HOBBS of Henley has been awarded a contract for the exclusive use of the moorings at Red Lion Lawn.
The pleasure boat company will pay £4,000 to the town council to operate a river taxi service until the deal ends on July 31 next year.
Managing director Jonathan Hobbs said: “It is part of a plan to work with the Red Lion Hotel, which has a licence to provide food and drink on the lawn.
“Perhaps we could use it as a waiting area with drinks and then we can use it to pick up and drop off passengers and take them to the Henley Festival, Rewind and the royal regatta.
“We didn’t actually use it very much for this year’s Rewind. We did have a few drop-offs but we mainly used our own mooring, which is opposite the Spice Merchant. We are just keen to work with our local partners to keep it local and it is handy to have access to the mooring there.”
Hobbs was one of two companies which applied to use the moorings on an exclusive basis. The council had wanted to offer companies licences for £1,000 each but received no offers.
Town clerk Mike Kennedy said the other bidding company wanted to use Red Lion Lawn for permanent mooring rather than transporting passengers by river taxi, which wasn’t in the council’s gift.
He said: “The council was offered £4,000 for the exclusive rights to use Red Lion mooring as a river taxi service for a year and we were happy with that. It is a win-win as it balances what we put into our budget.”
The council was facing a deficit of £4,000 after it was involved in a stand-off with pleasure boat firms over its decision to increase the lawn’s mooring fees.
In November, the licence fee for this year was increased to £1,000 — more than the previous total annual revenue. This caused two of the four companies that have traditionally taken licences deciding not to renew them.
At the time, Hobbs said it would not be renewing its licence as it felt other operators used the lawn without paying a fee.
Henley Sales and Charter had also said it would not be renewing its licence while no response was received from Henley River Cruises or SRB Mooring. When councillors agreed to raise the fee they suggested the companies were “making a killing” and could recoup the cost in a day.
At the time, Mr Kennedy said: “You shouldn’t be surprised when the companies have rather told you where to get off. Instead of having a reasonable amount of income, you have got absolute diddly squat.”
He said the council would make “strenuous” efforts to stop companies without a licence using the moorings.
• More street furniture belonging to Henley Town Council is set to be repainted. Council staff have been doing the work in their own time on a contract worth more than £11,000. But they found more items that needed repainting that were not included in the original quotation. The town and community committee recommended paying a further £1,140 to repaint the remaining 12 signposts, eight medium lampposts, one noticeboard and three bollards.