Executive Briefing – July 2021

The Society recently objected to a planning application at Harcourt Close which proposed the replacement of a single dwelling with five flats. Our objections were based on massing, over-development, unneighbourliness, out of keeping with the surrounding area, overlooking, traffic issues, including parking and access for emergency vehicles, and shortage of amenity area for future occupants. The proposal also fell foul of several of SODCs own planning policies and yet the Authority's Officers were recommending acceptance of the plans.

The Society, Henley Town Council and neighbours of the site, including our members Louise and Scott Pegley, were against the proposal.

The Society wrote to each Member of the SODC Planning Committee setting out our reasons for asking for refusal and requesting that they make a site visit for themselves to see the effect this proposal would have on the area. At the planning meeting Councillor Ken Arlett put this proposal forward and the Committee voted 11-0 in favour of a visit.

This took place on June 7th, and two days later the SODC Planning Committee met to determine the case. After a 75-minute debate the proposal was 'refused' by 7 votes to one with 2 abstentions.

We highlight this case, not to claim any credit for success, but to show that 'people power', properly harnessed, can be influential in local decisions (also demonstrated recently in respect of the Red Lion 'change of use' application and the proposed development at Parkside/Pack and Prime Lane) and we should not be shy, nor should the residents of Henley be shy, in putting forward their views on these occasions. Better to be part of the discussion than to complain at the outcome when you have remained silent throughout the process.

Social housing is not a new topic and this year marks the 100th Anniversary of the first social housing in Henley, built in Western Avenue. A resident, Emma Taylor, has approached us for assistance as she is putting together a history of the avenue and if any Member has any knowledge of the construction, or how the first social housing came to be in Western Avenue, then we would be pleased to hear from you.

We have also been approached by a non-member asking if anyone in our group has knowledge of the Cadenza Jazz Club, a group that used to rehearse above a pub somewhere in Henley. One of their number was the late Peter Keeley, the group’s drummer. Does this jog any memories? If so, do let us know please.

Planning Application P19/S2350/FUL, a proposal to build 72 homes on the west side of the Fair Mile will be before SODC Planning Committee for determination shortly. This development, if approved, will destroy wildlife habitat, contribute to greater traffic on the Fair Mile, result in 50/60 trees, many with TPOs attached, being felled, and will be a blight on the adjacent AONB, and spoil views from the Oxfordshire Way. It will mean a further encroachment into our open countryside. To gain access to the site it is probable that more trees, along the Fairmile, will need to be felled too. Please give your comments, for or against, on the SODC Planning Portal using the above reference and if you are unsure how, David Whitehead has written a clear description on the Society website Planning page (www.thehenleysociety.org)

Gardening Buddies have been operating around the town for a number of years under the guidance of Elizabeth Hodgkin who now wishes to stand down. This volunteer group has been active in keeping Henley's green spaces tidy and planted however they now seek a replacement for Elizabeth. If any green-fingered member is attracted by this role or joining in with the group please contact our Executive Committee Member Catherine Notaras - email catnotaras@gmail.com

The River and Rowing Museum have once again put out a call for summer volunteers. Full details from Juliet Harris- Volunteer Co-ordinator- on 01491 415600 0r volunteering@rrm.co.uk if you are interested, or able, to help.

It has come to the notice of the Executive Committee that some members would like clarity on the way the Society handles its responses to Planning Applications. If you are one, please read on

  • The Society Planning Committee meets, under the Chairmanship of David Whitehead, approximately every three weeks to 'vet;' and comment on all Planning Applications due to come before Henley Town Council, and subsequently before the Local Planning Authority, SODC. This can amount to 300 applications per year.
  • Our comments are sent to each HTC Councillor before they meet to discuss the applications.
  • Our comments are also placed on the SODC Planning portal, under the application number, and our comments can be seen by everyone and are in front of District Councillors before their 'determination' meeting.
  • It has to be said that many applications are decided by SODC Officers rather than elected Councillors and we lobby where necessary to get important applications 'called in' so that they are discussed in Planning Committee by SODC Councillors. In the past few months, we have successfully lobbied against three important applications mentioned earlier ie Red Lion Change of use, apartments at Pack & Prime/Parkside and the Harcourt Close proposal.

In the first two cases we lobbied via social media, notably Facebook, to encourage local residents to put their views on the SODC Planning Portal and in both cases approximately 300 people did so. In the case of Harcourt Close we identified our objections to SODC Councillors individually by email, asked them to make a site visit, which they subsequently did, and the proposal was eventually defeated by seven votes to one, with two abstentions.


Not all of our attempts are successful, as you might expect, and we were disappointed, particularly, to see the change of use at Anderson House (industrial use to residential) passed and the Thames Farm development, a site which had not been included in the Neighbourhood Plan, which was granted on appeal. One has to realise that any objections must be based on planning criteria- it is not sufficient just to dislike an application.


We are currently keeping a watchful eye on a number of planning applications as including those listed hereunder and  will be commenting, as appropriate, at the right time.

  •  Premier Inn's application for a 115-bedoom hotel at the Railway Station
  • Taylor Wimpeys application to route the surface water away from their Thames Farm development, towards Henley.
  • Plans for 72 homes on land to the west of Fair Mile (after the granting of permission for 78 homes further along Fair Mile at Smith Centre)

All Members can be assured that our Planning Committee are diligent in their work and make representations in line with what we believe our Membership would want. We have also recently strengthened our Planning Committee by adding two new members who are already making valuable contributions. If you have any suggestions as to how we might improve please do not hesitate to come forward and talk to us - all Committee Members contact details are on the society web site.

