Sir, — On Thursday last week we cycled from Marsh Lock to Shiplake to see friends.
On the way, we passed a mother with two children clearly enjoying the river and beautiful evening.
On our return ride this is what we saw.
So, to that lady and her children who left all this rubbish: who do you think cleans up after you?
You should be ashamed. You are privileged to enjoy such stunning surroundings so perhaps you should think about this next time you spend time by the river bank. — Yours faithfully,
Harpsden Road, Henley
Uncaring and shabby town
Sir, — July is the time when Henley is absolutely full of visitors from all over the world.
Why, of late, have we have become shabby, uncaring and polluted? It is no wonder that we have so many closed shops.
What a blessing that we have the Gardening Buddies and the Henley in Bloom committee, who give their time to fill many areas with flowers, and those who look after our parks.
May I commend them for leaving some grass areas in Mill Meadows uncut, which will attract wildflowers and bees, and the creative way they are making tree stumps into chairs.
But what about Henley Town Council? Isn’t it about time that we used part of the £4million it has stashed away to buy some street cleaning equipment?
We noticed recently that Stratford-upon-Avon cleans its pavements each morning with a small mechanical machine, getting rid of chewing gum and any litter left by people too lazy to put it in the bin.
Our litter bins always seem to be overflowing, making a disgusting mess over the pavements. Why can’t they be emptied more often — ideally at night, like they do in Spain?
Pavements outside places such as Starbucks and Cau are filthy. What has happened to the pride we English people used to have? Thank goodness for Strada which does sweep and wash its section of pavement and thank you to all those shops which have subscribed to the hanging baskets project — these are the shops we should support.
Our traffic problem is also absymal. Traffic lights stop traffic, roundabouts make it flow. Towns all over the world are beginning to realise that. It is no wonder that our town seems to be shutting down for the queueing that happens morning and night on White Hill and Wargrave Road, bringing angry people to this once beautiful and peaceful place.
Here are some solutions:
• Turn off traffic lights, which would save masses of electricity bills and stop the idling traffic polluting us with particulates, minute particles that enter our bloodstreams and cells, causing disease.
We understand that children these days are losing 20 per cent of their lung capacity because of them.
• Place roundabouts (just white circles in the road will do) in the centre of the town and at the top of Station Road. They would cause the traffic to flow.
• Have a 20mph speed limit, like many places have enforced.
• Make it greener by planting silver birch trees and lots of ivy which gobble up pollution.
• In the late 18th century a row of dwellings was demolished from the middle of Hart Street, opposite the Catherine Wheel. Let’s put a central reservation there, as there used to be, and fill it with trees, flowers and ivy and also take a note of Sheffield’s policy of having green roofs on their buildings, thus reducing pollution.Let us put living “green walls” around the town. Having had a home in Henley for 55 years, I am truly interested in the health of the people here (I am the founder member of the Be Well complementary health project at the King’s Arms Barn) and would dearly love to see us all work together to restore clean air and healthy lungs to this beautiful town.
Mess caused by smokers
Sir, — The entrance to Church Lane from New Street is an eyesore.
The ground is regularly littered with cigarette ends discarded for the most part, if not entirely, by employees of Hotel du Vin, who use the area as an unofficial smoking zone.
I have complained to the management team at reception on several occasions but, despite assurances that the area would be kept clean in future, the situation has not improved.
Surely the hotel management should provide a smoking zone within the hotel premises and not allow staff to litter a public space?
I’ll fight for cleaner air
Sir, — Air quality in Henley is dangerous to health and needs to be improved.
I grew up on one of the worst streets in the area for traffic and noxious fumes. Every day heavy goods vehicles trundle through our town spewing out poison. Something needs to change.
This is not a new issue. In fact, this is the issue that first got me interested in local government. So what can be done? Deliveries that are coming to our town or the surrounding villages are completely understandable. Our small businesses and local shops need their deliveries. I am fully behind that and they are not the problem.
The problem is the lorries that use Henley as a cut-through to save themselves time at our expense. I am willing to work with anyone who will engage in order to find solutions.
Councillor Will Hall
Sonning Common ward,
South Oxfordshire District Council,
Visionary flame flickers
Sir, — From the time when I was once the future until my vintage years, I have seldom had cause to reflect that I wasted part of my life on ventures that eventually turned sour.
