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Sunday, 15 December 2019
THE tourist information kiosk at Mill Meadows in Henley could be revived.
Henley Town Council had decided not to open the facility this summer to save about £7,000 in staff costs.
The knock-on effect meant the nearby putting green would not be able to open.
But now the council is to investigate appointing an unpaid management committee to run the service on its behalf.
The kiosk at the Leichlingen pavilion used to open at weekends and during the school holidays between Easter and September.
It was manned by volunteers who would give directions and hand out information leaflets to visitors under the supervision of council staff.
The service was cut from council’s budget for this year at a meeting on January 8.
However, members of the council’s town and community committee have argued that the kiosk should remain open because people visiting Mill and Marsh Meadows may not know about the main visitor information centre at the town hall.
Councillor David Eggleton said: “It’s very important to promote our town and its history, especially to tourists, and we need to reach visitors to both the town itself and the river so that we’re targeting everyone.
“If you don’t do that, many of the people who come to enjoy the river won’t go into the town centre and visit local businesses. We need to be looking after our visitors.”
Town and community manager Helen Barnett said: “This proposal needs to be thought through because volunteers in Henley are incredibly hard to come by and it may be a challenge finding the right people to run it for nothing.” Councillor Sam Evans, who proposed the idea, said after the meeting: “The closure seemed to sneak in under the radar because I don’t remember voting it in and no one consulted the people working there.
“I’m really pleased that this has come back on the radar. The kiosk could use the same leaflets as the centre at the town hall and we could explore funding from South Oxfordshire District Council. Tourism in Henley is one of our key money makers and to close one of two key offices made no sense to me.
“It couldn’t go in the River & Rowing Museum either because a lot of people were approaching the kiosk to ask where the museum was.
“It was run by mostly retired people who were an absolute fount of knowledge so it was a crazy decision to shut it. It might have saved money in the short-term but the long-term impact of tourists not knowing where to go would be significant.”
Town clerk Janet Wheeler said councillors could have queried the decision when the budget was put before the meeting in January.
Meanwhile, the putting green might not be able to open this summer because staff at the kiosk were responsible for the clubs and balls.
A fairground ride operator, which uses Mill Meadows, offered to run the green but the council turned this down due to the cost of insurance.
The owners of the Piazza Café, which has operated on the meadows for about 20 years, has offered to hire out the golf equipment in exchange for having a pop-up cabin next to the green.
The cabin would measure 3m by 2.6m and would be on a wooden base. It would sell lollies, pots of ice cream, hot drinks and snacks.
But members of the council’s open and green spaces sub-committee turned down the request at a meeting on Friday.
Cllr Eggleton said: “I am not in favour of this at all. I don’t think a business of any shape should go in there.”
Councillor Julian Brooks said the advantage of it was there would be someone on site to help run the putting green, adding: “I wouldn’t rule out any commercial business.”
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