Sunday, 19 November 2017

No rush to replace trees at riverside beauty spot

SEVEN trees in front of the River and Rowing Museum in Henley that were chopped down last month will not

SEVEN trees in front of the River and Rowing Museum in Henley that were chopped down last month will not be replaced until October at the earliest.

Henley Town Council, which owns the land, had planned to plant fastigiate oaks in their place next month.

But the museum has forced a delay after claiming that not enough time has been spent considering what to do.

The council felled the 98ft poplars after discovering they were rotting inside and potentially dangerous. Another tree had partially collapsed in high winds in November.

The council plans to cut down five others, even though they were found to be safe, because they are now more exposed to wind damage and look less attractive.

Six others on the other side of the museum entrance will be reduced because they have another 10 years of life left. Consultants recommended planting nine fastigiate oaks before the end of February, saying they were better able to cope with the effects of flooding.

Earlier this month, the council’s recreation and amenities committee agreed to this but this week the full council voted by 11 votes to one to delay the decision.

Speaking at the committee meeting, Councillor Martin Akehurst said several councillors had spent time considering what to do. He said: “We have had three sets of tree specialists involved and as the poplars have come to the end of their life, we should do this with some urgency.”

Councillor David Clenshaw added: “This matter is fairly urgent as we need new trees on the site. They are very important to the townscape and, of course, the view of the river across Mill Meadows. It is a very sensitive site and I think we need to press ahead.”

Town clerk Mike Kennedy said: “Nothing will detract from the museum’s ambience. Yes, we are consulting with the trustees but ultimately it is our decision — they are our trees on our land and we have an obligation to the community.

“They must be replaced in such a way that the tree preservation order is still valid.”

But Councillor Ian Reissmann said: “I think we are a long way ahead of ourselves. We had an emergency situation and we had to, with a few days’ notice, take down the trees.

“The situation now is that we are going to replace the trees because we are under obligation to do that.

“These trees will last around 75 to 100 years so we need to consider what is one of the landmark areas of our town and one of the most beautiful stretches of river. We should not rush this decision, we should take it slowly.

“I believe we are not ready to make a decision and I cannot believe there is only one solution.

“I think we should consult with the wardens, the wildlife group, the museum and the district council.” Cllr Reissmann was backed up at this week’s meeting by Paul Maines, chief executive of the museum, who said: “The museum is very concerned with the proposal both in content and with the speed it has been put together.

“There has been little time for consulting and no alternative has been considered or proposed.

“My concerns are expressed on behalf of all users of Mill Meadows. The decision will affect how it will look for 50 to 100 years.

“The proposal that planting should be done by the end of March is unhelpfully quick and more time could be spent producing better plans for the town.

“I want to consider the whole area outside the museum. We have offered to prepare plans and table those to be discussed with the council.

“With a little careful, calm consideration, we could come up with the best idea.”

Councillor Will Hamilton suggested a working party was formed, which the council agreed to.

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