Friday, 20 October 2017

Your letters...

Why we sold youth centre

Sir, — Once again, as chairman of the Thamesfield Youth Association, I feel the necessity to explain and clarify the circumstances surrounding the sale of the Henley youth centre site in Deanfield Avenue and why it should not have been included in the final published Henley neighbourhood plan for housing allocation.

1. When we, regretfully, decided that we had to sell the site all the trustees were in agreement that our preference was that it should be used for affordable housing.

Before we put the site out to tender, one of our trustees spoke with South Oxfordshire Housing Association to inform them of our ideal wish.

2. We are a registered charity and bound by the rules of the Charities Commission, which means we have a legal duty to go out to public tender and obtain the best financial outcome for our charity.

Under the terms of section 119 of the Charities Act 2011, any disposal has to be compliant so trustees can ensure they are acting prudently and the disposal is at arm’s length and at market price.

3. We had 27 offers to buy the site. The offer that B&M Care made was not conditional on planning permission. By contrast, the offer that SOHA submitted was considerably lower in price (20th on the list) and was conditional on planning permission.

Typically, offers contingent on planning usually result in time delays and in many cases a lower final offer.

The proceeds from the sale to the charity amounted to £1.7million. By contrast, the conditional offer from SOHA would, at best, have amounted to £990,000, and would have taken longer to complete as well as leaving ourselves as trustees in breach of the Charity Commission’s legal requirements.

4. The sale of the site was agreed in April 2015. We kept Henley Town Council and the neighbourhood planning group informed throughout this time.

The go-ahead date for the neighbourhood plan referendum was November 12, 2015, seven months after the sale.

The neighbourhood plan was finally adopted on April 14, 2016, a year after the sale had been confirmed.

We explained on numerous occasions that housing on the site should not be included in the final plan as we had sold it to B&M Care.

We were, therefore, very surprised to see the site remain in the final neighbourhood plan that was released some considerable time after the site was sold.

5. Since the sale was completed, we have been able to give more than £145,000 from the proceeds of our investments to support many youth activities across the town. These include the YMCA, Nomad, Chiltern Resource, Bishopswood School, Henley Youth Festival, Henley Music School, the skate park, Riverside Counselling, Music on the Meadows and Acoustic at Magoo’s.

6. Had we been waiting for planning permission to be granted as a condition of the sale of the site, then this expenditure and support for the young people of Henley would not have been possible and we would have been obligated to waste our charity’s money on an empty building.

As the youth centre site had been sold 12 months earlier, we believe the site should have been removed from the final published neighbourhood plan.

I hope this clarifies matters. — Yours faithfully,

Clive Wilkinson

Chairman Thamesfield Youth Association, Henley

Wrong place for care home

Sir, — As a resident of a house on the corner of Gravel Hill and Paradise Road, Henley, which leads into Deanfield Avenue, I object strongly to the proposal for a 65-bed care home on the site of the former youth centre in Deanfield Avenue (Standard, March 10).

First of all, the proposed design at 3.5 storeys looks far too large and overpowering for the site.

Secondly, B&M Care says that the home will provide 50 full- or part-time jobs , while at the same time saying: “The proposal will not be attracting new people into the area and thus place additional demands on the local infrastructure.”

This is a total contradiction. Where do they think the staff are coming from? Henley, which has almost total employment? Of course not.

They will come from outside Henley, probably in cars creating more traffic on Reading Road, Greys Road, Deanfield Avenue, Paradise Road and Gravel Hill.

Deanfield Avenue is already choc-a-bloc with coaches depositing and picking up students twice a day and the whole area suffers from students’ car parking.

The only way to avoid this is for staff accommodation to be built into the plan, of which there is no mention.

Lastly, the neighbourhood plan states that housing should be built there. It is one of the few sites from where residents could walk into the town centre.

If planned housing sites are given over to care homes then where do we find the sites for the housing we are required by the Government to build?

