Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Show compere attacks ‘petty’ policy on signs

THE compere of the Henley House and Garden Show has blasted a decision to ban signs

THE compere of the Henley House and Garden Show has blasted a decision to ban signs promoting the event until a week before.

Rob Heginbotham said Henley Town Council was being “petty and narrow-minded” by preventing the A-board signs from being put up until tomorrow (Saturday).

He also accused the council of inconsistency after posters for other events were displayed weeks before they were due to take place.

The show, now in its second year, will be held next weekend and features more than 50 guests, including Nick Knowles and Julia Kendell of the BBC’s DIY SOS.

Organisers had hoped to erect signs around the town this week but were told that any put up before tomorrow would be taken down by council staff.

Mr Heginbotham, of Sonning Common, said: “We now have signs on roads outside the town boundaries in villages, at Henley Rugby Club and about 10 shops in Henley but we aren’t allowed to display them on town council land until seven days before the event.

“We approached the council to put up the signs two weeks before the show, which is what we did last year. Then we had an empathetic town manager who understood the commercial aspect of laying on an event like this in Henley during the winter.

“The current town council management don’t seem to have any understanding of that and quite frankly are behaving like jobsworths. It does feel like unnecessary bureaucratic obstruction.” Mr Heginbotham was told it was council policy to ban signs except for the week before an event but says he has seen other A-boards and A4 notices in the town centre advertising events more than a week away.

He said: “I think that is wrong and there’s inconsistency in allowing some to go up while specifically saying others will be taken down.

“Our signs would go on key lamp posts in the town centre and the four main access routes into the town. There would be no more than eight to 12 in total.

“The longer we have signs up the more opportunity those passing through the town will have to notice them. It reinforces all the other publicity we have done on social media and in the

Henley Standard
. Physical signs are still very important.” Mr Heginbotham, who runs a tour company, added: “If we want Henley to prosper as a year-round venue we need to move away from being petty and narrow-minded and understand the time and investment that goes in to putting on an event like this.”

He said he had seen signs for a Henley Choral Society concert tomorrow and a performance at the Kenton Theatre next week which were put up more than seven days before.

“I have nothing against the other signs, they are worthy events, I just don’t like this discriminatory approach by the council,” said Mr Heginbotham.

“One week is a ridiculously short time in which to give proper publicity and it doesn’t give our sponsors the recognition and payback they should be getting.

“Two weeks is what it should be and after the event people should be made to take down their own signs, as the show did last year.”

Mr Heginbotham, who campaigned for the Conservatives at last year’s local elections where they won control of the council, says he now regrets having done so.

In a letter to this week’s Henley Standard, he says: “The current Conservative-led administration seem to want to make life as hard as possible for people who are promoting this town.

“I think that the current incumbents are simply awful and I shall be making contact with Henley Residents’ Group in the near future.”

The town council said it had a “strict” policy on signs which applied to all organisations.

Mayor Lorraine Hillier said: “There’s no favouritism, it’s just council policy. It has always been a week before an event.

“We appreciate the show is not happy and wanted their signs to go up earlier but the reason we stuck to the policy is because there are other events taking place and we don’t want a multitude of signs in one place.”

Cllr Hillier confirmed hat any signs erected more than a week before an event did not have the permission of the council and would be removed by staff.

She said: “We do give instructions for those signs to be removed by organisers and the parks team will remove them if they see them.”

In December 2014, former town clerk Mike Kennedy removed 13 signs from the town centre in one day after claims they were making Henley look “messy”.

At the time councillors were unhappy with the amount, size and placement of display signs and boards. They said they were not being taken down after events and some were attached to the council’s green street furniture, such as lampposts, which is prohibited.

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