Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Plans for home of vintage boat collection rejected 

Plans for home of vintage boat collection rejected 

THE decision to reject plans to house a collection of vintage boats in Henley was made on false premises and administration errors, says a boat collector. 

Adam Toop, who is co-chairman of the Thames Traditional Boat Festival, submitted plans to Wokingham Borough Council, the planning authority, to restore a boatyard off Wargrave Road from Hobbs of Henley. 

He wants to use the 0.5-hectare site, which he bought in October 2020, to keep almost 40 restored vintage Thames craft in the main building. The Rose Toop Collection will be a partnership with Penny Rose, from Lower Shiplake, who is a vintage boat enthusiast.

However the planning authority rejected the application in December to extend the ground and first floor of the building and raise the roof as the plans are “inappropriate” due the buildings location within the green belt.

The council added that the building would have a “detrimental impact” on the character and appearance of the area due to its “excessive increase in scale, height and prominence” that would urbanise the bank of the River Thames. 

Mr Toop said he was disappointed by the decision and believes the council made numerous administration errors during the application process which led to the rejection.

This includes people being unable to comment on the application to express their support, a letter from the Environment Agency being uploaded after the decision was made and the council failing to acknowledge Mr Toop had received pre-application advice.

The businessman, who built his career in the telecommunications industry, said: “I imagine general unhappiness and upset are common themes amongst recipients of failed planning applications. That said, I feel considerable disappointment is not without good foundation.    

“While the process itself has been beset with several problems, including supporters being locked out of the planning portal for days at a time and therefore prevented from recording their letters with ease, the most significant issue has been a discernible lack of engagement. 

“This culminated in a key letter from the Environment Agency dated  November 16 not being copied or shared with us until it was finally uploaded to the council’s website along with confirmation of the refusal, many weeks later, on or about December 22. 

“Other important documents, including the landscape officer’s consultation response, were similarly held back until the decision to refuse permission was published. 

“The letter from the Environment Agency is naturally key. Importantly it contains suggestions and requirements that we would have been both happy and readily able to comply with had the letter been shared with us on a timely basis.” 

The boat collector has been searching for a home for the Rose Toop Collection for nearly 10 years and there are currently 37 boats in the collection with examples from the “Golden Age” of Thames leisure boating from around 1880 to 1940.

The boatyard would operate on a not-for-profit basis and Hobbs of Henley would continue to use about one-third of the site, which has been leased back to the boat hire firm.

Many supporters commented in favour of restoring the boatyard including Lady McAlpine, Mr Toop’s co-chairman of the “Trad”, David Barber, the Queen's swan marker, Stuart Wilkinson, who chairs the National Transport Trust, Sir Steve Redgrave, who chairs Henley Royal Regatta, David Worthington, who chairs the trustees of the River & Rowing Museum and more.

Mr Toop was delighted with the number of supporters and said it highlighted that the plans would be a “dramatic improvement” to the area.

He now hopes to resubmit the plans rather than an appeal as it could take longer but only if he is assured by the council that it will support it. 

For the full story, see next week’s Henley Standard.

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