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Monday, 22 January 2018
Sale wouldn’t be popular
Sir, — Having read with interest your lead article about The Henley College’s plans for a £3million Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths centre (Standard, December 15), I feel certain aspects are rather disingenuous.
As far as I am aware, the college has already identified the sports fields as the area it wishes to sell for housing to fund the STEM centre.
I believe it has already raised the issue with Henley Tennis Club, which holds a lease on the courts, which implies decisions have already been made.
I appreciate that the college has been in a state of flux with a number of changes in leadership over the past couple of years.
Also the benefits of improved engineering education are obvious but there seems to have been a lack of joined-up thinking.
Surely the ideal site would have been the site next to the old Henley youth centre, which was sold to a care home provider.
Also it begs the question as to what happened to the captial from that sale and could it not be used for the centre?
This will obviously be an ongoing situation and it was mentioned by the college principal in the article that the community was important to the college.
The sports fields appear to be used regularly by the college, the tennis club and the community.
Judging from those I have had contact with, losing one of the largest green areas in the town would not be popular. — Yours faithfully,
Paradise Road, Henley
Stop wasting our money
Sir, — I agree with your correspondent Ian Clark when he asks how much South Oxfordshire District Council has paid in legal costs for the Thames Farm appeal (Standard, December 15).
I highlighted this in these columns last month and also made a Freedom of Information request to the council via the Whatdotheyknow.com website, asking for full disclosure of the costs in pursuing these failed appeals.
You can imagine my utter surprise when they simply pointed to the council’s website (where all items of expenditure over £500 are individually listed) and continued: “Regrettably, we are unable to provide this information in any other format.
“This is because our system does not have a way of reporting on all payments relating to a particular subject (there is no ‘key word’ search facility).
“We are unable to search our finance system by entering a planning application reference number, or a description such as ‘Thames Farm’ as a search term, for example.
“We do not keep a separate log, file or spreadsheet of appeal expenditure (as we do not have a business need to), so this information cannot be retrieved from anywhere else.”
This is appalling and very convenient for the council and its leader John Cotton as they can apparently continue to firehose our money into legal appeals with no apparent concern about the cost and no accountability! Remember, this is taxpayers’ money being wasted here in a process where the council’s own planning department recommended the scheme for approval, a planning inspector granted permission and two High Court judges rejected appeals by both the district council and Shiplake Parish Council with cost awards being made against both of them.
Without knowing which advisors are acting for the council here, it will be difficult to discover how much this is costing us.
However, for the sake of all taxpayers in the area, I and others will persevere as we have the right to know what is being spent in our name.
In the meantime, I would suggest that the district council stops wasting our money. — Yours faithfully,
Benefits of affiliation
Sir, — I’ve followed with interest the recent exchange of letters expounding the case for independent councillors on Henley Town Council.
I have to agree with Geoff Luckett when he says that Henley Residents’ Group is not independent. It’s a registered political party and operates as such.
It campaigns under a distinctive manifesto and it votes as a group on many key issues despite claiming that it is apolitical and non-partisan.
Geoff’s case for truly independent councillors is attractive, almost Utopian, but there is a counter argument which advances the benefits of councillors standing under a distinct political banner.
While a track record for hard work, competency and a passion for Henley are prerequisite characteristics for a councillor, standing under a party political banner can also give an indication of the core values and philosophy underpinning a councillor’s approach when tackling the issues and challenges facing the town.
For example, the Henley Conservatives believe in delivering value for the taxpayer’s money, a professional approach to delivering services and tackling problems at the root source rather than just throwing money at them.
There is also a potential benefit in being a local member of the same party that controls the district and county councils, which, if approached wisely, can deliver significant benefits for Henley.
That’s much more difficult if you’re of a different political affiliation, as HRG will often complain.
Finally, it is also worth noting that a significant proportion of HRG councillors have very distinct political leanings which also informs their approach.
There is a case to say that HRG is in fact a coalition made up of members with predominantly, but not exclusively, Left-wing values with an overwhelming anti-conservative agenda.
