Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Your letters...

Chaos wasn’t necessary

Sir, — The works in Hart Street, Henley, last week created havoc for residents, commuters, guests and any others attempting to drive through our fine town.

The aggravation and frustration of drivers caught in this 60-minute traffic jam was palpable to all.

Not only was the project a huge nuisance and the cause of much lost business to Henley merchants, but safety concerns must also have been of paramount concern.

On at least five different occasions on Tuesday last week I noticed ambulances with lights on caught up in the mess.

As it took me more than 45 minutes to navigate the temporary one-way system instead of the usual 10, I can only imagine the distress of the sick awaiting proper care who were caught up in this traffic.

With a bit of prior planning, a vast amount of the hassle caused by these roadworks could have been alleviated, namely by allowing two-way traffic in New Street and one-way traffic in Hart Street.

In addition Thames Water should have assigned more workers to complete the job more quickly. — Yours faithfully,

Will Kuhl

Thames Side, Henley

I will get things done

Sir, — Thanks to the Henley Standard for highlighting the chaos caused to Henley by the Hart Street repairs and Oxfordshire County Council’s lack of planning.

The broken sewer repair was to one side of the road. In the previous week contractors dug up the road in the middle of Hart Street and kept the traffic flowing.

There was no signage warning of last week’s repairs, no re-phasing of the traffic lights and no bollards on New Street so that traffic going to London could flow freely without being stopped by the traffic lights.

Drivers were queuing for up to two-and-a-half hours to get into Henley and this resulted in massive loss of trade for the town.

Also we were waiting for Tarmac to arrive on Thursday morning. Why was this not delivered and sorted on Wednesday evening in order to get the road open as soon as possible?

This shows that the county council is not co-ordinating road repairs like this.

Two other matters. Our Police Community Support Officers do a great job of community policing, which reassures Henley residents but it has been confirmed that six are to go in South Oxfordshire.

Conservative district councillors including Joan Bland and David Nimmo Smith voted to scrap the funding of PCSOs. I tabled a motion to protect them and indeed I am the only district councillor to table motions in the past two years to get things done in the district.

Henley schools are subject to cuts of more than £60,000. I am enormously proud of Gillotts School — it is a fantastic school with high standards and achievements.

Having been a teacher and assistant headteacher at Gillotts for 30 years, I know how hard the students, parents, staff and governors work to maintain these standards.

This £60,000 cut is going to make the job even harder.

As reported, “I will work my socks off for Henley” and get things done. — Yours faithfully,

Stefan Gawrysiak

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

Time to ban diesel cars

Sir, — Given my interest in air quality and especially the health-threatening particulates from diesel, I have recently been able to use a hand-held monitoring device to look at particulate distribution around Henley.

The three worst places were outside the police station in Greys Road, in Duke Street (beside the nitrogen dioxide station) and outside St Mary’s Church in Hart Street.

In fact, seven out of the top 10 worst places are not in our Air Quality Management Area as designated by South Oxfordshire District Council.

High pollution stretches from Northfield End, down New Street and around to the bridge along Reading Road past the post office and on the town hall steps.

So my first two recommendations are to extend the management area to cover all polluted areas and to do something about the current congestion at the bottom of Greys Road before we add to the traffic problem through the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

We can then get the Conservatives to action their first 100 days promise in May 2015 to provide a solution to heavy goods vehicles driving through Henley and to resolve the delays in Henley due to the phasing of traffic lights.

A ban on diesel vehicles is happening across the world but in the UK we wish to compensate the buyers who were misled but probably not the children who have lost 10 to 20 per cent of their lung capacity. By the way, there is no cure for them or you! — Yours faithfully,

David Dickie

Clean Air for Henley, St Katherine’s Road, Henley

Illusion of independence

Sir, — Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak, the Henley Residents’ Group candidate for the Oxfordshire County Council election, listed a number of that council’s responsibilities where he claims they were failing, including “no action on air quality”.

It is South Oxfordshire District Council, not the county council, which is responsible for the plans on air quality and, as a district councillor, why has he not taken action on this important issue for Henley?

In contrast, Joan Bland, a Conservative district councillor, is taking action with her efforts to promote electric cars and getting town charging points installed.

Glen Lambert claims HRG is proud to seek re-election on achievements such as the facilities at Henley Cricket Club and the Eyot Club.

In truth it was the very significant grants from the Conservative-run district council which made most of them possible.

Mr Lambert also states that he is an Independent as he “does not have to follow the diktat of senior Conservative party figures”.

But nor do the local Conservative councillors. They are local Conservative party members coming together with policies for the local council.

