Sunday, 20 August 2017

Your letters...

Community achievement

Sir, — On Tuesday last week, 34 years after the closure of the Henley War Memorial Hospital, the opening ceremony for Townlands Memorial Hospital took place.

I was delighted to be there and also to see Dr Peter Ashby’s photograph with your front page report (Standard, March 31).

This represents a major achievement for all the community.

I was a founder member of the Townlands Steering Group in 2003 when it was formed by Henley Town Council to act as a voice for the whole community which wished to see the existing health services continue to be delivered on the hospital site.

However, Peter Ashby was involved from the early Eighties when the War Memorial Hospital was closed and we were promised the money (£500,000) would be used to redevelop Townlands.

We have had to wait very patiently since 1983 but the new Townlands is now up and running and the future of locally delivered health services in Henley is assured.

As part of the development we also have a 64-bed care home operated by the Orders of St John on behalf of Oxfordshire County Council.

We will also see assisted living accommodation and key worker housing, which is still being built.

The result is that we have exceeded what many people thought was achievable and all in the community can feel proud in the way we have worked together to protect, preserve and enhance health services on which we all depend.

The original plan was to re-provide all the services and, with one exception, these have been retained or expanded.

The exception is, of course, the 18-bed Peppard Ward. Instead of a like-for-like service, the rapid access care unit was opened in February, operating from the middle floor of the new hospital.

There are good arguments that have been advanced for this “ambulatory model” of care, which is based on greater reliance on care at home and adult social services.

This new service remains unproven, although anecdotal evidence suggests it appears to have been operating in a way that is welcomed by patients and staff.

However, the dependency on the highly stressed adult social care system is already causing difficulty and delayed transfers of care (often known as bed blocking) are at very high levels.

It is vital we work to ensure that patients receive the care they need and are treated with dignity.

The new Townlands Memorial Hospital opens against a backdrop of an NHS that is struggling under unprecedented pressure of demand and financial stringency.

Across England, 44 “sustainability and transformation plans” are being drawn up and we are part of the Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and West Berkshire plan.

As part of this, a consultation by the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group is considering the future of services in the county. A key goal of the plan is to find £479million in savings (cuts) by 2020. How services in this part of Oxfordshire will look by 2020 is starting to emerge. It is clear that a reduction in the number of beds in the county is underway: Townlands is just one location where NHS beds are closing in favour of leased beds from care homes.

It is not clear how community organisations such as the Townlands Steering Group are best able to respond in order to continue to monitor and scrutinise health services.

The commissioning group’s consultation is in two parts. The first part of the consultation finishes on April 9.

There was an event in Henley on March 2 which was part of this consultation. You can hear an audio recording of this at www.youtube.com/

watch?v=2dv5tSma2p0

I also encourage you to complete your response to the consultation online at https://tinyurl.com/k7nqhf3

You can choose to answer specific questions or give more free-form responses. I recommend the latter as the questions are carefully worded to result in conclusions which the commissioning group favours (as they were over the bed closures in 2015).

Lastly, I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to the campaign to preserve and redevelop the services at Townlands.

Many people have been involved but I will name only one, Dr Peter Ashby, who has been involved for 35 years in a way which is nothing short of heroic.

Even so, the main reason we succeeded was the unstinting support of the whole community who have always supported Townlands Hospital. Together, we achieved something special. — Yours faithfully,

Ian Reissmann

Chairman, Townlands Steering Group, Henley

Look after care staff

Sir, — Well, what’s the excuse this time around? It looks like lessons have not been learnt by the management of the Chilterns Court Care Centre following another extremely damaging report by the Quality Care Commission, this being the second it has received in not so many years (Standard, March 31).

Do the management and trustees not realise that their workers are the ones in the front line and if their morale is at rock bottom then the care given in this environment cannot be of the highest quality?

Considering this is a brand new facility, there should be no excuses for any failure to provide the quality of care expected from this home and, as it has been criticised again, then the management should be brought to book.

I also find it worrying that the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group has downgraded our hospital at huge cost only to provide beds for those that need them on demand in a new care home that has received this recent report.

What kind of clinical excellence is available to patients here as was in the old Peppard Ward and does anyone of the great and good know or care?

It is all very well bleating on about care in the community, which I am sure is the National Health Service’s final goal, but if the funding for care workers to have a decent wage and proper training, whether in care homes like Chilterns Court or working in the community, is not available from local authorities or the NHS, then these problems will only get worse.

Somewhere down the line no doubt Joe Public will be forced to foot the bill which, with the aging population, seems inevitable.

