Our client had lodged a planning application with SODC in August 2020 for 43 apartments and 221 sqm new office space on the site of light industrial and low-grade existing office space on Newtown Road, Henley on Thames. The site is located on a business park and had been marketed for commercial use for 18 months with no interest and had been vacant for over 10 years.
The adopted Henley Neighbourhood Plan designated the site for employment use only, with Henley Town Council objecting to the proposals on this basis. The local ward members, one of which sat on the Planning Committee, were also objecting on this basis.
SP Broadway were instructed a month before committee to undertake political engagement and to explain the advantages of a mixed-use regeneration of a brownfield site in this location. We drafted and prepared a briefing letter to Planning Committee members, highlighting the existing buildings were outdated and not in demand. This was followed up with telephone conversations to committee members highlighting 6 key advantages of the redevelopment:
- 43 apartments in a sustainable location, 15 minutes’ walk from Henley station
- 221 sqm of brand-new office space, ideal for small businesses and start-ups
- 8 affordable apartments provided on-site on a shared ownership basis
- High-quality, brand new homes instead of an office-to-residential conversion
- Maintaining an employment use on-site instead of a wholly residential proposal
- Bringing a vacant brownfield site back into a productive, mixed use
Despite objections from the Town Council and local ward members, the Planning Committee voted 6-2 in favour of the application, with 1 abstention.