Sunday, 26 September 2021

No one can find me, says vineyard owner in request for sign

THE owner of a Henley vineyard wants to put up a sign to make his business easier to find.

Jan Mirkowski says visitors and suppliers struggle to find the entrance to Fairmile Vineyard, which is off Fair Mile.

He needs permission to have the sign on the grass verge, which is owned by the town council.

Mr Mirkowski bought the vineyard in 2012 and planted 12,000 vines the following year, giving him his first harvest in 2015.

Now he wants to develop the business as a tourist attraction.

The double-sided sign would be about 1m wide, 60cm high on wooden end posts. It would be painted green and have the company logo, an exploding bottle crossed with a rowing blade.

The sign could be temporarily removed when the grass was being cut by council workmen.

Speaking at a meeting of the council’s planning committee, Mr Mirkowski said: “Out of respect for the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and to maintain the sightlines along the road, we are proposing to keep the sign as unobtrusive and low as possible.

“The problem is nobody can find the place. Even the people of Henley struggle and a satnav lands you 200 yards short.

“The traffic passes at 60mph at that point so the sign should be large if people are going to see it.”

He added that even people who did find the entrance didn’t realise they then had to go through what appeared to be a private gate.

Mr Mirkowski lives in a house on the site with his wife Andrea and daughters Eloise and Verity.

Councillor Lorraine Hillier said the council had previously banned signs on Fair Mile because it would spoil its appearance.

She said: “Now it is about doing it in a tasteful way. I know it is difficult to find the entrance to the vineyard.”

Mayor Kellie Hinton said: “I am not going to make a decision based on a decision of this council 20 years ago. That is not progressive and it is not a valid reason. Perhaps if the vineyard becomes more of a tourist attraction it could then have a brown sign.”

She said the vineyard was included on the tours given to the judges of the Britain in Bloom competition.

“We got in touch with Jan and found out about the bat boxes and the bees and the wonderful things he does there for the environment,” she added.

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak said: “I am minded to grant permission for a year or two -— not in perpetuity — to get used to it and to say if we don’t like it.”

Councillor Jane Smewing said: “It is a really nice sign and I understand the need for it but the photographs indicate that it does interrupt the line of trees.”

Councillor David Nimmo Smith said he was concerned about the effect of the sign on the open aspect of Fair Mile, which he wanted to protect.

Asked if the sign was needed all year round, Mr Mirkowski said it was required from the end of February to harvest time in October, adding: “I have no objection to lifting it out for three months.”

The committee did not support a proposal by Cllr Hinton to approve the sign and review it after a year.

Instead, it suggested having a sign against the vineyard’s boundary wall or in front of it.

Meanwhile, the committee recommended that an application to replace wooden window frames at a flat in Boathouse Reach with uPVC is refused.

Flat owner Laura Blackmore says the frames have rotted and the replacement “grained” white uPVC frames would blend in with the traditional frames in neighbouring properties.

However, the Henley Society and neighbour Pilar Carpenter have objected.

Mrs Carpenter said: “I have no problem with changing the windows for new. However, they must be of wood construction and the same design as the rest of the block.

“If we allow an owner to fit uPVC-type frames it will change the whole frontage of Boathouse Reach from what it looks like today, which is a riverfront building associated closely with Henley river social life and the regatta.”

Cllr Gawrysiak said: “It should be wooden windows — end of.”

South Oxfordshire District Council will make a final decision by January 15.

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