 

Members might be interested in the recently published book by local historian Hilary Fisher, ‘From Tillage to Terrace’. The book explores the C19th southward expansion of the town of Henley into the adjoining parish of Rotherfield Greys, and concentrates on the area between Friday Street/Greys Road and Mill Lane, and the river up to Green Lane and its southerly footpath extension. 

Available @ £20 from Way’s Bookshop, 54 Friday Street, or The Bell Bookshop, 52 Bell Street

11th July 2021

 

Executive Committee Briefing – June 2021

A number of our Members have given freely of their time to act as Car Park Marshalls at the Bell & Hart Surgeries whilst Covid vaccinations are taking place. Both surgeries are most grateful for your support.

Now that HM Government have shortened the period between the two necessary jabs there is a requirement for more helpers. If you have an hour or two to spare to this very worthwhile cause then Cllr Stefan Gawrysiak, who is co-ordinating the volunteers, would be very pleased to hear from you on s.gawry@gmail.com or 07799 803596.

We are continuing to press Network Rail to blast and re-paint the Mill Lane Overbridge, one of our Henley ‘Eyesores’, but without success so far. The budget for ‘cosmetic’ improvements to their various properties is, it seems, just not there. They have now added to the reasons for inaction ‘the difficulty of carrying out the work whilst the railway line below is operational’. Begins to sound like ‘sometime never’. We shall continue to press from time to time!

However, we have approached Oxfordshire County Council about the overhanging vegetation on Mill Lane, and the untidy state of the overgrowth actually on the bridge, and they have scheduled the work to be done shortly.

Meanwhile restoration work to the Phillimore Fountain is still ‘live’ and we await two further quotations to carry out the work. We are pleased to have the support of our new Mayor, Cllr Sarah Miller, a member of the Society, who is leading on this project on behalf of the Town Council.

One of our Members has asked us to deal with an issue of vegetation overgrowing the pavement in New Street and we approached OCC on her behalf and they have agreed to look into this and take necessary action.

We are invited to join the next Bell Surgery Patient Group talk entitled Ovarian Cancer:opportunities and hurdles on June 22nd from 6pm – 7.15 on Zoom. For joining instructions please contact jwatersassociates@btinternet.com. There is no charge for this talk.

A further Bell Surgery Patient Group talk – this one entitled ‘Let’s talk Covid’  will be held, again via Zoom, on June 30th at 6pm until around 7.30pm. Again we are invited – ticket applications to the above email address.

We are also invited to join the River Thames Society Waterman Summer Party, a boat trip boarding at Hobbs Waterfront at 6.45pm on Saturday 10th July.. Tickets priced at £40 per person and to include two course supper, tea or coffee.are available from carolinesoper48@gmail.com. There will be a cash bar on board. 

Following last months request for volunteers to join the Society’s Planning Committee, David Whitehead is pleased to announce that a new member, Veronica Carlton, came forward and will be assessing and commenting on planning applications that come before SODC. Veronica moved to Henley with her husband about 7 years ago. They are both members of Phyllis Court Club. Veronica enjoys walking, bridge and is taking Spanish lessons. Bienvenida Veronica!

If anything has benefitted from the unseasonal amount of rainfall it must be the eight trees that the Society recently planted on land at the junction of Sheephouse Lane and Reading Road. We have had good response to our request last month for sponsorship of these trees but several more are available and Catherine Notaras (catnotaras@gmail.com) or telephone  07474 095807  would be pleased to hear from you if you would like to sponsor one.

On the Planning front, you will recall that we sought your views as to whether you thought that an hotel on the Railway Station Car Park, which was being proposed by Premier Inns, was what you wanted. We had an excellent response with over 70% of members who responded saying ‘no hotel’. So far no such application has been received by the local planning authority – but we remain vigilant.

Last month we mentioned the public exhibition to be held on July 2nd and 3rd in connection with the Joint Henley Harpsden Neighbourhood Plan Review. If you wish to get yourself up-to-speed ahead of the exhibition you will find a great deal of information at www.jhhnp.org.uk

Members might be interested to know that our recent Membership drive has driven our Membership number up to 540 and we would still welcome more. After all, our voice is only as strong as our numerical strength. If your neighbours, friends or relatives wish to join us there is a downloadable Application form on our website – www.thehenleysoociety.org

Regular readers of this Briefing will know that The Henley Society has campaigned long and hard to bring about a refurbishment/rebuild of the Greys Road Car Park Lavatories.

With added pressure from Councillors Arlett and Gawrysiak, SODC, the authority responsible, were persuaded to include money in this year’s budget to cover the cost of the works. The promise was that the rebuild would begin in the first quarter of 2021. I thought you might like an update.

One doesn't need acute sensory skills to notice that nothing has yet been started and our recent 'chase' of SODC brought forth the following response.

'The job is currently out for tender, with a closing date of July. The winning contractor will be chosen in August with a projected start date for the work in September.'  We shall see.

So, another tourist season will pass with Henley's public toilets in a far from satisfactory state, a poor reflection on the town

We do not wish to appear ungrateful, but how much better would it have been for the work to have been done during lockdown when the car park was less busy and the Car Park's through traffic much reduced? Be prepared for traffic hold ups when the work does begin.