This proposal should be turned down. — Yours faithfully,

Brian Triptree

Gravel Hill, Henley

Are elderly not welcome?

Sir, — I was surprised, and not a little shocked, to read on the front page that in the matter of B&M Care’s planning application for a 65-bed care home in Deanfield Avenue, Henley town clerk Janet Wheeler was reported as saying that “residents should write letters of objection and encourage their friends and neighbours to do the same”.

As an appointed, rather than elected, local government official, it seems to me that the town clerk should keep her political opinions to herself and stick to her day job.

And while I agree that Henley needs more affordable housing for its young people, it also should recognise that none of us is getting any younger and society generally is ageing.

From Dieter Hinke’s comments, one could infer that old people are not at all welcome in Henley.

Therefore, should current residents approaching retirement age make plans to leave the town and go and “blight” some other community — like Eastbourne? — Yours faithfully,

Ms G Edwards

Brightwell Baldwin

Police need extra funding

Sir, — I have followed, with sadness, the debacle of South Oxfordshire District Council withdrawing funding to Thames Valley Police to pay for six Police Community Support Officers in the district.

Thames Valley Police has had its funding reduced by around £100 million, or 26 per cent.

This action by the council is just another nail in the coffin of the policing we want and expect.

I understand that the council has no control over the PCSOs it funded and there was some concern by councillors that the PCSOs were not carrying out the duties they felt they were paying for.

If this is the case then there should be a grown-up conversation between the force and the council.

I know that the council is one of the few local authorities to fund the police and it is to be commended for this investment, which shows what a leader in the field it has been.

But just because others have not followed suit does not make its funding wrong.

In the South Oxfordshire district there has been/will be a raft of houses going up, like nothing before.

The developers of these new houses pay a Community Infrastructure Levy to the council.

When these houses are completed and lived in, the occupants will pay their council tax bill each month — a win/win situation for the council.

Surely the Conservative cabinet can arrange its budget so it can avoid cutting the council’s contribution to the police, a payment that is beneficial to each and every one of their constituents? — Yours faithfully,

David Orpwood

Watlington

More tourists needed now

Sir, — With reference to the closure of Maison Blanc in Henley (Standard, March 10), I say again, at a risk of repeating myself, footfall.

There are at least 10 cafés where you can stop for a quick coffee and snack within a 10-minute stroll of each other.

Without the necessary passing 30 customers, not every café is going to be able to survive. If you have to throw away food that did not sell today and you cannot sell tomorrow, then what hope have you of making a profit?

If Henley had thirsty, hungry tourists arriving daily then you would not be losing cafés or any other shops.

I don’t know how long the town manager, together with the tourist information office, intends to wait for more cafés and shops to close before they start to bring in the tourists but if they do not act soon, frankly, it will be too late to stop Henley’s decline. — Yours faithfully,

Gloria Wright

Twyford

Urbanising countryside

Sir, — I am writing in respect of the National Trust property Greys Court and in particular two things:

1. The recent double stranded barbed wire fencing erected in the bluebell wood.

2. The clearance of undergrowth on The Mount, in the bluebell wood and at the gated entrance in Rocky Lane.

With regards to 1., fencing topped by two strands of barbed wire encloses the entire bluebell wood.

Is the National Trust aware that wildlife (particularly deer) will become impaled on the barbed wire?

If it is, why did it erect barbed wire fencing?

Now that the barbed wire fencing is in place, does the National Trust think it is a thing of beauty, enhancing the loveliness of the bluebell wood?

How much did it cost to erect the barbed wire fencing and did the National Trust consider alternatives, for example, fencing with no barbed wire?

Why was it necessary to use barbed wire? Was it to keep out the deer and wildlife or the non-National Trust public?

If it was the former, then it was a cruel choice to use barbed wire. The deer park in Lambridge Wood is enclosed but not with barbed wire.

Has anyone in the National Trust seen a deer impaled on barbed wire? I have.

