Saturday, 25 November 2017

Your letters...

Transport catastrophe

Sir, — As Henley Town Council’s transport strategy group considers measures including a 20mph speed limit across the town and a ban on heavy goods vehicles (Standard, May 26), it may be as well for members to consider mighty external traffic forces that will shortly and inevitably have bearing on its conclusions in the shape of 112,500 HGVs, for example.

For Tarmac’s Sonning Eye quarry and works to deliver the aggregate output from its forthcoming phase of works totalling 1.8 million tonnes (excluding top soil), 112,500 eight-wheeler lorries carrying 16 tonnes each are required (double that figure to include lorries going into the plant empty).

If those lorry trips are divided equally between Henley and Caversham, Henley will receive, probably through Duke Street, a fairly regular stream of lorries weighing in at 32 tonnes, totalling 56,250.

Not forgetting the same lorries as they return empty down White Hill and probably turn left after crossing Henley’s ancient bridge to make their way back to Sonning Eye. Total, 112,500.

An estimate of 10 years, yes, 10 years, is given by Tarmac to complete this next phase. To do so would require them to dispatch 11,250 lorries each year of 52 weeks, the weeks totalling 260 days.

Which would be impossible. A more realistic figure is more like 20 years.

The works are set to commence in late summer and look to be urgently needed to help ensure that our Prime Minister’s promised objective to build hundreds of thousands of homes becomes a reality in addition to other badly needed housing objectives.

Wouldn’t it be sensible right now for the transport strategy group, South Oxfordshire District Council, Oxfordshire County Council, Wokingham Borough Council, Reading Borough Council and, of course, our Prime Minister to let the penny drop?

To realise that a simple, four-lane bridge, with a park and ride on the north side, crossing the Caversham rowing lakes that avoids property demolition, with direct access to the A329, A4 and M4, with access for 32-tonne gravel lorries from their own purpose- built roadway to route them onto the A4/M4 in about 10 minutes as they avoid Henley and Caversham would also avoid a genuine transport catastrophe, certainly for Henley.

What might it take for dithering councils and politicians to finally understand what it might take for them to realise that a new Thames bridge is desperately needed? How about 225,000 HGV trips?

And that’s only for starters! — Yours faithfully,

Pat Doyle

Sonning

Dangerous walk home

Sir, — I believe that it is only a matter of time before a regular walk from my home in King’s Road, Henley, (the end nearest to the Station House) to Waitrose and back will end up with an accident.

There is not a safe route. On Wednesday last week my 10-year-old son and I were walking back home when a chap in a four-wheele drive motor vehicle raced out of one of the car parking bays close to Loch Fyne.

I held my hand up as we were at mid-crossing point.

His reaction was simply breathtaking: “Well, this is a road.”

I remain unconvinced that it would pass as any form of mitigation and, sadly, there is no safe alternative.

What on earth gets into people who think that this sort of action is acceptable?

Furthermore, the issue has been raised previously and, to my knowledge, a safe access to Waitrose for pedestrians entering from either side of King’s Road has not yet been identified. — Yours faithfully,

Pamela Cook

King’s Road, Henley

Best solution for parking

Sir, — When the adjacent Townlands Hospital and Chilterns Court care centre announced plans to implement a parking system, we felt we had no choice (after consultation with our patient panel group) but to introduce our own scheme.

It is important to us that people who genuinely need to park close to the surgery are able to do so.

We did not want to charge our patients for parking and needed to put a stop to the number of people abusing our car park.

By tripling the number of disabled spaces (not just for blue badge holders but for anyone who genuinely cannot walk far) and introducing this numberplate recognition scheme, we felt this was the best way to achieve these aims.

There is a grace period of 20 minutes but patients anticipating being at the surgery for longer will need to input their car registration details into the device at reception, giving them up to 90 minutes of free parking. Our receptionists can help with this if required.

As a gesture of goodwill, we also allow the residents of York Road who are inconvenienced by surgery traffic to park in our car park in the evenings and at weekends.

We publicised the introduction of the new scheme widely. We have either an email address or a mobile number for more than 80 per cent of our adult patients and we let them all know electronically.

There are multiple large notices in the car park and in the surgery and a press release was sent to and published by the Henley Standard.

We completely understand that any new scheme takes some getting used to and we have done all we can to assist anyone who has received a fine unjustly or who did not realise how the scheme worked.

