Sunday, 20 August 2017

Your letters...

Real tragedy of child death

Sir, — The real tragedy about the death of any child.

This week the western world and their neighbours will discuss the future of Charlie Gard. The decision is not easy for anyone involved directly.

On July 12th I was told our twin sons would die by caring doctors who knew the odds. I was devastated and argued and pleaded and prayed. I held the hands of our twin boys as they died the next day, July 13th: there was nothing anyone could do. This happened 40 years ago but my memories of that experience are etched in my mind. They still hurt and still affect my life, every day.

Sadly our oldest daughter was very hurt that I did not turn to her in my lonely misery whilst my wife recovered in hospital. She was only four years old at that time and I never thought of her feelings. Instead, I arranged for caring neighbours to look after her. This was a mistake. It was a lesson I slowly learned to accept.

Those who suffer the loss of a child need to focus on the living and on sharing with and caring for those who need the most help, the siblings of a dead child and your partner and your parents.

These are the most important people, the ones who share in your grief, who will live with you afterwards and who will understand each year and every other time you are reminded of your loss.

Incredibly, one in four women are estimated to experience and suffer from a miscarriage, it is one of the unspoken tragedies of life. We too suffered again when our second daughter was still-born.

Worse still, the deaths of the twins and our daughter could all have been avoided. But that’s life. The loss of a child or children is incredibly hard to cope with.

So let all of us who learn about such a death give thanks in a practical way for the healthy lives of our living children and support the charities and organisations that provide help for those not so lucky, for example the world’s first children’s hospice is nearby: www.helenanddouglas.org.uk/all-about-us/.

Since the death of Mikela my wife and I have chosen to support three children in third world countries, via Action Aid, because so many children in the countries served by Action Aid and similar charities will never stand a chance without our practical financial help: https://www.actionaid.org.uk — Yours faithfully,

Peter Woolsey

Sonning Common Patient Participation Group

True cost of regatta time

Sir, — The Henley Standard trumpets the economic benefits of the royal regatta (Standard, July 7) but it is time to be realistic about this and the associated events at this time of year.

First of all, there is no definitive study that shows that there are indeed any true overall economic benefits to the town. Certainly, our experience from many retailers is that they say the regatta season is their worst time of the year.

When Peter Brown had his furniture store in town he closed for the whole week. Why? Because the economic well-being of Henley depends entirely on local residents, many of whom stay away during the regatta to avoid the disruption.

Clearly, as the Standard shows, the coffee shops may do well, but generally the hordes of visitors head directly to the river and do not go on shopping expeditions in town.

In that sense it is unrealistic, as suggested in this article, to expect that they can be pushed into shopping in Henley when their objectives are very different. This is like asking football fans that go to Wembley to do some local shopping in the town. Not likely.

But let us assume, for the time being, that there are indeed some economic benefits.

One thing is indisputable: any and all benefits accrue to Henley town, whereas all of the costs and disruptions accrue to Remenham. Because this is not a Henley regatta at all, it is a Remenham regatta; 90 per cent of all the activity associated with these events occurs in Remenham, even the royal regatta headquarters are in Remenham. And the costs are significant and increasing every year.

What many do not appreciate is that they view these events as just a few days here and there. However, the reality is that it involves 30 continuous days of disruption from before the Henley Women’s Regatta (HWR) to the end of the Henley Masters, not to mention the Henley Festival.

The fairies do not appear the night before these events and erect the tents and associated facilities; it involves days of set up and take down.

And here is the real problem: heavy articulated lorries attempt, in a completely unmanaged way, to negotiate single track lanes, entirely unsuitable to these events with no traffic controls whatsoever.

So they meet head-on with no way of passing each other, resulting in very significant delays and general chaos. It is not unusual to find oneself stuck for an hour while someone tries to unlock these problems; trains are missed, important meetings are missed.

Getting to the Festival along Remenham Lane for residents took 50 minutes and 55 minutes on two consecutive nights to cover less than a mile. Again, the problem is that no one accepts responsibility for this appalling mess.

