Sunday, 20 August 2017

Your letters...

The ‘Drink lots zones’

Sir, — It was patently obvious during Saturday’s regatta “revelations” that the “No drink zones” should have read “Drink lots zones”!

My wife’s day started at 3.30am when a large group of colourfully jacketed heroes wrenched a new sign from its mountings (outside where we live) and dispatched it with drunken vigour.

The latter was, of course, interspersed by obligatory police cone throwing — thankfully not at the cars parked alongside our service road.

The “No drink zone” looked on sadly from its vantage point on the street lamp near the Rupert House School playing field.

At 4.30pm I was driving into town on the Reading road. The “No drink zone” signs turned away as teenagers took it in turn to swig from vodka bottles while blocking the pavement for others.

As we drove up Duke Street, more youngsters were parading around slurping from wine glasses — this seemed to catch on as we went along Bell Street where more were seen quaffing from these popular vessels.

The “No drink zone” signs had given up by this time and were really wanting someone to change their appearance to symbolic hands clutching wine and beer glasses with the caption “Drink lots zone”!

On Sunday, after collecting the paper, I had a quick chat with a resident from Northfield End.

We mused over the “human regatta traffic”, which exits in our particular part of the town, on its way to the cars parked (by the great Lions) along Fair Mile and the odd “behavioural spikes” on the way.

He explained to me that the night before, as his wife was entering their property, a drunken jacketed reveller followed her to the front door, exclaiming: “Is this the pub?” You couldn’t make it up!

If the “No drink zone” signs are to work surely the area of responsibility should have more “eyes on”.

I am, of course, acutely aware of the more important priorities which have unfortunately taken centre stage and, if that is the reason for lower levels of “surveillance”, I would absolutely understand. — Yours faithfully,

Jim Mason

Fair Mile, Henley

Don’t forget us families

Sir, — As a Henley resident, I pre-purchased nine tickets for our party of 10 for the Copas Barn Bar to enjoy this event with my extended family who were visiting us this regatta Saturday for the first time.

My nephew, who is an under-18 national indoor rowing champion, was with us and was excited to see what this event offers someone who is passionate about rowing.

I remembered the Barn Bar from previous years as an open area with picnic tables, food and a bar. Somewhere casual and relaxed to rest with a dog and kids after the long walk up the course.

This year this was particularly important as I’m half way through chemotherapy for cancer, so our family get-together had special significance and my walk was more tiring and seating was a crucial factor in our choice of venue. A friend had also told me she was taking her family there on Sunday.

We had intended to use the Stag and Huntsman Fawley Meadows site but I found out late on Friday that it wasn’t available this year.

Looking at the Henley Royal Regatta and Copas websites, it wasn’t clear to me what family-friendly options there were, although I knew to avoid Chinawhite given it is always aimed at over-21s.

As I was out of options, I booked the Barn Bar to ensure us access on the day, as noted on the Copas website.

The website didn’t say: No families welcome; No dogs welcome. It did say over-21s only on Saturday but I naively assumed that meant no unaccompanied under-21s or perhaps, if more strict, enforced from the evening onwards, when we would be long gone.

The terms and conditions said all children must be accompanied, which seemed encouraging enough for me to book.

It wasn’t clear to me if under-14s had to pay, so I called the ticket hotline number to check, as the youngest member of our party was 11, but I couldn’t get through nor leave a message.

The FAQ section on the website has no frequently asked questions listed at all. I decided to query this additional ticket on the day as tickets could also be bought on the gate for £15 if needed.

The enclosure was empty when we arrived just before midday. The security staff were friendly, as promised on the website.

The two girls checking our e-tickets were friendly when I asked if I needed a ticket for my 11-year-old but uncertain.

We were told we couldn’t enter because we had under-18s with us, we had our dog with us and it was over-21s only. We were told the over-21s policy was so that Copas could keep control.

I asked “do we look uncontrollable?” I told them I was having treatment for cancer and was unhappy about their refusal to let us in and asked to speak to the most senior manager available.

As we waited I began to think, “were the Copas team seriously refusing entry to a local family who had paid £90 for tickets, in good faith, when that enclosure area was empty?”