We have even been lenient with a number of people appealing against their fines who had absolutely no business to be in our car park at all (although obviously we cannot continue to be). For years our patients have petitioned us to do something about parking at the surgery. This is the best solution we can think of which does not divert our resources away from direct patient care.

We sincerely apologise to anyone who has been inconvenienced during this initial bedding-in period. — Yours faithfully,

Sarah Moberly

Practice manager, the Hart Surgery, York Road, Henley

Reform the voting system

Sir, — With Henley being such a safe Conservative seat, is it worth voting? (Standard Diary, May 26).

I regret to say the answer is no. It’s estimated that more than half the seats being contested are safe for either Labour or Tory — never for any other party — and that in these places we can already forecast the result with almost 100 per cent certainty.

John Howell may be a lovely chap but it matters not who is standing; here they could tie a blue rosette to a donkey and it would win.

Not only are huge numbers of votes wasted, worse still the results are wildly disproportionate. Tony Blair won a 66-seat majority on a mere 36 per cent of those who bothered to vote because Labour has an advantage in how boundaries are drawn. The latest polls suggest they may well win again this time.

Henley’s Tories will give Mr Howell an overkill of votes but must wish some of these could be more usefully employed elsewhere. Such a system is so profoundly undemocratic you may wonder why we still use it.

The Electoral Reform Society was founded in 1884 to campaign for something better and 133 years on is still trying. The problem is that the people in power do not want to change the system that got them there.

While the UK remains electorally stuck in the age of Gladstone, the outside world has been developing systems that are both fair and practical.

There are three main contenders: party list, mixed member and standard transferable vote. All have been in use for decades, so are well tried and give sensible governance. If you want to know more, search the internet.

If your readers are not hopping mad that we still use this appalling method of electing our MPs, they jolly well should be.

And if the Tories lose they will only have themselves to blame. The system is broke so they should have mended it while they had the chance. — Yours faithfully,

Rolf Richardson

Wootton Road, Henley

Yes, it is worth voting

Sir, — Is it worth voting in our Henley parliamentary constituency? Given the huge Tory majority, many people think not.

To combat this apathy, fellow Henley resident Victoria Morgan and I set up a FaceBook page to encourage people to vote with purpose.

It’s called “Is it worth voting in our Henley constituency?” We only set it up a week ago and we already have more than 650 members and we’re looking for more. It has been an amazing success.

Four of the constituency candidates have joined and contributed to the debates and our Mayor has joined too.

There’s no doubt that democracy is alive and kicking here, among people who were disconnected and disaffected just a few days ago.

One of the ideas that has emerged is that tactical voting could be a way of giving people a real choice. This often happens in marginal seats but group members think it could work in the Henley constituency too.

In the recent county council elections, those who opposed the Tories won 49 per cent of the vote in our constituency, so if those voters can unite around a single candidate, there is a real chance of changing the status quo.

Even if John Howell still wins, the people of Henley will have had a proper chance to challenge him. That will be good for everyone.

Just who that candidate will be is still being discussed by the group but whoever it is, the more people who vote for them, the better.

So if you want to know how to make your vote count on June 8, please join our group and get involved. Just search on FaceBook for “Is it worth voting in our Henley constituency?” and click on “join”. — Yours faithfully,

Dr Bill Pollard

Ancastle Green, Henley

Honest about social care

Sir, — As your correspondent John Howard points out (Standard, May 26), an early leaflet of mine contained a typo. It was spotted. It was corrected.

As to the number of times I have been to Henley, taking the month of May as an example, I have been to Henley the equivalent of twice a week and that in a constituency with almost 120 villages and towns.

In addition, negotiating for better air traffic control over Henley and the joint seminar on neighbourhood planning are examples of working for Henley away from the town.

As for your mystery correspondent, JS (same edition), let me deal with their scaremongering.

Quite simply, the NHS is not being sold off and there is no plan to introduce private insurance.

As far as care costs go, you already have to pay for your own residential care, if you require it, and you may have to sell your house, leaving you with assets of just over £23,000.

So what we are trying to do is to increase the amount you will have by over four times by setting it at £100,000.

We are also making sure that no one has to sell their house during their or their surviving spouse’s lifetimes.

We are trying to treat residential and domiciliary care the same and we are also putting a cap on the amount of care costs you will have to pay in total.

The costs of social care and the number of elderly people needing care are rapidly increasing while the number of working people able to fund these costs out of taxation is not.

