Saturday, 20 October 2018

Anger at plan for 7ft steel fence

CONSERVATIONISTS are opposing plans for a huge new fence on one side of a recreation ground in Henley.

CONSERVATIONISTS are opposing plans for a huge new fence on one side of a recreation ground in Henley.

Henley Town Council has applied for planning permission for the 7ft 10in (2.4m) high, 630ft (191m) long, galvanised steel fence at Makins recreation ground, off Greys Road.

The green pro-mesh fencing would run from the north side of the car park to the current fence and along the top corner of the car park and all the way along the north side of the recreation ground.

It would be used to separate the rest of the park from an embankment that was protected by a ?green barrier? of Japanese knotweed until that was eradicated by the council?s parks services staff.

The council has budgeted up to £21,397 for the project, saying it?s designed to improve health and safety.

The Henley Wildlife Group, the Chiltern Society and the Henley Society are also opposed to the fence, comparing it to a prison barrier.

Sally Rankin, who chairs the wildlife group, said the fence would spoil views and make the area look less natural. She said: ?A fence of this nature is not in keeping with the surrounding area. To make the area safer it would be better to plant more trees and shrubs with a view to breaking any falls early.

?A man-made structure will be a target for vandalism and youngsters, in particular, may be tempted to climb it, which would be more dangerous than any existing danger.

?Also the money involved would be better spent on other things.

?Another factor is that young people should not be denied opportunities to encounter moderate risk as this provides a chance for them to learn to handle it, therefore improving their ability to handle greater risk.?

David Whitehead, secretary of the Henley Society?s planning committee, said: ?In our opinion, a fence in the position proposed should be erected only if there is a legal requirement to do so.

?The recreation ground has been in use for more than 50 years without any fence on this part of the boundary.

?The fence proposed would create a forbidding rather than a welcoming ambience to the recreation ground and would probably attract vandalism.?

He said that a ?less dominant? fence, such as wood paling, would be preferable.

Ruth Gibson, a field planning officer at the Chiltern Society who lives in Vicarage Road, said the fence was ?unacceptable? and sent out the wrong message about the area.

She said: ?It will exclude the long, open green views across the valley, framed by trees and shrubs as is the case now, and is totally inappropriate for this location.

?May I suggest building on what is there already to create a safe barrier, which would not detract from its rural setting? There are already many thorny blackberry bushes to which a hawthorn/blackthorn hedge could be added. I have seen them in locations like Windsor Great Park and the New Forest where they are used to exclude livestock, especially deer, from parts of the woodland.

?This fence will be a very forbidding feature, more suited to a prison or high security builder?s yard. It gives out completely the wrong message and will no doubt attract vandalism.?

The council?s recreation and amenities committee appproved the idea for the fencing in May.

The budget includes money for a new wooden post and rail fence to separate the car park and the recreation ground to replace the current concrete and wire mesh fence.

Town clerk Mike Kennedy said: ?The fencing is at the back of the recreation ground furthest away from Greys Road. It?s designed to stop any children or young people falling down the embankment.

?Previously the knotweed was a natural barrier to encroachment but we have a legal obligation to eradicate it.

?The barrier needs to be something robust. There are more aesthetically pleasing types of fencing available but these are more susceptible to damage.

The boundary fence between Makins and the car park is much more sensitive.?

The application will be decided on by South Oxfordshire District Council.

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