Yes, it turned out they were. Their supervisors didn’t want to listen and were rude. The female manager was helpful but could only refund us and send us further along the course, near the start line, to the public grandstand, a facility not promoted on the website.

When did the Copas business decide its Barn Bar public venue should not accommodate families at all on a Saturday? Why doesn’t its website make that clearer? Why doesn’t the royal regatta website better signpost families to suitable venues? Why wasn’t the free (and lovely) public area we finally used not mentioned on the website, other than on a map?

Is it because Henley Royal Regatta and Copas want to direct all people to ticket-entry only venues? Do they no longer think families are important as customers?

Why has the regatta increasingly turned into a primarily alcohol-centric, commercially driven undertaking instead of a balanced, rowing-pleasure related concern that everyone can access equally? Why is there a lack of imagination that an enclosure such as the Barn Bar could serve more than one market sector, in sequence, on its busiest day, e.g. family friendly up to 5pm and then over-21s after that?

Despite our setback, my nephew and our family enjoyed the day.

Sadly, my lasting impression is that Henley Royal Regatta and Copas prefer to ruthlessly develop the commercial aspects of this event in an uncaring, unsporting and family-unfriendly way.

Our experience suggests to me that those in charge have therefore lost touch with the community they serve or, put another way, families or those with disabilities are not welcome on a Saturday. — Yours faithfully,

Name and address
supplied

The Copas Partnership, Temple Island Meadows, responds: “The Barn Bar has had an over-21s door policy on Henley Saturday for many years. This is published on our website, promotional material and ticketing system, along with our no dogs policy.

It is important to us that the regatta is open to all. The majority of facilities within Temple Island Meadows, which cover the first half of the regatta course, do not have an age restriction and include reserved parking, picnic areas, moorings, picnic pavilions, shopping village, viewing areas and hospitality enclosures.

These are listed on our website (www.henleyregatta.com) along with information on our facilities for wheelchair users and high-dependency customers. We work with the charity Whizz-Kidz, which helps us ensure the suitability of these facilities, as detailed under “Accessibility”.

We have also been delighted to provide facilities for many schools, clubs and young and aspiring rowers during the week.

The Barn Bar itself is unticketed and without age restriction for the remainder of the regatta week and has a particular ‘Family Day’ focus on Henley Sunday, when we offer children’s entertainment and activities, which were promoted by the Henley Standard, and enjoyed by many families, both local and from further afield.

As soon as this misunderstanding arose on Regatta Saturday, we refunded the family in full and suggested alternative areas from which to enjoy the Regatta.

“We recommended our facilities at The Start, from which they could enjoy free access to seating, viewing grandstand, race commentary and toilets, with food and drink concessions close at hand. We are pleased to hear that the family found this area to be lovely.

Henley Royal Regatta and Temple Island Meadows are separate entities and are not cross-promoted. The Start area is fully detailed on our website, along with our other facilities.”

Daniel Grist, secretary of Henley Royal Regatta, responds: “I am very sorry that you have been left with a disappointing view of Henley Royal Regatta and the facilities it offers.

Henley Royal Regatta operates the Regatta Enclosure, which is open to all on the purchase of an admission badge, either online or from Regatta HQ, which is open Monday to Friday from the beginning of April.

The Regatta Enclosure opens 30 minutes before the first race each day and closes a short time after the last race. There is no restriction on age and admission is free to children under the age of 14 when accompanied by an adult. However, dogs are not permitted.

There is also the opportunity to benefit from a group admission discount and it is very popular with Henley residents.

The Regatta Enclosure offers an open grandstand, riverside seating, bar and café facilities as well as a restaurant that offers a more formal lunch and afternoon tea.

Family parties are very welcome and there is no formal dress code. Toilet facilities for those visiting in wheelchairs and a baby-changing area are provided.

Henley Royal Regatta does not operate the Barn Bar, Chinawhite or the Stag and Huntsman facilities.”

Profiteering taxi drivers

Sir, — Mid-afternoon on regatta Friday, I approached the first of six taxis on the rank in Hart Street.

I asked to be taken to Rotherfield Greys, a journey of five miles which normally costs £8 to £10 during the day.

The driver told me it would be a minimum of £20 as all fares were being doubled during the regatta.

