Ctte Reports

Henley Society response to proposed Thames Farm development



24th June 2014

Response to Joint Henley & Harpsden Neighbourhood Plan consultation


Regular Comments on Planning Applications in the Henley area