Monday, 29 November 2021

Filled-in slipway still not restored despite promises

Filled-in slipway still not restored despite promises

A SLIPWAY in Henley has still not been restored 15 months after it was filled in.

The area in Thames Side at the bottom of Friday Street was levelled off with concrete last summer.

The work was done by Sorbon Estates, a commercial property developer, which owns nearby moorings, despite not having planning permission.

The company said the slipway had posed a risk to pedestrians but in effect it created parking spaces and was criticised by residents, town councillors and river users.

In April, following talks with the council, Sorbon Estates agreed to dig out the concrete and to install new railings along the public footpath.

However, this has still not happened.

The issue was raised at a council meeting by Councillor Donna Crook.

She said: “Can I ask why the slipway has not been dug up yet because it’s a bit annoying?

“I think we should just remove the concrete because it’s very frustrating that heels are being dragged. People in Henley think that we’re not bothered.” Councillor Ian Reissmann responded: “I think many people share your concerns that the slipway was removed without permission and it’s taking a long time to fulfil the clear desire of this council and the town to restore it as a public amenity.”

John Skuse, chairman of the Middle Thames branch of the River Thames Society, also criticised the delay.

He said: “A year after it was filled in, no remedial work has taken place.

“What was described by the town clerk as ‘an important riverside amenity’ is still in its mutilated state despite promises of action from the council and Sorbon Estates over a period of more than a year. Has this matter been kicked into the long grass by interested parties on the assumption we shall walk away and forget it (which we won’t)?”

Town clerk Sheridan Jacklin-Edward said: “The council is dismayed to see that Sorbon Estates have still not rectified the illegal work they carried out on the slipway, despite several assurances.

“The council continues to put pressure on them to resolve the situation and is finalising plans to take its own action, should Sorbon Estates fail to do so.

“However, the council has limited powers and we have asked both South Oxfordshire District Council and the Environment Agency to use their enforcement capabilities.”
Sorbon Estates has said it carried out the work in response to complaints going back as far as 2012 that the area looked “unsightly”.

Neighbours suggested that concrete, along with flower tubs and railings, would be more attractive.

An investigation was carried out by the district council, the planning authority, which found the company had acted without permission.

The company also failed to obtain a flood risk activity permit and an accommodation licence from the Environment Agency, which is responsible for the river.

The agency decided to take no action against the company, which led to more criticism from councillors.

A spokeswoman for Sorbon Estates said: “Plans to remove the concrete while making improvements in this area are underway as we continue to liaise with Henley Town Council. We look forward to sharing these plans in the future.

“These sorts of plans take time, with numerous different parties and processes involved.

“It is important to us to get this right and we are working with all parties to ensure a positive outcome for all.”

The company has said it will install new railings along the public footpath as part of the work to restore the slipway.

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