Our 2023 Review

Looking back at the news in 2023, the year started with the Herald celebrating its 10th anniversary.  Once again, the team at the Herald enjoyed and worked hard to keep you (our readers) informed and up-to-date with the latest news from Henley-on-Thames last year.

January

Two residents were awarded OBEs in the New Year Honours List.  Prof Richard Fortey, a long term palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum in London for services to palaeontology and geology and Dr Krish Kandiah was awarded his OBE for services to Refugee Integration.

The Town Council agreed to review the town’s Christmas lighting after many residents and businesses aired their views that it was disappointing last year and asking why they were not nearly as nice as Marlow’s display.

Gillotts School’s planning application to erect a 2.4m perimeter fence for security reasons was refused by South Oxfordshire planning committee despite the Planning Officer recommending it should be approved.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch published their report on the video drone that came down during Henley Royal Regatta 2022 and hit and damaged the Celtic Queen boat stating that if the drone had struck a person it is likely it would have been fatal.

February

Despite The Henley Society and the South Oxfordshire District Council Conservation Officer having concerns about the installation of temporary banners on the front of the town hall, SODC granted planning permission for the installation of the eye bolts to hang the banners from and given advertising consent.

Two residents sadly lost their life this month. Sammy Phillips (19) died in a collision on the A4130 between Bix and Nettlebed and Tim Senior (aged 51) a member of Upper Thames Rowing Club sadly passed away after competing in the Henley Head races.

The Herald celebrated its 10th anniversary at Henley Rugby Club and presented their 2022 Community Champion Awards to the well-deserved – Emma Jane Taylor (Charity Champion), David Eggleton (Community Champion), Leanne Dallarda (Customer Service Champion), Gillotts School LSA Team (Top Teacher/TA award), Emily Simmons (Young Sporting Superstar) and Sharon Harper (Heart of Gold Neighbour).  The evening raised £2300 for Bluebells Day Centre.

Henley’s community treasure at Henley Town Hall and Herald Community Champion Heart of Gold Neighbour Award winner, Louise Hastings retired from her role as Information Centre Manager after 25 years.

Deputy Mayor, Councillor Donna Crook resigned as Councillor and Deputy Mayor for personal reasons.

Year 11 Gillotts Student and Captain of Slough Synchro Ice Skating team, Natasha Peter won the Britannia Cup in Nottingham with her team beating more than 10 teams and being crowned the British Champions 2023.

March

Lottie Pheasant was appointed Kenton Theatre Manager, after she had been the Company Secretary to The Kenton’s Board of Trustees for just over two years.

Premier Inn appealed against the planning decision by SODC for a five-storey hotel with 115 bedrooms and a 92 cover restaurant to build on the railway station car park that was made in August 2022. Revised plans for redevelopment of The Smith Centre on the Fairmile into a luxury retirement development were submitted.

Emma Sweet unveiled new Henley Playing Cards with a launch and exhibition at Old Fire Station Gallery.

Two Councils (Wokingham BC and Oxfordshire CC) couldn’t agree who is responsible to remove the H graffiti tag that was sprayed on Henley bridge next to Regatta HQ on 1 May 2022. Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) then confirmed they need listed building consent from Wokingham Borough Council and South Oxfordshire District Council to remove the graffiti.

Planning permission was granted to redevelop the Hobbs boatyard to create a new home for the Rose Toop vintage boat collection on the Wargrave Road despite the Planning Officer recommending that the application be refused on two grounds. Beechcroft Developments got approval for ‘reserved matters’ for 40 homes and 250sqm of commercial space on the old Wyevale Garden Centre on the Reading Road however with conditions for water drainage on the site.

Sorbon Estates who own the pontoons which were blocking the Friday Street slipway finally confirmed that contractors had been appointed to remove their pontoons at the start of April subject to river conditions.

The Schwarzenbach family very kindly agreed to keep the permissive footpath on their land open whilst the Marsh Head Horsebridge is closed for repair for the foreseeable future.  The Environment Agency (EA) closed the bridge in May 2022 due to safety reasons.