Residents are denied their legal rights to use their homes in the normal way, whereas those who profit from these events turn a blind eye. None of the residents of Henley town would accept this level of disruption.

It is time that those who instigate and benefit from these events take responsibility for a proper management of them. In the main this is a traffic management problem.

The traffic scheme in operation during the royal regatta works well. We need something similar throughout the regatta season. The problem is that it costs money.

Perhaps Henley would be willing to share some of its economic benefits to compensate for the chaos visited on their neighbours?

One thing is clear: as a first step, the town needs to understand fully the consequences, both for Remenham and Henley itself, when voices are raised, as they have been, for further expansion of events on the river; a line needs to be drawn under the current level of activity.

Oh, and we forgot, there is the Rewind Festival to look forward to with its hopelessly inept traffic management system that causes further chaos. It’s time to do something. — Yours faithfully,

Ron and Angie Emerson

Remenham Lane,
Remenham

Complainers stuck in past

Sir, — I write in response to your letters “Erosion of standards” and “Bring back classy acts” (Standard, July 14). It would seem that some of your readers are stuck in the past.

It is disappointing that new “beat” acts receive such bad reviews. I saw Chaka and thought she was on form at 64 years of age and her band were top-drawer.

I didn’t see Goldie, however he is an extremely important British artist that should be treated with respect. He is an individual and a one-off. If you look past the “excessive volume”, “flashing lights” and the “constant thud of the contempary genre” and listen to the music, you would see that Goldie’s piece Timeless is an important piece of our British culture, musical heritage and has every right to be on that stage.

Goodness me — it’s 2017! Light and sound have progressed magnificantly since the early Eighties, why not embrace it like the Henley Festival has done and I hope continues to do so?

Comments displaying the typical moaning about people standing up and dancing (how dare they!). Slurs like “people of a certain age”, “real festival followers” and “put the class back into classy”. These comments hurt the most.

Henley festival is a festival to celebrate art. All art. Art appeals to all ages and all people. Thats how art works. It’s for everyone.

Why not trying not being so narrow minded and you never know, you might enjoy yourself.

Please remember that art is subjective... Alright, maybe one night for the oldies to keep them sweet. Maybe a good old marching band on the Saturday night? I hear they like that sort of stuff. — Yours faithfully,

Sam Wilkinson

Harpsden Road

Prediction

was spot on

Sir, — I have just read this week’s Henley Standard and, in particular, the articles on the Henley Festival.

In July 2013 I wrote to the Henley Festival and I predicted, virtually, everything that was wrong with this year’s festival.

My wife and I used to rush home from work, change, and go every evening. Last year we went twice.

For the first time since 1983 (I think) we never went to one performance this year. — Yours faithfully,

Philip Moore

Blandy Road, Henley

Unwelcome

distraction

Sir, — On Saturday afternoon 30 bowlers from Watlington and Henley gathered at Henley Bowls Club in Mill Meadows. It was hoped that this would be a friendly fixture played in peaceful surroundings by the river.

Alas, our expectations were totally shattered as we endured over three hours of an incessant cacophony of noise, played through amplifiers at a very loud volume. An event had been organised!

Our senses were attacked, assailed and assaulted by the constant thud and throbbing of loud African tribal music. There was no escape!

A polite request for the noise level to be reduced was ignored, demonstrating the inconsiderate, selfish and discourteous behaviour of the organisers of this event. A herd of donkeys braying would have been more tuneful and natural than the din that covered the bowling green.

Was this event sanctioned by the town council? If the Mayor of Henley wished to be associated with this event it should have been held in private in the town hall where there would have been no inconvenience to the general public.

Surely Mill Meadows is a public amenity set aside for the pleasure and enjoyment of Henley residents. It should not be acceptable for it to be taken over and hijacked by an outside group to the detriment of the local population.

The phrases “breach of the peace” and “noise pollution” spring to mind. Due to the excessive noise several bowls players suffered headaches and one, who is affected by tinnitus, had to retire to bed because of the throbbing in his head.

