Thursday, 19 October 2017

Your letters...

Stefan will be good for us

Sir, — I was most interested in your article about Counccillor Stefan Gawrysiak and his desire to be elected to represent Henley on Oxfordshire County Council (Standard, March 24).

I well remember what a brilliant Mayor he was and that he didn’t shy from getting his hands dirty, trying his best to improve the cleanliness of the town and actually having a go at cleaning the pavements, encouraging the shopkeepers to keep their forecourts spick and span.

Sadly, of late it has become so unkempt that the pride we used to have in this beautiful town seems to be a thing of the past.

I know what a hands-on person Cllr Gawrysiak is and how he is determined to work very hard to improve our polluted air, air that is a silent killer.

Although it looks so pristine, it is in fact full of tiny particulates that are causing our babies and children to have their lungs severely affected.

Here is a man that is determined and prepared to care for Henley’s citizens, knowing that it is a false economy to ignore this serious pollution which is giving us illnesses which in the future will be of great cost to the NHS and misery for those of us who are unknowingly breathing these toxic fumes.

Please wake up, Henley. You can see from the news that this is a worldwide problem, so let us pull our heads out of the sand and rise up and support Stefan, who is prepared to do something about it.

Let us be a an example to the world — after all, this town is known and loved worldwide and visited by thousands of tourists.

We are indeed the jewel in the crown of Oxfordshire.

Having lived here for more than 50 years, it has always been that Oxfordshire County Council ignores our needs as we are on the edge of the county of Oxfordshire.

I am confident that with our support, Stefan — who is tried and tested by his ongoing work for us — being at the helm will get things done and return this town to its former glory.

On May 4 may I urge our residents to vote for Cllr Gawrysiak to represent our town on the county council. — Yours faithfully,

Val Stoner

Eco-Henley, Wyndale Close, Henley

Minute fish in large pond

Sir, — I was intrigued to read what Stefan Gawrysiak, the Henley Residents’ Group candidate for the Oxfordshire County Council elections, says he could do for Henley if elected.

He stated “it is essential we have an independent voice speaking solely for Henley and not one that will vote in line with party whips”.

Quite easy when you are a party of one!

HRG is a registered political party and as such has party debates to produce policies and then vote as a group at town council meetings.

They then hypocritically criticise the Conservatives for doing the same.

HRG can be a major force in Henley as they can contest all seats on the council and thereby give the public a choice of government.

At the county council Henley has just one member in a council of 63 members. What influence and support can that one Henley member have without belonging to a countywide party who could control the council?

HRG falsely claims to be independent but as a political party its single member would not even be able to join the independent group on the county council.

HRG should remain a big fish in a small pond and not a minute fish in a large pond. — Yours faithfully,

Malcolm Leonard

Badgers Walk, Shiplake

Let’s keep it civil, please

Sir, — It must be election time as the mud has started to fly and personal criticisms are being made.

It was just over two years ago when six of us (including four chairs of council standing committees, four who had also been mayor of Henley and the chair of the Henley Residents’ Group executive committee) left the group.

Three of us leavers later joined the Conservatives.

We made no personal comments about any individuals regarding our reasons for leaving and kept what we considered a dignified silence.

It might be useful to some at HRG to follow our example and not single out any councillors at a personal level.

It is early days in this election — let’s keep it about Henley and what’s best for the town. — Yours faithfully,

Dieter Hinke

Chairman, Henley Conservatives, Elizabeth Road, Henley

Policy before politics

Sir, — Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak made some pretty fundamental errors about the Oxfordshire unitary council proposal (Standard, March 24).

Sadly, this is not the first time he has chosen grand rhetorical gestures over accuracy.

In fact, the proposal is not an extension of the powers of the county council but a completely new organisation which will have new councillors, new powers and new priorities.

It will be for those new councillors to decide what they make of that new council — this gives us all an exciting chance to enliven community involvement in decision-making.

Reading the rest of Cllr Gawrysiak’s comments, I was appalled to see him make a series of bizarre personal attacks against [Conservative] Councillor David Nimmo Smith.

I would suggest politely to Henley Residents’ Group that if they want to be taken seriously by the electorate they should take a step back from playing party politics and start discussing policy. How else can we restore trust in politics? — Yours faithfully,

Councillor William Hall

South Oxfordshire District Council, New Street, Henley

Look forward to a change

Sir, — In response to Henley Residents’ Group councillor Stefan Gawrysiak’s attack on the Conservatives for lack of action over the past four years at Oxfordshire County Council level, Conservative Councillor David Nimmo Smith states that “a lot of the work is in progress”.

