Tuesday, 19 January 2021
A SLIPWAY that was filled in last summer was re-opened temporarily when it flooded following heavy rain.
Sorbon Estates removed the access to the River Thames in Thames Side at the bottom of Friday Street in Henley to create space for parking despite not having planning permission,
Resident John Whiting photographed the flooded slipway following days of heavy rain caused by Storm Bella last month.
He said he wanted the slipway reinstated permanently.
Mr Whiting, who lives in Orchard Close, said: “It’s part of Henley’s heritage that has been there for several hundred years.
“My overall concern is that Sorbon Estates and others are sort of nibbling away at the historical infrastructure of Henley. They are not going through the right channels with planning permission.
“The slipway is not listed but it’s part of Henley’s history.” Sorbon said the work was necessary for aesthetic and safety reasons as it was part of ongoing improvements and maintenance but admitted its planning consultants had failed to seek consent.
The work is being investigated by enforcement officers from South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority.
The company also failed to obtain a flood risk activity permit and an accommodation licence.
The Environment Agency, which is responsible for the river, investigated this but said the resulting flood risk was “low” so it would not be taking any action against Sorbon.
Mr Whiting said: “I agree that it’s not a fantastic flood risk, it’s not going to make Friday Street awash.
“£But I think the Environment Agency should have deferred and said ‘you can’t fill it in’. It could be an asset for the town.” In September, Henley councillors criticised the agency for failing to take action.
Councillor Laurence Plant called the decision “ridiculous”, saying the company had put a few cubic tonnes of cement into a flood plain with no mitigation.
He said: “If this was a residential planning application, or even a commercial application for something like a lido, it would be near impossible and yet Sorbon has got away with just dumping concrete into a flood plain.
“They [Environment Agency] found it to be in breach and yet have decided to do nothing about it. It’s wrong.”
Speaking at a Henley Town Council meeting last week, Councillor Ian Reissmann said the council was taking the issue of the slipway “very seriously” and wanted it restored and protected in future.
He said: “To that end, we are dedicating a significant amount of officer and councillor time to the issue and are working in partnership with the Environment Agency and South Oxfordshire District Council.
“We are unable to say anything more publicly as we believe that to do so would be prejudicial to the public interest. We will say more as soon as we can."
A spokeswoman for Sorbon Estates said: “The work was carried out as part of ongoing maintenance and improvements and the resulting flood risk was assessed as ‘low’ following investigation by the Environment Agency.
“We are aware of the situation and continuing to liaise with the relevant authorities.”
South Oxfordshire District Council confirmed it was still investigating the loss of the slipway and was working with all the parties to find a solution.
A Environment Agency spokesman said: "Our earlier definition of low flood-risk referred to the threat to homes and businesses from the Thames.
“We are not aware that any properties in Henley were subject to river flooding as a result of the heavy rain around Christmas.”
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