Tuesday, 26 January 2021

New Year message from Councillor Ken Arlett, Mayor of Henley

New Year message from Councillor Ken Arlett, Mayor of Henley

THE year 2020 has now gone and will not be forgotten. The lockdowns were tiresome for many but did bring our community together — neighbours helping other neighbours, delivering food and medicines and making Henley safe for many vulnerable people.

Thank you to everyone who played their part in helping others. This year will begin a new phase of keeping safe but with hope, too, thanks to the vaccines.

As we move into 2021, the town council and I are optimistic for Henley in the coming year. We will be setting one of the biggest ever deficit budgets as we want the town to remain the “jewel in the crown” of South Oxfordshire.

Our investment in a town manager has helped produce a major increase in new shops over the past few months. This trend looks likely to continue in the early part of the 2021.

I hope landlords who have left their shops empty would consider reducing rents for a couple of years to get their premises up and running again. We are aware that a number of new retailers want to invest in Henley.

Soon we will see the introduction of one-hour free parking throughout the day in both the King’s Road and Greys Road car parks, which are the responsibility of South Oxfordshire District Council. This brings us in line with all other towns and villages in the district. The knock-on effect should be less illegal parking in the town centre. This has to be a win-win for everyone.

The town council’s bus service will continue to run on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. If the passenger numbers increase, then further hours and days will be added. If you can take the bus, then please do so.

We recently saw the completion of the Gardiner Place development, off Market Place, by the town hall. This will improve footfall between the King’s Road car park and the town centre, which will bring an upturn in trade. A big thank-you to Catalyst Capital for this very appealing development of shops and flats.

Talking of investment, it was a pleasure meeting up with Grace Leo, who has taken on the mammoth task of restoring the Red Lion Hotel to its former glory. She has experience of refurbishing hotels worldwide and I do hope the whole town will support the work taking place over the next six months. Myself and the rest of the council welcome the refurbishment as it will be a massive investment for Henley.

We will also see the opening of the new Bremont headquarters, off Reading Road at the edge of town. Another considerable investment by what has become a major local employer.

The town council will continue to support all the local charities and organisations and also its sports clubs. It will be good to see the clubs back participating on their sports grounds again.

The 60-Plus Social Club will be re-opening soon, so for those of you that need somewhere to go and socialise, then please pop in — the staff and other members will be very pleased to welcome you.

Our River & Rowing Museum in Mill Meadows will be welcoming its two millionth visitor soon — you could be the lucky one.

A big thank-you to everyone involved in local organisations that have made Henley the great town that it is today and thank you to the Henley Standard for showcasing all that is good about Henley throughout the year.

So goodbye 2020 and welcome 2021. We can only hope to be back to normal soon — festivals, regattas, shopping, eating out — just being normal.

From my wife Dorothy and myself, we wish everyone a happy New Year.

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