Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Pleasure boat firms unhappy at moorings deal

BOAT hire companies have complained about Henley Town Council offering exclusive use of its moorings.

BOAT hire companies have complained about Henley Town Council offering exclusive use of its moorings.

Hobbs of Henley was awarded the sole use of Red Lion Lawn to operate a river taxi service until July 31 for which it paid £4,000.

Now the contract us up for renewal and other pleasure boat companies say the moorings should be for multiple use as they were previously.

In a report to the council’s town and community committee, senior administrator Nicci Taylor said an invitation to submit a proposal for the use of the lawn was sent to Hobbs, Henley Sales and Charter, Henley River Cruises and SRB Moorings.

Hobbs confirmed that it wanted to renew its licence.

Mrs Taylor said: “Henley Sales and Charter have advised that they do not wish to submit a proposal as they do not agree with the exclusive use of any of the town council moorings and would prefer for there to be a different arrangement. They have expressed concerns regarding how difficult it is for companies other than Hobbs to operate in Henley as it now has most of the town’s riverside at its disposal.

“They advise that there are other Henley companies, plus Reading and Maidenhead operators, who bring passengers and therefore business into Henley who need somewhere to disembark and request that the lawn be kept for them and any small company to use on an ad-hoc basis. Henley River Cruises would like the lawn returned to as it was before with multiple companies being granted a permit to use it.”

SRB Moorings did not respond.

Mrs Taylor said that returning the moorings to multiple use would not necessarily generate more income than that from a sole licence.

The committee agreed to recommend to the full council that Hobbs be granted a year’s extension to its contract.

Red Lion Lawn was previously used by several local companies for embarking/disembarking passengers, particularly during Henley Royal Regatta and the Rewind Festival. In 2013, it was revealed that 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.

The annual licence fee was increased to £1,000, more than the previous total revenue. Two of the four companies that had traditionally taken licences then decided not to renew theirs. At the time, Hobbs said it would not be renewing its licence as it felt other operators used the lawn without paying a fee.

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, town clerk Mike Kennedy warned the council: “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.

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