Saturday, 21 July 2018

Council accused over dumping site claims

HENLEY Town Council has been accused of “sharp practice” over a piece of land used to dump grass

HENLEY Town Council has been accused of “sharp practice” over a piece of land used to dump grass clippings.

The council has applied to South Oxfordshire District Council for a certificate of lawful use for the site at Jubilee Park, off Reading Road, which it says has been used to store grass clippings, machinery and landscaping materials for more than 10 years.

But neighbours say the land, which is part of a plot leased to AFC Henley, was only used for grass cuttings during most of that time.

They claim items including concrete blocks and planks of wood only began to be stored at the site in 2013 and should be removed.

They are also contesting sworn statements made by Gareth Bartle and Karl Bishop, members of the council’s parks team, saying the site was used to store equipment and landscaping materials since before they were employed in 2004. Kester George, chairman of Harpsden Parish Council, says that aerial photographs show that machinery and equipment only began to be stored at the site in 2013.

He said: “My council has very strong views on this application since it appears to be based on false representations and sharp practice.

“Google Earth photographs from 2004 and 2010 show no machinery, equipment or hardcore on the land in question. Those from 2013 show some and one from September 2014 shows a lot.

“Residents living in adjacent properties recall no storage beyond grass cuttings before 2013, which is not surprising because the local football club, which leased the land in question alongside their pitches for 25 years from 2009, has never agreed to anything else. The town council’s claim therefore appears to depend on a belief that, because grass cuttings were allowed by the leasee, that all ‘park services’ were too.

“The two sworn affidavits fail to stand up to the evidence provided by photographs and the memories of long-standing local residents.”

Trevor Howell, chairman of AFC Henley, says the club allowed the council to use the site to dump grass cuttings because it is not used as a football pitch.

He said: “The site has always been left uncultivated and has never been used for the club’s activities.

“When AFC Henley took over the maintenance of the ground under a leasehold agreement with the town council, it allowed the council’s parks services department to use the site for depositing grass cuttings and chippings from other parts of the town’s green spaces.

“There had been no noticeable storage of equipment or machinery at the site until a few months ago. I therefore wholeheartedly reject the assertion by the town clerk, and indeed the sworn statements of his two senior parks services staff, that the site has been used for ‘storage’ for more than 10 years. This is patently not the case.”

In November, the Henley Standard reported neighbour Claudia Rowberry calling the site a “dump”.

She was unhappy that waste including an old rowing boat was being stored there and said it was a safety hazard.

She said a planning application to create an access route off Reading Road in 2013 led to the council storing bigger machinery at the site as well as landscaping materials and concrete blocks.

Mrs Rowberry said: “The site still contains significant amounts of dumped rubbish and machinery which is not only unsightly but which poses a significant health and safety risk to the many children who play football on the adjoining football pitches.”

Town clerk Mike Kennedy declined to comment.

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