Valley Road School Dance Club won the Regional heat in the Great Big Dance Competition which took place at the Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage and got a place in the final in Oxford in June.  School children enjoyed the brilliant programme of events for the Henley Youth Festival again with the theme ‘Going Green’.

Henley Town Council appointed consultants to look at all aspects of safety in relation to HGVs and pedestrians which will be submitted into Oxfordshire County Council’s consultation on their new Local Transport and Connectivity Plan (LTCP) which is proposing to apply a new approach of zonal weight limits and recommended HGV routes.

April

Gillian Nahum, founder and owner of Henley Sales & Charter was awarded the prestigious honour of Freedom of the City of London.

BBC One daytime television programme Bargain Hunt filmed a section for an episode at the River & Rowing Museum.

A dangerous sink hole opened up on a private driveway in The Close when a van drove onto the driveway and the front wheel got stuck.

A body of an elderly man aged 91 was found in the river after a member of the public saw it.

Henley Town Council submitted outline plans to SODC to develop their land at Jubilee Park which comprises of a four-storey building with 56 flats and a new three-storey sports pavilion for Henley Hockey Club and AFC Henley.

Planet Organic closed after only 7 months after the company went into administration.

Laura Reineke was awarded a Coronation Champion Award for her services to music in the community and also received an invitation to the Coronation concert at Windsor Castle.

May

The Town came out to enjoy the May Fayre in Market Place which included Maypole and Morris Dancing and Rose, dressed up as a Queen, won the fancy dress competition.

Badgemore School won the new Mayor’s cup at The Great School Run organised by Education Henley at Stonor Park.

A spate of expensive vehicles thefts took place using a wireless device to unlock during May.

In the elections, 13 Councillors from Henley Residents Group were elected on to Henley Town Council, with five new Councillors (Tony Hoskins, Sara Kandiah, Gill Dodds, Rory Hunt and Simon Paine).  District Councillors, Gawrysiak, Hinton and Arlett retained their seats.

Celebrations for the King’s Coronation took place over a long weekend with a big screen hired and installed in Market Place for people to watch the historic event live.  Neighbours celebrated with street parties, on the river there was a flotilla of over 200 boats and a commemorative church service was held at St Mary’s. Jonathan Hobbs, Managing Director of Hobbs of Henley and a Royal Waterman was honoured to be part of the Sovereign’s Bodyguard in King Charles III’s Coronation procession.

Councillor Sarah Miller was appointed Henley Mayor for the year 2023/2024.  This is the second term of office for Sarah; she was Mayor in 2021/2022.  Councillor Kellie Hinton was appointed Deputy Mayor.  Ernie Povey and the late Carolyn Molyneux were the recipients of Town Medals from 2020 which were presented by Henley Mayor.

Volunteers were trained to take river samples as part of the Thames21 project to apply for a bathing site status (BWS) in Henley. The Henley Mermaids stripped down to their swimming costumes at Chelsea Flower Show after being invited by sculptor, Dawn Conn to pose next to her unique swimming sculptures in a garden entitled “Essence of Life” designed by Emma O’Connell on press day.

Planning Inspectorate, dismissed Blockwork/Premier Inn’s appeal against SODC Planning decision to build a five-story, 115 bedroom hotel on the railway station car park site.

June

Golf’s Solheim Cup Captain and winner, Catriona Matthew OBE was the special guest at Badgemore Park Golf Club in support of local charity, Nomad and Action for ME. Golf Professionals, Jamie Palmer and Leo Allen at Badgemore Park Golf Club completed a gruelling 24 hour challenge of non-stop golf to raise funds for Action for ME and Nomad.

A piece of historic ordnance was pulled out of the river by a person fishing using a magnet device.  The police were called to the scene and cordoned off an area around Ferry Lane in Aston. The incident was dealt with Explosive Ordnance Disposal who carried out a controlled explosion to dispose of the item.

A house in King’s Road received permitted development planning approval to paint their house in dark grey paint despite it being in the conservation area.

The Great Big Green Week saw a packed programme of events including the Big Green Fair, Gardener’s Question Time, Wildlife Walk, Clothes Swap and a paddleboard river clean.