I am now concerned that I and approximately 80 other volunteers did just that in building the neighbourhood plan for Henley from 2014.
Our vision is noble in building an energetic, sustainable and diverse plan that is built by the people for the people.
The plan does not just consider 500 new house placements but makes statements on every facet of our town, including infrastructure, business and traffic. It truly is a plan for a balanced community into the next generations. It is sympathetic to the young with their lower-cost housing needs and to the old with their safety, health and care needs. But what is happening before our eyes? Vested interests in the guise of developers are applying pressure after doing their sums to produce the cheapest builds with maximum profit. They have quickly realised that if they swap houses for care homes they find a Klondike vein of gold.
Consequently, we have three initial developer presentations for homes in 2014 now turned into three new plans for care homes post the plan referendum in 2016 due to developers’ greed.
By this ruse they can avoid expensive contributions for the wellbeing of our community and avoid building affordable housing for young people, which is less profitable. Their focus is not on the future prosperity of our town, but on their own prosperity.
I and others did not give up our time developing a plan so that it can be changed on a carpet-bagging developer’s whim.
So where is our potential Margaret Thatcher to say “no, no, no” when these changes are floated? Our leaders at Henley Town Council and South Oxfordshire District Council are not standing up sufficiently to these vested interests with only token challenges and will go along with the changes eventually.
They need to have their resolve stiffened in the style of Theresa May and insist that “the neighbourhood plan really means the neighbourhood plan”.
I wonder if the Prime Minister has a spare weekend to guide our part-time politicians in implementing a referendum? To cap it all, our councils have even delegated responsibility for talking to developers “nicely” to an unelected representative, Dieter Hinke, and we all read his frustrated calls in your newspaper two weeks ago.
Eighty-two per cent of the voters in the referendum did not give a thumbs-up to the neighbourhood plan to then see houses swapped for institutional bedrooms and common areas or developers courted to build in Henley through our desperation. Five hundred houses means 500 houses, not six or eight more nursing homes eventually. Suddenly, we might be asking ourselves “where have all the young folk gone? Gone to other places, everyone.” (Apologies to Peter, Paul and Mary).
At the moment the future looks bleak through these unplanned potential changes: a more elderly demographic profile for the town; more traffic paralysis through lack of investment in roads; a shrinking town and footfall through lack of investment in the infrastructure.
The visionary flame of the neighbourhood plan still flickers but could easily be extinguished.
Wake up, Henley, and realise that the barbarian developers are at the gates and even now invading the town and shaping our future for generations purely for their profit.
What are you going to do about your home and community in the future? It all depends upon you.
Stoke Row Road,
Sir, — Last week the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, which commissions the services at Townlands Hospital, and Oxford Health, which provides the services, announced plans for the new rapid access care unit to open in October (Standard, July 22).
The unit is the service which the commissioning group decided should replace the beds on Peppard ward at the old Townlands.
The Townlands Steering Group welcomes this announcement.
We are satisfied that this is a robust, deliverable plan to which the key stakeholders are committed.
There are still questions which need to be resolved, such as the recruitment of a permanent consultant lead for the unit.
However, the Royal Berkshire Hospital’s offer of a session locum will bridge the gap, allowing the service to open.
We look forward to the service being fully open as soon as possible.
At about the same time, the new care home on the Townlands site will open.
Beds leased from the Orders of St John, which will operate the service, will be leased and provide critical support to the care unit.
The beds will also provide step-down care for patients who no longer need an acute bed in, for example, the Royal Berks.
There will be 11 of these beds initially, plus a respite care bed. Up to three more beds can be provided in the area if there is the demand.
The community remains concerned that the new model of ambulatory care, comprising the care unit, leased beds and the adult social care locality team, can provide the same (or better) level of service than that provided in the old Peppard ward. We will be monitoring and scrutinising these new services as they start up and establish themselves.
In the meantime, the Royal Berks announced last week that services on the ground floor of the new hospital continue to settle into the new building and expand.
These will soon reach 19,200 patients per year, up from 8,000. These services include audiology, cardiology, dermatology, elderly care, endocrinology, ear, nose and throat, gastroenterology, general surgery, gynaecology, nephrology, neurology, ophthalmology, orthoptics, paediatrics, pain management, podiatric surgery, rheumatology, trauma and orthopaedics and urology. However, the commissioning group also announced that it had declared the top floor as “surplus to requirements” and it would shortly be handed back to NHS Property Services.