The agony it must have gone through as it struggled to free itself… the horror of seeing one side of its ribcage ripped out as it was attacked, probably before it had died.

Small and baby deer who follow their mothers will never be able to leap over this barbed wire fence.

With regard to 2., why is the undergrowth being cleared and on so relentless a scale?

Why was it necessary to rip out the undergrowth on The Mount? The song birds nesting in the undergrowth there were amazing. Well, they are not nesting there anymore.

Why has so much undergrowth been removed from the bluebell wood, which has now gone from being a beautiful and wonderful wildlife place to a sterile, birdless, animalless, dead wood?

Last year one could see the occasional deer and muntjac in the wood and hear and see the song birds.

Now it is just bluebells. Barbed wire and no undergrowth have seen nature off.

The National Trust is now run by urbans for urbans. The bluebell wood at Greys Court is an excellent example of this.

Why has so much undergrowth been cleared in Rocky Lane? Is it planned to enclose this area in double stranded barbed wire?

Is it the National Trust’s intention to enclose the whole of its estate with two stranded barbed wire? — Yours faithfully (and in despair),

Judy Dinsdale

Northfield End, Henley

Get on with leaving EU

Sir, — I ran the campaign for Vote Leave for South Oxfordshire last year and, like many people in Henley, I voted for Britain to come out of the EU in the referendum, a result which created the biggest democratic mandate in this country’s history.

That is why I was so disappointed to see unelected peers like Lord Marks of Henley doing their best to obstruct the will of the British people.

Members of the House of Lords voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU and then tried to use Parliament to stop Brexit.

The amendment they wanted to add to the Article 50 Bill would have given Parliament a veto on whether or not we left the EU.

If this amendment had been passed, the EU 27 would have been incentivised to give us a bad deal at the negotiations, knowing that Parliament could then reject the deal on these grounds and keep us in the EU.

According to a recent ICM poll commissioned by Change Britain, 43 per cent of people would be more likely to support abolition or reform of the House of Lords if they tried to block Brexit.

I share that view and trust that John Howell MP voted against the Lords amendment to enable the Government to to get on with the job of leaving the EU. — Yours faithfully,

Martin Dew

Henley co-ordinator, Change Britain, Northfield End,
Henley

MPs’ vote shames us all

Sir, — It was disappointing but not surprising to see that John Howell MP was not among the handful of Conservative MPs who, on Monday, March 6, backed a cross-party amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill which would have reinstated the
so-called Dubs amendment.

Mr Howell failed to back the original amendment to give sanctuary in the UK to unaccompanied child refugees from Syria who are already in Europe when it was passed last year.

At that time, government sources had indicated that it was prepared to take in up to 3,000 child refugees.

Now the scheme is to close with only 350 children receiving assistance — in spite of local authorities indicating that they have capacity to help. The vote shames Britain. — Yours faithfully,

Laura Coyle

Liberal Democrat candidate for the Henley constituency

Confused by candidacy

Sir, — I was most interested to read one of your front page headlines “Former Tory councillor to stand in by-election” (Standard, March 10).

This in the same week as Joan Bland resigned from the Henley neighbourhood plan steering group.

What made this more confusing was the chairman of the Henley Conservatives Dieter Hinke stating: “We have an extra 500 houses coming and that will cause many traffic and infrastructure difficulties, so she [Joan Bland] wanted to be part of that.”

Perhaps Joan Bland could explain why she really wants to stand in the town council by-election? — Yours faithfully,

Ken Arlett

Elizabeth Road, Henley

Don’t waste your money

Sir, — I see that Henley Town Council is about to spend £30,000 on a survey to justify reducing the speed limit in the town to 20mph (Standard, March 3).

Perhaps councillors should remove their blinkers and learn lessons from elsewhere.

I note that Manchester City Council has just dropped its 20mph limit after finding it made almost no difference to speeds or accidents.

This was introduced in 2012 at a cost of some £1.7 milllon.

