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 connected to the town. 

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 know that our recent efforts to raise Membership numbers are beginning to bear fruit. From a level of 253 at the time of the September AGM we are now in the high 270s. A further Membership drive will be initiated in the New Year, and it goes without saying that if each current member recruited one neighbour, friend or relative, then our Membership would double at a stroke. Please see what you can do because the more members we have the louder our voice and stronger our influence in the community.
The Executive Committee continues to press on two important issues, that of the (unlawful?) concreting of the slipway at the bottom of Friday Street, and the question of the provision of palliative care beds in or near Henley now that Sue Ryder have vacated Joyce Grove. With regard to the slipway, we have written on two occasions to the Environment Agency who appear to have turned a blind eye to the fact that the
perpetrators did not seek two licences needed for this work. We have received no response and a third letter is being dispatched. We have written to the CEO of Sue Ryder asking pertinent questions with, so far, no response and again, a further letter is being sent.
It is noted that Amanda Chumas’s campaign to stop HGVs of over 7.5 tonnes capacity from using the town as a rat-run has now received over 2,000 signatures in support. If you haven’t done so, and are minded to support the campaign, you can sign via the Henley Herald web site.
You will recall that in our October issue we reported on Julian Brookes’ work on the two Government White Papers concerning changes to the planning regime. We are pleased to report that there was so much opposition to many of the proposals in those White Papers that it appears that implementation has been postponed, certainly delayed. Julian will be keeping an eye on this matter.
The Chairman and Executive Committee would like to wish all The Henley Society Members and their families a Happy Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year,

 

 

Executive Committee Briefing – November 2020

 

 

A wreath was laid on behalf of all Members at the Remembrance Service held at the Town Hall on Sunday 8th November, by our Executive Committee Member, Catherine Notaras.

*

The River and Rowing Museum, with whom we have a working relationship, are looking for volunteers in several areas of their operation. Due to Covid restrictions the Museum is currently closed, until 10th December, but if you are interested in helping them then please contact Juliet Harris, Volunteer Co-Ordinator by email, volunteering@rrm.co.uk or call 01491 415600 for more details.

*

Last month we told you about the triangle of grass at the junction of Reading Road and St.Andrew’s Road facing the Three Horseshoes public house which we needed to get Zzoomm to make good after their super-fast broadband installation. The 550 bulbs that they promised were presented to us at the beginning of the month and we are grateful to Zzoomm for their courtesy and generosity, and to Catherine Notaras and  Valerie Alasia, both Executive Committee Members, and one of our Member Volunteers, Barbara Snell who between them planted the lot!! We look forward to a beautiful Spring showing.

*

As a follow up to our story of last month regarding the very poor level of cleanliness and hygiene of the  lavatories in the Kings Road Car Park we have now been assured by SODC that they have, with effect from 1st November,  taken on the cleaning ‘in house’. We shall be keeping an eagle-eye out for significant  improvement.

*

The amenity area at the junction of Gravel Hill and West Street had been looking slightly untidy and a few weeks ago we made representations to the Town Centre Manager about getting it improved. The Society had purchased the trees on site to commemorate the services to the Society of a Past Chairman Raymond Youle, in the early 1970s, and a plaque on site bore witness to this.  The Town Council are to be congratulated on their prompt action and the Parks Services team for doing such a wonderful job. The ancient pudding-stone has been retained in the new design and our plaque, away being restored, will be replaced shortly.

*

Sincere apologies that in last month’s briefing our Treasurer’s telephone number was incomplete. Any Annual Member wishing to transfer to Life Membership or to paying annually by bankers order should call Sandra Moon on 01491 573887 or email sandramoon187@btinternet.com

*

During the month the Chairman and Executive Committee Member Valerie Alasia have met with a representative of the Town Council who is preparing a history of the Friday Street slipway in an effort to confirm ownership. Further news on this when available. You may recall that the slipway has recently been concreted over, possibly unlawfully, thus removing a useful public amenity.

 

 

Executive Committee Briefing – October 2020

Well, what have we been up to this month….