This is not a complaint, it’s a fact that should be made more widely known. — Yours faithfully,
Councillor Julian Brookes
Leader, Conservative group, Henley Town Council, Parkside, Henley
Parties aren’t independent
Sir, — I totally agree with Geoff Luckett that the Conservative and Henley Residents’ Group councillors are not independent (Standard, December 8).
I witnessed this after a council meeting when I was invited to have a drink across the road in the Station House pub.
When they had been served with their drinks, one group of councillors went and sat in one corner and the other group sat in another corner.
If they are all independent councillors, they should have all sat together and discussed what went on at that meeting. — Yours faithfully,
Cromwell Road, Henley
Please tell us your issues
Sir, — In an effort to better understand the views, priorities and concerns of Henley’s residents, partially in response to the local council election results in May, your local Conservatives devised a comprehensive survey, called Henley Matters, that asks residents to rate the council services they use and to identify the main priorities they want their councillors to focus on.
Over the last few weeks we’ve been busy delivering a copy to every household.
Through your pages, may I thank everyone who has completed and returned their copy.
We are really pleased with the response we have had but would also like to encourage anyone who has yet to return their copy to please do so, so that your views can inform our emerging policies and priorities.
It should take only five to 10 minutes and there’s a Freepost address to send it back to, or it can be dropped off at Asquiths Teddy Bear Shop in New Street.
Henley Conservatives are completely focused on identifying the key concerns of Henley residents and to come forward with thought-out and costed solutions to the issues that you have highlighted to us through your feedback.
Over the coming months we will be developing policies to facilitate those solutions which in turn will inform our future political manifesto.
If you haven’t received your copy of the survey or if it has been misplaced, please email ConservativesforHenley@
gmail.com and we’ll get one to you.
May I also take this opportunity, on behalf of the Henley Conservatives, to wish everyone a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas and to pay tribute to all those that will still be working, particularly the council and emergency services, while we are enjoying our break. — Yours faithfully,
Repeat the referendum
Sir, — There is no need to point out the dire state of the Government regarding Brexit as it is plain for the whole world to see. This is a far cry from the promises that were offered during the referendum but that is past now.
I wanted to make two points to anyone casually observing this.
Firstly, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The second phase of talks is not about doing a trade deal with the EU, it is about completing our exit.
Thus the phrase “nothing is agreed until it is all agreed”, which sounds like it links payment to signing a trade deal, is deliberately misleading.
Unfortunately, Brexit has always been a process of implying one thing when meaning another.
So this will be another surprise to those who expect to be told the truth ahead of the denouement of events, which will lead to more rancour and infighting in all parties associated with this process on this side of the Channel.
That is why, if you think the first phase was fraught, then the second phase will be a coming of age for you and for many.
This leads me on to the heart of our problems. Brexit was never defined. Even now the Government cannot tell anyone what it formally wants.
It refers to terms like Canada Plus Plus Plus as if these were clear expressions of intent, whereas they are just political cover for ministers who know that a row with their cabinet colleagues would ensue if they stated a clear position.
To me, this ill-conceived and poorly executed process risks becoming a generational mistake. I was previously against referenda in general, seeing them as a constitutional abdication by Parliament.
Before anyone writes a letter headlined “Will of the people” please read up on our representative democracy versus a direct democracy which uses referenda frequently.
The animus generated last year adds to that sense of them being unnecessarily divisive events.
That said, there seems to be only one way we can purposefully deal with the 2016 result combined with the inept handling we have all observed by the Government.
That is for the Government to lay out its definition of Brexit, as much as can be agreed with the EU prior to September 2018, and this to be put back to the people for them to either affirm their choice or reject outright the notion of Brexit entirely.
I would also add that this referendum should be offering three choices with a transferrable vote mechanism, such that it could include both staying in the EU, a complete break or hard Brexit and whatever deal the Government thought it could achieve.
Another referendum would not be something to look forward to.
However, it would provide all involved with the opportunity to lay out their case in light of facts and for a final outcome to be truly seen as this nation’s choice. — Yours faithfully,
Greys Hill, Henley
Brexit can be good for us
Sir, — It was with sadness that I read the very negative views of your correspondents about Brexit.
