Henley – the next ten years
What are residents’ priorities for Henley’s development over the next ten years?
In early Autumn, Henley Residents Group held an Open Forum (including representatives of all parties in the Town Council) to canvass views on these priorities. It followed up this meeting with an online survey (which resulted in over 100 responses) to gain wider views from residents on priorities. The survey made the point that some priorities are the Town Council’s responsibility, whilst others, such as road maintenance, are the responsibilities of Oxford County Council or South Oxfordshire District Council.
On a broad basis, the three main priorities are traffic and parking followed by the local economy and affordable housing.
Within the broad priority areas, respondents commented on various options. For “traffic and parking”, managing traffic better through Henley is the top priority, with the next two priorities are to extend the car parks and widen the bus network to outer villages. There were differences dependent on the gender of the respondent with women showing more positive responses on weekend park and ride and parent and toddler parking space but less positive than men on residential parking schemes.
To “help improve Henley’s economy”, attracting more visitors is the highest single priority but only slightly above the possible commerce options of providing online advice and support for business start-ups and acquiring premises to create an Innovation Centre. Women were less keen than men on attracting visitors but much keener on creating events to commemorate Henley’s celebrities.
Within options to “help improve Henley’s environment”, restricting HGV vehicles from the town centre and planting trees in the town centre to reduce pollution are the two main priorities, with the options of making Henley a carbon neutral town and creating a vehicle emissions limit in the town both far behind. For the latter women are less positive than males.
Regarding options to “improve leisure and community services in Henley”, ensuring that there are adequate numbers of PCSOs is the top priority but leisure facilities for youth and cycling and walking paths are strong contenders. Females are much more positive than men about the need to support adult learning and library facilities whilst less positive about walking and cycling paths and PCSOs.
Respondents were also offered the opportunity to offer their own views on priorities, and over three-quarters of respondents did so.
The major concern related to traffic and transport, with the main areas relating to the need to enforce parking regulations and improve road layouts. Two such comments were “enforce loading bay restrictions to improve traffic flow” and “traffic calming measures to stop people driving way too fast on Northfield End, particularly those who use what is essentially a village street to accelerate before Fair Mile.”
In the social area, major concerns related to “more less-expensive things to do” and “more play areas” followed by the need for “a better range of housing”. Comments included “more affordable accessible activities for youngsters to feel part of town” and “more housing for people who aren’t in social housing and don’t earn 6 figure salaries.”
For the economy, the major concern related to “shops”, with comments such as “improve the quality of shops”, “the town centre is dying – allow pop-ups to start in empty units on low rents and rates for a 3-month period” and “less coffee and nail shops – more shops selling local food and crafts.”
Within the environmental area, concerns focused on “pollution” (including air quality, traffic noise, plastic cups and waste management). Comments included “police noise pollution as well as air pollution” and “ban all single-use drink cups at all Henley outdoor events.”
Clearly, some of these perceived 10-year priorities are outside the remit of the Town Council and achieving them will require Henley’s Town Council to work over the long term with Oxford County Council or South Oxfordshire District Council to agree and implement any actions.
HRG April 2019