Saturday, 21 July 2018

‘Forbidding’ fence approved but might not happen

PLANS for a new fence at a park in Henley have been approved — but might

PLANS for a new fence at a park in Henley have been approved — but might not go ahead anyway.

The application by the town council for the 7ft 10in high, 630ft long galvanised steel fence at Makins recreation ground has been granted planning permission.

The council said the £20,000 fence was designed to stop people falling down the steep embankment on that side of the park.

But now it is to consider possible alternatives following criticism by community groups.

The Henley Society said the fence would be “forbidding” and was likely to encourage vandalism, while the Chiltern Society said it was “unacceptable” and would remove views.

The Henley Wildlife Group comprared the fence to one at a prison and called for more trees and shrubs to be planted instead.

There used to be a natural barrier of Japanese knotweed but the council was legally required to remove this.

Speaking at a meeting of the council’s recreation and amenities committee, chairwoman Sam Evans said a “significant” group of people were not happy with the fence plan. “It’s only fair we listen to their points of view and see if there is a good alternative,” she said. “Our primary responsibility is to keep people safe. If there is an equally effective alternative fencing then fine.

“Any decision that is made will be brought before the relevant committees and ratified by the full council.”

Councillor Kellie Hinton said the fencing would not affect any views and it needed to be high because the area was dangerous. She said: “It would only take someone to kick a ball over there and jump the fence and they could break their neck — it’s a sheer drop.”

She said it was also important to prevent fly-tipping to protect the wildlife there. Councillor Ian Reissmann said: “I would prefer to see something that’s more temporary with a view to putting in bushes or shrubs with the same function but which was not so stark looking.”

Councillor David Eggleton said: “You could put in trees and bushes but they take a long time to grow. It is not a short-term solution. Health and safety is most important.”

The application approved by South Oxfordshire District Council was for green pro-mesh fencing that would run from the north side of the car park to the current fence and along the top corner of the car park and all the way along the north side of the recreation ground.

Adrian Duffield, head of planning at the district council, said: “The proposed fence would not be significantly higher than a fence that would fall within the parameters of the permitted development legislation and would not require planning permission. [It] would not be detrimental to the character and appearance of the site or the surrounding area and would not be unneighbourly.”

Ruth Gibson, a field planning officer at the Chiltern Society, who lives in Vicarage Road, said: “I’m really pleased they’re going to look at it again.

“It would take time for layers of traditional hedges like hawthorn to grow. I would suggest something temporary, known as park paling, which is made up of bits of wood and wire with posts inbetween. It’s used most often to prevent deers getting to the plants. Hedges can grow around it and then it can be moved and re-used.”

Sally Rankin, who chairs the wildlife group, said: “I am very pleased that the council are looking at it again.

“We do not want big ugly structures if they’re not necessary.

“If they’re worried about it being dangerous and people falling down they should put trees there to break the fall. They would look more natural and should make it safer.”

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