Henley Town Council Planning Committee’s Chair Councillor Tom Buckley had the deciding vote in recommending refusal of the full planning application to install lights on Henley Bridge on Tuesday night.
Councillor Reissmann put forward a proposal to recommend refusal on the grounds of insufficient information on the proposal, the potential impact on ecology and dependent on the response from Historic England. This was seconded by Councillor Hinton. This refusal proposal then went to the vote which was split, 3 votes for and 3 votes against. Chair Buckley initially voted against the proposal to recommend refusal, but then changed his casting vote in favour, to recommend refusal. He said, “There is a big part of me that wants to accept it and there are really good validations for it but on the basis of what we have here, it is for refusal. There are things missing, there is insufficient evidence that we can’t accept.”
During his speech, Councillor Reissmann incorrectly stated in his objections that the proposal was for blinking lights like “Blackpool”. This was not included in the planning application.
Prior to the debate, members of the public from Greener Henley and Henley Archaeological & Historical group gave their objections on the light pollution impact on insects, birds and bats, and the damage to the bridge by the fixings.
Members of the Make Henley Shine (MHS) group who have been working on the project for 3 years spoke about how the 10 year capital arts project would be privately funded and would contribute to boosting the local economy as well as rejuvenating the town. David Rodger Sharp, who sadly passed away at the weekend, was remembered and thanked for his involvement in coming up with the Make Henley Shine name and reigniting the project. Statements of support were read out from The Relais, The Angel on the Bridge, Hobbs of Henley and the Illuminated Light Parade. The group had sought pre-planning advice from South Oxfordshire District Council and had commissioned a further ecology report that had been requested. Their experienced architect and Town Councillor Gavin Jackson gave a response to the earlier objections stating that the lights would be on at the same level as moonlight and that bats hibernate between October and April when the lights would be on longer. He was not able to vote on the Council’s recommendation because of his pecuniary interest in the project.
In 2018 a petition was started to keep the lights that Clive Hemsley had installed without permission, which garnered 2800+ signatories. In 2020 Henley Town Council recommended the original planning application for approval subject to the satisfaction of the Conservation Officer, OCC and structural engineers. The permission would be subject to conditions on how the lights will be fixed to the bridge and the hours and days of use.
The Henley Society, whose majority of its members are for the light installation, have made following statement: “Whilst we celebrate the appropriate lighting of this Grade 1 listed building we want to ensure that the best lighting solution is found, so that no damage occurs to the Bridge, as a consequence of the lights being fitted, or impact thereafter.”
Henley Town Council’s recommendation is now sent to South Oxfordshire District Council who will make their own decision after receiving reports from Conservation and Ecology officers and Historic England. The public and Henley businesses still have time to give their opinion. The deadline is 27 October. You can submit your statement at https://data.southoxon.gov.uk/ccm/support/Main.jsp?MODULE=ApplicationDetails&REF=P23/S3194/FUL#exactline
Daniel Bausor, Chair of MHS said, “We were so encouraged to received the public support from both individuals and organisations including Hobbs of Henley, The Angel, Blandy & Blandy and the Illuminated Boat Parade. We are keen to listen to concerns such as carbon off-setting but we want to correct the mis-information about the light spill on the river affecting the ecology, which is not the case. We really want to make this happen to make a difference to both visitors and residents to create a beautiful experience around the bridge and the river. We urge people to support the applications by clicking on the link above.”
Residents and business should also leave their comments on the Wokingham planning application too at