Perhaps he would like to tell the residents of Henley where the next range of cuts and the loss of facilities are going to be or will this be left until after the election on May 4?

Typical of the Conservatives’ lack of urgency was evident in the page 5 story headlined “Review of home site”, which referred to the Chilterns End care home, which is now empty after the residents were moved to the new facilities at Townlands Hospital.

This parcel of land is included in the neighbourhood plan but what has the county council done about putting it on the market? Absolutely nothing.

Cllr Nimmo Smith stated: “They (the county council) have properties all over the county. I don’t know when the Henley area will be looked at.”

The council has had three years to sort this out but it’s yet another “work in progress”!

Councillor Gawrysiak states he will “work his socks off” if elected. I am sure the residents of Henley will look forward to the change. — Yours faithfully,

Ken Arlett

Elizabeth Road, Henley

Dilemma over narrow road

Sir, — I don’t normally respond to letters in the Henley Standard.

However, last week I was named by Odette Moss in her letter about roads in Harpsden and in particular Gillotts Lane, where she lives.

The centre of the narrow Gillotts Lane is in a structurally sound condition.

However, as she rightly points out, it is where the edges are being eaten away by traffic trying to pass between the natural passing places — and this is not part of the highway, where the unevenness is evident.

There have been discussions with Harpsden Parish Council over the years about Gillotts Lane.

The residents there do not want the road widened as they fear that this would encourage more traffic, which is what will happen if the uneven stretches are filled in and the road is widened as it will be perceived as being an easier short cut around, rather than through, Henley.

As readers may be aware, 25 per cent of the Community Infrastructure Funding raised from developers will be allocated to the parish where the development takes place — and the 170 houses granted outline planning permission at Highlands Farm are in Harpsden parish.

A discussion to be had in the future with Harpsden Parish Council? — Yours faithfully,

Councillor David Nimmo Smith

Henley Town Council and Oxfordshire County Council, St Andrew’s Road, Henley

Conserving countryside

Sir, — I am writing in response to the letter from Judy Dinsdale about the new stock fencing and woodland conservation works at Greys Court (Standard, March 17).

Stock fencing has been installed around Spinney Wood as cattle had damaged the gate and entered the bluebell wood on several occasions. When bluebells are crushed, the plants die back as the leaves cannot photosynthesise and the bluebells can take several years to recover.

The bluebells at Greys Court have suffered over the past few years due to cattle and also increased human footfall and there is now a designated visitor route through the Spinney Wood to help conserve them, so that people can continue to enjoy the bluebells in years to come.

Cattle are notoriously hard on fencing and will lean on it to access that elusive patch of grass unless there is a deterrent such as barbed wire or electrification.

Deer can also be a problem in woodlands as they like to eat the shoots of young trees, which can cause the tree to die and prevent the natural succession of tree growth.

Entry to Spinney Wood is now via Greys Court’s Wilderness Garden, as we’ve restored the route of Sir Felix Brunner’s Gentle Walk to its original starting point in the garden.

Maps and leaflets showing the new route are available at visitor reception at Greys Court and it is noted on the website.

We ask that all visitors check in at visitor reception so that we’re able to talk to them about any changes or conservation work that may affect their experience that day.

Conservation works are carried out on a regular rotation at Greys Court in accordance with good practice guidelines for woodland and grassland management.

At Spinney Wood, for instance, we aim to maintain a healthy woodland with a mosaic of open glades, wood pasture, different-aged trees and undergrowth of varying density to provide the best habitats for wildlife.

The dominant growth of brambles in the top half of Spinney Wood was thinned this winter to allow light to reach the woodland floor and encourage a greater range of plant species to colonise.

Works have been carried out at The Mound so that visitors can access the top and experience the views over four counties that Sir Felix enjoyed in his day.

We’re planning to install an exact replica of Sir Felix’s bench in the place of the original.

Please call in and talk to visitor reception staff next time you visit as they’ll be delighted to talk to about any of the conservation works at Greys Court. — Yours faithfully,

Rob Hayes

General manager, National Trust Thames Valley portfolio

Not how to lure shoppers

Sir, — I write in response to your interview with the Henley town manager Helen Barnett (Standard, March 24).

As someone who has previously worked in Henley during the regatta, can I point out that the trains, while very frequent, are packed with beautifully dressed people going to see the rowing.

Their dress code is unmistakable and on their way home they are not carrying shopping bags.

