Footpath campaigners have welcomed the announcement of talks on a controversial path closure.
The Open Spaces Society (OSS) had urged Wokingham Council to delay the approval of the temporary stopping up of a national trail to allow a black-tie arts festival.
Henley Festival had asked for a 145-hour closure of the Thames Path, where it passes through the town, to allow its annual society bash to take place. The OSS argued the closure was excessive and unnecessary. Last night, the council agreed to arrange a consultation between the parties.
Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the OSS, based itself in Henley, said: “We are pleased that Wokingham Borough Council has at last listened to us and has realised that it should not automatically rubber-stamp the application for path closure.
“We called on it to defer last night’s decision in order to have discussions, a view which was backed by the Government Office for the South East, and it agreed to do so.
“We too want to have constructive discussions with all the parties to see if a long-term solution can be found.”
Ms Ashbrook questioned whether any closure was necessary. She told grough: “It’s time the festival was required to justify its actions, and to explain why it claims it must close the path.
“This year it has asked to close it for an unprecedented 145½ hours, over nine days. This is nearly four times the number of hours which it requested last year. The festival itself only lasts for five days.
“We are grateful to Councillor Keith Baker, the executive member for highways and transport, for pressing the council to defer the matter and enter into discussions. Let’s hope a solution can be found once and for all.”
Last year’s festival featured performances by Welsh mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins, Dionne Warwick, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and singing gynaecologist Hank Wangford.