We have travelled a long and bumpy road to get this far; be assured that the Society will keeping a close eye on progress.

3rd June 2021

 

Executive Committee Briefing – May 2021

 

The 2021 Annual General Meeting of the Society was held, remotely, on the Zoom platform, on April 16th. With Vice President The Baroness Buscombe of Goring in the Chair, the 70 members who attended were addressed by the Henley Constituency Member of Parliament John Howell. If you missed the meeting, you can read the Draft Minutes, the Chairman’s report on our activities for 2020/21, and the Chairman of Planning Committees report on our website – www.thehenleysociety.org

In accordance with the Society’s Constitution the Executive Committee met on Monday 26th April to elect the Chairman and Vice Chairman and Geoff Luckett and Julian Brookes were duly appointed to those positions.

On the same day as the AGM our plans for tree planting on the triangle of land at the junction of Sheephouse Lane and Reading Road came to fruition when the Oxfordshire County Council parks team planted two Wild Cherry, two Rowan, two Whitebeam, a Field Maple and a Linden on the site. This project was led by our Executive Committee Member, Catherine Notaras who created the planting scheme and negotiated with our neighbouring parish before the Society got the go ahead. Our thanks extend to Harpsden Parish Council and to Cllr Stefan Gawrysiak for his untiring help in assisting with the project. We have been trying for some years to get permission to plant trees on this site, one of the important gateways to Henley. We are offering sponsorship of these trees to members at a price of £200 per tree and each tree will be identified by your name plaque. Already two trees have been spoken for by a Henley resident who is dedicating them to each of his two grandchildren. If you wish to sponsor a tree please contact Catherine (07474 095807 or catnotaras@gmail.com)  she will be delighted to hear from you.

Members will, we are sure, be pleased to have read that there appears to have been a resolution over the Friday Street Slipway, and Sorbon Estates, who had concreted it over, possibly unlawfully, to make two car parking spaces, have agreed to remove the concrete. The efforts of the Society combined with those of Henley Town Council, SODC, the Environment Agency, the River Thames Society and the general public has borne fruit and resulted in this valuable and long-standing amenity being restored to its proper use for the benefit of Henley residents and visitors.

Four dates for your diary-

The River and Rowing Museum re-opens on May 20th and will include a new exhibition ‘Painting in Coloured Light’ featuring the modern stained-glass designs of John Piper. John lived at Fawley Bottom for many years and was a founder Vice President of the Society in 1961. He retained that post until his death in 1992. His work can be seen locally in the churches of All Saints, Farnborough, West Berkshire, St. Bartholomew’s Nettlebed, Remenham Church, and in Coventry Cathedral.

The next Bell Surgery Zoom talk is scheduled for June 22nd and will be entitled ‘The Diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer: opportunities and hurdles. Full details and how to join the talk will be given in our June briefing.

The Joint Henley Harpsden Neighbourhood Plan Public Exhibition July 2nd and 3rd. This is a community matter, and all residents are encouraged to put forward their views. Please put the dates in your diary, turn up at the exhibition, and have your say!

River Thames Society Summer Party on the Waterman leaving from Hobbs Waterfront– Saturday 10th July 6.45pm Full details next month,

 

David Whitehead, Chairman of our Planning Committee is still keen to recruit two additional Committee Members to help with scrutinizing and commenting on planning applications put before Henley Town Council. Full details from David on 01491 573635.

 

09 May 2021

 

THE HENLEY SOCIETY

Draft Minutes

Annual General (Virtual) Meeting

Held on Friday 16 April 2021

(These Minutes will be approved at the 2022 AGM)

 

Present:     Baroness Buscombe, Vice President, Geoff Luckett, Chairman, Karen Grieve, Secretary, Sandra Moon, Treasurer, David Whitehead, Julian Brookes, Valerie Alasia, Catherine Notaras, Nora Scanlan, Dr Jenny Copeland + Ann Acres, Tony & Margaret Allen, Caroline Bleakley, Mel Bowden, Clive Caiger, Veronica Carlton, Colin & Lynne Chisholm, Joan Clark, Tony & Heather Clark, D & H  Cooke, P and A Dayton, David and Sheila Dickie, Basil & Torril Evans, Mr & Mrs D Feary, Paul Harrison, Ms C Horner, Ann  Jenkin, Ms Grace Leo, Charlotte Miles- Kingston, David Nimmo Smith, Bill & Pauline Peachey, Lord Phillimore, Geoff & Madeleine Probert, Mrs & Mrs John Skuse, Mrs. P Sly, Gillian Symons, Chris & Dr Ceri Thompson, Graham Timbers, Angela Whitehead, John Thornley **

 

Apologies:   Sir Martyn Arbib, Amanda Chumas, Judy Clinton, Ashley Cowling, Ian Cresswell, Edith Gardiner, Susan George, Ian Giuliani, Ken Henry, Lorraine Hillier, Nick Richardson, Art Themen, Mrs B B Williams, Laureen Williamson, John & Judy Yeates

 

Welcome

The Society Chairman opened the meeting and welcomed everyone.  A 1-minutes silence was observed for HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.  He then introduced Baroness Buscombe as Chairman of the meeting.

