There has been much in the press on this subject, but actual factual information on the situation seem to be in rather short supply. A few facts, as I understand and recall them from my working time in conservation, may help to get a perspective on the works carried out.
- The Bridge was Grade I listed by the Secretary of State.
- Only 2 % of all listed buildings are in this very special category.
- English Heritage will always be consulted on works to a Gd.I listed building and their officers’ opinion carries great weight.
- It is an offence to carry out alterations, which affect the special interest of a LB.; see the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.
- An application for Listed Building Consent needs to be made by the owners or their agents. (N.B. This means that neither Henley Town Council nor Mr. Hemsley can apply for ‘late’ Listed Building Consent to regularize the present situation)
- In this case, the Bridge is in the care of the Highways Authority; only this body or its agents can make an L.B.C. application for alterations which affect the special character of this building.
- Listed Building Consent can only be granted by SODC.
- In the case of this Grade I Listed Bridge the advice of English Heritage would have to be sought by the L.P.A. on a L.B application and taken into account when making the decision on this ‘Late’ Application. (Retrospective consent cannot be granted. The works will only be authorized from the date of the consent)
- During the consultation process, the Local Authority will consult widely; such as Henley Town Council and neighbouring Remenham Parish Council, local amenity societies and other affected neighbours. That will then be the opportunity for everybody to have their say – but the decision can only be made by the Local Planning Authority. It cannot be decided by Henley Town Councillors, nor by the opinion poll generated in the local press.
Ruth Gibson, BA hons. Arch.& Hist.