Instead, having been in the hospitality tents, they are loudly and happily discussing their day with friends who are some distance from where they are invariably standing in the train carriage. I have used the bus during the regatta but the traffic is horrendous and even if you are in a car you still have to wait for the driver in front of you to move so, frankly, promoting shopping trips during regatta week would be pointless.

The catering and hospitality trade do very well during the regatta, so our restaurants and cafés will undoubtedly make a profit then.

The Henley Festival follows the regatta but is in the evening, apart from the Sunday, so I am not sure if the town manager wants the retailers to stay open all day and into the night as well as on Sundays.

If you open on Sundays you either have to pay weekend staff or work a seven-day week indefinitely. Is this what Ms Barnett is suggesting?

The weekly Midsomer Murders tours will cost £12 per person (£10 if booked in advance) and half price for children so will cost a family of four visiting Henley £36.

A leaflet with the route of Midsomer Murders stops and an advert for the shops on the route would be a better idea so that £36 could be spent with the retailers instead.

Criticising shopkeepers for not being open on Sundays or not getting up early enough while supporting the business rate rise from April 1 is possibly not the best way to “make friends and influence people”.

If in a year we are looking at a shop vacancy rate of more than 10 per cent then we will know who to blame. — Yours faithfully,

Gloria Wright

Twyford

Swiss Farm’s hidden gem

Sir, — There have been articles in your pages recently about the surfeit of coffee shops/lack of decent cafés for good breakfasts in the local area.

I wonder if your readers have thought to try the Farm Kitchen at Swiss Farm in Henley.

I arranged to meet a friend there for coffee recently. She had never been, even though she has passed by hundreds of times.

The friendly service and warm ambience were so good that we stayed on for a lunch of three unusual salads and a giant, freshly cooked sausage roll.

Later my friend sent me this message: “I’m so impressed with Swiss Farm, it’s fab and what a delicious lunch. We’ll meet there again when I get back after Easter...”

And I agree. It has a great breakfast menu and offers good value with free parking. A little gem!

I often go there and call it “my club”. Comfy sofas for drinks too! — Yours faithfully,

Jackie Macdonald

Hambleden

Please sell pub as it is

Sir, — I’d like to thank your correspondent Richard Guy for bringing attention to the plight of the Rose and Crown pub in New Street, Henley, (Standard, March 24) and the misuse of the pub by Brakspear in attempting to secure a change of use and then sell it as a house.

Brakspear has continually argued that “country pubs” are very difficult to be profitable due to market conditions and other excuses.

However, the great success of the Horns in Crazies Hill, which re-opened and is now thriving, and the Flower Pot in Aston, which is celebrating 25 years of the same tenancy, are examples that show this is not necessarily the case.

The Rose and Crown is not a country pub, it is in the centre of town, opposite the Kenton Theatre and two minutes from the river and has a wonderful garden, bar, dining area and accommodation.

What are Brakspear’s excuses for this pub? They should stop their desperate attempts to sell it as a house and offer it to another party, an owner who can make it thrive.

They let go of the Bottle and Glass in Binfield Heath, which has now re-opened with new owners, so why not the Rose and Crown?

This pub should not be closed. The town and its economy need it. — Yours faithfully,

James Lambert

Mill End

PM can park wherever

Sir, — I, too, was appalled at your front page story concerning the Prime Minister’s cars parked in the Bell Street loading bay.

Surely we should be thrilled that she chooses to shop in our town? I for one hope this doesn’t put Mrs May off.

With such a busy life and her security being so important, the Prime Minister is welcome to park anywhere in Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Carol Lewis

Gillotts Lane, Henley

Irresponsible reporting

Sir, — I would just like to voice my concern, in view of the terrorist incident in Westminster last week, at how irresponsible you were in publishing a photograph of the Prime Minister and her security vehicles parking in Bell Street, Henley.

In view of her high-profile position, I see no problem in her parking there for a few minutes while she does some well-earned shopping and supports local business.

Now everybody knows her movements.

Many local residents like myself enjoy seeing the Prime Minister doing her shopping locally.

This will no doubt alter her movements in and around Henley. — Yours faithfully,

John Todd

Henley

No more river catastrophes

Sir, — Your article on the pollution of the River Thames and its tributaries by the negligence of Thames Water bears heavily on the large fine of £20 million levied. However, set against an annual post tax profit of £556 million, this fine is hardly likely to send Thames Water’s shareholders to the workhouse.