River Action, Windrush Against Sewage and Henley Mermaids hosted an River Sewage Pollution meeting to understand the impact of sewage pollution and to get the community to come together to make a plan of action.

Tense finals at Women’s Regatta saw local clubs lift 5 trophies. Leander, Shiplake College and Henley Rowing Club all won trophies with Upper Thames missing out in the final of the Aspiration Club Fours.

Red Lion Lawn was vandalised on with paint being thrown and splashed over furniture and boats and graffiti added to the walls.  Station News in Station Road was been burgled again with thieves stealing approximate £15K of stock.

The Kenton was host to BBC Radio 4’s popular radio show The Kitchen Cabinet. Joining host Jay Rayner were panellists Ixta Belfrage, Zoe Laughlin, Lerato Umah-Shaylor and Tom Kerridge.

At an inquest, the coroner concluded that Henley resident, Kamaldip Hulait died due to a road collision from head and chest injuries in the early hours of 11 July 2021 on Wyfold Lane, Peppard Common.

July

The crowds came out in droves as always for the six-day Royal Regatta.  On the water, Leander Club rowers were part of 8 winning crews. Theresa May was the prize-giver at the awards ceremony on the Sunday.

River Action, released findings from four weeks of daily testing of the River Thames on the Henley Reach which showed high levels of harmful bacteria and Sir Steve Redgrave is backing the charity’s Charters for Rivers to end sewage pollution.

Rag ‘n Bone Man opened the Henley Festival on the floating stage and was followed by Westlife, Nile Rodgers, Ministry of Sound and Liz Mitchell from Boney M.

SODC unveiled a new plan of action for the next four years to improve air quality in Henley.  There are a number of proposals on the table for Henley including a workplace parking levy which will affect businesses in the centre of town.

River and Rowing Museum welcomed Steve O’Connor as new Director, formerly CEO of Fulham Reach Boat Club (FRBC), which he founded in 2013 and the museum reopened after a closure of 9 months for roof repairs.

A blocked sewage in Market Place caused a spill out of a manhole in the Blanchards Law office basement opposite.  A sewage lorry was parked on Market Place until August to manage the excess flow.

The ownership of the Marsh Lock horsebridge was challenged by the Environment Agency (EA) as it is not within the EA land title and is being investigated with Oxfordshire CC and Wokingham BC according to the OCC Thames Path Manager.

Henley Town Council approved to spend up to £55K on new Christmas lighting for the town.

While the temperamental weather and strong winds put some plans at the Trad Boat Fest askew, the three days remained a celebration of upholding history through renovation and innovation of boats.

August

The Hub offices in Station Road obtained permitted development rights approval to build seven extra apartments at a third floor level within the roof space however with a number of conditions issued by SODC.

Emily Simmons and Abi Smith from Henley Rowing Club were part of the GB U19 team to win the Coupe de la Jeunesse for the second year in a row in Amsterdam.

Despite having severe sea sickness, Henley Mermaid Laura Reineke completed the English Channel swim in an amazing time of 15 hours and 23 minutes.  Other Henley Mermaids, Joan Fennelly, Susan Barry and Fiona Print along with swimming friend Tammy Hirst and Susan’s son Alex swam the length of Loch Ness (23 miles) in relay over two days.

Henley Hockey Club (HHC), hosted two master class sessions with GB Women’s players Alex Malzer and Lily Walker for children.

A celebration of music legend Vince Hill’s life took place at Henley Town Hall who passed away on 22 July 2023 aged 89.

The moorings blocking Friday Street slipway were finally removed after a two and half year campaign by The Henley Society, River Thames Society and resident Mark Rowberry.

Revised plans were submitted for a proposed retirement living complex at The Smith Centre on the Fairmile. The plans were to reduce the number of apartments to 108 from 115 with the removal of the front and side portions of the upper floors to bring down the overall massing of the building outline.

Generations of families who have camped on Shiplake Island from April to September each year for over 100 years have been stopped by the Environmental Agency (EA) this year due to health and safety issues started a campaign to save the camping site.

Legendary TV chef, Dame Mary Berry was the special guest at the unveiling of the new outdoor picnic tables at Townlands Memorial Hospital for staff and visitors to use.