Henley councillors should take note and save the money. — Yours faithfully,

Garry Forster

Goring Heath

Parking at GP surgeries

Sir, — Your article headlined “Cameras to monitor hospital car park spaces to stop abuse of spaces” (Standard, March 10) was slightly misleading.

In the opening section, you stated that anyone can park if they are attending the Bell or Hart surgeries.

Later, you quoted a section from the Hart Surgery newsletter outlining the correct position, which has been agreed between the surgeries.

This is that parking at the two surgeries is very limited and that, with effect from the introduction of the vehicle recognition system in April, there will be three disabled spaces with the remaining limited spaces available for patients who are elderly, frail or acutely unwell. All other patients will need to make alternative arrangements.

Up to 15 minutes only will be allowed for cars to enter the car park for pick-up or set -down only.

Patients who park because they are disabled, elderly, frail or acutely unwell will need to register the details of their vehicle when they enter reception at either surgery and will be allowed to park for up to 90 minutes.

The article correctly stated the position with regard to fines for non-compliance (£100 or £60 if paid within 14 days) payable to Smart Parking.

The doctors and staff of the surgeries have thought long and hard about the introduction of these new arrangements as parking has always proved difficult for patients in the past.

The new arrangements will mean a change for our patients but we hope that everyone will comply and we can ensure that those most in need of the limited car parking spaces or who need to be dropped off or picked up can be provided for. — Yours faithfully,

Janet Waters

Chair, Bell Surgery Patient Participation Group, Henley

Health and safety issue

Sir, — I am writing in response to the advertisement feature for St Mary’s School (Standard, March 10).

The text said that the school claims to have specialist subject teachers.

The accompanying photograph of two youngsters equipped for cricket would indicate that the specialist sports teacher(s) do not know the latest health and safety regulations.

The ECB has made it mandatory for all under-18s to wear head protection when batting and when fielding closer to the batsman than eight yards.

Therefore both youngsters in this photograph should have been wearing helmets.

Parents of children at St Mary’s School should be raising this issue urgently with the headteacher.

At the same time they might also want to check that pupils wear safety goggles — not spectacles — when handling chemicals in science lessons. — Yours faithfully,

Tony Taylor

Knappe Close, Henley

Litterbug students

Sir, — On Thursday evening last week I picked up all the litter from my house to the bottom of our road.

By 9.30am the next day there was loads more.

The Henley College students seem to think that when they park their cars on the roadside that it is compulsory for them to empty all their litter out of the cars.

Perhaps the college could get these lazy, dirty teenagers to take an “ology” of some sort in litter-picking.

The trouble is they are so self-absorbed; nothing exists in their tiny little worlds but themselves.

Come on, you lot, take your litter home or at least chuck it in the college grounds. — Yours faithfully,

Mrs J Hadley

Leaver Road, Henley

Benitez has taste, Tim

Sir, — As a Northumbrian, I was interested to read what your columnist Tim Dellor had to say about the match between Reading and Newcastle United (Standard, March 10).

He wrote of the Newcastle manager that “Benitez is an odd chap” and he obviously finds it difficult to understand why Mr Benitez should choose to be “living in the North East of England”.

I would prefer to think that Mr Benitez is happy to mix with such friendly folk and discerning enough to stay in such a beautiful part of this country. — Yours faithfully,

K B Atkinson

Red House Drive, Sonning Common

I know which boat I want

Sir, — If the opportunity arises, please could I go in Douglas Kedge’s boat? — Yours faithfully,

Chrissie Phillips-Tilbury

Woodlands Road, Sonning Common

Time to bring back Wendy

Sir, — As a Kenton volunteer of five years or more, I would just like to say how I really enjoyed the response from the general manager to your correspondent Sheila Freer (Standard, March 10).

I really feel that it is time to bring back Wendy Bowsher. — Yours faitfhully,

Peter Entwisle

Nicholas Road, Henley

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