I am all in favour of a market economy but surely such blatant attempted (as I refused the ride) profiteering is contrary to the terms of their licences. — Yours faithfully,

Paul Fairweather

Rotherfield Greys

Quiet start for regatta

Sir, — We live in Caversham and travel to Henley every day. Never has the road been quieter nor have the car parks in town been quieter than on the first day of Henley Royal Regatta.

The expectation of numbers is wrong. Brexit, cladding and terrorism in the news play a big part of people’s lives everywhere... and Henley is no exception. — Yours faithfully,

Ian and Lou Standing

Caversham

Wonderful evening

Sir, — We had a wonderful community gathering on Makins recreation ground for the Henley regatta fireworks on Saturday night.

We met at 7pm and the children played in the park and we toasted marshmallows.

The fireworks were spectacular and we had an amazing view.

It was a lovely evening. — Yours faithfully,

Paula Isaac

Gainsborough Road, Henley

Vital support for display

Sir, — Once again the tradition of a fireworks display on the Saturday of the royal regatta took place.

Thousands of people watching from Henley Bridge, the riverside and vantage points across the town were treated to a stunning display.

Our thanks go to all those townspeople who so generously parted with their hard-earned cash to enable the display to happen, either by donating to collecting boxes or by paying directly into the publicised fireworks bank account.

Special thanks must go to James Mackie for his tremendous support, Lady McAlpine, Leander Club, Henley Royal Regatta, Henley Town Council, Phyllis Court Club, Connie Butt and a number of anonymous individuals and families who made significant donations. They know who they are!

Thanks, too, to the Crockett family for the use of the land as a launching site, to Fantastic Fireworks for putting on such a great show and the Copas family for allowing us access through their land.

Each year it becomes increasingly difficult to raise the £12,000 needed to keep this much-loved tradition going.

If everyone in the town were to donate just £1 next year, the display would go ahead once again.

Fundraising for 2018 will begin early next year and we are considering looking for a major sponsor.

Watch this space then to find out how you can ensure that once again the skies over Henley will light up in spectacular fashion. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Will Hamilton and Richard Reed

Organisers of the summer regatta fireworks display

Fabulous fireworks

Sir, — Congratulations and thanks are due to all who had anything to do with the fireworks display in Henley on Saturday night.

It was a stunning display, of the right duration, and a fitting finale to the regatta racing. Well done, all. — Yours faithfully,

Geoff Luckett

Henley

Sparkling effort by all

Sir, — Thanks and congratulations are due to Councillor Will Hamilton and Richard Reed for their heroic efforts in raising the money for this year’s “regatta” fireworks.

Having done myself it for the past eight years, I know just how tough it is.

Fantastic Fireworks put on a superb display and thanks must go to the Crockett family for the loan of their field and to Copas for their continuing support.

Thanks, of course, to all who contributed to this Henley tradition. — Yours faithfully,

Lady McAlpine

Fawley Hill

New school’s good for us all

Sir, — Last May, my family and I moved to Upper Woodcote Road, Caversham.

Our local primary catchment schools weren’t an option as we were 51st and 42nd in line for a place.

The choice was between a commute back to our old school in Winnersh or fight for a place at the new Heights Primary School despite its uncertain future.

Once we discovered the warm, positive, can-do environment, we were eager to ensure our son could start straight away.

The headteacher and staff were so incredibly supportive and not only did our son settle quickly, he has thrived and now loves school and has made strong friendships.

Our school goes from strength to strength and has created a mini community of positive children excelling at learning.

The recent “outstanding” rating by Ofsted recognises the incredible standards the staff, trustees, governors and children have achieved.

The remaining hurdle for our wonderful school is the much-needed move to a permanent site.

Space is becoming cramped as each additional year is squeezed into our fantastic school at its temporary home in Lower Caversham.

Choices are being made between libraries and classrooms, which is far from ideal.

This week the formal consultation on the proposed permanent location at Mapledurham playing fields begins.

I write to encourage as many people as possible to read and respond to the consultation document.

It’s not a straightforward document but the consultation will be asking us all to consider whether the £1.36million investment in the lease of land will benefit the community.

More importantly, it will ask you how you want the investment to be prioritised.

The move of the school to the playing fields is hugely beneficial to the local and wider community.

The fields are utilised but are not optimised for our local community.

