Monday, 23 July 2018

Anger at plan to turn field into car park for triathlon

HENLEY town clerk Mike Kennedy has come under fire for agreeing to let Gillotts Corner Field be used as a

HENLEY town clerk Mike Kennedy has come under fire for agreeing to let Gillotts Corner Field be used as a car park.

He approved a request to allow about 800 cars on to the beauty spot during the weekend of the annual triathlon at Gillotts School next June.

The council, the organisers and Henley Lions Club, which organise the parking, would each receive £1 per car.

Mr Kennedy took the decision under delegated powers following discussions with the council’s parks services staff and the Henley Wildlife Group, which agreed to the proposal.

The field was made a town green in 2009 to block plans to build hundreds of houses on the site.

It followed a campaign by residents and town councillors to protect the field, which is known for its wildflowers and is popular with dog-walkers and families.

But Councillor Elizabeth Hodgkin, who was Mayor at the time, told a meeting of the council’s recreation and amenities committee that agreeing the proposal was like “almost selling your soul”. She said: “The town green is very close to my heart as when I was Mayor it was given protection. It is a wonderful piece of land that the town council bought.

“It is a wonderful area and I am amazed that parks services and Henley Wildlife Group thinks this is a good idea. We were asked about this a couple of years ago and we threw it out.

“The field is crowded with people walking and enjoying themselves using it as a town green. It is not the Fair Mile, which is a mown area not managed for wildlife. There can’t be cars dripping grease, dripping petrol on there, and churning up the ground. It is a town green and precious, we should not let this happen.”

Councillor Sam Evans agreed, saying: “We would never consider parking on Mill or Marsh Meadows or Freemans or any other green spaces.”

Councillor Pam Phillips added: “It is totally and utterly wrong.”

Councillor David Clenshaw said: “It is practically a bribe, £1 per car — we should not have considered this.”

But Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak supported Mr Kennedy’s decision.

He said: “This area is mown three times a year. It will be mown pre this event…. the flowers will be protected.”

Councillor Joan Bland warned that if it rained the area would become a “mud pile”.

Councillor Kellie Hinton said that Mr Kennedy should have consulted members before giving approval, adding: “He is now going to have an awkward conversation.”

The committee refused permission for the field to be used as a car park.

Mr Kennedy told the Henley Standard: “I took the view that in the same way I managed the use of Mill Meadows for the open-air cinema for the very successful three-day event and, more recently, the use of the Fair Mile by the Lions for royal regatta parking, I really saw Gillotts Field as an extension of that permission.

“The fact that there would be an income returned to the council is why, when approached, I said that it was fine.”

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