Lady Buscombe said she was pleased to see so many attending this virtual meeting. She was sorry that Lord Camoys was unable to attend and Chair the meeting but that it was a privilege to stand in for him.  She welcomed John Howell, Henley’s Member of Parliament, to address the meeting. 

 

Speech by Member of Parliament

Mr Howell gave a brief reflection on HRH the Dule of Edinburgh. He explained how he had met him and gave thanks for what he had achieved.

He then set out his views on Covid-19. He also explained how Covid-19 had affected his office and the attitude and behaviour of some constituents.

He commented on two aspects of the planning reforms. The first was Neighbourhood Planning for which he was the Government Neighbourhood Planning Champion. He commented on how optimistic he was for Neighbourhood Planning and for it continuing with a role of allocating sites. Second, he commented on the need for the use of mediation in planning and how he was working to bring this into existence.

Mr Howell then took questions that had been proposed to the Society Chairman by members.

 

Opening Remarks

Baroness Buscombe said a lot had happened since the last AGM and very much hoped that this would be the last AGM the Society had to hold virtually.  She noted the fantastic increase in membership and congratulated the Committee on their success and welcomed all new members.  She felt the increased membership reflected the importance of the Society in protecting all that is good in the area and how essential their work was in this regard.

 

Minutes

Baroness Buscombe noted an error under Any Other Business which gave the date of the Society’s 60th Anniversary as 2021 instead of 2022.  The Secretary said she would amend this. 

Acceptance of the Minutes of the AGM held on 23 September 2020 were then proposed by Julian Brookes and seconded by Caroline Bleackley, unanimously approved and signed by the Chairman as a correct record.

 

Chairman’s Report

This was given by the Geoff Luckett, Chairman and a full transcript is below.

 

Accounts

The Treasurer & Membership Secretary, Sandra Moon, had circulated the 2020/21 Accounts.  She said that these showed a large loss which could be attributed to the fact that a lot of money was spent in this financial year finishing off Project 2019 which was delayed by bad weather. The covering income for this expenditure was included in the previous year’s accounts which showed a large (false) profit as a result. Committee expenses were also lifted by the need to spend money to hold Zoom meetings.

She reported the significant membership increase following the recent membership drive and this now stood at 531.   There were no questions and Nora Scanlon proposed the Accounts for approval, seconded by  Dr Jenifer Copeland. 

 

Appointment of Honorary Auditors

The accounts had been audited by Bryan Villars, Chartered Accountant, and Sandra Moon asked that the Society’s appreciation of his work be recorded.  The Chairman proposed that he be appointed as the Honorary Auditor for 2021 and this was seconded by Julian Brookes and approved by the meeting.

 

Report on Planning Matters

The Chairman of the Society’s Planning Committee, David Whitehead, reported that, it was a constant battle to maintain the character of Henley and ensure that it remains an attractive place to live in.  The threats are more numerous and wide-ranging than ever and the results are obvious in traffic congestion, loss of surrounding countryside etc.  He said that there were many challenges ahead and re-iterated the Chairman’s hope that more members will volunteer to become involved in the Society’s activities (full report in the Planning section of this website).  The Report was proposed for acceptance by Madeleine Probert and seconded by Veronica Carlton.

 

There was a question from Paul Harrison who commented that Henley was active in comparison to Wallingford.  Baroness Buscombe said she was optimistic that the Society can influence and encourage others to get on board.  They should get in touch with David Whitehead/Henley Society and get involved in planning issues.

 

Madeleine Probert felt that the target of 40% affordable homes was falling below.  She wanted to know what was happening about new social housing in Henley and Harpsden and what is classed as ‘affordable housing’ and what is planned for those struggling to buy or rent.  DW explained the difference between social housing and affordable housing.  There were discussions by Henley Town Council on this matter and this will be reflected in the Neighbourhood Plan.  Regarding Paul Harrison’s comment on the comparison between Wallingford and Henley, DW said Henley was protected on all sides by the Chiltern’s AONB but Wallingford is not surrounded by an AONB and it is more a matter that developers, therefore, have a field day rather than the absence of a Neighbourhood Plan.

 

Election of Honorary Secretary and Honorary Treasurer

Secretary – Karen Grieve.  The nomination was unopposed and Karen Grieve was duly elected as Hon Secretary for the ensuing year.

Treasurer - Sandra Moon.  The nomination was unopposed and Sandra Moon was duly elected as Hon Treasurer for the ensuing year.

Election of Executive Committee

Valerie Alasia, Julian Brookes, Dr Jenifer Copeland, Geoff Luckett, Catherine Notaras, Nora Scanlon David Whitehead.

The nominations were unopposed and the Committee for the ensuing year was duly elected.

 

Any Other Business

Geoff Probert said he spent a lot of time walking around the town and was concerned that people’s front gardens are overgrown onto public footpaths.  Although well kept they were encroaching and he felt the Town Council/County Council should enforce cutting back under the Society’s eyesores project.  GL said he would consider and follow up.  Catherine Notaras was concerned that if the Society was to approach residents about encroaching hedges they will be replaced by fencing, which is proving to be a problem in Henley. 

Madeleine Probert thanked the Society for their monthly newsletters to members and said they were really helpful and informative.  She felt that they made members feel much more engaged with the Henley Society. 

Charlotte Miles-Kingston, a new member, said that at a time when we are raising the profile of the Society we should be aware of the need for personal space and stay safe.

