Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Footpath set to close for ‘floating’ stage

PART of the Thames Path in Remenham will be closed for nine days for this year’s Henley Festival.

PART of the Thames Path in Remenham will be closed for nine days for this year’s Henley Festival.

Wokingham Borough Council has approved an application by the organisers to shut the towpath during the five days of the event in July and for two days before and after so the “floating” stage can be put up and taken down again.

During the festival itself a 1,600ft stretch will be fenced off to enclose the site and a 262ft section will be closed on the other four days.

Permission also needs to be given by the secretary of state, which it has been in previous years.

Remenham Parish Council chairman John Halsall objected to the application.

He said: “The use of the towpath is not an essential requirement for holding the event but a convenience for restricting the audience or enclosure. This could be done by using the railings which exist for the remainder of the year. Access to the river by the festival is incidental to the festival... it is reasonably practicable for the event to be held otherwise.”

Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Henley-based Open Spaces Society, said: “As we said last year, the festival organisers have never proved that they need this closure.

“Nobody has ever challenged them to rethink their plans so that we can keep this nationally important footpath open.”

The festival says the diversions are necessary to keep people safe when work is being done on the stage.

Event manager Suzanne Yeates said: “Our policy is to minimise the disruption to the public during the build, show evenings and de-rig of the Henley Festival during July, while maintaining the utmost safety of the public at all times.”

Keith Baker, the council’s executive member for highways, said: “What we’re actually talking about here is a diversion. The legal term might be ‘closure’ but we do ensure the organisers keep an alternative route open.”

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