Sunday, 19 September 2021

Regatta planning new enclosure for families

A NEW public enclosure could be set up at next year’s Henley Royal Regatta.

A NEW public enclosure could be set up at next year’s Henley Royal Regatta.

The regatta’s management committee has asked South Oxfordshire District Council for a licence for another viewing area at Fawley Meadows on the western bank of the River Thames, off Marlow Road.

This would be aimed at families who want to watch the rowing in a more casual setting and could include a grandstand with tiered seating and TV screens showing highlights from the previous day.

Children’s games and activities could be provided away from the river edge and individual pitches would be available for schools and youth rowing clubs to hire.

There would be a bar and stalls selling food and soft drinks. The enclosure would open at 8am, half an hour before the racing typically starts, and the bar would shut at 10pm.

Regatta secretary Daniel Grist said the idea had been discussed several times in recent years and the committee decided to press ahead after last summer’s televised coverage of the racing proved popular.

He said: “The proposal is still at a very early stage because we’re currently focusing on this year’s regatta. However, we will develop it further over the summer and autumn.

“We want to stress that this won’t be some kind of nightclub that runs until late. As with all our facilities, it is closely allied to the racing and will finish at a reasonable time.

“The problem we have on the Berkshire bank is space. It is other people’s land along much of that side but we do have space at Fawley Meadows that we’re not currently using.

“We like the idea of a more relaxed, family-focused area. It would appeal to people who’ve rowed at Henley but now have children and need somewhere they can bring them.

“Some parents are extremely interested in the racing but it doesn’t necessarily appeal to youngsters. We want children to say ‘wow, that was a great day out’ even if they didn’t watch the rowing.”

In its application, the committee says entry to the enclosure would be “highly controlled” through a ticketing scheme in a similar fashion to the main enclosure on the Berkshire bank.

A public footpath runs across the front of the site but this would not be shut or diverted.

The committee is yet to decide the maximum capacity or set an admission fee but says it wants entry to be affordable.

It says it hopes to attract “a wider demographic” of guests, in particular families, to watch and enjoy the regatta in “less formal surroundings”.

It adds: “The catering facilities, while of a good quality, will be more casual so that children and their parents or guardians can enjoy good food but in a more relaxed setting.”

The committee says the regatta is “a highly experienced operator of licensed premises” and the new enclosure would operate “to the same high standards of operation, efficiency and safety”.

“In view of [this]... it is hoped that this application will prove uncontroversial and indeed will be seen as an excellent way to encourage families to join in with the Henley Royal Regatta experience,” it adds.

The committee owns the site, which is immediately to the north of Phyllis Court Club. It served as a corporate hospitality area during the Eighties but has only been used as private moorings since then.

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