South Oxfordshire District Council have written to Clive Hemsley who installed the lights on Henley Bridge stating that he has made an “alleged breach of listed building consent by the affixation of lights to a grade 1 listed structure affecting its character. Also the display of lights without advertisement consent.”
The letter confirms that the Oxfordshire County Council are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the bridge. However the planning authority boundary runs down the middle of the river Thames and so the planning administration responsibility falls jointly between SODC and Wokingham Borough Council.
The bridge is protected under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 and the act stipulates that no person shall execute or cause to be executed any works for its alteration or extension in any manner which would affect its character as building of special architectural or historic interest, unless the works are authorised. It goes on to set out in Section 9 of the Act that if a person contravenes Section 7 he shall be guilty of a criminal offence. The display of the lights is also classed as an advertisement under section 336 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 and again requires permission from the local authority.
The letter from Emma Turner, Enforcement Development Management Team Leader goes on to say, “It is hoped that with your information and co-operation that the use of these powers will not be necessary. All three authorities hope that the lights can be removed without damage to the bridge.”
Clive has been asked to help officers to understand the context of the works undertaken and the impact of the materials used. He has replied by saying, “The lights used are light weight LEDs which qualify to BS standards for public use. Powered by a single 13 amp plug via The Angel on the Bridge public house with the publican’s full permission and was professionally wired/installed. The LEDs are resting (gravity) on the 5 arches of our historic bridge – NO nails, screws or drills were used. The main component used to hold the lights in situ is Evo-stick glue which incidentally we made sure it was the same colour as the ham stone and when sprayed with a simple brick cleaner falls away from the surface. We tested the component fixing on similar ham-stone and confirm NO damage whats so ever to the surface or effecting the grade 1 Bridge. There is also duct tape holding the cabling but is easily removed and does not damage the surface whatsoever.”
At the moment the river is running extremely high and fast and the Environmental Agency are currently showing red and yellow flags. It is therefore far too dangerous for removal of the lights and Clive has confirmed that his public liability insurance that he has in place would not cover the work.
To date 2,296 local people have supported the Henley Herald’s campaign Keep Henley Bridge Lights petition. Clive said, “I could ask all those local people to apply for retrospective planning who have so far signed the petition to keep the lights but it would make a lot of sense if those bodies came under my one application. I do believe that all the authorities involved should wait to action anything until the Henley Town Council have had a Full Council Meeting about the subject on 27 March.”
Pictures of the damage to the underside of the bridge which Clive has taken have been forwarded to all parties. He is still waiting for a response on this and has asked for a site meeting with all party representatives concerned including English Heritage. I am concerned with the real damage under the arches and the arches themselves – there are nails pieces of steel sticking out and ham stones missing.