This event was organised in an unacceptable way, with no consideration for the feelings of the ordinary residents of Henley. It was impossible for anyone to have a peaceful, tranquil and relaxing afternoon by the river. The organiser should be severely reprimanded. — Yours faithfully,

Peter Watkins

Henley Bowls Club

Let’s all unite

behind school

Sir, — As a former Caversham GP for 38 years and current resident who has lived within close proximity of Mapledurham Playing Fields for three-quarters of that time, I am delighted to see that the prolonged saga of siting The Heights Primary school on a small corner of the playing fields is coming to a conclusion.

I have enjoyed this delightful area as a tennis player and dog walker for all that time and plan to continue to so, having rarely used the small area that the school will occupy. In the latter stages of my GP career I was chairman of North and West Reading Clinical Commissioning Group and responsible for commissioning “Beat the Street” which was designed to motivate children and their families to walk to school to encourage the lifelong habit of daily exercise.

The health benefits of 30 minutes’ walking every day cannot be underestimated. It potentially reduces the risk of developing many long-term conditions and improves all of those conditions once established, such as diabetes, heart disease, depression, most mental health conditions, osteoporosis and hip fracture. Anyone can google an excellent YouTube video “23 and a half hours”, which explains the evidence.

Siting The Heights near where the children live will increase the opportunity to walk to school, and as we discovered from the “Beat the Street” data this will also benefit their parents and grandparents who walk with them. It will also no doubt reduce the queues and pollution on St Peter’s Hill every morning.

I now work for the Care Quality Commission inspecting general practices and know how difficult it is to achieve “outstanding” ratings. The best I have ever seen (in more than 100 inspections so far) achieved “outstanding” ratings in “three out of five” categories.

For a school just three years old to achieve “five out of five” outstanding ratings whilst working from temporary facilities is just amazing.

The trust who had the vision to develop this much-needed school and the headteacher and staff who have worked so hard to establish it deserve the warmest of congratulations for this remarkable achievement.

I sincerely hope that we can unite in welcoming one of the best primary schools in the country to its new home in the heart of our community. — Yours faithfully,

Rod Smith

Upper Warren Avenue,

Caversham

Courting

controversy

Sir, — I am writing to object to the planning application that the Education Funding Agency has submitted to Reading Borough Council numbered 171023 for The Heights school to be built on recreational trust land called Mapledurham Playing fields.

I am the current chairman of Mapledurham Tennis Club (MLTC), which has been sited next to the pavilion for 60 years and currently has a room at the east end of the pavilion and use of the toilets at that end.

In 2014 we won £40,000 lottery money from Sport England and, with £30,000 from our own funds we re-fenced the courts, landscaped the area between the courts and the pavilion, resurfaced two courts, repainted two courts, tarmacked a section of the car park and built a veranda outside our room.

As part of the re-fencing we installed wide gates to allow wheelchair access and routes to courts and the club room are by ramps.

The final work planned as part of our project was to widen the door to the toilets and install a disabled toilet. This has been held up for three years now because all work on the pavilion has been stopped by the borough council due to the new school plans.

Why should new school plans stop us refurbishing or improving the pavilion in any way? This is a mystery unless the borough council’s long-term plan is to demolish the pavilion, which they have emphatically denied several times.

Last year the club won an award presented by the Lawn Tennis Association for the best community contribution by any tennis club in Berkshire. This is in part due to the fact that we fund weekly tennis lessons for special needs children and adults from the Reading area. We had hoped to do the same for wheelchair users but, as I mentioned, this has been held up by the council.

On behalf of most of the tennis club, which has more than 260 members, including 70 juniors, I am vigorously against the new school being built on Mapledurham Playing Fields for so many reasons.

1. It would be breaking the trust.

2. It will interfere with the Trent Football club.

3. It has already closed the pavilion down, upsetting many clubs who have been using it for years.

4. It will completely change the look and feel of the site for the worse, particularly as it is a two-storey building.

5. It will cause parking problems for existing users.

6. I predict it will create traffic problems in the mornings and afternoons as parents come and go on to the busy Woodcote Road.

