Henley’s Plan is back on track!

It’s official! Henley’s Local Neighbourhood Plan is now ready for public consultation.

The long and seemingly endless Plan-making process is finally coming to a climax. The people of Henley now have a chance officially to comment on the Plan after more than a decade to get to this stage. They can tell Stratford District Council (SDC) and the independent Examiner what they think of it.

They will also soon get to decide in a town-wide Referendum – the final stage in the process before the Plan’s adoption – whether the Plan describes how they want the town to develop until 2031. This Referendum could happen as soon as January.

Thanks to the determined efforts of the Joint Parish Council (JPC) – and barring any unforeseen circumstances ­– the latest Plan could be ‘made’ or formally adopted early in the new year with the support of Henley residents. At this point, the District Council must give the Plan significant consideration when decisions are made on planning applications within the Henley area.

‘Unforeseen circumstances’ were precisely what caused the JPC to postpone the ‘open morning’ they wanted to hold at Henley School last month. Through no fault of the JPC, the Plan’s progress got delayed.

But it’s now back on track, which is just as well as the Plan is vitally important for Henley’s future. Without it, Henley could be swamped with new housing popping up all around the town. It establishes a vision for the future of Henley and lays down planning policies as well as proposals for the future development and use of land in the area.

Central to the 50-page Plan is its vision: “to be a strong, inclusive and accessible community that supports the needs of new and existing businesses and residents of all ages … to utilise its unique landscape, history, leisure and tourism assets to offer a sustainable and thriving rural lifestyle for residents and visitors alike.”

New housing is addressed by the Plan, which supports “new small-scale opportunities for residential development within the existing Settlement Boundary to support local and district housing needs”. It is also in favour of “incremental growth through redevelopment of brownfield sites and/or infill sites”.

Local residents, businesses and organisations have been given six weeks to comment to SDC on the Plan. It’s SDC’s job to bring together the comments received and pass them onto the independent Examiner. The Examiner then decides whether the Plan is fit and proper, and ready to proceed to the final stage, namely the local Referendum.

The SDC consultation started on Thursday, 12th October 2023 and will run until Friday, 24th November 2023. Please make your comments to SDC at www.stratford.gov.uk/henleynp.

If you would like to view the Plan, it may be seen on the JPC’s website at https://henleyinarden.kinsta.cloud/neighbourhood-plan or in the Heritage Centre at 150 High Street during normal opening hours.

And please look out for notices about the Referendum in the coming months. Richard Clark, chair of the JPC’s planning committee, insists that your vote is crucial. “We need a good turnout and we obviously need as many ‘yes’ votes as possible,” he says. “The outcome will decide what becomes of Henley in the future.”

Meanwhile, the JPC should be holding a rearranged ‘open morning’ for residents to discuss the Plan. Watch this space…

Mike Rice

Liberal Democrat District Councillor for Henley-in-Arden

(mike.rice4henley@outlook.com; mike.rice@stratford-dc.gov.uk)