This floor was originally to have been occupied by Sue Ryder but its future is now uncertain. Some spare space will remain on the middle floor, even after the care unit opens.
We look forward to hearing proposals to use this space to provide additional services.
The project to redevelop Townlands continues: the key worker housing and extra care housing will be completed next year. An opening ceremony is expected at the end of this year.
The steering group will continue to monitor and scrutinise healthcare in the area.
An Oxfordshire-wide “transformation” consultation is starting soon and we shall be providing input into that.
Townlands Steering Group,
EU can’t bully us any more
Sir, — We’ve seen it all before, haven’t we — in countless playgrounds, movie story lines, soap operas, sitcoms, comedy shows and even cartoons? The English classic Tom Brown’s School Days revolves around the theme of bullying and intimidation.
The tough kid and his gang members pick on someone and demand his lunch or lunch money.
Soon they demand work and extra “gifts”, all the while making their victims’ lives even more intolerable with threats of beatings and more cruelty. In some depressingly sad instances, the results can be tragic.
We try to stamp out such behaviour in our society, in schools and in the workplace, make rules against it, take action when these instances are revealed. Those bullied are helped, the perpetrators punished.
It’s a difficult process because the victim has to speak out, all the while fearing even greater victimisation that might follow.
But the brave do speak out, to the teachers, to their parents, and the consequences are far less than they were threatened into believing and the relief is palpable.
So why, on a blow-by-blow comparison, do we let the bully boy of Europe and his unelected gang do exactly that across the Continent? The high cost of being in his playground, the protection racket, the threats, the intimidation, the punishment and the warnings not to speak to others or else — or else what? Well, as with the denouement in all the films and shows, the bully gets his comeuppance. And the sorry EU saga has also entered its revealing moment.
We have come home from the playground and told our mum (the “mother of all Parliaments”) that we have been wronged.
And all the threats and posturing and “project fear” have been shown to be nothing but a bad dream disappearing in dawn’s early light.
We have even rekindled old friendships that the bullies had told us we shouldn’t have. We are happier starting again, with a new purpose, a fresh perspective, and other children from that playground are also realising they can come round for tea and visit and play.
The bully is losing his grip and his source of income and hopefully he will start (as is always the case) fighting with his cronies over the leftover scraps.
We should turn our backs on bully boy Jean-Claude Juncker and his unelected EU cronies. We should help the victims of his crime — it is a crime to degrade and subjugate another country into such a desperate position.
We should immediately negotiate with Greece to help her out, not by punitive measures but with positive, honest and decent reciprocal trade arrangements.
Drag her out of victimhood to a comfortable place of stability and invite other nations in difficulty to do likewise.
We don’t need to negotiate with Juncker and the EU at all. His reign is almost at an end and he is preparing himself for his escape.
We just need to talk like friends to other governments. Let’s cut out the cancer of EU federalism in our continent. Let’s forsake profiteering for the creation of a better, intimidation-free world.
Boris is no diplomat
Sir, — Judith Nimmo Smith, chairwoman of the South Oxfordshire Conservative Association, says: “We also wish our former MP Boris Johnson well as he assumes the challenging role of Foreign Secretary” (Standard, July 22).
While Mary Romanes, a respondent in Take Five, is quoted as saying: “I believe Boris Johnson will be a very good Foreign Secretary.”
Now we all wish Bo Jo the best of British, including me, even though he beat me to an antique Harrods tennis racquet at the Bix fair years ago.
It’s just that, unlike Theresa May, he has no previous Cabinet experience and years ago, when MP for Henley, he would consistently laugh off suggestions that he might be aiming for high Government office — “moi?”
The people loved him for being politically incorrect and the voters voted for him for making them laugh.
It remains to be seen whether the persona he has been cultivating since his Oxford Union days of bumbling, upper-class toff and brilliant buffoon will pass muster abroad.
He will certainly need to curb his undoubted ability to insult Johnny foreigner, especially as he could do it in half a dozen languages, including a dead one.
Perhaps the clue to all of this is contained in the insightful observation of another Eton-educated Henley luminary.
