Saturday, 25 May 2019

Council bans signs along ‘iconic’ town entry road

Council bans signs along ‘iconic’ town entry road

BUSINESSES with premises off Fair Mile in Henley will not be permitted to erect signs at the roadside.

Henley Town Council, which owns the grass verges on either side of the road, has agreed to retain its no signs rule.

Members were debating a new policy aimed at protecting views of Fair Mile, which lies within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The policy states that requests by property owners for new access roads on to the main road will always be refused.

The only exception is a site at the back of Luker Avenue that was earmarked for new housing under the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

New access points on to the restricted byway that runs alongside Fair Mile may be allowed if it can be proved that they would not spoil the view, facilitate additional development or harm the trees that line the street.

Builders will be charged on a weekly basis for storing materials or skips on the verges as long as it will not damage the grass and they cannot be stored elsewhere.

If both conditions are not met, permission will not be given.

Meanwhile, residents will be allowed to repair potholes on the byway or access roads with the agreement of the council’s parks services team and, where applicable, Oxfordshire County Council’s highways officers. Parking on the verges will continue to be banned and the council will aim to provide designated parking areas as well as putting up posts to protect the grass.

Vehicles parked for sale will be towed away and the owners charged for the service.

The policy says: “This area is an historic entrance to the town that has remained virtually free of major developments. It is a prized asset providing an all-important first impression.

“The unique and special nature of the Fair Mile entrance is of high value to the town and, as such, its look and feel should be preserved. Potential changes must be in keeping with and sympathetic to its special nature.”

Deputy Mayor Ken Arlett said the council should consider applications for “finger signs” similar to those seen on signposts on a case-by-case basis.

But Councillor Jane Smewing said: “I would like to oppose that as the Fair Mile is an absolutely iconic entrance to Henley and you destroy that vista once you start putting signs up. Ironically, the sign welcoming visitors to the AONB is the biggest one there. Anything more would destroy the tranquility of the scene and giving consideration to finger signs is a recipe for proliferation.”

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak said: “I want to see a pristine environment on the Fair Mile as much as possible. No one has come up with a compelling reason to change the rules.”

Councillor Arlett replied: “What confuses me is that councillors always go to business clubs and ask ‘what can we do to help local business?’ but at the first chance to do something you’re going to vote against it.”

Councillor Sam Evans said: “We’re all for maintaining the beauty of the entrances to our town but this needs to be a thriving market town.

“We have a shopfront signage policy so that we have a clear reference point when someone wants to change their frontage, so why not have something like that for signage on the Fair Mile? I’m not asking for a free-for-all, just for something that’s fair to everyone.”

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