The investment offers us all a wonderful opportunity to greatly enhance and add significant value to our community — young and old, now and in the future. I appreciate that there is concern over the amount of space the school would utilise.

However, at the summer fete, the site was marked out for everyone to see.

It was so encouraging to see that, despite the proposed school site being cordoned off, the fete had plenty of space, including for pony rides and go-karts, without infringing on all the football pitches and leaving so much space still available to use.

We have a beautiful space in our locality and with the exciting and sympathetic school plans now available, our community can start making this space work harder for us all.

I am enthused about the opportunity to have my say as to the new facilities at Mapledurham playing fields and I’m looking forward to the new clubs and facilities available to me, my family and my community.

Maybe with such a busy lifestyle, and on such a busy road, we can begin to form a strong and united community centred around our playing fields and school. — Yours faithfully,

Jennie Aspin

Upper Woodcote Road, Caversham

Outstanding performance

Sir, — I write to congratulate the Heights Primary School in Caversham for its recent “outstanding” Ofsted rating (Standard, June 30).

As a Heights parent, I am overjoyed that Ofsted recognised what everyone at the school knows to be true: that our wonderful school is outstanding in every way!

While the process of securing our school’s permanent location continues, the incredibly professional and dedicated Heights school team — led by “inspirational” headteacher Karen Edwards — have been hard at work creating a local primary school to be proud of.

I am so thankful to this extraordinary team and am thoroughly confident that my son is happy and receives the best standard of education at his catchment school.

Before the school opened in September 2014, due to the shortfall in available school places in west Caversham, we faced the prospect of sending our son to a school in Oxfordshire or over the bridge in Reading — away from his local community.

We strongly believed (and still do) that a local school forges links in a community that are beneficial to all. We wanted our children to know who their neighbours were, to be able to walk to school, to give something back to their community.

With all this in mind, we took a leap of faith and joined the Heights as one of the founding families and are so very thankful that we did.

With this outstanding news, the school has proved itself an incredible asset for everyone in Caversham Heights, one which will reap rewards for generations to come. Thank you, Team Heights! — Yours faithfully,

Michele Pattison

Geoffreyson Road, Caversham Heights

Benefit of grammars

Sir, — Laura Coyle, the Liberal Democrats’ parliamentary spokesperson for the Henley constituency, is delighted that the Government appears to have abandoned plans for the expansion of grammar schools (Standard, June 30).

She claims that any increase in grammar schools would have no impact on social mobility but this controversial view misses the key point. Grammar schools provide an academic and intellectual environment that, with the best will in the world, most comprehensive schools (75 per cent) cannot equal, for very understandable reasons.

Our highest-achieving youngsters deserve an education consonant with their abilities and this should not be subject to any viewpoint on social engineering.

Some parents of very able students currently in comprehensive schools claim that their children are “doing well”. In many cases, however, they simply do not realise what their children could be experiencing in terms of academic and intellectual depth and width if they were at a grammar school. — Yours faithfully,

Douglas Kedge

Retired comprehensive school teacher, Lea Road, Sonning Common

Plan lacks ambition

Sir, — I write in response to your article on the proposed move of Goring Primary School, which mentions our proposed site east of Gatehampton Road (Standard, June 23).

The diocese and the school board of governors have made it clear that the current school is sub-standard.

There would appear to be a window of opportunity to find a new site for the school which would radically improve this vital piece of community infrastructure to benefit current and future generations.

In relation to the comment about the remoteness of our alternative site at Gatehampton Road, this is not the case. It is located close to the heart of the village with good pedestrian links.

In fact, it is about equidistant from the centre compared with the existing school. The site is also notably well located for the station.

As well as two hectares for the school, the large site has potential to provide other community facilities such as allotments and landscaped public open space.

These uses could be designed to relate very well to and complement the existing adjacent Sheepcot recreation ground.

The ideal place to assess the possible sites for the new school would be through the emerging neighbourhood plan, which is supposed to plan for the next 15 years.

However, the comments from the co-chairman of the neighbourhood plan steering group make it clear that they do not wish to help with a solution for the school through the plan.

This is reflective of our real concern about the lack of ambition of the plan, which is seeking to allocate the minimum number of homes (90 instead of the guide of 251 in the emerging local plan).