There being no further business the Chairman thanked everyone for taking the time to attend the AGM and Baroness Buscombe for chairing it and closed the meeting.   

**  unfortunately it wasn’t possible to identify everyone who logged on to the meeting  If your name does not appear in the list and you attended the meeting please let us know and we will include you.

 

 

CHAIRMANS REPORT – AGM 2021

I think we can claim that 2020 and into 2021 has been a transformational period for your Society.

When I was honoured to be elected Chairman, together with the Executive Committee we set out four aims -

  1. To reinvigorate the Society
  2. To grow the Membership
  3. To make our voice better heard in the town
  4. To keep our Members better informed of our activities

1  At the outset we identified a number of projects that we felt we should pursue –for example - the Gravel Hill Amenity area improvement, the cleanliness of our pavements and car park public lavatories, the proliferation of A Boards on our streets, the grassed area at the junction of Reading and St Andrews Road in front of the Three Horseshoes public house – and of course, among others, the completion of our Victorian Terrace House signage project  

 

2  Our Membership Drive, started early in February, has resulted in a more than doubling of our Membership. At the time of our last AGM which was held late because of Covid, in September last, we reported a membership of 253. The campaign has brought in exactly 250 new members as of this mornings post and we now stand at 531 members, a level not seen since the late 1970s.

 

3  We have a constant media presence through submitting our news and stories to the Henley Standard, Henley Herald and we are grateful to both publications for the space they afford us  We have a social media presence, on Facebook and we regularly post there which, too, has brought us in new members. In addition, we regularly represent at Town Council meetings.

 

4  This idea was actually born out of lockdown. Without being able to have our normal talks, visits to places of interest, lunches, and dinners we thought that the Membership might wonder what we were doing in return for their subscriptions and so we introduced the  monthly Executive Committee Briefing circulated to members by email or post, and to those who read the Briefing avidly this report might sound a little repetitive. We have now issued a briefing every month since August last. In addition we did arrange our first Zoom talk in March, given expertly by a new member Michael Redley that was attended by about 85 viewers, made up of both Members and guests.

 

 I hope that you will agree with me – the Executive have met the four targets and I thank them all for their extremely hard work during the year.

The Planning Committee under the Chairmanship of David Whitehead has again reviewed and commented on, prior to determination SODC by the Planning Authority, some 300 applications during the year. I will not steal David’s thunder because his annual report will be found under the Planning section of this site, but I just would like to say that I was extremely proud of the Society’s contribution to helping defeat the change of use application by the previous owners of the Red Lion Hotel, and defeating, too, the plans for 8 flats and associated car parking at a site between  Parkside/Pack and Prime Lane which would have, had the application been successful,  brought about the removal of 53 mature trees in a protected woodland area.

My grateful thanks to David and his Planning Committee who, like the Executive Committee, have worked 'remotely' during the pandemic and still achieved their objectives.

Despite our successes there is no room for complacency and we will continue to lobby the various authorities for what we believe is right. To this end my telephone or email is always open to any member who wishes to make a point about Henley.

We will be keeping a watchful eye on developments at the Station Car Park where Premier Inns are threatening to build a 115 bedroom hotel (and thank you to all members who responded to our questionnaire on this matter,) and on the Taylor Wimpey proposal to route the surface water from their Thames Farm development into the Thames via the River Harp near Sheephouse Lane.  We are also keen to see the slipway at the end of Friday Street reinstated and are working with the TC in an attempt to bring this about. Members will recall that the slipway had been concreted over late last year, possibly unlawfully,

We are well advanced with plans to plant trees on the southern entrance to town, at the junction of Sheephouse Lane with the Reading Road, in fact OCC Parks Team did that planting today and we will report to you on that initiative in due course. Catherine Notaras has led on that project as she has with a project to do some planting in the Townlands Hospital Gardens currently held up by Covid. We are close to getting the Town Councils approval to provide a trial of two solar compactor litterbins in the town centre and we are also in discussions with them and the Phillimore family  to update the worn Phillimore Fountain outside St Mary’s Church. We are also talking to  St Marys Church regarding repairs to the railings along Church Path on the South of the church, and particularly to the railings alongside the steps down to the Red Lion forecourt. Members will doubtless appreciate the hoops we have to jump through with so many interested parties wanting to make their verbal and sometimes written contributions on all of these matters. I sometimes think that three tiered local government isn’t the most efficient way of serving Henley’s best interests.

As many of you will know, the Society reaches its 60th birthday in 2022 and plans are underway, despite the uncertainty still surrounding Covid, to celebrate the year in an appropriate manner. More details on that later.

In the meantime, and finally, again, my most grateful thanks to your hard working and willing Committee, they are a pleasure to work with; a sincere welcome to all our new Members, and I cannot emphasize enough that we do want all of our Members to participate in the Society up to the level at which they feel comfortable. Your thoughts, your comments, and your help will always be appreciated.

 

Geoff Luckett

07860 145982

16th April 2021

 

APRIL 2021 NEWSLETTER

We are aware that the ‘reach’ of the Society is extending but we didn’t realise it was as far as Australia. Early in March our Secretary, Karen Grieve, received an email from Melbourne. It was from an Englishman, who, in the late 50s lodged in Gainsborough Crescent with a local family. He was seeking to link up with them after 62 years and wondered if we could help. Within 36 hours of receiving his request we had connected him to one of the family living in the Camberley area – needless to say he was delighted.