Henley Town Council in a commitment to the arts and culture agreed to provide a substantial £100,000 loan to The Kenton Theatre. The financial assistance aims to bolster the theatre’s cash flow, aiding its resurgence after a challenging period and reinforcing its vital role in the community.

September

The sun shone all day and so did the continuous smiles on the faces of visitors of the Regatta for the Disabled in the Paddock at Phyllis Court Club where they enjoyed activities on and off the river.

A newspaper delivery car from Sonning Common newsagents was set on fire on Elizabeth Road, luckily the driver got out of the vehicle unhurt.

Gillotts School was awarded ‘Outstanding’ overall by Ofsted as well as in all the four key judgements – the quality of education, behaviour & attitudes, personal development, and leadership & management.

Frustrated Estate Manager, Alex Dick who is agent for the landowners who have provided temporary access across their land due to the Marsh Lock horsebridge being closed became “increasingly convinced and concerned that by offering a temporary solution we have, inadvertently, created a situation whereby people who should be getting on and sorting this problem out are, in fact, putting it on the ‘back burner’.”

Despite the late summer heatwave, The Henley Show was still popular with a wide array of attractions both new and old. In the Village this year, there were the two new events: axe throwing andarchery.  The popular dog show was cancelled due to the heat.

Henley Town Council discussed what action they should take on the last finger jetty at Singers Park (nearest to The Angel on the Bridge) that was installed by Sorbon Estates without planning permission in 2012.

HRH The Princess Royal visited the River & Rowing Museum (RRM) and took a boat ride on Rivertime Boat Trust (RBT) to launch a new educational partnership programme for young people and adults with special educational needs and disabilities.

Serious concern was raised by the Thames Farm Action Group (TFAG) and Shiplake Parish Council of SODC and the EA’s handling of the Discharge of Conditions on the planning application for the former Wyevale Garden Centre site on the Reading Road after they submitted proposals to pile the site which is next to a drinking water aquifer.

A kayak with 1800 lights on wins Best in Parade at Illuminated Boat Parade which saw a flotilla of 40+ decorated boats sail upstream from Fawley Meadows to Henley bridge.

Councillor Sarah Miller resigns as Mayor after being diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time.

The Make Henley Shine group submitted two full planning applications to sustainably light up Henley Bridge to SODC and Wokingham Borough Councils.

October

The Henley Literary Festival opened with Theresa May and Ross Kemp and saw a high profile programme of talks which also included Clive Myrie, Sebastian Faulks, Timothy West, Simon Schama, Robert Peston, General David Petraeus and Andrew Roberts with attendees in person up by over 1,000 (over 20,000).  After her event, Judy Murray made a surprise visit to Henley Tennis Club to meet their junior players.

Councillor Kellie Hinton, Henley’s Deputy Mayor was voted in to take over at Mayor and Councillor Rory Hunt took over as Deputy Mayor.

A damning Ofsted inspection published for Area SEND of Oxfordshire Local Area Partnership concluded “there are widespread and/or system failings leading to significant concerns about the experiences and outcomes of children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities.”

Taylor Wimpey appealed to the Planning Inspectorate against SODC’s decision to refuse their Lawful Development application in January 2022 for ground stabilisation works at Thames Farm.

BOB ICB (Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Integrated Care Board) and OCC (Oxfordshire County Council) announced that the short-stay hospital beds at Chilterns Court Care Home are to close at the end of the year.  These beds are mainly used for people recovering from surgeries who are living on their own for a few weeks.  The Townlands Steering Group committee was reformed to campaign against this decision.

David Rodger-Sharp, the owner of the jewellers in Market Place, sadly passed away after taking his life.  A service to celebrate his life took place in the Town Hall a few weeks later.

Henley Town Council Planning Committee’s Chair Councillor Tom Buckley changed his vote on the planning application to install lights on Henley bridge, initially voting against the proposal to recommend refusal, to using his casting vote in favour, to recommend refusal.

The Half Marathon and 10K events were sold out before, with some on the day runners having to wait to see if they could take part if others registered hadn’t turned up.  Chris Moseley won the Half Marathon after coming up runner-up in 2022 and Nicola Lee was the first woman home.

