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 Sub-Ctte

  • David Whitehead (Chairman)
  • Jenny Copeland
  • Ruth Gibson
  • Valerie Alasia
  • Geoff Luckett
  • Catherine Notaras


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