Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Fresh plan to light bridge given to three councils

Fresh plan to light bridge given to three councils

NEW plans to light up Henley Bridge have been drawn up.

Artist Clive Hemsley has teamed up with Henley jeweller David Rodger-Sharp to deliver their vision for the historic structure.

They have submitted a planning application to both Wokingham and South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authorities for each side of the Thames. A copy has also been given to Henley Town Council, which will be discussing the proposal at a meeting on Tuesday.

Mr Rodger-Sharp said: “The concept seeks to create a vision for the celebration of Henley’s historic and iconic bridge, recognising the architectural, historic and communal heritage value to Henley and the founding relationship between the River Thames and Henley.

“Drawing the attention of the public to this heritage has a major beneficial impact on Henley’s heritage and character at a strategic level. The overarching principles of the lighting strategy are sound, seeking to enhance an appreciation of the character and significance of the bridge, to minimise visual clutter, reduce unwanted light spill and deliver creative public art which is striking.”

He said the project would:

• Make Henley more of a destination for visitors and increase footfall.

• Act as a catalyst for improving the public realm.

• Contribute to a more ecologically sustainable environment for the river

• Provide more opportunities to enjoy the environs of the river.

Mr Hemsley, an artist and entrepreneur, of Hart Street, Henley, installed strings of fairy lights to the bridge without permission in March 2018.

This sparked a public debate about the idea of illuminating the structure permanently before Oxfordshire County Council, which owns the bridge, ordered the lights to come down.

More than 2,400 people signed a petition calling for the lights to stay but heritage bodies and supporters opposed them. The lights were eventually taken down in October.

Mr Hemsley, an advertising agency owner and artist, was then refused planning permission by Wokingham Borough Council, for white LED lights.

The council said his suggestion to drill into the mortar surrounding the five arches posed “potential harm” to the bridge. It also said there was no evidence that the lights would conserve or enhance the bridge’s architectural value.

Now Mr Hemsley says he has found a type of adhesive fixing that wouldn’t damage the stonework of the 18th century bridge, which is Grade I listed.

He told a public meeting last month that he wanted to use mood lights, similar to those used to light up many London bridges. These would be attached with cable ties every metre and fastened with a silicon compound.

He says these are cheaper and more energy efficient than the type of lights used to illuminate buildings such as the town hall.

He has already gained the support of the county council and Henley MP John Howell.

Mr Hemsley said: “I first thought about this idea five years ago. I know how to visualise and to me this just seemed obvious.

“This was before all of the projects in London, so I was ahead of them, but now we are behind.

“I am sure the lights would look amazing, particularly with the option to have the different colours. I would hope the council would approve it this time.”

Mr Rodger-Sharp, of Reading Road, Henley, said: “I appreciate some people are against the lights. Maybe they don’t understand the technology, or they don’t realise that these lights will not do any damage to the bridge.

“This is also being privately funded by Clive, which I think is such a lovely gesture. I share the vision.

“I genuinely love Henley and think it is a really special place. We want to make it a destination for visitors and we also want to make it a more energy efficient place to live.”

He said the project would cost tens of thousands of pounds including ongoing maintenance.

The pair will be working alongside Daniel Bausor, from Bix, who has worked on the Illuminated River project in London.

They have also started a poster campaign for local businesses to show their support.

During last month’s meeting, Mr Hemsley criticised the town council for failing to provide an opinion on the project.

He hopes to have the lights fitted in time for the summer and plans to change the colour of the lights to match special events, such as the Henley Royal Regatta and Thames Traditional Boat Festival.

The Henley Archaeological & Historical Group objected to Mr Hemsley’s application last year due to concerns about potential damage to the bridge. Concerns were also raised by Historic England, which said there was no justification or need to light the bridge.

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