Our first talk on Zoom was joined by about 85 viewers, Members and Guests, and from the reactions after was well received. Our new Member, Michael Redley, gave a well-researched and interesting talk entitled ‘Alderman & Mayors: life in Henley before WW 1’.  Michael is a Henley resident who teaches in Oxford and has spent lockdown researching the history of our wonderful town. We are hoping that Michael will give us another talk, perhaps later in the year.

Our Membership Drive, commenced early in February, has exceeded all expectations with 231 members joining us as this is written, taking our total membership to over 500, the highest level since the late 70s. This compares to a membership total of 253 as at the date of the September 2020 AGM. We welcome all new Members and look forward to your participation in our events in due course. Thanks to all of the Executive Committee, under the direction of Julian Brookes, who did the ‘hard miles’ in making the house-to-house leaflet drop around town.

The 200th Member to join during the campaign was none other than local historian, and ex Railwayman Norman Topsom OBE, who will be well known to Henley residents. We are pleased and proud to have Norman join us.

 

To catch up on some of our initiatives – we are still in talks with St Mary’s Church regarding the repairs to the railings at Church path and estimates are awaited, and with the Town Council and Phillimore family with regards the repair of the Phillimore fountain which is situated alongside the church. Our offer to fund the trial of two solar compactor litter bins in the town centre is still ‘live’ and a final decision from Henley Town Council as to the acceptance of our offer is awaited. Catherine Notaras, together with the Henley in Bloom Committee, plans to plant primroses in the Townlands Hospital gardens which are on hold due to the pandemic, but our plans for planting trees on the southern entrance to the town are well advanced.

 

We thought that you might like to know that the Raymond Youle Commemorative plaque has been restored. It will shortly be replaced in its original position at the Gravel Hill amenity area thanks to the Town Council Parks Team.     

It is our intention to revive our Treasures and Eyesores initiative and we invite Members to identify features around the town that they would like kept and improved. A classic example of a Treasure is The Phillimore Fountain which had stood outside St Mary’s Church for over 100 years and before that was at the town centre crossroads. We are in talks with the Phillimore family and HTC with the intention of updating this feature. A good example of an Eyesore is the overbridge at Mill Lane. This is owned by Network Rail and we are in touch with them in an effort to get them to sandblast and repaint it. If you have features that you would like considered please tell our Secretary Karen (email – grievehc@gmail.com) and we will take a look.                                                                                                                  

 

And just a final reminder of our Annual General Meeting on Friday 16th April at 7pm on Zoom.

Executive Committee Briefing – March 2021

The Executive Committee have busied themselves this past month with a Membership Drive and as at the time of writing we have recruited 108 new Members during February. Why not help the cause by asking a neighbour, friend or relative to join us too. The greater our number the stronger our voice!

Thanks to all who have so far responded to our questionnaire on the 115-bedroom hotel proposed to be built on the Station Car Park. There is still time to send us your views! You can do so by emailing chairman@thehenleysociety.org.

The response to our first Zoom talk by Michael Redley on Wednesday March 10th at 7pm has also been encouraging. If you wish to book a free place, there is still time, again email the Chairman with ‘Redley Ticket’ in the subject line and joining instructions will be sent out a few days before the event.

Members will have been delighted to read the positive news stories in both the Henley Herald and Henley Standard  a couple of Fridays ago regarding the refurbishment of the Greys Road Car Park lavatories.

You may feel, with good reason, disappointed not to see a mention of Henley Society's lobbying and support of this important step to improve our town and its reputation, but be assured we appreciate the efforts made over the last couple of years by us all towards this initiative, and our members and the readers of both papers, and social media, will know of our involvement.

Most importantly, whoever is credited with such a great outcome, it is the result that matters, and your Committee will continue with its enthusiasm and hard work to be a strong voice for Henley residents.

Gratifyingly Cllr. Gawrysiak drew the attention of the February full meeting of Henley Town Council to our efforts in his County and District Councillor reports.  

Last months Briefing drew attention to our AGM which will be held on Friday 16th April at 7pm via Zoom. John Howell MP will address us at the start of the meeting in a 20 minute speech followed by a short question and answer session. Enclosed with this Briefing you will find the Calling Notice for the meeting and a Nomination form should you wish to propose a Member for the positions of Secretary, Treasurer, or to the Executive Committee. Please return the form by 1st April and then the Agenda, Reports and joining instructions will be sent to you all. Our hard-working Secretary, Karen, is going through a house move shortly and we are therefore asking you to correspond with the Chairman on all matters related to the AGM. (For the benefit of new members our Constitution calls on Members to vote for the positions of Secretary and Treasurer and the Executive Committee at the AGM, and at the first Committee meeting thereafter, the Committee elect their Chairman).  