It is not as if successive governments have not seen this problem coming due to the post-war baby boom but they have obviously chosen to sweep it under the carpet. — Yours faithfully,

David Palmer

Swiss Farm, Henley

Less talk, more action

Sir, — Contrary to the findings of the traffic modelling study carried out by Wokingham Borough Council in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council, South Oxfordshire District Council and Reading Borough Council (who ought to have a considered opinion), I can only suggest that Councillor David Nimmo Smith is very blinkered when he says: “We are not sure if a third bridge would be of benefit to the wider community” (Standard, March 31). What about the people of Sonning who have put up with the traffic all the while I’ve lived here (52 years) and likewise in Reading and Caversham?

Come on now, give us a third bridge. All the time you are arguing, the price is going up and up. — Yours faithfully,

Jane Gascoine

Sonning Eye

Build another road bridge?

Sir, — Did I read that Councillor David Nimmo Smith said: “We are not sure if the new bridge would be of benefit to the wider community”?

From your article, he was probably referring to the idea of constructing a modern standard road bridge spanning the Caversham rowing lakes from the entry road to Thames Valley Business Park to the A4155.

That bridge could be started tomorrow.

This would avoid wasting time and “fees” on traffic modelling, interminable “studies”, meetings and consultations because it’s such a simple and cheap solution.

The bridge would not need any homes or business premises to be demolished, require any road closures, nor inconvenience anyone during construction. It would link to a service road from Sonning Eye’s gravel processing plant and would enable 32-ton gravel lorries to access the bridge and be on the M4/A4 in 10 minutes, thus avoiding Caversham and Henley.

It would also bypass the oversized 18th century garden ornament called Sonning Bridge and make an inestimable contribution to the environment, easing the flow of traffic soon to be generated by Wokingham’s 26,000 planned homes and Reading’s 6,000 for starters.

There could be a park-and-ride on the Oxfordshire side to benefit commuters.

Still not sure if the new bridge would be of benefit to the community?

Well, if you’re a “highways consultant” or even a politician, let’s not be hasty here, we need to think about this, have some more dreary meetings, conferences and arrange a few nice expensive studies...

Actually, tell everyone that there would be more traffic going into Cemetery Junction than taking the more direct route over a brand new bridge to the A4155.

Better still, let’s be safe, ignore the reality, dream up scary cost figures to frighten everybody and do absolutely nothing. — Yours faithfully,

Pat Doyle

Sonning

Keep road width small

Sir, — In your edition of March 24 Harpsden resident Odette Moss pointed out that traffic for which Gillotts Lane was not designed has worn away the banks that were private land and that it was therefore only right that this erosion should be corrected by the highways authority (Oxfordshire County Council).

Last week the county council’s cabinet member for transport, the overworked Councillor David Nimmo Smith, appeared to disclaim responsibility for this erosion because the eroded banks were not part of the highway!

What matters to Mrs Moss and to Harpsden Parish Council is that the erosion is kerbed, either by the highways authority or by South Oxfordshire District Council conditions imposed on the developers of Highlands Farm above Gillotts Lane.

The 170 houses planned for Highlands Farm clearly threaten traffic disaster unless Gillotts Lane is tackled first.

The choice lies between widening it as far as existing housing allows or constraining it as much as is compatible with the interests of the residents.

Harpsden Parish Council is unanimously in favour of constraint, as are Vectos, the professional traffic consultants hired by the developers, and the sooner this is accepted by both the district and county councils, the better for all of us. — Yours faithfully,

Kester George

Chairman, Harpsden Parish Council

Reassured over repairs

Sir, — I am grateful and flattered that Councillor David Nimmo Smith, cabinet member for highways at Oxfordshire County Council, took the time to answer my letter regarding the state of the roads in the parish of Harpsden.

I did not prioritise the state of Gillotts Lane as the lower half was resurfaced some years ago.

My concerns are the road through the village, Sheephouse Farm Lane, Harpsden Way and the road to Peppard, which are all in need of repair.

There was an accident in Sheephouse Lane recently, which the police attended, and the remains of parts of the car can still be seen.

Cllr Nimmo Smith has reassured me that monies will one day be available for these essential repairs for which I thank him. — Yours faithfully,

Odette Moss

Harpsden

Don’t park in disabled bays

Sir, — I write with reference to your article about the Prime Minister’s security team parking in Henley while Mrs May shopped (Standard, March 17).

I think it’s positive advertising and will encourage shoppers who would not normally shop in Henley and the surrounding areas to visit in the hope of seeing Mrs May.

I have no objection to this. What I do object to is people who are not disabled parking in bays marked “disabled”. While you continue to do so people with limited mobility have to park elsewhere.

Disabled people do go out at night so please refrain from doing the above.

Having someone in situ in a car with no blue badge is not acceptable. You know who you are! Shame on you. — Yours faithfully,

A disabled person

Shameful
rail service

Sir, — Sadly, I had to spend every day last week travelling by train between Wargrave and London daily.

