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We are objecting to plans by international land-agents Chesterton Commercial (Oxon) Ltd to stop up the public highway at Bell Street, Henley-on-Thames for private parking spaces. The plans will be considered at a public inquiry starting on Tuesday 7 August. The society will be represented, along with the Chiltern Society, by our local member David Parry.
The proposal is to stop up the area of public highway from the north-eastern corner of the green at the junction of Bell Street and Bell Lane to the western edge of the pavement fronting 102 Bell Street. The area to be stopped up extends down to the south-eastern corner of the green and the western edge of the pavement fronting 92 Bell Street.
Says David: ‘The pedestrian rights along this length of Bell Street are violated by Chesterton’s plan. Chesterton implies that both pedestrians and motorists can use the same narrow footway, but of course this is unpleasant and dangerous for walkers. It claims that there will be “dual use” but that is another way of saying “at the peril of the people” and “motors first”.’
‘This is part of an ancient highway and should be protected for public use. This grassy area is a dominating feature of the entrance to Henley from the north and west—it might be called “Henley Northgate”. To change and reduce it would be an act of vandalism. Tarmac and all the other features of a car-park would diminish the townscape drastically.’
Adds Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society: ‘This is a pleasant, leafy corner of Henley, a small greenspace away from the noise and danger of traffic. The Open Spaces Society has fought the appropriation of public land for private use since its foundation at the end of the inclosure movement. We urge the public-inquiry inspector to reject this plan.’