Our eagle eyed Executive Committee Member, Catherine Notaras, recently spotted that ZZoomm, who are installing super- fast broadband in Henley, has  carried out work on the grassed area at the junction of St Andrews Road and Reading Road, a pleasant stopping place facing the Three Horseshoes public house, and have left it in  far from satisfactory condition. This area has a bench seat and is used by shoppers walking from the town centre back to the southern part of town and is a popular spot with dog walkers too. In Spring the area displays a plethora of crocuses and Catherine was concerned at the removal of the grass and perhaps the bulbs. However, representations to Henley Town Council, OCC and ZZoomm have borne fruit and Zzoomm have agreed to reinstate the area and provide  300 crocus and daffodil bulbs which we are hoping will be planted shortly by Henley Gardening Buddies in time to produce a colourful display next Spring and annually. Thank you ZZoomm for being so approachable, and willing to help and to the Garden Buddies for your kind offer.

 

Another area of interest to the Society is the Gravel Hill Amenity site. Situated on the right hand side of Gravel Hill going up and shortly before the Friar Park entrance, the Society contributed, back in the 70s, to the trees that are planted there and a commemorative plaque on site bears witness to this. We noted that the area has recently looked less than cared for  and the Town Centre Manager was approached for her comments. The upshot is that the cracked and lifted pavings on site are to be taken up and replaced with grass, and the whole area given a facelift by the Town’s Park Services team, using plants that give year-round colour. Our plaque is very much the worse for wear and we are seeking to clean this  too. In carrying out the work the Council have been asked to be aware of the possibly valuable ‘pudding stone**’ set in the pavings. The pudding stone will be preserved as a part of the new facelift of the area.

 

Our Membership subscriptions were last increased in 2003 and have remained at £5 per annum for a single Member since then. (£8 for two people living at the same address, £50 for single Life Membership, and £80 for Life Membership for a couple living at the same address).

Inflationary pressure has been mounting over the intervening 17 years, and our Membership Subscription income now only covers our administrative expenses, such as running the AGM, stationery, printing and postage. Nothing left, therefore, to spend on improving Henley.

It is clear that we cannot promise to hold subscription levels for  too much longer, but we are reluctant to impose an increase whilst we are offering so little in the way of talks, lectures and lunches etc. because of Covid 19.

Therefore we are trying to control our costs and to this end we recently ran a successful campaign to get more of our Members to accept our Newsletters, briefings and general correspondence by email, rather than by, as we refer to it, snail mail. If you are still receiving by post, and could accept email, please let our Secretary know and we will switch you over.

In addition, whilst 77% of our Membership falls into the Life category, or pay their subscriptions by Bankers Order, the remaining 23% pay annually and need a subscription request letter in January, and in some cases, a reminder too !!

So, we ask if such Members would be prepared to change categories and become a Life Member whilst the subscription remains at £50, or sign a Bankers Order for their annual subscription, as either action would help reduce our overheads. . If you can also sign the Gift Aid form this too will help our finances.

If you are able to do any of the above things please let our Membership Secretary, Sandra Moon, know and she will do the necessary. Sandra can be contacted on 01491 573887or sandramoon187@btinternet.com

The handrail alongside the steps leading from the pathway south of St Mary’s Church down into the Red Lion Car Park has been broken for many months. In an effort to get this repaired, we spoke with Henley Town Council who have told us they are not responsible. We then contacted St Mary’s Church who also claim not to own the pathway and are, therefore, themselves not responsible, and we understand that Oxon CC do not wish to claim ownership. However, the church recognize that there is an issue, in particular one of safety, and are arranging a quotation for the handrail to be reinstated. The Church have promised to keep us informed as to progress.

Another of Catherine Notaras’s interests is the trees in the rear garden at Townlands Hospital several of which were vandalized shortly after planting. Catherine has got NHS Property Services to plant replacement trees and is arranging for  Liz Hodgkin and her Garden Buddies to plant one hundred and twenty primroses around the base of the trees which should provide a brilliant show next Spring.

Not for the first time Members of the public have contacted us about the deplorable state of the lavatories in the Kings Road Car Park. Reports of no running water, lack of soap, and excrement on the floors all proved correct. Our representations to the responsible authority, SODC, has resulted in the cleaning contractors being relieved of their duties , and are to be replaced by SODC internal staff. This should happen on November 1st.

