THE leader of Oxfordshire County Council was quizzed on park and rides, the third Thames bridge and HGV congestion last Wednesday.
Ian Hudspeth held a meeting at the town hall to give residents a chance to air their views on transport in the county.
About 50 people attended the meeting, including Henley mayor Martin Akehurst and town and county councillor David Nimmo Smith.
Cllr Hudspeth gave a presentation on the county council’s upcoming draft transport plan for Oxfordshire before taking questions.
A park and ride system serving Henley was proposed by David McEwen, of Henley in Transition, and former Henley mayor Barry Wood.
Mr McEwen said: “Very few people use the town bus service so we think you could create a park and ride linking up to the hospital, car parks and other key places.”
He also suggested a larger pedestrian zone in the town centre and a one-way system.
Dr Wood, who recently moved from Henley to Peppard, added: “I now realise there’s life outside Henley. I would endorse the impact of a park and ride because the last half a mile getting into Henley is terrible, whereas the other four-and-a-half miles are a delight.”
Cllr Akehurst also suggested something should be done about parking in the town. He said: “Parking is a problem, it was 35 years ago when I moved here and five years ago when the survey was carried out, it’s still the same and we need those spaces.
“Henley is getting a reputation for bad congestion and all our growth will do is feed Reading.”
Barbara Lewis, chairman of Nettlebed parish council, added: “We all know car parking is totally inadequate, everyone will try to get into the King’s Road car park and that will be a problem for the hospice.
“Keeping bus services going is hugely important because people rely on them if they need to go to Henley every day.”
Michael Weller, from Checkendon, asked about the bus service in the village. He said: “I agree there are very few people using the service but with smaller populations it’s impossible to fill it. Could we have smaller buses for eight to 10 people which would presumably be cheaper?”
Cllr Hudspeth replied: “We will see if we can get more community transport schemes up and running because it might be better to have a community-led scheme in that kind of area.”
Residents of Watlington discussed the problems with congestion in the town caused by HGVs taking shortcuts from the M4.
Keith Lovelace, of pressure group WatNext, said: “What is planned to create designated lorry routes throughout Oxfordshire and to keep some of the big HGVs away from historic towns?”
Cllr Hudspeth replied: “First of all, we do have lorry routes anyway which are signposted on the main roads. The difficulty is talking to the people who don’t abide by them.
“It’s trying to find a very delicate balance between lorries who need to use the roads and those who don’t. You can’t just ban HGVs everywhere because then we would have more smaller vehicles and more congestion.”
Ian Hill, chairman of Watlington parish council, added: “HGVs are not the only problem even through they lock up the middle of the town. It’s cars that contribute more to pollution and congestion. With the growth in the future we are going to have more cars coming through Watlington even if we get rid of the HGVs.”
Several members of the public also brought up the topic of the proposed third Thames bridge.
Malcolm Leonard, South Oxfordshire district councillor for Shiplake, said: “Any third bridge will come into our ward and residents in that area aren’t in favour unless the infrastructure is in place.
“The bridge could also be followed by the expansion of Reading into the area so could any negotiations mention that this ward doesn’t want to see that?”
Cllr Hudspeth said: “The third Thames bridge is something Reading are fanatical about but from our view in Oxfordshire we are saying what would the impact be on the road network as you spread out?
“We don’t want a road just coming over into a field. Should we have, instead of a third bridge, a cable car? In all seriousness, these are the kind of things we should be talking about.”
Cllr Hudspeth will now take the comments away for use on the draft plan, which will be released next spring.