Sunday, 06 December 2020

Appeal to add Bled to town signs

PLANS to change the entrance signs to Henley to acknowledge the twinning agreement with Bled could be

PLANS to change the entrance signs to Henley to acknowledge the twinning agreement with Bled could be revived.

A request to add the Slovenian town to six signs was made to the town council’s town and community committee last week by Steve Bennett, chairman of the Henley Bled Twinning Association.

He said: “We have now secured a date for the first visit of the Henley Symphony Orchestra to perform in the festival hall in Bled, a 512-seater auditorium on the shores of the lake.

“A planning visit will take place this May with a concert in the spring of 2017 at which it is hoped that more than 50 Henley musicians of all ages will perform.

“There are also plans with regard to creating sporting links in football and tennis. The association was heavily involved in seeking to introduce a one-mile open water swimming competition to Lake Bled to be run by the organisers of the successful Henley Swim.

“We see many opportunities for the cross-fertilisation of ideas in commerce, sport and the arts. We see everything to commend this town twinning, which we believe has a great deal to offer the citizens of Henley.

“We hope that we can rely on the support of the town council in our endeavours to bring these opportunities to the town. The obvious and outward confirmation of this link by the erection of the road signs requested would be appreciated.”

Town and district councillor Stefan Gawrysiak supported the proposal from the public gallery.

Cllr Gawrysiak, who was Deputy Mayor when the official twinning charter with Bled was signed almost three years ago, said: “In 2013, Bled actually put up their signs for twinning with Henley. We are already two-and-a-half years behind.

“I think Bled twinning has become very vibrant. There is a rowing group going out to Bled to take part in the Slovenia championships. Next year the Henley Symphony Orchestra is going out to Bled to perform.

“There are plans for links with the teams and there are also ongoing discussions with Henley Swim to have a sister swimming event in Bled.

“I would urge this committee to have a sign below our town signs to say that we are twinned with Bled. I think it is a little bit rude to not acknowledge this town twin.”

Councillor Ian Reissmann said the twinning agreement should “prove itself” before any money was spent.

“I said at the time that this wouldn’t be a viable twinning arrangement for ordinary residents,” he said. “I don’t think, apart from perhaps half a dozen residents, people are interested or are even aware of its existence. Twinning is generally regarded as not for ordinary residents but for dignitaries and councillors.”

The committee voted by five to three to seek quotations for replacement and additional signs and the full council will make a final decision next month.

In 2014, the town council paid £500 for new sign designs that included Bled but the plans were shelved because members felt spending £7,222 on replacing the signs was too much.

Meanwhile, Henley could have another twin town. Alessandro Giunto, the Mayor of Capraia e Limite in Tuscany, has written to the town council suggesting the idea.

The town, which is about 20km from Florence, is home to Limite sull’Arno, Italy’s oldest rowing club founded in 1861, the same year as Leander Club in Henley.

Mr Giunto said the two towns were very similar, each with a population of about 10,000.

“Capraia e Limite is a lovely town which expands its surface along the course of the Arno river that has been a very important economic source,” he said.

“Some rowers of the Limite Rowing Club have taken part in the Henley Royal Regatta and they could feel the care and passion of people, as we have in Capraia e Limite.”

Mayor Lorraine Hillier welcomed the idea but Cllr Reissmann suggested it would be difficult to set up a twinning agreement and keep it going.

The committee agreed to ask Councillor Helen Chandler-Wilde, who is studying Italian for her degree, to reply to Mr Giunto and to investigate further.

Henley is already twinned Falaise in France and Leichlingen in Germany as well as Bled.

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