What must come out of this wretched series of events is a firm resolution, backed by whatever procedures are necessary, to avoid a catastrophe of this nature happening again. — Yours sincerely

John Skuse

Chairman, River Thames Society, Pinkneys Green

How to claim sick pay

Sir, — Are you entitled to sick pay?

People often ask us for advice on sick pay they haven’t received but to which they thought they were entitled.

It seems that some unscrupulous employers avoid paying sick pay to people who are too ill to work. They do this by using tactics such as taking them off rotas and cutting their wages. People are entitled to be paid if they are off work for four working days or more and earn more than £112 a week.

However, some employers are exploiting the confusion surrounding the rules on statutory sick pay and occupational sick pay.

Tactics often used by employers include:

lCancelling staff shifts after they call in sick, so that it looks as if they aren’t intended to be working;

l Reducing staff members’ working hours so they don’t meet the £112 threshold;

l Saying that a GP’s note is needed for even a few days off. In fact, people can actually self-certify for up to seven days.

Statutory sick pay is the Government’s minimum level of pay for employees who are absent from work due to illness. To qualify, the employee must earn at least £112 per week and provide proof of sickness for absence exceeding seven days. Occupational sick pay is where an organisation chooses to provide sick pay that is more generous than the statutory minimum.

With the cold and flu season still under way, Citizens Advice is urging people who are too ill to work to check their sick pay eligibility and to seek advice if their employer won’t pay.

For further help, call 03444 111 444, drop into Henley Citizens Advice in Market Place or visit www.citizensadvice.
org.uk/local/oxfordshire-south-vale

Citizens Advice Oxfordshire South and Vale is an independent charity. Our 150 skilled volunteer advisers and 10 staff advise more than 8,000 clients each year. — Yours faithfully,

Darius Halpern

Citizens Advice Oxfordshire South and Vale

How to block cold callers

Sir, — I am writing in response to the poor lady who is being hounded by cold callers (Standard, Mar 24).

I telephoned BT and then Sky, who are our phone supplier, and they sent me a free call blocker.

It is simple to attach to your telephone and, touch wood, we now have only one or two nuisance calls, which we can now block.

I hope this is helpful to the lady and to others as well. — Yours faithfully,

Miranda de Normann

Welcome to South Central

Sir, — If I may, just a few further words about the “voice” on the Arriva bus service: “Your next stop is…”

There can’t be many people living in Northfield End, Henley, who would say they live in “Bell Street North” — none probably.

Such a conception would suggest it won’t be long before Friday Street, Henley station and the offices of the Henley Standard are being referred to as “South Central”. Dear God, this can’t be happening! — Yours faithfully,

Paul Willson

Pound Lane, Sonning

Thanks for such kindness

Sir, — I am a pensioner in my seventies and I would like, through your columns, to express my very grateful thanks and appreciation to the leaders of the Shiplake cubs and beavers for the exemplary kindness and consideration they extended to me on Monday last week on the evening Twyford to Henley train.

At the time I was involved in an extremely unpleasant situation on my way home from a long day in London.

Debs Boughey and Kaeti Martin, who were with a group of cubs and beavers, came to my rescue after I was prevented from leaving the train at Henley.

Suffice to say that on arriving at Shiplake the only alternative I had to return to Henley was to walk down the main road.

The two girls helped me from the train and rang their father who then appeared and insisted on driving me back to Henley.

The actions of these leaders and their father was the perfect example to the children on how to extend kindness, consideration and compassion to an older person who was clearly under pressure and in deep distress, which I am sure (and hope) they will remember for the rest of their lives. — Yours faithfully,

Name and address
supplied

Thanks for great night

Sir, — We would like to say thank you so much to the guests at our charity event on Saturday and for making it such a successful night.

We managed to raise £14,000 for our charities, Henley YMCA, Nomad and Riverside Counselling Service.

We and our wonderful events team at the town hall are immensely gratified that everyone seemes to have enjoyed themselves as well as donating so generously.

We would also like to thank the many people who sent messages of support.

We hope that in future the town hall will see many more such events and will become a venue of choice for weddings. — Yours faithfully,

Julian and Gabriele Brookes

Mayor and Mayoress of Henley

Pick up after your dog

Sir, — Having come from South Yorkshire to Henley to look after my mother in Church Avenue, I have found that some dog owners let their dogs foul the grass and do not pick it up.

The people know who they are, so please pick it up and put it in the bins provided. — Yours faithfuly,

Rita Markham

Mill Lane, Doncaster

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