Sunday, 22 October 2017

New oak trees may discourage visitors, says museum chief

THE chief executive of the River and Rowing Museum in Henley has attacked a decision to fell more poplar trees

THE chief executive of the River and Rowing Museum in Henley has attacked a decision to fell more poplar trees outside the building and replace them with oaks.

Paul Mainds says the number of visitors could be hit as a result of the move by Henley Town Council, which owns the land.

He claims the oaks would form a “barrier” and make the museum less visible.

Seven poplar trees at the museum entrance were chopped down in December after it was discovered they were rotting inside and in danger of falling.

It was then agreed that five trees on the eastern verge would be cut down and be replaced with nine fastigiate oaks, spaced 4m apart, rather than having 12 trees planted on a like-for-like basis.

The council also wanted to crown the five trees on the western verge but has been advised against this by an arboricultural officer at South Oxfordshire District Council who they said they should also be felled.

Town clerk Mike Kennedy told a meeting of the town council: “He said that he was concerned that reduction works would cause a loss of the tree and amenity value and be contrary to the arboreal control management of the species.”

He said the officer was happy with the replacement fastigiate oak but wanted the space between the trees changed from 4m to 5m, so fewer would be planted.

“There have been some concerns as to the density of these trees but they are slim in their appearance,” he said.

Councillor David Clenshaw said he was concerned about felling healthy trees, adding: “I do not know whether that is right.”

Councillor David Nimmo Smith suggested having a meeting with the River and Rowing Museum to hear its concerns about the oaks making the museum less visible.

“They are our friends and neighbours and we have to work with them,” he said. “I think there are opportunities for us to chat with the museum before anything is purchased.”

Mayor Elizabeth Hodgkin said there would be fewer trees if the space between them was increased and said: “We have consulted the museum all the way along.”

But Mr Mainds said: “I am extremely concerned that the fastigiate oak is not the ideal tree to be planted there.

“The planting season is over for this year so replanting will not take place until the autumn.

“That means the final choice can be deferred and we would urge that that takes place so we do manage to restore some of the dialogue that has existed with the museum and council.

“We are the biggest year-round tourist attraction in South Oxfordshire and we believe that this plan is a threat to the museum as it will create a barrier outside.

“We hope that the council would take us a little bit more seriously.”

Cllr Hodgkin replied: “This matter has been taken extremely seriously, especially the health and safety aspects.

“We had to specify a species and we had spoken to you about that. The fact that you are going to have far fewer trees with wider spacing, I thought that you would be happy about that.

“The museum is going to stay very open for many years to come. The trees do not create a barrier, especially not being 5m apart.

“The museum is a major part of the economic development of this town and this council supports it greatly but we have had to make our decisions based on members of the public and their health and safety.”

The museum attracts 117,000 visitors every year.

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