The Henley-based Open Spaces SocietyÂ has called on Wokingham Borough Council to reject an application from Henley Festival to close the Thames Path for an unprecedented 145 hours during this yearâ€™s festival.
Says Kate Ashbrook, the Open Spaces Societyâ€™s general secretary: “The Thames Path National Trail is of international importance and, to many, the Henley stretch is the jewel in its crown.”
The request to refuse the closure follows a meeting held by Wokingham Borough Council on 10 January between the objectors (the Open Spaces Society and Remenham Parish Council) and the Festival.Â It was held following objections from the Open Spaces Society that there had never been consultation about the festivalâ€™s annual bid to close the path but the issues remained unresolved and now the councilâ€™s executive will consider the application for closure at its meeting on Thursday 31 January.
Kate Ashbrook continues: “The Festival claimed that it was impossible to hold the Festival without closing the path, but of course the path was there long before the Festival.Â If it had to proceed without moving the path, it would find a way.Â
“Even if the council feels it is too late to avoid closing the path this year, it should give a clear message that it requires the Festival to make its application much earlier for next yearâ€™s event; and the council must carry out a full, independent examination of how the path could remain open, by realigning the Festival activities or altering the scale of the event.
‘It should not just accept the Festivalâ€™s word that this vital route should be closed for many days” says Kate.
The proposed closure is for nine days although the festival only lasts for five and because the closure sought is for more than three days, the Secretary of State for Transportâ€™s consent is also required. Â Last year, the closure was sought for only 37Â½ hours.
The Festival takes place from Wednesday 9 to Sunday 13 July and follows the annual Henley Royal Regatta week.