Our Committee Member Julian Brookes has made a detailed study of  the Government’s Future of Planning white paper consisting of a 4 page covering letter and 6 pages of answer to their questions.

 

MHCLG have spent many hours producing this document which addresses the subjects of building better and beautiful and digitisation of the new system but has an alarming lack of details in many areas which will be essential if it is to be turned into legislation. Our concerns include the following:

  • Enforcement. Today’s enforcement is unsatisfactory because of the drop in planning department funding and the lack of teeth. Only 22% of dwellings created by PDRs are considered suitable for human habitation.
  • Strategy. Absent other than a criticism of the time it takes to deliver a local plan which is more to do with the 60% drop in planning department funding as much as anything else.
  • Democracy. Removed other than a promise that local people will be consulted at the early stages of the Local Plan development. But other than a few exceptions, this is the only time local people will be consulted and in an environment where the current local plan production of 7 years is to be reduced to 30 months
  • Quantity. There is a lot of emphasis on build better beautiful with proposed design codes but it comes across as build build build at any cost. We need dwellings which the average earner can afford to buy or rent (affordable and social) built to a standard with back up enforcement powers. There was an excellent article in this week’s Sunday Times by Susan Davies which highlighted issues with our current housing stock which I quote; “What our bricks and mortar say about our country is damning. Peel back the cladding, check the cavity walls and lift up the floor boards it reveals a picture of flagrant disregard for human safety in the chase for a quick profit.” https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/comment/a-nation-obsessed-with-houses-should-be-ashamed-st3btszsm
  • Funding. There is reference to short term funding for digitisation of the new system but no suggestion to reverse the 60% reduction in planning department funding of the last 10 years which has caused delay in processing planning applications and delivery of local plans.

If you would like a copy of the paper we submitted to MHCLG, please drop Julian a note to zbrookes@gmail.com or give me a call on 07803 900088

October 30th 2020

 

INAUGURAL MEETING OF THE HENLEY SOCIETY

Report from the Henley Standard – December 1961

The inaugural meeting of The Henley Society was held at the Town Hall on Wednesday. Mr Allen Punchard was elected Chairman of the Society and a draft Constitution was adopted. This is closely modelled on that suggested by the Civic Trust and already adopted by many local societies throughout the country.

The objects of the Society are (1) to stimulate public consciousness and appreciation of the beauty, history and character of Henley and its vicinity, (2) to encourage the preservation, development and improvement of the locality and of the features which go to make pleasing conditions in which to live and work, (3) to promote the study of civic design, (4) to pursue these ends by meetings, lectures, study group,, exhibitions, publications and other means.

Mr Osbert Lancaster was elected President of the Society, with Lady Brunner, Lady Rathcreedan, Mr John Piper and The Hon Lionel Brett as Vice Presidents. The following were elected to the Committee: Messrs L G Pontin (treasurer) FWH Sheppard (Hon Secretary), Mrs MF Clifford, Mrs P McBurnie, Miss Celia Miller, Miss Joan Morgan, Messrs RH Brackston, Capt GEF Goring-Thomas, SA Walden, VJ Hutchings, AJ Hammant, G Ogilvy, F Pollen, GHJ Tomalin, WEP Moon, GS Blaker, DE Hodges, LA Walden, T Verity, and WE Bruce.

In a short address Mr Punchard explained that the Society did not intend to confine itself merely to matters of preservation. He emphasized the importance of members studying the problems confronting the locality but suggested there might be meetings of a social character.

Mr Tim Rock, a member of staff of the Civic Trust, then suggested some of the activities open to local societies. His many ideas included the arrangement of photographic exhibitions, the study of traffic problems, the rationalization of street furniture and schemes for the improvement of street decoration.

In connection with street furniture Mr Rock had noticed that between the Town Hall and the traffic lights there were 42 signs and other objects of various kinds and he thought some of them, on closer inspection might be found to be redundant.

Membership of the Society is open to anyone in sympathy with its aims. The annual subscription is 5s, or other such greater sum as interested persons might like to give.

14 October 2020

 
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 2020