Monday, 23 July 2018

Residents asked for ideas on improving town’s green spaces

PARKS and other green spaces in Henley are set for an overhaul.

PARKS and other green spaces in Henley are set for an overhaul.

Henley Town Council is to launch a public consultation on possible improvements to Mill Meadows, Marsh Meadows, Freemans Meadow and Makins recreation ground, all of which it owns.

Earlier this year it disbanded its Mill Meadows and river sub-committee in favour of a new parks sub-committee to tackle problems at all four sites.

Members of the panel inspected the sites and noted where repairs or new facilities were needed.

But they want to hear residents’ views before agreeing any changes.

At the sub-committee’s first meeting last Friday, councillors agreed that signage could be improved at all four sites. They had counted more than 20 designs, some dating back to the Seventies and bearing outdated information.

Members suggested a map at Mill Meadows showing the location of facilities such as the toilets, bandstand, playgrounds and River and Rowing Museum. These could explain that barbecues are only allowed at designated spots on Marsh Meadows as councillors felt this was not clear.

They also suggested creating a leafleted wildlife trail around Marsh Meadows and encouraging schools to visit.

A lack of seating was deemed a problem at all four sites.

Councillors discussed setting up a shaded area on the toddler playground at Mill Meadows and more seats for parents at the adjacent adventure playground.

These would be designed to deter teenagers from congregating after hours.

More benches could go up at Makins and would be made of metal as plastic picnic tables that were there previously were set alight.

Other suggestions included more rubbish and dog waste bins and replacement lids for the existing ones.

Chairwoman Sam Evans said: “This is just a first step in the process. We can’t consult now as many people are on holiday and we want a complete picture.

“We need to work with as many volunteer groups as possible to gather feedback and maybe invite schools to help analyse the data.”

The sub-committee also called for Freemans Meadow, off Fair Mile, and Makins recreation ground, off Greys Road, to be more widely  publicised.

Cllr Evans, said the former was “probably Henley’s best-kept secret”.

She said: “It’s a beautiful spot but it’s frightening how many people don’t even know it exists. It’s right near the town centre but it’s almost permanently empty.

“We own it and it’s our responsibility to increase awareness and provide the facilities that will make people want to visit.

“However, we will hold a consultation as we should install what’s needed, not what we think might be nice.

“We need to reach as many people as possible to get the information we need.”

Cllr Evans said she had lived in Henley for at least 10 years before realising that Makins recreation ground existed.

She said: “It isn’t very clearly signposted. We should be encouraging more people to walk through it.”

The sub-committee agreed to design a questionnaire for approval at its next meeting on October 9.

Three non-councillors have been co-opted on to the sub-committee.

They are David Bancroft, head of operations at the River and Rowing Museum, Chris Baker, president of Henley Hockey Club, and Sally Rankin, founder of Henley Wildlife Group.

Town councillor David Eggleton, who is chairman of Gainsborough Residents’ Association, has also been brought on board.

Councillor Helen Chandler-Wilde was appointed vice-chairwoman.

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