7. It is totally unnecessary as Bugs Bottom and Dyson’s Wood are great alternatives and a new school at either of these alternative sites would not affect any existing recreational activities.

Dog walking was raised at Bugs Bottom but dog walking could still take place as the school would only take a small percentage of a large area.

8. It will set a precedent and as the council has been trying to get control of the playing fields for more than 50 years, it won’t be long before they come up with another scheme which will be “proven” to be beneficial to the nearby residents.

9. The playing fields were chosen as the best site for a new school after a survey in May 2015, which was done by the council and the funding authority. But the results were represented in such a way that the true feelings of the residents were hidden by nearly 3,000 votes made by people outside the local area and 268 of those votes were not even in the Reading area!

Raw data, we are told by the borough council and the funding authority has been lost! So a fairer analysis of the data could not be made. However, based on their own published results I can show that it is a completely bogus analysis. I am, by the way, a qualified maths teacher.

10. If these plans are approved, I predict that council will not renew our tennis club’s lease when due and the school will take over the courts. — Yours faithfully,

David Maynerd

Chairman, Mapledurham Lawn Tennis Club

Clear steps to cleaner air

Sir, — Having completed two Clean Air campaigns with dedicated helpers we have now a better insight into the challenges facing Henley.

The Close the Door campaign allowed us to visit 100 shops in the town centre and the Clean Air leaflet delivered to thousands of homes gave us the opportunity to discuss this topic with many residents on their door steps.

Both groups saw the issues as dirt, the dust and particulates settling on their windows and doorsteps, noise, especially the sound of heavy goods vehicles now travelling all over Henley and smell, from the diesel vehicles.

There are too many cases of asthma amongst children and adults. Adults can move away and often get better quite quickly.

All the councils, as well as government, involved have in recent times ashamedly achieved nothing.

If Henley is to remain an iconic town then actions need to start soon. However you also have to help by changing your lifestyle. Owners of contaminating vehicles should help to pay for the clean-up. — Yours faithfully,

David Dickie

Clean Air for Henley, Henley in Transition

Thankful the Edge is saved

Sir, — As a former assistant headteacher at Chiltern Edge School in Sonning Common, I was so relieved and delighted to read that it is no longer expected to close.

The school has been a constant topic of conversation in the local area, in which I still live, and I have been overwhelmed by the number of former parents and pupils who have sung the praises of the school and who were, like me, saddened and shocked to think that it might close.

The staff, parents and pupils co-operated very well and respected each other and this created a great ethos and lovely atmosphere at the school. I hope that the staff will be reassured by the “Save our Edge” campaign that they have the support of local people, parents and communities and this ethos will continue.

Everybody involved in the successful campaign deserves the thanks of all the people who have been associated with the school or who live in the local area. Hopefully the staff, parents and pupils can look forward now to a brighter future.

There may be some failings at the school currently but, with help from outside agencies, Maiden Erlegh Trust, Oxfordshire County Council and Reading Borough Council. I hope that the new headteacher and governors are able to put together a school where everyone can feel proud of their achievements.

With the potential expansion of South Oxfordshire, including Sonning Common, and the outskirts of Reading, combined with a report in the weekend press that there will be more than half a million more secondary students, needing about 267 new secondary schools, by 2026, it would have been short-sighted and negligent if the school had closed.

I look forward to hearing of the success of Chiltern Edge School in the years to come. — Yours faithfully,

Graham Lyke

Peppard Road, Emmer Green

Dangers to

walkers

Sir, — Once again I am the voice in the wilderness. In these automated days there are not many of us pedestrians who rely on the excellent bus service to get us from A to B.

I am involved in several interesting events in the village, as well as needing to go shopping, both to Reading and Sonning Common. To use this service and to walk to other venues I use Bird in Hand Lane, stretching from Peppard Road to Kennylands Road.