In The Road to Wigan Pier, published in 1937, George Orwell wrote: “Experience shows (vide the careers of Hitler, Napoleon III) that to a political climber it is sometimes an advantage not to be taken too seriously at the beginning of his career.”
Uncut verges are beautiful
Sir, — Now that the EU referendum circus has left town (during which for the way I cast my vote I was labelled racist, which I hope I’m not, and mentally deficient, which is open to debate), it is a relief to turn to more sane matters, such as the wonderful condition of our roadside verges this summer.
Because of local government economies, the barborous flails are laid up and the verges have been able to burgeon as nature intended, without, so far as I can tell, any detrimental effect on road safety.
Even the unpromising stretch between the Plowden Arms and the Playhatch roundabout is now a lush green and dotted with cow parsley, rosebay willowherb and other flowers I cannot identify.
Long may the flails rust and rot since, on this occasion, so far as the verges are concerned, I am very happy to vote that they Remain.
Mount View Court,
Sir, — Please allow us a brief response to Crest Nicholson’s comments to our letter regarding its consultation exercise on the intended 170 homes at Highlands Farm in Henley (Standard, July 22).
What a pity that the masterplan leaflet, which we took away from the site to remind us of the details, appears to be different from the material actually exhibited during that brief Wednesday afternoon’s consultation.
This site plan clearly says Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) under Nos. 3 and 4, located on the long strip designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The actual site of the SSSI is not marked at all on the plan.
When we expressed our concerns we had not realised that there were two different versions on offer. Having scrutinised the glossy print out of the masterplan once again, we found another “clerical error”.
Under No. 14 on the site plan it says: “... oak tree preserved with 15m diameter roof protection zone”. Interesting, but do oaks need a roof or is it a root protection zone they might have in mind? Crest Nicholson’s response to our letter said the company had “undertaken extensive surveying work on all existing buildings... this includes Crest Nicholson instructing historic buildings experts CgMs to put together a historic buildings report for Highlands Farm”.
We looked at a copy of this CgMs buildings report. It contains only external pictures of the house, with the information that the interior was not visited as it was not worth recording.
There is one picture of the interior of the barn, which shows very little of the structure. There are no annotated drawings or other forms of recording other than vague descriptions of any of the farm buildings. Under the heading “Historic Record” it is stated that there is a 1800 tithe map. No such map copy is included nor does such a map exist.
The Rotherfield Peppard tithe map (Highlands was in that parish until boundary changes in the 20th century) dates from 1840.
There is nothing about the farm’s documented ownership by the Stonor Estate from 1401 onwards and no references to any documentary research having taken place. Under the sources quoted there are numerous references to archaeology, in particular to do with the Palaeolithic, Clactonian, the John Wymer input and research into the mass of flint tools recovered, Roman roads and Roman towns.
All very worthy if CgMs had been tasked with surveying the significant archaeology of this site but, as confirmed by Crest Nicholson in its response to our letter, it instructed CgMs to put together a historic buildings record.
There is not a single source mentioned to do with vernacular buildings, farm buildings, Chilterns farming patterns, historic land use, in short nothing which might have been of use for putting together such a report on the surviving historic buildings at Highlands Farm. It is time South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning officers took decisive action and recognised that this farmstead is a significant survivor of the historic, non-nucleated farming pattern of the Chilterns. It needs to be protected by being included on its lists of buildings of local note in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so that it keeps its rightful, central place in this new phase of turning Highlands from a brownfield site into a village.
Pam Syrett, Viv Greenwood, Ruth Gibson
Henley Archaeological and Historical Group
Surprised by US support
Sir, — Imagine my surprise and joy while watching the America’s Cup racing from Portsmouth and seeing a very proud local company advertising on the side of one of these superfast racing boats.
Imagine my further surprise when I saw the whole picture and discovered that the advert was not on Team GB’s Landrover BAR but on the Oracle Team USA. Why is Bremont not supporting the home team and helping us to win the America’s Cup for the first time? Answers to the editor please.
Drivers being ripped off
Sir, — I see the Esso garage in Henley is selling petrol for 114.9p and diesel for 115.9p per litre.
But if you drive to the Esso garage in Emmer Green you will be charged only 110.9p per litre.
