Thursday, 18 July 2019

Come in... we're open as normal

Come in... We're open as normal

TRADERS are urging shoppers not to be put off visiting Henley by signs warning of delays during the royal regatta.

They fear that the large, yellow Oxfordshire County Council signs on roads leading to the town are putting people off as they warn drivers to “expect long delays” during the five-day event, which began on Wednesday.

The shopkeepers stress that their businesses are open as normal and the town will be easily accessible after the rush-hour traffic eases.

Lorraine Hillier, who runs the Hot Gossip coffee house in Friday Street and is a town councillor, said: “It’s the best time of year to park in Henley.

“People who come for the regatta come for the long stay car parks so there’s more on-road parking. There are short delays and if people come after the first race has started it’s a straight run into Henley.”

Barry Wagner, owner of Gabriel Machin butchers in Market Place said: “Avoid the rush hour and you’ll be fine. Come and shop, come and see us —we need to see people during the day.”

Joan Bland, owner of the Asquiths teddy bear shop in New Street and a former town councillor, said: “The signs put customers off coming in. All it’s saying is ‘Don’t come to Henley, it’s going to be mayhem’. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

“The signs have been up for weeks but we have said on numerous occasions that it’s very negative and people go to Oxford instead.

“But by 11am the traffic has gone, so it’s giving a false message saying ‘we’re closed for business’.

“We still have to survive during the regatta and when it’s on, the shop is very quiet because everybody is down by the river.”

Patricia Latter, a beauty advisor at Boots in Bell Street, said: “The regatta shouldn’t affect local people coming into the shop.

“Once the rowing is going on the actual town isn’t that busy as  everyone is down by the river.

“It means the town is quite freed up and so are the car parks.

“You’ll get a flurry in the morning of people who are going to the regatta and again in the evening but throughout the day it’s fine.”

Antony Reineke, the director of Studio 35 jewellers in Duke Street, said there were long delays during the morning rush hour but it was easier to get into town after the traffic had subsided.

He said: “The main thing is the staff coming into work — they sit there for hours and hours.

“Some of them spend two hours in traffic to get into work and generally pay up to £15 a day to park which is, I think, not on if you work in town.

“Regatta is not our busiest time because most of my clients will just avoid it

“The locals don't tend to come into town anyway and I advise my London clients not to bother coming this week.

“My business just gets put on hold for a week.”

Jason Acock, who runs Henley Cycles in Duke Street, said: “Having the Henley Royal Regatta, the Henley Festival and all these kinds of events can only benefit and promote the town.”

But he said that trade had fallen significantly last week, adding: “This has, historically, always been the way.

“I know residents who go on holiday for these two weeks because they can’t move around the town during the morning and evening rush hours.”

Town and community manager Helen Barnett said: “With the signs it looks as if when you try to get into the town you’re going to experience long delays, which isn’t the case.

“At peak times you may come across the traffic but the majority of the time during the regatta it’s easy to pop into town.

“I want to get everyone to shop locally and come to Henley. The regatta brings a lot of money and a buzz to the town and I think it’s really good for Henley.

“We want to encourage residents and visitors to come into the actual town because the regatta is on the other side of the river.”

Last year, businesses made the same plea and after the regatta many said they had experienced their best year ever.

Shops, pubs and cafés all benefited from the tens of thousands of visitors who came into the town centre.

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