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Tuesday, 23 April 2019
RESIDENTS have appealed for a Henley beauty spot to be protected from development.
The Friends of Freemans Meadow want the land off Fair Mile to be designated a town green, which would permanently prevent the land from being developed or encroached upon.
It 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, a residents’ group, at a meeting of the council’s open and green spaces sub-committee in the summer and members of the group returned to speak at a meeting of the finance strategy and management committee last week.
Peter Lloyd, a member of the group, said: “The council could undoubtedly make more money by selling the meadow to a developer but keeping it as a public amenity is much more important.
“Freemans Meadow is an enormously precious green lung in the middle of Henley and I hope it continues to be one for the next century and beyond. It’s a hugely important resource to Henley and it’s going to be more essential each year as Henley grows around it.
“It’s my request that this council takes the long view and endorses the recommendation from the open and green spaces sub-committee. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to think that in 100 years the residents of Henley will look back and say how far-sighted of the council it was to protect Freemans Meadow in 2018?”
Councillor Donna Crook, who was sitting in the public gallery, said: “I really do care about this field and I don’t think you can put a value on it. I want to see it kept as it is, a beautiful, peaceful place to walk.”
Councillors said there were no plans to sell the land but they wanted more information on what registering the land as a town green would entail before going ahead.
The site currently has amenties including football pitches and a play area and councillors were worried that town green status could prevent these from being improved in the future.
Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak said: “We should get advice on what this will stop us doing and allow us to do. I don’t think there’s any thought that this land would be sold for development but it may well be that in 20 years’ time the council is cash strapped and does sell off a portion of the land.”
Councillor Julian Brookes added: “It’s a green lung and we should have it as that but we need to make sure that doesn’t stop us upgrading the facilities there.”
Councillor Will Hamilton said other green spaces should be considered for town green status, including Makins recreation ground off Greys Road.
Councillor Laurence Plant added: “If it’s protected now great, but if we need to pass this to protect it from a future council that is not as wise as this one then let’s do it.”
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