50 years of twinning and friendship with the town of Falaise in France was celebrated with a large group from the Falaise Twinning Association visiting Henley to enjoy a weekend of celebrations and trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon.

November

Haydee Daniel from Henley was sentenced to four and a half years’ imprisonment at Wood Green Crown Court last Thursday after a four-week trial for fraud.

Further ecology reports, surveys and updated plans were requested by SODC for the outline planning application for the redevelopment of 353-357 Reading Road site (next to Tesco) for 56 flats, a new clubhouse for AFC Henley and Henley Hockey Club and a 3G pitch on Jubilee Park.

Thames Farm Action Group (TFAG), Shiplake Parish Council, Henley Town Council & Harpsden Parish Council sent a pre-action protocol letter to Head of Legal Services at SODC for a judicial review of three decisions (drinking water source protection strategy, details of sustainable surface drainage measures and a piling matter statement) that SODC took to approve the discharge of conditions on the planned development at the former Wyevale Garden Centre site on the Reading Road.

Silence fell on Market Place to remember those who had given their lives in service at the Remembrance Sunday Service.

Millie’s Dream, a charity which was started by Sarah Roberts and her daughter Millie who suffers from a life-threatening heart condition celebrated the installation of their 100th defibrillator at Eye & Dunsden Village Hall with Patron, Dame Katherine Grainger cutting the ribbon with Millie.

Cracker of a Christmas Festival – the town centre was packed for the Christmas Festival, making it seem one of the busiest for many years with TV legend Christopher Biggins turning on the lights.

The results of Thames21’s river water quality monitoring programme over the summer showed that there were concentrations of harmful bacteria up to six times above the recommended standard at 3 sites in Henley.

Despite The Smith Centre on the Fairmile being in Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and not allocated as a housing site in the Joint Henley and Harpsden Neighbourhood Plan the planning application to build an extra care residential development for 108 units was approved by SODC Planning.

December

The Living Advent Calendar opened on the Town Hall steps with Sacred Heart School performing Born This Night a nativity musical with Makaton signing before the audience were invited into the Town Hall to immerse themselves in the Winter Wonderland and a dance class with Salsa dance teacher Jennifer Benavidez.  The event went on to visit 23 more different venues including new one, The Catherine Wheel and for the first time blasted through the £10K fundraising barrier for local good causes.

Henley Mayor was delighted to accept a collaboratively created framed picture by local primary schools to commemorate the King’s Coronation from Education Henley to be displayed in the Town Hall.

The old Order of St John care home site at Chilterns End off Greys Road was finally been put up for sale by OCC after lying derelict for seven years. The care home closed in 2016 and moved into their new building next to Townlands Memorial Hospital.  In the same year it was included in the Joint Henley & Harpsden Neighbourhood Plan (JHHNP) for 27 homes with 40% affordable.

Henley, Shiplake and Harpsden Councils announced that no further legal proceedings would be taken to challenge the decision made by SODC to discharge the planning conditions on the housing development at the former Wyevale Garden Centre site due to legal costs and advice that there was not a better than 50/50 chance of success.

Over 200 participants donned their festive attire for the fifth annual ‘Santa on the Run’ fun run. The event brought together the community for a cheerful run around the regatta enclosure fields, and raised £1,000 for the Mayor’s charities.

Oxfordshire County Council confirmed that they have plans in place to repair the stonework on Henley bridge, replace the missing pavement stones and remove the graffiti next year in the Autumn of 2024.

Gemma Birch, was invited to The Together at Christmas carol concert hosted by the Princess of Wales at Westminster Abbey on 8 December in recognition for the work and support she and her volunteers have provided to Ukrainians fleeing the war through MotherSisterDaughter (MSD) in Henley.

Ben Sleet, at the young age of 14 returned from California after coming 6th in the open men’s professional WCMX World Championships.

The Make Henley Shine, the project to light up Henley bridge suffered a setback after the EA submitted their response to the SODC planning application saying that they object on two counts; unacceptable impact on navigation and unacceptable impact to biodiversity.

 

 

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