Friday, 04 December 2020

Theatre wants its own two parking slots

THE Kenton Theatre in Henley wants to have its own two designated parking spaces.

THE Kenton Theatre in Henley wants to have its own two designated parking spaces.

These would be used for loading and unloading outside the venue in New Street and for the arrival of special guests.

Ed Simons, chairman of the theatre’s trustees, claims to have the support of neighbours, including BBC director-general Lord Hall.

Speaking at a meeting of the town council’s traffic advisory committee, he said: “The Kenton Theatre opened its doors in 1805. It was formerly three residential cottages.

“Had we not raised the money some five years ago to purchase the freehold you may well now have three residential properties to find car parking spaces for.

“During this calendar year some 50,000 people will pass through the theatre’s doors. It is probably in second place to the River and Rowing Museum as the largest attraction for Henley. It is an asset of Henley and that is why I am before you.”

Mr Simons said that performers had to carry their equipment to the theatre as they had to park further away.

“Georgie Fame came and he unloaded the van himself,” he said. “He parked some 100 or 150 yards away from the theatre and he physically carried his cases to the theatre.

“He is an icon and when I greeted him at the theatre, as I had to help him carry his cases, he was laughing that there was nowhere for his van to be unloaded.

“We have trucks that go in and out at all times of the day and night. I know a number of residents who would be delighted to have the spaces designated outside the theatre so that they are not disturbed at 1am by Joe Brown clearing up and the panto going in.”

Mr Simons said he felt it was the council’s “duty” to support his call for two dedicated spaces.

“It is not just for loading and unloading,” he said. “It is not right that when a letter goes out to Sir John Major or Princess Michael of Kent we have to say ‘please park at Waitrose and walk down’. It is not right that people in that position cannot be afforded a space to be dropped off.” David Tole, an officer with Oxfordshire County Council, said a traffic regulation order could be made to suspend parking restrictions for two spaces.

“The legal process is very similar to a planning application,” he said. “We would carry out a formal consultation and write to people who may be affected. We would be consulting directly with people on New Street.

“If there are no objections, the proposal will go ahead. If there are objections then the decision is made by the cabinet member for environment, who happens to be [Henley councillor] David Nimmo Smith. If he felt there was a conflict of interest, he would refer it to cabinet to make a final decision.

“In terms of what might be done for the theatre, what I would have thought might work is that we alter the layout of the parking so that residents’ parking is outside the residential properties and a length of pay and display parking is outside the theatre.

“The town council enforces and manages the pay and display and residents’ parking and that would enable the council to suspend the pay and display on occasions to be agreed.

“When unloading and loading is needed it might be the time you can stop other people parking there and then give it back for the general public to use. I would imagine these things are fairly well planned in advance.

“That would be a way of doing something that seems to meet the needs of the theatre without it having too much of an effect on the wider community.

“As always, in ancient towns like Henley, you are trying to balance competing needs for a town that was never intended to have motor cars.”

Mr Simons said the theatre had 200 events a year and it would be difficult for the one paid staff member to make that many individual applications.

“I do not see why, within the law, the Kenton could not have two designated spaces,” he said. “We are told by riders that they are coming three or four hours before the performance but then they come one hour before. It is a living, breathing facility of entertainment. It has to have that flexibility or we might as well close it.”

Deputy Mayor Julian Brookes, who chaired the meeting, suggested investigating the idea of a traffic regulation order and the committee voted for this.

• What do you think? Write to Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, RG91AD or email

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