Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Protest at festival’s closure of path (again)

CAMPAIGNERS are again protesting at the closure of a section of the Thames Path during next year’s Henley Festival.

Every year since 1998, part of the towpath has been diverted to allow for the construction of the festival’s “floating” stage, where the main acts perform.

The festival has applied to Wokingham Borough Council for permission for the temporary closure.

It wants a short diversion for the stage build from 12.01am on July 8 to 5.45pm on July 10 and for its removal from 6am on July 15 to 11.59pm on July 16.

It also requires a full diversion from 5.45pm to midnight on July 10 and 11, from 5.45pm to 1am on July 12, from 10.45am to 2.45pm and 5.45pm to 2am on July 13 and from 10.15am to 2.15pm and 5.45pm to 11.30pm on July 14.

The Open Spaces Society, which is based in Bell Street, Henley, has objected, as it does every year.

It says the closure is unnecessary and the festival organisers should make other arrangements in order to keep the path open.

General secretary Kate Ashbrook said: “We are dismayed that once again the festival proposes to override the interests of the path’s users. These include visitors from this country and overseas as well as local people wanting a quiet walk by the river.”

Festival chief executive Charlotte Geeves said: “The festival puts a diversion in place for health and safety reasons throughout the build and de-rig of the main stage, which is a necessary requirement and protects the general public.

“The footpath is then opened up during the daytime and only diverted 15 minutes prior to the gates opening for the festival’s public ticketed events. The towpath is opened again as soon as the festival events have finished.

“The Henley Festival is a not-for-profit organisation and is supporting the Teenage Wilderness Trust and the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust through its grant programme.”

The council will consider the request in January.

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