There will be two million more people over 75 years old in our society over the next decade alone.

We are being totally honest with people about the state of the social care budget and putting forward some changes to help make this more sustainable. — Yours faithfully,

John Howell

Conservative parliamentary candidate for Henley

You’re only a parish council

Sir, — Under the Local Government Act of 1972, the Municipal Borough Council of Henley-on-Thames became a successor parish. However, along with many other towns in a similar situation, provision was made for such a town, if it so desired, to be styled a town, elect a council and have the right to appoint what the Act describes as “local officers of dignity”.

Reading the reports and letters in the Henley Standard over the last couple of weeks regarding the farcical goings- on over mayor-making, one wonders if it is perhaps not time for the council to step into the 21st century and cast off these ancient trappings, which seem to be at the heart of massaging so many egos, and revert to what it really is — a parish council with very limited powers which simply elects a chairman. — Yours faithfully,

Simon Haynes

Watcombe Road, Watlington

Bring back council house

Sir, — It was heartbreaking to read about Claire Beavis and her family being unable to secure accommodation in Woodcote (Standard, May 26). She, and many, many other local youngsters do not stand a chance.

I am sick of hearing about “affordable” housing. There is no such thing in this area, especially if you are a shop worker or anyone on a low wage. Affordable housing is still way beyond their reach.

Council housing is urgently needed. Instead of selling off the old Chilterns End care home site in Henley to some developer who would, as usual, build expensive homes, why not build council houses there instead? Or build council houses on the land next to Waterman’s allotments.

Local young people are not only needed in this town but, I feel, have a right to live in the area where they were born and raised.

Henley is going to end up being even more of a ghost town than it is now if we do not help local young people. — Yours faithfully,

J Hadley

Leaver Road, Henley

Stop blocking new homes

Sir, — Thank you for the article about Claire Beavis.

I am delighted to see that you have tackled the problem of Woodcote Parish Council constantly blocking new houses being built.

When I moved to Woodcote nearly 10 years ago I was told by my neighbour that “you can’t open a shed door without the parish council trying to block it”!

I hope now that this poor girl finds a home and that the council stops hiding behind its neighbourhood plan and realises that we need new houses. — Yours faithfully,

Mrs D Baker

Woodcote

Please respect our grounds

Sir, — Sadly, in recent weeks, we have had damage caused to property in the grounds of the Sue Ryder hospice at Nettlebed from people entering and using the area irresponsibly.

The grounds of the hospice are lovingly maintained by our groundsman and volunteers to create a peaceful, calm place for patients, their families and friends to enjoy whilst in our care.

Although we allow access for the public to walk through the grounds, they are private and, as such, we expect people to respect this.

We do not wish to close the grounds but may have to consider this if the damage and disrespectful use of them continues.

We have had glass panes broken in the summer house, smashed bottles left on paths and general litter left around the grounds.

In addition, donation bags in the donation station have been split open and the contents strewn around the area.

Not only does this mean we will incur the cost to replace the broken glass but we also have to spend considerable time clearing up to make the grounds safe and enjoyable and to maintain the beautiful area that we occupy.

We are grateful for the support Thames Valley Police are giving us in helping to solve these issues but would ask the local community to please only access the grounds if they can do so respectfully. — Yours faithfully,

Stewart Marks

Director, Sue Ryder hospice, Nettlebed

Destruction of wildlife

Sir, — Where have all the flowers gone — the deer, rabbits, birds and insects? Churned up, every one — that’s where they’ve gone.

I am devastated to see the mutilation of the meadow at Highlands Farm in Henley.

This once lovely haven for wildlife, full of silver birches, buddleias, fir trees and wild fauna has been totally flattened, leaving nowhere for rabbits with their young, pheasants, skylarks, blackbirds, deer and other wildlife to inhabit.

As a regular walker, I have often enjoyed theses meadows and the wildlife they sustain.

This land has now been mowed down to provide a car park for the coming triathlon and what follows next is anyone’s guess!

Already the adjoining land has been sold for a large housing development even though Henley’s infrastructure can hardly cope with the existing traffic and population.

As usual, it all seems to come down to money, at the expense of our volatile and fragile wildlife.

I hope that something can be done about the further overdevelopment of Henley as, if it is not handled with more sensitivity and compassion, our beautiful surroundings are likely to be destroyed by overcrowding and more pollution. — Yours faithfully,

Kay Bunyan

Elizabeth Road, Henley

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