Although possibly a minority of Conservative-viewed and undemocratic people appear not to accept the decision of the referendum, we should all be welcoming what Brexit can bring, such as:
• Worldwide trading that benefits us without the shackles of an unelected bureaucratic body dictating.
• This country being forced into training our own people for jobs instead of robbing Third World countries and others of their much-needed medical staff as well as many other trades and professions, out of greed and selfishness or in order for fat cats to get rich here by keeping wages low. Without the demands for overseas workers, there would be far less of a strain on our services, housing etc.
• The fall in population so urgently needed in this overpopulated country.
This is a great opportunity for us all to put the “great” back into Great Britain by promoting our farming industry and other industries with new, unrestricted initiatives that provide for and benefit this country and its people.
Cut back on the enormous and unnecessary overseas purchasing that we currently do and grow and make our own before considering importing and exporting.
Okay, we may not have the great variety of foods that we currently receive from around the world but much of this is pretty poor quality anyway.
Let’s stop putting Great Britain down and be prepared to pay for better quality and build our businesses and expertise back up again.
We are strong, so let’s stand up to those who want to punish us for daring to break away. We do not need them.
I think you will find that other countries will follow once they see the success that we are making of it. — Yours faithfully,
Kebabs still safe to eat
Sir, — You may have seen some attention-grabbing headlines in the national press last week suggesting the Euopean Union is banning kebabs.
I want to reassure your readers that, like many other stories about the EU, this isn’t the case and that they will continue to be able to enjoy a kebab whenever they choose.
What really happened is this: the European Parliament’s environment and public health committee last week disagreed with a proposal from the European Commission to allow phosphate additives, some of which have been linked to heart disease, to be added to kebab meat.
These additives are already illegal under current rules.
As such, the European Parliament’s position is simply to continue with the status quo, which is to not allow the use of these phosphate-based additives in our kebabs.
This position is sensible for two reasons.
Firstly, these additives are currently not allowed for public health reasons.
The European Food Safety Authority has not yet decided whether or not these additives are safe to consume.
Its study on this is expected to report next year and has been made a priority due to concerns over the links between phosphate and cardiovascular disease.
Secondly, these additives could be used to rip off consumers. Phosphate has water-binding properties and could be used to increase the weight of meat, intentionally misleading consumers by selling meat with its weight artificially inflated with water.
Back in 2013, some UK supermarkets were found to be selling frozen chicken that was in fact up to 20 per cent water. So it’s about protecting your rights, too.
Nobody is banning kebabs, simple as that. — Yours faithfully,
MEP for South East England
What a joke
Sir, — On Thursday last week, I caught the 8.36am from Wargrave to Twyford, then the London connector, and eventually arrived at Paddington at 9.50am.
Then the ticket guy at platform 12 was on his own with a big queue and didn’t know how to work his machine. I got out of Paddington at 10.05am. What an absolute joke!
I hope Great Western Railway’s chief exeecutive Mark Hopwood doesn’t have to rely on his own services to get to work. — Yours faithfully,
High Street, Wargrave
They’re doing their best
Sir, — Last week involved some frustrating problems for Henley branch line users.
Despite best endeavours, sometimes it still goes wrong.
The Wargrave User Group has responded to my letter of last week, sharing their recent direct praise of Great Western Railway for the efforts made daily by our train drivers and Twyford station staff to try to make things work for us. A good point and we echo their sentiment.
There’s a useful wider point here. At this time of year, especially, why not remember all those in our community and beyond who work hard to provide what we seek when we seek it, often in difficult circumstances?
Merry Christmas to all. — Yours faithfully,
Henley Trains, Blandy Road, Henley
Another nasty river invader
Sir, —I read with interest your article on floating pennywort and John Howell MP once again taking an issue raised by a constituent to the House of Commons (Standard, December 8).
Many of us in this area feel a deep connection to the river and incidents such as the Thames Water raw sewage release are appalling assaults on our environment which are felt keenly.
I wanted to draw to the attention of your readers another invasion of our inland waterways — the American signal crayfish.This nasty critter came to our shores around 30 years ago and carries a crayfish plague which wipes out populations of our own native versions.