 

As you know the Society supports the campaign to rid Henley of HGVs using the town as a rat-run. Our County Councilllor has put down a motion raising Henley’s need for a 7.5 ton weight limit to the full meeting of Oxfordshire County Council to be held on March 23rd at 10am. All HGVs with legitimate business in Henley will be exempt. If you wish to speak in the Public Participation section at this meeting you will need to register your interest with Oxfordshire County Council. Also of importance is the fact that OCC are inviting comments on the recently published ’Local Transport and Connectivity Plan Vision Document’ based upon which they intend to revise the Local Transport Plan. The consultation period ends on March 28th and the link you require is –

 

February 2021 Member Briefing

Firstly may we thank all of you who responded to our request for opinions and votes on the proposed 115-bedroom 5- storey hotel development at the station car park. Some 23% of our Members have so far sent in a vote, the majority with additional comments too. All of this information will enable the Committee to formulate its response to the Planning Application, reflecting your views, when it is put on the SODC Planning portal. We will circulate our response to you, with encouragement to add your own personal comments as you see fit, once the application is live. If you have overlooked responding there is still time to do so. Just email your views to chairman@thehenleysociety.org or call him on 01491 637762 or 07860 145982

Thanks also to those who volunteered for car park attendant duties at the Covid clinics at the surgery. Cllr Gawrysiak, who continues to coordinate this initiative, together with the Surgery doctors, have asked me to thank you all.

I am pleased to tell you that your Committee has arranged our first Zoom talk. This will be given by one of our new Members, Michael Redley and will be on the subject of Aldermen and Mayors: the life of Henley before the First World War. The local authority of Victorian and Edwardian times, the Town Council first elected in 1883, built well and all these years later we still live largely within the geographical limits and ideas about the town which they pioneered. Twenty individuals had been Mayor of Henley by 1914. Who were they? What were their backgrounds? What were the main politics of the town at that time? Michael will reveal all in a fascinating 40 minute talk (followed by questions).

Michael is a resident of Henley and an historian who teaches at the Department for Continuing Education at Rewley House in Oxford. During lockdown he has focused his research on his home town and delivered talks on Henley matters to several local groups. The talk will be on Wednesday 10th March at 7pm and anyone requiring a ‘free’ ticket should send an email to chairman@thehenleysociety.org with ‘Redley ticket’ in the title box. Joining instructions will then be sent a few days prior to the event.  

Another date for your diaries – our AGM is normally held in the Spring and we have chosen Friday 16th April (7pm) as this years date. I suspect that this will be another Zoom meeting unless we are ‘released!!’ Full details will follow in due course.

We continue to keep in close contact with the purchaser of The Red Lion Hotel who issued the following press release last week -Hotelier Grace Leo acquired the Red Lion Hotel in October 2020. Since then she has been making rapid progress with plans for the refurbishment of one of Henley’s best-loved properties. She is hoping to re-open the doors of what will become The Relais Henley this summer. This week saw an exciting development for the property’s exterior as work commenced on the famous Wisteria that covers the whole façade. Grace Leo commented that, “the Hotel is in such a key location and the Wisteria has been an integral part of it for many years. We are very excited about making sure that this distinctive feature flourishes for decades to come.” James Ogilvy of Ogilvy Landscape, who is based locally and is overseeing the landscape side of the refurbishment, said, “sadly the iconic Wisteria has been allowed to collapse in recent years. Many of the main limbs have dropped to the ground and others are covering windows. It is exciting to be involved in its careful restoration.” He has brought in Lauren McNeil of local landscape business Heritage Grounds. She and her team of specialists are in the process of pruning and re-establishing a proper framework for these ancient plants.

Members are once again invited to the next Bell Surgery Health Talk, on Tuesday 2nd March at 6.00pm. The speakers from Riverside Counselling will be Hilary Arthur, Peter Powell and Amanda Cofek who will talk about mental health. If you wish to ‘tune in’ please apply for a place to jwatersassociates@btinternet.com and Janet will send you joining instructions a few days before the event.  

We are not able to further report on three matters of concern to us, namely the provision of solar powered litter bins, the Friday Street slipway and the repairs to the railings adjacent to St Mary’s Church. All three items are taking time, but we hope in the next two months to report favourable progress on all.

Our Committee Member Julian Brookes continues his sterling work in response to the Government White Papers on changes to Planning procedures. Whilst we acknowledge that the present system is not faultless, it does deliver ‘consents’ and if the Government enforced the build out of all permissions granted to date, and concentrated on getting empty homes occupied, it would be a better use of their time. It is estimated that there are 300,000 homes empty in the UK and 1,000,000 plots with planning consent that have not been built out. HM Government have a target to build 300,000 new homes each year. Getting those plots built out and homes occupied would give them four years worth of homes at a stroke.

Our Planning Committee under the Chairmanship of David Whitehead is busier than ever. The last two Henley Town Council meetings have brought forth a record number of applications which we review and comment upon. David requires, maybe two, additional Committee members to assist him and if you feel able please call him on 01491 573635 and he will tell you what is involved.  

January 2021 Briefing to Members

We make no apology for dedicating the whole of the January Executive Newsletter to one of the most important proposed developments in Henley for many years.

We refer, of course. to the building of a 115- bedroom hotel on the car park at Henley Railway Station. This would provide a total capacity for 230 overnight guests each day. The initiative is a joint venture between Network Rail and a company called Bloc

The Society, at the invitation of the architects, Walsingham of Bourne End, have written with our comments on the plan.

