Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Festival warns boat visitors to behave

HENLEY Festival has introduced new river and mooring conditions due to the “severe crowding” on the River Thames last year

HENLEY Festival has introduced new river and mooring conditions due to the “severe crowding” on the River Thames last year.

Organisers say they were advised by the Environment Agency to update the conditions for safety reasons due to to the growing popularity of people enjoying the event from the river.

But the move has upset some small boat owners who will not be allowed to moor as they have done in previous years.

The agency asked that only boats which have paid for a mooring fee should be allowed into the enclosed festival mooring area.

On its website, the festival says: “Boat users who have not purchased a mooring must continue to travel up and down the river on the navigation channel. Dropping anchor is not permitted and the Environment Agency will move you on.”

Boats which have paid for moorings must be moored up in their allotted position by 8pm after which time booms will be closed. Boats will not be allowed to double moor.

The booms will be re-opened 10 minutes after the festival fireworks display has finished.

The new conditions come after it was agreed the royal regatta booms would be kept in place for the festival.

Boat owner Geoff Probert, of St Mark’s Road, Henley, said the move would force those who have not paid for a mooring to continue moving along the channel, which would be dangerous.

He said: “Every other year they’ve had a small area where they allow so-called small boats to be on the river next to the festival site which has traditionally been free. In a sense they have become part of he festival.

“The implication is the small boat enclosure won’t exist. I just think it will be chaos and it has not been well publicised. It will just be very dangerous.

“The small boats that would normally be stationary, under the proposed new rules, will be circulating which will only add to the chaos in the navigation channel.”

Dr Lisa Silver said: “Many of us have just discovered that small boats will not be able to moor up for the Henley Festival in the small boat area and will have to keep moving.

“Having done this for many years, keeping moving along with all the large craft such as the Hobbs boat is surely far, far more precarious for the small craft than being moored up.

“Small boats are part of the atmosphere of the Henley Festival. The prospect of continually punting around, particularly when it gets dark, is clearly more hazardous.”

In March, the Henley Standard revealed that the booms could have been removed after this year’s regatta following “issues” with their use last year.

At the time, Andrew Graham, the agency’s harbourmaster for the Thames said: “ Things got a little bit out of hand last year and we really don’t want anybody’s trip to be ruined due to a preventable accident. That’s what these mooring conditions are all about.

“If people respect them and they work well this year, then the situation will have been improved. If not, Henley Royal Regatta and the Environment Agency might have to look at alternative arrangements.”

Charlotte Geeves, chief executive of the festival, said: “We’re really pleased that the regatta and agency came up with a solution that enables the river to continue running during the week of the festival and navigation channels to be kept clear.

“We want everyone to have an enjoyable experience during the week. The precautions they are putting in place are for the safety of everyone on the river.”

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