It also appears to be doing very little to provide improved facilities for the community.

This may be fine for people who own their own homes and whose children have finished school but it fails a significant part of the demographic to whom this does not apply.

All the sites along Gatehampton Road put forward as having potential for development have so far been discounted by the neighbourhood plan, despite South Oxfordshire District Council’s own land availability assessment concluding that some could be suitable for housing.

We are aware that residents of Manor Road opposed to the proposed allocation of a nearby site (GNP3), which is affected by flooding, are questioning the justification for this.

The logical thing for the steering group to do would be to pause to allow a pro-active assessment of the needs of the village, including education, over the next 15 years and how it can be improved for the residents. — Yours faithfully,

Jonathan Porter

Planning director, Archstone Projects, Cheltenham

Wider impact of bypass

Sir, — The proposed Watlington bypass needs to be thought about in a wider context than just the much-needed relief for the town (Standard, June 30).

If the long-mooted third Reading bridge becomes reality, the route between Reading and the M40 would become more attractive, thereby increasing traffic through Sonning Common and other local communities.

Presumably the current bottleneck would be relieved by the small northwestern bypass, only to be replaced at some future date by increased traffic between Reading and the M40 to whom the Britwell Road/Pyrton crossroads route would be inaccessible.

Maybe it would be better to think along the lines of a bypass from Britwell Road south around, then across, the B480 Howes Road to bypass Watlington on its eastern side.

I am not against a third bridge in principle. I just fear the local consequences if it is not accompanied by a new distribution road.

Thus it might be better to plan a Watlington bypass with the eastern side configured so that it could be incorporated in a future distribution road extending between the bridge and the M40 or at least in itself cope with the additional traffic generated by the bridge.

By the way, those Reading folk who feel that we South Oxonians are just Nimbys should themselves contemplate the potential consequences of a bridge without a distribution road with various Caversham residential streets becoming rat runs between the bridge and Woodcote Road.

The “Caversham Park expressway” (currently known as Caversham Park Road) would need to have its chicanes removed so as to speed up traffic flow from the bridge to reach the new traffic jams elsewhere more quickly! — Yours faithfully,

Ken Stevens

Red House Drive, Sonning Common

No room for houses here

Sir, — Calls for more homes in my lovely home town of Henley are okay if the land is available.

Unfortunately, this handsome and well-laid out town cannot take the sort of homes your correspondent Malcolm Adamson speaks of (Standard, June 9).

The town may well be endowed with schools etc but its general layout means you cannot do what you wish as a cyclist.

I note how the traffic and the resulting pollution levels are bad, so the general environment cannot take more building.

But we can bring forth more of Mr Adamson’s wishes by being brave and building north of our Chilterns in, say, a place like Benson, an expanding suburb with plenty of space and more beyond the horizon. Problem solved. — Yours faithfully,

Peter M Adams

Ramshill, Petersfield, Hants

Village stuck in the Fifties

Sir, — I see that the good Nimbys of Shiplake are now objecting to Bremont’s planned relocation to a new site nearby (Standard, June 30).

Not content with objecting to virtually every application for new homes, they now do not want to see a leading luxury watch company bring additional jobs to the area.

Clearly they believe that Shiplake should remain in the Fifties and not be touched by any new buildings at all. — Yours faithfully,

Garry Forster

Goring Heath

Was vote for ‘Soft Brexit’?

Sir, — Yvonne Kedge states that “Soft Brexit is no Brexit” (Standard, June 30).

Is that what the electorate one year on from the referendum was hoping for? — Yours faithfully,

Enid Light

Wargrave Road, Henley

My angel at supermarket

Sir, — I would just like everyone to know that I think we have a wonderful and helpful supermarket in Henley called Tesco.

June 21 was not only the longest day but also the hottest so far this year and at about midday, after doing my shopping, my mobility scooter broke down in the store’s car park.

Julia noticed my predicament and came to my rescue. She called my daughter (I do not have a mobile phone), who came to collect me.

Then Julia, with the help of her management, helped look after my scooter until my insurance breakdown service could collect it. She also provided me with a cooling bottle of water. She is an angel. — Yours faithfully,

Mrs M Turner

Vicarage Road, Henley

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