We have stated objections on the following grounds-

  • That Henley needs parking spaces more than it needs extra hotel accommodation.   The hotel would involve the loss of existing car parking places on the area covered by its footprint plus spaces allocated only to visitors to the hotel/ restaurant.   Henley has 973 off-road spaces within a 10-minute walk of the town centre,147 of which are in the Station Car Park. The hotel will stand on 55 spaces and the developer says they will provide 12 additional spaces at the expense of coach parking spaces elsewhere on the site, a net loss of 43 spaces. No mention is made of the parking requirements of 35 staff members and guests from the 115 bedroom hotel. (For a population of 12,000, 973 car park spaces is woefully inadequate and, especially so when you consider the fact that Henley is surrounded by more than twenty villages, hamlets and small centres of population, all too far away to walk or cycle from and with inadequate public transport if any. These ‘outsiders’ might reasonably consider Henley to be their shopping town of choice and to attract them here for the benefit of our retailers, we must offer them space to park their cars.  Additionally, Planning Consents have been granted by SODC for 400 more houses in Henley, not yet built, which will impact further on our traffic and parking problems eventually. Any reduction in off-street parking spaces will doubtless bring pressure to bear on SODC to ‘deck’ either Kings Road or Greys Road Car Parks ).
  • The Joint Henley Harpsden Neighbourhood Plan notes that SODC has identified a need for further hotel accommodation in the town. However, we consider with the on-going renovation of The Red Lion Hotel and the offerings from Phyllis Court Club, Leander Club, the Catherine Wheel, Badgemore Park Golf Club and Hotel du Vin which together offer 167 bedrooms (capacity for 334 overnight guests) in the town. In addition, there are many bed and breakfast, boutique and Airbnb offerings in the town. We consider therefore that there are sufficient hotel beds in Henley and when did you ever hear a visitor say that they cannot find a place to stay in the town?
  • By virtue of its bulk and massing the planned building is out of character with the nearby area, and fails to respect the historic character of the adjacent Conservation Area.
  • The development would be unneighbourly, especially, but not exclusively, because of its 5-storey height. It would deprive the residents of Wyndale Close of views and would bring about light pollution at night, noise pollution from air conditioning units all day, and smells from kitchen extractors due to the hotels proximity to the Close.
  • The building appears to be a standard offering from the Premier Inn corporate design book and shows no appreciation of Henley’s history, architecture, or height of existing buildings. It not only impacts Wyndale Close mentioned above, but also Meadow Road and Upton Close.

Subsequent to our submission to Walsingham we have also directed ten questions about the impact the development might have on Henley to Whitbread, the owner of Premier Inns.

Topics covered included, among others, matters of traffic to and from the proposed hotel, including HGV delivery vehicles (Premier have a policy of not buying locally and so food, beverages, linen and laundry will all be trucked in from- where?), guest traffic movements, where staff might be recruited from (Henley has a low rate of unemployment), and the number of extra visitors to Henley their offering might bring. (Whitbread need an 80% occupancy rate for the venture to break even. We calculate that this means they need to attract almost 50,000 guests per year to their hotel).

Whitbread have declined to answer any of the ten questions on the grounds that most of them fall outside of the need to do so under normal planning requirements! However, we feel that the answers would help in our assessment of the impact the hotel would have on the town.

The Society wishes to accurately reflect the views of our Members on this important issue, and accordingly we invite you all to send your answers to the questions below to the Chairman,

By email to… chairman@thehenleysociety.org

Or by telephone to him on 07860 145982 or 01491 637762

There are at least three options on which we would like your views, but welcome additional options, and comments, that you might like considered.

  1. Hotel to go ahead as proposed by Premier Inn
  2. Hotel to go ahead but smaller and in keeping with Henley’s architectural heritage.
  3. No Hotel at all

The Premier Inn formal Planning Application has not yet been lodged with SODC but is expected within the next 14 days. We will further advise when it has been lodged, together with the Planning Application Number, so that Members can make their individual comments to the SODC Planning Portal if they wish.

Executive Committee Briefing - December 2020

Your Committee has been in discussion with Henley Town Council following our approach to them regarding overflowing litter bins in the town, and the frequency of emptying them, a topic which regularly concerns residents on social media, especially, but not exclusively, in the summer months. The Society proposed that it might, as part of its 60th birthday celebrations in 2022, lead an initiative to have solar powered compactor bins installed in the town.
Together with Cllr Stefan Gawrysiak we have had two remote demonstrations of the bins and were very impressed by their capabilities. The bins compact the contents by solar power, are opened by operating a foot pedal and are totally enclosed such that they are bird and rodent resistant.
The bins also contain a sensor so that when they need emptying a signal is sent back to base and the team responsible know that the bin is ready to be dealt with and emptied. This will save them unnecessary journeys to bins that do not need attention, so reducing diesel costs and pollution, and cutting down on man hours.
The matter is now in the hands of the Town Council’s Town and Community Committee who have voted to trial two bins at the busiest time of the year, from next April to September. The suggestion is to site one outside Starbucks and the other at Singers Park – but this is still to beconfirmed.
The cost of the six-month trial will be shared by the Society and Cllr Gawrysiak’s Councillors pot, equally. Should the trial be a success consideration will be given to purchasing bins probably financed from a grant. The Society have, so far, made no offer to cover costs other than for the trial.
The Executive Committee are most grateful to Members who, following our recent request, have either upgraded to Life Membership, or moved to paying their subscription by standing order. This, in conjunction with those of you who have agreed to take these bulletins by email rather than post, will enable us to contain our running costs and, hopefully, maintain our low subscription rate, although this cannot be guaranteed.
Members may be interested to