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Henley Town Council Presses Pause on 353-357 Reading Road Project

On the 9 March 2021, the Finance Strategy & Management Committee resolved that the project is not financially viable in its current form

In 2016 the Joint Henley and Harpsden Neighbourhood Plan allocated the site at 353-357 Reading Road for ‘around 30 residential units’. This 353-357 Reading Road project was set in progress by Henley Town Council under the aegis of the 353-357 Reading Road Working Group.  The project sought to provide around 30 flats on the site, 40% of which should be affordable housing, plus up to 200sqm retail and a new clubhouse and associated parking for Henley Hockey Club and AFC Henley.  It also encompassed a planned reorganisation of the grass pitches onsite, and a new depot for the Parks department.  It was also specified that development of the residential units should not start until replacement community sports facilities were open and accessible.

A developer was selected in 2016 and negotiations on the clubhouse plans and contracts have been ongoing. The results of a public consultation in 2019 were positive. Extensive work was undertaken to confirm stakeholder requirements and to progress new leases and the contract for the sale of the land.

A recent cost estimate has indicated that if Henley Town Council were to proceed with the project as currently planned, it is likely that it would result in a significant deficit. In addition, the current high specification of the clubhouse design would not be supported by the relevant funding bodies such as Sport England, the Football Association, and the Football Foundation.

Henley Town Council will work with stakeholders and relevant bodies to address these issues before proceeding any further.  The Council also wants to ensure that any development of 353-357 Reading Road provides at least 40% affordable housing.

Chair of the 353-357 Reading Road Working Group Cllr Ken Arlett says ‘This was a difficult decision, but we believe that we cannot deliver the objectives of the current project in a way which will not result in a substantial deficit.  We want to work with stakeholders, statutory bodies and funders to get the best outcome for Henley, for that reason we have decided to regroup.  We would like to take this opportunity to thank the developer for their support. We will now consider our options for achieving the original goals of this project in an effective and financially viable way.'