THE president of the Thames Traditional Boat Festival has criticised a proposal to remove booms from
THE president of the Thames Traditional Boat Festival has criticised a proposal to remove booms from the river before the event.
Lady McAlpine said the booms ensured the safety of people attending the Henley festival, which will be held from July 15 to 17.
Last week the Henley Standard revealed that a meeting is to be held between Henley Royal Regatta and the Environment Agency, which is responsible for the river, to discuss removing the booms immediately after this year’s regatta due to safety concerns.
It means that fans of the Henley Festival could be prevented from mooring on the Thames. The booms, which mark out the regatta course, are usually kept in place for both festivals, which take place in the two weeks after the regatta.
Lady McAlpine said: “Last year the booms meant that we could have the boat festival traffic on one side of the river, like the sail pasts of the Dunkirk Little Ships, while the other traffic could flow up and down the other side.
“It’s a lot safer if the river is divided and even more so as the Environment Agency have given us permission, as it did last year, to run Blue Bird.”
Sir Malcolm Campbell’s record-breaking 1937 speedboat will once again attempt its first unaided journey along the Thames since it was restored by a group of enthusiasts.
The historic vessel, which achieved a water speed of almost 131mph in 1938, was set to try this at last year’s festival but the engine caught fire on the day.
Lady McAlpine said: “There’s no way we’re going to run Blue Bird without these booms in place. You can just imagine the average day tripper wandering across — it’s too dangerous.”
Lady McAlpine, who lives at Fawley Hill with her husband Sir William, claimed Henley Royal Regatta didn’t want the booms removed early and that the proposal has been put forward by the agency.
“The problem is there’s gin palaces mooring up four abreast,” she said. “The booms are too delicate and they broke one last year — I know that.”
Robin Ford, the festival’s deputy public relations officer, said: “We’re not happy about it at all. It’s a problem for us because obviously we like to make sure boats that aren’t in the festival don’t stray on to the course.
“If they do remove the booms we have a line of buoys but it’s not a great help.
“I understand the reason he agency is trying to do this is they feel that for the music festival there are far too many boats lined up on the booms and it’s a safety risk. I’m a bit surprised they are doing this now.”