The invaders are aggressive and indiscriminate in their prey with little by way of natural predator. Some waterways have seen the native version wiped out.
However, there is a silver lining to this sad story. Readers can help the environment and enjoy a free delicious dinner by acquiring a permit and landowner’s permission to catch them. — Yours faithfully,
New Street, Henley
Trustworthy estate agent
Sir, — We recently decided to downsize and so put our four-bedroom house on the market.
To do so, we selected three estate agents, the first two were standard profile high street names and the third, for variation, a smaller operator, Philip Booth, who we selected as our preferred choice.
Why? Because Philip is so approachable with an air of quality and experience that conveys trust that he will do an excellent job.
Our confidence was not misplaced. Philip’s attention to detail is second to none and he kept us informed of progress on a daily basis until in November he secured for us the sale of our house.
We are delighted to recommend Philip to anyone as a professional and likeable person to work with on an extremely important project.
Oh, and by the way, his fee for the sale was lower than the other two by quite a margin. — Yours faithfully,
Carol and Barrie Evans
Formerly of Shiplake Cross, now of Goring-be-Sea, West Sussex
Great start to season...
Sir, — The Henley Choral Society’s family Christmas concert at St Mary’s Church in Henley on December 9 was a wonderful event and a lovely start to the Christmas season.
Both junior and senior Henley Youth Choirs, Onyx Brass and organist Daniel Moult combined with the society to entertain and delight the audience with beautiful music filled with Christmas cheer.
The society chose the Chiltern Centre for disabled children as its nominated charity to benefit from a retirement collection at the end of the concert.
I would like to give public recognition to the generosity of the audience which responded by giving a magnificent total of £483.96 for the ongoing work of the centre.
Our thanks go to all those who were there that afternoon and gave so generously as well as to the chair and committee of Henley Choral Society for making this possible. — Yours faithfully,
Chair of trustees, the Chiltern Centre for disabled children, Henley
... and so was this concert
Sir, — What would we do without the Henley Symphony Orchestra’s lively concert to start Christmas every year?
This year, we came away smiling despite the dreadful weather. — Yours faithfully,
Singer’s Close, Henley
Pan-tastic school show
Sir, — I would like to say how much I enjoyed the production of Peter Pan put on by the students of Chiltern Edge School in Sonning Common.
It had so much vitality and enthusiasm and was great fun to watch.
Congratulations to the staff and students for achieving such a high standard, especially as they had only one term for rehearsals. — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — I would like to say well done to the very brave mother who jumped into the very cold river to save her baby son (Standard, December 8).
Also to the Hobbs of Henley staff who did a very good job to help her.
I hoper mother and family are all very happy. — Yours faithfully,
The Close, Henley
Terrific show of lights
Sir, — The fairy lights installed in Station Park, Henley, are now working and look terrific.
Thanks to town clerk Janet Wheeler. It’s much appreciated. — Yours faithfully,
Station Road, Henley
Please join me for tea
Sir, — Your readers might like to know that those nice people at Hare Hatch Sheeplands garden centre have invited me for tea tomorrow (Saturday).
It fits in nicely with my travel arrangements as I go around the country making sure that everybody’s presents are in the right place, so I have accepted.
I would be very happy if some of your readers could join me for tea between 2.30pm and 4pm. I would love to meet them. — Yours faithfully,
Three in one, what a treat!
Sir, — Three photographs of Councillor David Eggleton on one page (Standard, December 8) and, as a bonus, a new game to play, i.e. spot the Cllr Eggleton surprise!
Sir, you do us proud! — Yours faithfully,
High Street, Cookham
Debbie was fab-u-lous
Sir, — Debbie McGee has proved herself to be a star in her own right.
In Saturday’s Strictly Come Dancing final, her performances with her professional partner Giovanni Pernice were truly magical, as they have been throughout the entire series.
Reaching the final was a wonderful achievement and even judge Darcey Bussell appeared dumbstruck at Debbie managing to keep a broad smile on her face throughout one of her routines in the final.
Debbie McGee’s sparkle has come back. Fab-u-lous! — Yours faithfully,
King James Way, Henley
25 December 2017
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