After the sunny weekend in April which saw many people leave rubbish all over Mill and Marsh Meadows and the use of the wooded and wildlife areas as toilets, two local residents thought it would be good to gather public opinion and suggestions on ways to better manage our beautiful riverside green space during peak season to present it to Henley Town Council (HTC) by creating a public online survey.
Janet Wood and Karen Morris were not aware of any immediate action being taken by the Town Council and Janet had emailed several Council individuals via the Henley Town Council website about her dissatisfaction with how the park was being left and received no response.
The online survey was shared on Facebook and completed by 339 people asking people on their views on rubbish, barbecues, toilets, Mill Lane car park, dogs, signage and CCTV. Over 65% of respondents agreed that the addition of commercial bins and/or asking visitors to take their rubbish home could reduce waste left in the park. Whilst fewer respondents favoured adding more smaller bins, nearly half think that emptying them more often would reduce them being left full and overflowing. The most surprising result was that only 37% of respondents thought that barbecues should be banned altogether. 49% thought that they should be allowed but in designated areas and 34% thought they those having barbecues should be charged – the money to go towards the park upkeep. The full results of the survey can be downloaded here.
Janet and Karen were appalled at the response of some of the Councillors and Council supporters towards them during discussion on the Henley Past and Present Facebook thread. There were comments insinuating that the reason for the survey was leaning toward political bias, something which Karen and Janet have both persistently denied.
Councillor Sam Evans took the survey results into the Henley Town Council’s Recreation & Amenities meeting last week. A report on Recurring Issues at Mill and Marsh Meadows had also been compiled by the Councillors and Council Park staff, which was discussed. Janet, who attended the meeting, said she was “shocked by the way some of the Councillors conducted themselves and disappointed that the insinuated political reasons for the survey were mentioned yet again.”
Janet said afterwards, “Karen and I had to put up with a public barrage of public insults and insinuations from the very body of people that we rely on to manage our town. They are supposed to be the grown-ups – but instead we watched bemused, as Council members bickered, insinuated our intentions were underhand, and generally tried to bully us.” Karen added, “Quite frankly, a very unpleasant experience. I will not get involved in trying to support the community of Henley again based on this experience.”
Janet added “We are working towards a shared goal, so let’s hope that the councillors can put their political bickering aside so that we can work together, as a community, in resolving the litter problem in Mill Meadows, once and for all.”
The HTC report included many of the same suggestions as the survey results including the increase in the number and size of bins on the towpath, installing a large commercial skip-style bin between Marsh and Mill Meadows, better signage including bin signage, bin bags to be available from Visitor Information Kiosk and the formation of a Friends of the Meadows volunteer group which were ALL recommended to be actioned. From 1st June, a new cleaning contract has started to clean the Mill Meadows toilets during the evenings. Further investigation into a Park Ranger/Security staff to work at weekends will take place.
If you would like to become a Friend of the Meadows, please contact Chair of the R&A Committee, Councillor Kellie Hinton at firstname.lastname@example.org.