PARKING and accessibility were among concerns raised at a public forum held last week on the plans to turn Henley College into a retirement village.
The Warwickshire College Group-owned site closed for students in July 2016, but the on-site sports hall and pitches remain open. WCG exchanged contracts with Octopus Healthcare last month for the new Extra Care Retirement and Care Home, which will offer 64 bedrooms and 47 extra-care apartments.
Andy Baddeley, one of the developers from Octopus Healthcare, said: “There’s going to be communal facilities here. There’s going to be a restaurant. It’s a bit of a community itself. That’s why we call it a village.
“The apartments are where we’re trying to promote independent living for the over 55s. People don’t necessarily want to move straight into a care home.”
It is hoped planning approval will be received by early next year with construction on the development to start by late 2018.
Les Goodman, the secretary of the Henley Royal British Legion post, said he was concerned about what might happen to the war memorial on the development but, after his visit, felt reassured that the memorial would receive an upgrade as part of the development.
Mr Baddeley added: “The war memorial will stay in its current location and will benefit from an enhanced setting, with paving, connecting pathways and benches, which ensures its future legacy and being more accessible to people. As it’s a listed structure we have tried to really improve and integrate this into the scheme and make it accessible to the Henley locals.”
But Mr Goodman also said: “My concern to the concept is the access to it.”
He believed the one way in and one way out access to the development limited the access for people.
Councillor Bill Leech, the chair of the Henley Parish Council, said he didn’t think accessibility would be an issue because there would likely be less traffic in and out than when there was a college there. Mr Leech also said he believed the development could only be positive for the town.
He added: “If you don’t expand to be a viable size you’re going to die as a community. In my view Henley needs to grow a bit. It increases its size and it brings in more people.”
Sheila Roy, who attended the event with her husband Eric, said: “The town is predominantly over 60s. I think it could have a big impact on the infrastructure of the town. This is a massive undertaking of housing.”