This lane is designated as a Chilterns Cycleway — there is a notice at the Peppard Road end and also a small plaque on the left-hand-side nearer to Kennylands Road.

Woe betide any cyclist or pedestrian who does not have their wits about them; this country lane is fast becoming extremely dangerous. Not all the users are thoughtless, and I acknowledge them with a wave or smile — but others seem to think that I should leap out of their way.

Some older people do not hear so well and the vehicles can creep up and catch us unawares.

I am actually finding the potholes a blessing as they slow up the traffic.

Can anyone on the local parish council come up with a solution? — Yours faithfully,

Phyllis Colin

Peppard Road, Sonning Common

People would pay bit more

Sir, — The letter headed “Expensive Opposition” (Standard, July 14) contained a number of wild assertions made against the Labour Party, its leader Jeremy Corbyn and the BBC.

Among these was the often quoted fallacy that the Labour Government had been the cause of the 2008 financial crisis.

In fact, the Labour Government did a good job in rescuing the country from its collapsing banks and subsequently stimulating the UK economy.

In discussing public expenditure we need to look at the facts rather than trading insults. With our level of public spending, the UK is below average amongst OECD countries. Most people would be willing to pay a little more in taxes provided this led to an improvement in public services and the environment.

As to debt interest, £55 billion does sound a lot, but this is only about five per cent of total government spending and is supporting past investment.

Our total debt, as a per cent of GDP is currently less than the USA, Japan and all the major European countries except Germany. Debt was promoted by Cameron and Osborne as the big scare to justify austerity, but in the last election, it was hardly mentioned, even though it has increased since 2010.

There is plenty of room for manoeuvre within the economy of the UK to change expenditure patterns and tax rates. With the undoubted challenges of Brexit, housing, health, university fees and social care, we need open discussion, not prejudice and misleading information. — Yours faithfully,

David Winchester

Secretary, Henley
Constituency Labour Party,

Thank-you for concerts

Sir, —May I, through your letters page, pay tribute to Margaret Moola and Elaine Williams, founders and creative directors of Nottakwire, for the wonderful concerts they put on in Sonning Common village hall twice a year.

The community singing choir which so many people enjoy taking part in has become an integral part of village life and supports so many local voluntary groups.

They are particularly supportive of our local young people at Club SC Youth Club, which is based at Chiltern Edge School and we would like to thank them for their very welcome donation of £200 from their summer concert.

How wonderful that so many people get so much pleasure from singing in the choir and have the added bonus of knowing how much it benefits our young people, giving them a safe place to meet their friends, try new crafts and games and have fun. We get well over 40 youngsters each week in our youth club, last week it was 54, and I would like to thank the volunteers who make it possible, many of them from our management committee.

Young parents are volunteering and are making such a difference. We will always welcome more volunteers who can spare a couple of hours once or twice a month. DBS requirements can be organised by the management committee.

Once again, our thanks to Margaret, Elaine and the Nottakwire singers. — Yours faithfully,

Carol Viney

Club SC Management Committee

Needless

promotion

Sir, — Walking up from the town centre last week I feel I must question, and make my feelings known, regarding the flag that was flying over the town hall.

Why is the council promoting the gay rights movement? The council is there to promote the town and its residents, not a small group of people who feel that they are special because of their sexual views.

The Union Flag should be flying at all times unless there are national reasons where the public as a whole is involved.

I am not aware that the people of Henley have given approval to the council for flying such flags, they should be consulted! — Yours faithfully,

Allen Rout

Ancastle Green, Henley

Web story of interest

Sir, — I’m a local head gardener so have an interest in Peter Woolsey’s letter (Standard, July 14).

The caterpillars are not stuck in a spider’s web, they are a species of Ermine moth caterpillars. There are eight species, and the webbing is an evolutionary adaptation to protect against predators by strength in numbers and protective webbing.

The caterpillars and web are harmless and usually only appear in May and June then the adult moths fly away. — Yours faithfully,

Steve Goodrich

Badgers Walk, Lower
Shiplake

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