Saturday, 28 November 2020

Oak trees dubbed ‘cultural vandalism’

THE planting of trees in front of the River and Rowing Museum in Henley next week has been dubbed “needless

THE planting of trees in front of the River and Rowing Museum in Henley next week has been dubbed “needless cultural vandalism”.

The accusation was made by Paddy Nicholl, chairman of the museum’s trustees, who complained that the 12 oaks would “completely obscure” the museum in Mill Meadows.

He said: “The River and Rowing Museum is a major asset to Henley and the nation — it should be celebrated, not shielded.

“I do not understand why the council has refused to negotiate with the museum or accept any of the alternatives proposed by the trustees and their advisors.”

Henley Town Council, which owns the land, has decided to replace the poplar trees felled last December. The oaks are due to be planted on Tuesday at 6m intervals.

Mr Nicholls pointed out that the council signed a formal agreement with the council in 2003 which stated that it would “not permit anything new on the land in front of the musuem which detracts from the museum ambience or amentity unless agreed with the trustees of the museum”.

He said: “The current council is clearly prepared both to ignore the plain English of this agreement and to fracture the relationship with the museum’s trustees and funders by doing so.

“The musuem’s trustees have sought to engage the council to find a more sympathetic scheme and are despairing at what can only be seen as needless cultural vandalism.”

Mr Nicholls said the oak variety chosen by the council grows to a 6m spread and urged the council to maintain a gap of at least 1.5m between the trees.

Paul Mainds, the outgoing chief executive of the museum, has previously said that the oaks would form a “barrier” and make the museum less visible.

The town council vowed to improve relations with the River and Rowing Museum at a meeting of the finance community on Tuesday.

Town clerk Mike Kennedy said: “It is the town council’s conclusion that the proposed replacement of the line of poplar trees will not detract from the ambience of the museum.

“Furthermore, the decision notice from the district council has been made under the Town & Country Planning Act of 1990 and must, as a matter of law, override any agreement that might have been reached between the town council and the museum.

“Given the health and safety concerns with regard to the poplars, they could only be removed on condition that they were replaced with a type of tree approved by the district council.”

Mr Kennedy said the council was aware of the museum’s “importance” and a gap of 1.5m between the trees would be maintained.

“I would not want this beautiful building screened behind a hedge but would want a line of trees that mimic the line of poplars which I repeat had to be felled for safety reasons,” he said.

“This line of trees will enhance the museum and our stunning Mill Meadows.

“We always have had good relations with the River and Rowing Museum and I look forward to our continuing good relations.”

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