To call the service unreliable would be generous — chaotic is probably better.

Only one out of the nine trains I travelled on was on time.

Mark Hopwood, managing director of Great Western Railway, should be personally ashamed of this.

Take the Thursday morning. I caught the 6.43am to Twyford and so far so good. But then the 6.53am to London was delayed due to some mess-up on the service returning to Henley.

So I missed the first 15 to 30 minutes of the meeting I was aiming for.

Do I get compensation? Sadly, no. Does it look bad to my clients? Definitely.

I really pity the people that rely on this service. Shameful. — Yours faithfully,

Will Rowson

High Street, Wargrave

Mark Hopwood, managing director of Great Western Railway, replies: “On Friday there was a major signalling problem between Maidenhead and Slough, which caused disruption across the network. This fault caused the delay to the 06.53 Twyford-London Paddington service.

“I am sorry this caused Mr Rowson to miss his meeting. I would be happy to refund the cost of his ticket, although I appreciate this does not make up for missing the start of his meeting.

“We are continuing to work closely with Network Rail to address infrastructure performance issues, such as this signalling problem, as quickly as possible.”

Inexplicable messages

Sir, — In fairness to Great Western Railway, perhaps I may add a coda to Paul Willson’s letters of March 10 and 31 and point out that it is not only Arriva which is adding to the gaiety of nations with its announcements during journeys.

First, it is constantly advising us that, if we see anything suspicious, we should report it either to a member of staff or a police officer.

Now, the last time I saw a policeman on a train was, I think, in 1998, while, come to think of it, I seldom see one at all nowadays.

I also like the announcement late at night as we come into Shiplake that those who alight should have their tickets and travel documents ready.

The station may appear deserted, but evidently there are customs officers and border guards lurking in the shadows to apprehend those who have no passports or visas. — Yours faithfully,

J F Bailey

St Andrew’s Road, Henley

Independent achievers

Sir, — It’s kind of Malcolm Leonard to describe Henley Residents’ Group as a “big fish in a small pond” and a “major force in the town”.

Since 1989 that exactly sums up HRG’s role in preserving, enhancing and creating additional services and facilities in Henley, all of which have been initiated and delivered by HRG.

These include the cinema, the market place, Citizens Advice, playgrounds at Mill Meadows, Freemans and Makins, the Eyot Boat Club, King’s Arms Barn, the cricket club and many more.

Last week we saw Townlands Hospital officially opened and the skate park development get under way.

In HRG we are proud to stand for re-election on this record of magnificent achievements.

How has HRG managed to achieve so much? It is a combination of hard work, vision and, most importantly, by acting as residents and being answerable only to residents.

Malcolm Leonard generously compliments HRG for its engagement with the community and our professional organisation and approach to working for Henley.

His suggestion that this means we are not independent is a little puzzling, however. We are independent because we do not have to follow the diktat of senior Conservative party figures at Didcot, Oxford or Westminster and we consider this to be our unique selling point.

We have no split loyalties — HRG is answerable only to those who elect us year in and year out, the voters and residents of Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Glen Lambert

By-election candidate (Henley Residents’ Group), Henley Town Council. Greys Road, Henley

Let’s stick to the issues

Sir, — I strongly support the calls in last week’s Henley Standard for the election campaign to be kept civil and that we stick to the issues.

This is what matters to Henley residents and exactly what I want to talk about: we still have masses of potholes (some repaired twice), no new pedestrian crossings, funding removed from local buses and children centres, £60,000 worth of cuts to local schools and no action on air quality.

It is clear that we have not had value for money from Oxfordshire County Council, which remains remote and inefficient.

I want to work more closely with the council so we get action from on what matters to Henley residents.

If Will Hall and Malcolm Leonard re-read the Henley Standard article about me they will see that I raise legitimate issues and I never attack people personally.

I hope that their future replies discuss the issues that I am raising instead of attacking me personally. — Yours faithfully,

Stefan Gawrysiak

Henley Residents’ Group candidate for Oxfordshire County Council, Elizabeth Road, Henley

Leave rugby players alone

Sir, — May one ask that the Henley Standard, when referencing council committee members, includes what party they represent when reporting on debates?

I am sure that these are hard-working people making decisions but an amazing ignorance was displayed by Councillor Jane Smewing (Henley Residents’ Group) about the behaviour of rugby players when they leave the changing room (Standard, March 31). “[They] are either desperate to get on the pitch or in the bar,” she was reported as saying.

So one cannot expect these ignorant, only-just-stopped-dragging-their-knuckles rugby players to remember to switch off the light!

What an insult to the Hawks which (like all rugby clubs) teach players discipline, manners and sportsmanship from the first day they get to touch a ball.

