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Monday, 19 February 2018
THE River & Rowing Museum in Henley could rent out its car park to visitors during Henley Royal Regatta.
The museum in Mill Meadows says it is usually very quiet during the five-day regatta in July and the income could be invested in education projects for schoolchildren.
The car park is owned by Henley Town Council and the museum pays £6,300 per year in rent, while also receiving a £10,000 a year grant from the council.
Last year, the museum’s then chief executive Ludo Keston asked for the rental charge to be waived to allow the museum greater financial flexibility, saying it effectively reduced its grant to £3,700.
Councillors agreed to waive the rent and to increase the grant to £13,800 for three years.
Now the museum says the car park could be rented to visitors or corporate clients during the regatta and used for craft and food markets at other times of the year.
Operations director Lynne Adams said this would increase footfall in Mill Meadows and help fund its schools work.
According to figures from Arts Council England, the museum contributes almost £2million to Henley’s economy, comprising £422,946 from local people, £653,643 from day trippers and £824,195 from overnight visitors.
Members of the council’s recreation and amenities committee supported the museum’s idea. Councillor Sam Evans said: “They don’t get any revenue during the regatta so I say go for it.
“We know the River & Rowing Museum does reinvest every penny it has got and as a result we have a wonderful museum.”
Councillor Glen Lambert said: “We gave them the car park for free and now they are going to use it to generate income. That’s fine but shouldn’t we get a share of that?”
Mrs Adam said she also wanted to tidy up an “unsightly” garden at the front of the museum.
She suggested planting wild flowers as well as installing picnic benches and wanted Henley in Bloom to be involved.
She said: “We want to improve the gardens but not impact on the stream or Mill Meadows. We have got some volunteers lined up — a company wants to use the exercise as a team-building day.” Councillor Ian Reissmann said: “When the River & Rowing Museum was established the idea was that Mill Meadows is a meadow and should be retained.
“The style of building should be of a boathouse in a meadow and while they do want to keep the green area tidy it is a conservation area.
“I appreciate there’s always a balance between a conservation site and keeping it tidy and attractive.”
Cllr Evans added: “I don’t know if you have been up there but the area looks like it has been deserted and ignored.
“It’s relatively unsightly and I’m pleased they are looking at it because it detracts from the entrance to the museum.”
Other forthcoming projects at the museum include recycling and eco-friendly schemes for children, while a temporary exhibit is planned to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War in November.
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