Yet again, Henley is ripping people off! Perhaps if everyone filled up at Emmer Green then the garage in Henley might reduce its prices.
Mrs J Hadley
You should be so lucky
Sir, — I feel really sorry for some visitors to this year’s Henley Festival with all the wonder of musical sounds and the nearly free-flowing Thames, plus fireworks! But not all is right — oh dear, something is missing! Well folks, I for one would have loved to have experienced the sound of star Shirley Bassey and those fabulous fireworks.
The moaners in question should be satisfied with their lot and thankful to be there and enjoying what was being presented.
Peter Adams Ramshill,
Atheists at war, or not...
Sir, — Yet again atheists are killing each other over who believes the least in God. Oh, no that’s not what is happening!
Belle Vue Road,
School’s 90th anniversary
Sir, — St Mary’s School in Henley is delighted to be celebrating 90 years of offering outstanding education in the town.
From humble beginnings in Bell Street to its present site in St Andrew’s Road, the school maintains firm values in encouraging a love of learning for life.
Were you a pupil or member of staff at the school? We would love to hear from you and would be delighted to extend an invitation to our open evening on Thursday, September 15.
For more information, email info@stmarys-henley.Â co.uk
St Mary’s School,
Bigger but not better
Sir, Just because something is a success it doesn’t follow automatically that it will be even better if it’s made bigger.
It’s quite possible that by extending Henley Royal Regatta to a sixth day you might actually lose what it is that makes it so special.
Thanks for act of decency
Sir, — I was going to Henley station on Tuesday afternoon with two of my friends and we realised we were slightly late so broke into a trot.
Coming down Vicarage Road to the corner outside Trinity School, we came to a stationary car.
The lady driver wound down her window and asked: “I just saw you running, you might be late for something, can I give you a lift somewhere?” We politely declined as we only had to go another 200m to the station.
You can imagine the surprise of my American friend at the sheer loveliness of English people in hearing this offer. I’d like to thank the lady for her kind offer and for just reaffirming utter decency in life.
Thank you for supporting the ‘Trad’
Sir, — As president and organiser of the Thames Traditional Boat Festival, I would be grateful for an opportunity to thank all those who made this year’s event so very successful.
Last year I was asked to resuscitate a sadly dying “rally” and I suggested that we rebrand it as a “festival”. The public recognised that meant “fun” and came in their thousands.
Naturally, this year, I was terrified that the novelty might not be sustained but people came again in even greater numbers.
With a motor racing background, my vision is that if the regatta is the “festival of speed” of the river, the “Trad” should be the “revival meeting”. If all those who support the event continue to do so, we can achieve this.
So thanks to all who helped, from our small committee of volunteers, who spend far too much of their lives booking boats, stands and entertainment and putting in pontoons and moorings, to the volunteers who help on the gates and the musicians who play and sing with little or no remuneration — we couldn’t put on the show without you.
Saturday night’s band, the Lash Monkeys, performed for no more than food and drink and the audience could have danced all night. Annie and the Doughboys play for love.
We paid for Gloriana but the crews who rowed her did so just for the pleasure of it!
The owners of all the stunning boats pay to enter but it also costs them a considerable amount just to get here and many came dressed in the period of their boat in the sweltering heat of the weekend. How all the “military” re-enactment people stayed cool is beyond me.
Our fairground friends came up from Sussex and I doubt it was worth their while, we just thought it would be a nice feature. Maybe next time more people will want to play. I am grateful to them for coming.
Last, but not least, we must thank our sponsors: Shanly has supported the event for many years and we hope will continue to do so. Invesco were new this year and we hope they want to stay with us.
Henley Town Council gave us tremendous support and we hope they will continue to see this as a beneficial “Henley” event.
I can’t list all the smaller supporters but we listed you in the programme and hope you felt your support was justified.
This is not yet a charitable event. We hope in the future that we will be able to raise funds to support a couple of boat-building apprenticeships.
With the continued support of all those mentioned and of the general public, we will succeed.
P.S. I lost my white iPhone on Fawley Meadows, near the start of the footpath, on Monday, July 11 while setting up the festival. It seems that it was last used on July 14, so someone has picked it up. Could they do the decent thing and return it please?
Sir, — A big thank-you from us for your coverage of
Gloriana’s presence at the Thames Traditional Boat Festival — all publicity is great.