Do councillors really think that the club should spend £30,000 on such silly things as light sensors?

I trust Cllr Smewing will issue an apology. — Yours faithfully,

Soren Nielsen

Belle Vue Road, Henley

Expensive EU divorce

Sir, — The settlement on divorce of the UK from the European Union is going to be huge.

As the second biggest contributor for 40 years, the UK is entitled to at least 35 per cent of the assets of the EU, which are to be liquidated and paid over to H M Treasury.

As providers of the seed start-up funds of the European Central Bank, they probably need to return to the UK government in excess of 50 per cent of that bank’s assets.

Brussels will find this hard to achieve while undergoing the loss of UK income from the end of March 2019 and will leave the people and commercial enterprises of the nation states little money with which to continue to buy goods and services from the UK or anyone else.

So leaving the trading arrangements out of the debate until after they have decided how much they are going to pay the UK and on what payment terms is extreme folly.

They must surely relate the two deals. Interest payable on money due to the UK could be related to tariffs and relationships going forward. — Yours faithfully,

Sue Doughty

Verey Close, Twyford

Great to have local back

Sir, — The new Bottle & Glass Inn in Binfield Heath is an excellent, pub-style restaurant.

It is an upmarket pub but nevertheless it aims to be the local and this is very important and a welcome change for Binfield Heath as it is our only pub. When I first arrived there were five pubs in Binfield Heath.

In the Bottle & Glass Inn, there is a “locals” bar which features specialty beers from the local Loddon Brewery plus two other local craft beers, Great!

The food surpassed our expectations.

My daughter took us to the opening night for the villagers who were offered a special half-price deal. I had local venison followed by bread pudding with marmalade and chicory ice cream, which was incredibly good.

Each of us had different dishes and all were excellent. The prices are very fair, in fact quite reasonable even by local standards. The wine list is very good.

The landlord asked us for our comments while we were eating. My wife mentioned that the door to the ladies’ loo was very heavy and we had seen one old lady having difficulty opening it.

The landlord said he would have that fixed immediately.

There were several small instances which suggested the new team are really keen to make the pub a local success.

I’m glad we finally have an alternative to Orwells which is really expensive.

One small point but highly relevant — the Bottle & Glass Inn welcomes walkers and their dogs, cyclists and horse riders.

They have been very smart in catering for these different types of people. My daughter said too few pubs in the area allows dogs in, which makes it hard for many families who take their dog with them on a long walk.

I reckon the landlords deserve to succeed and they need to, having signed a 20-year lease. — Yours faithfully,

Peter Woolsey

Binfield Heath

Wonderful youth festival

Sir, — On behalf of Henley Youth Festival, we would like to thank Henley for a wonderful HYF 2017.

We had school workshops for both local primary and secondary schools, seven performing arts events, including five inspiring performances at the Kenton Theatre, an interschool cross-country run and writing and art competitions and exhibitions.

There was also the Young Reporter competition run by the Henley Standard.

We were delighted to again include the Chiltern Centre in our workshop programme and we provided several workshops for Bishopswood schools.

We had record numbers of entries for our competitions and the HYF Go Kids Run, and high numbers of performers for all our performing arts events.

There is a large team of volunteers who work throughout the year to plan the festival and without them it would not be possible. Many thanks to everyone for all your hard work and dedication to HYF.

We are very grateful to the local companies and organisations who are our sponsors. These include Invesco Perpetual, Henley Educational Trust, Henley Town Council, Henley Royal Regatta, Henley Round Table, Henley Lions Club, the Rotary Club of Henley Bridge, HEDFAS, GoKids, Penny & Sinclair, Thamesfield Youth Association, Henley Business Partnership, Harpsden Wealth Management, Ella’s Kitchen, Penningtons Manches, Higgs Group and many more.

In addition, local companies and organisations including Lovibonds, Henwood Studios, the River & Rowing Museum, the Bell Bookshop, Swiss Farm and Shiplake College gave their time, facilities and support.

We feel privileged to be part of such a wonderful team who enable the young people of Henley to demonstrate their skills, build their confidence and show what a fabulous group of young people we have in Henley.

Thank you also to the Henley Standard for your support throughout the year and in particular for your coverage of the festival in recent editions.

HYF will be 25 years old next year. We hope our anniversary festival will be full of celebration as well as providing plenty to inspire Henley’s young people. — Yours faithfully,

Kate Swinburne-Johnson and Jo Dickson

Co-Chairs, HYF 2017

Thank you for caring

Sir, — I would like to thank all those kind people who helped me when I fell heavily in Henley market place on Friday. They waited until an ambulance had arrived and I’m very grateful for their support. — Yours faithfully,

Maureen Buckland

War Memorial Place, Henley

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