Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Meadow may become town green to save it from development

RESIDENTS have asked for a Henley beauty spot to be designated a town green to protect it from development.

Freemans Meadow, off Fair Mile, would become the second piece of land to be designated after Gillotts Corner Field, off Greys Road, which was made a town green in 2009.

The land is owned by Henley Town Council, which would need to register it as a town green with Oxfordshire County Council.

The request was made by the Friends of Freemans Meadow, a residents’ group, at a meeting of the council’s open and green spaces sub-committee.

Tony May, a member of the group, said: “It’s quite clear that registration as a town green provides you with the best possible legal protection from anyone building on it so why would you not want to do it? It seems absolutely straight-forward.

“The guidelines state ‘registration as a town or village green is irrevocable and so land must be kept free from development or other encroachments’.”

He said registration would be easy and the council could seek the help of the Open Spaces Society, which is based in Henley and helped with the designation of Gillotts Corner Field.

Mr May added: “On the basis that this council has a declared intention to maintain the peace and tranquillity of Freemans Meadow, it would be hard to see why it would not wish to proceed with this application.

“The owner can go ahead and do it and there’s no consultation needed.

“The land has been used as a recreation green for more than 60 years and it’s hard to establish support for any other purpose.

“We understand that Oxfordshire County Council also wishes to maintain recreation areas and, given the close contacts between the councils, one would hope that the registration process could proceed relatively smoothly.” Town clerk Janet Wheeler said: “There shouldn’t be too many legal hoops to jump through… but we would have to consult with our solicitor.”

Councillor Sarah Miller said it was a “fantastic idea” and Councillor Sam Evans said the decion was a “no-brainer.”

Sub-committee vice-chairman David Eggleton said he would also be interested in applying for the designation of Makins recreation ground, off Greys Road.

Gillotts Corner Field was designated following a campaign by residents and councillors to protect the area from development. It is known for its wildflowers and is popular with dog walkers and families.

Meanwhile, plans by the council and Friends group to improve Freemans Meadow are progressing. They want to make the area more attractive while ensuring it remains a tranquil place for residents to enjoy.

The Friends want to ensure the land is properly maintained and improved by:

• Carrying out more frequent mowing and some planting amd tidying the hedges.

• Removing the youth shelter and replacing it with no more than four benches to prevent “cluttering”.

• Installing better play equipment aimed at younger children and toddlers.

• Retaining the two existing dog waste bins and installing one general waste bin at each of the four main entry/exit points.

They have also suggested reducing the size of the football pitch near the play area so it is suitable for family play and small groups.

The group plans to carry out tree and hedge planting between October and March.

The sub-committee agreed to pay for up to £750 for fruit trees, hedging and shrubs, the cost of tree guards, which are about £200 each, plus delivery of each tree if required and up to £1,000 for two additional large bins with lids.

Chairwoman Kellie Hinton praised the residents, saying: “It couldn’t have gone any better than we envisaged as a committee so thank you very much.”

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