Mr Lambert follows the diktat of the HRG party leaders and has the cheek to call himself an Independent. — Yours faithfully,

Malcolm Leonard

Badgers Walk, Lower Shiplake

Tories have done nothing

Sir, — I was delighted to learn that the Henley Residents’ Group have chosen two strong candidates to stand in the forthcoming by-elections, namely Ken Arlett (North Ward) and Glen Lambert (South Ward).

Ken and I were part of the initial eight residents who formed HRG in 1989, prompted by the lack of effort of the then ruling Conservative group to work on behalf of Henley and fight against unwanted developments.

After 20-plus years of good management and many improvements to the town by an HRG-led council we fast forward to 2015 and we find ourselves back in the same situation as in 1989... a ruling Conservative group which fails to work on behalf of Henley and fight against unwanted developments.

I have attended almost all the meetings of Henley Town Council since the Conservatives became the ruling group and I am appalled and saddened by the lack of energy, commitment and passion of the councillors to work on behalf of Henley and the best interests of the residents.

The lack of adherence to the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan by the Conservative-ruled town, district and county councils is a classic example.

Our Conservative MP John Howell masterminded the concept of neighbourhood plans and led us to believe it was the “People’s Plan” and would protect our town from unwanted developments.

More than 80 local residents gave their time and expertise to draft the plan, £100,000 plus of taxpayers’ money was spent on it and we all voted to support the plan. But we were deceived.

Despite opposition by local residents, the Conservative-controlled district council has already approved two care homes which were not in the plan.

One site was earmarked for 55 flats, including 40 per cent affordable, while the LA Fitness site was not even in the plan.

What have our Conservative councillors done? Nothing.

Henley needs HRG councillors such as Ken Arlett who has demonstrated he cares about Henley.

Ken is dedicated, enthusiastic and passionate about our town and will work hard on our behalf. — Yours faithfully.

Pam Phillips

St Mark’s Road, Henley

Plan to be proud of

Sir, — On the back of my article in the Henley Standard in November, let me say that people should be justly proud of the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan and not seek to run it down.

I am equally proud that I was able to give Henley such an important power.

It is all the more important now that South Oxfordshire District Council has “lost” its five-year land supply figure, a measure of housing deliverability. Without it, there would be no protection for Henley.

But, as I have said time and again, what I did not do was give Henley the power to decide everything about planning by itself.

I gave it the right to share in the process of developing the planning system locally by producing policies to help shape the town.

Judgement in the High Court clearly shows neighbourhood plans still carry very significant amounts of weight in the planning system even where the district council has lost its five-year land supply.

This means that a neighbourhood plan would have had the strongest of influences in helping to decide on planning applications as it did in the case of Thames Farm, near Henley.

More recently, I helped change the regulations to ensure that where a district council loses its five-year land supply, a community with a neighbourhood plan which allocates sites for development will only have to operate under a three-year land supply figure.

South Oxfordshire District Council has a three-year land supply and a neighbourhood plan would therefore now carry full weight.

The fact is that if Henley didn’t have a neighbourhood plan, local people would have precious little ability to have any input into local planning.

The idea that neighbourhood plans are worthless in these circumstances is incorrect.

In Henley itself recent care homes applications were not so far removed from the neighbourhood plan to lead to refusal, so there’s a need for a pragmatic approach to neighbourhood plans.

I was pleased to see Henley represented at a meeting I recently called with the district council and parish councils undertaking these plans. Much was explained, particularly how wrong it was to play politics with such plans.

A neighbourhood plan has legal status based on its policies, not on the words which surround them.

It is this Government that is thinking of the ordinary people rather than the developer by giving them this power.

Just ask yourself, would you really prefer the old system of a man in Whitehall deciding these things for you? — Yours faithfully,

John Howell

MP for Henley, House of Commons, London

Clever PM, silly EU

Sir, — The arrogant leaders of the EU have been outwitted by Mrs May before the process of our departure has even begun.

Having refused to even start discussions before Article 50 was triggered, when it finally was they acted like a petulant child by stating that negotiations could not start until June.

Now clever Mrs May is making use of this time to strengthen her negotiating position by seeking a fresh mandate from the British people.

Another own goal by the EU. — Yours faithfully,

Tim Beechey-Newman

Gravel Hill, Caversham

What are MPs meant to do?

Sir, — For me, the greatest fault with our current parliamentary system is that Members of Parliament do not have job descriptions.

This means that they cannot be held to account through appraisals and that there is no basis against which to determine their salaries.

My view is that an MP is elected primarily to represent the views of their constituents.

Sadly, it appears that our current MP has represented party views or his own views rather than the Henley constituency.

This was particularly the case during the protracted negotiations for Townlands Hospital.

Can I therefore urge those candidates putting their names forward for the June election to demonstrate how they will represent Henley’s views and also outline how they envisage an MP’s job description? — Yours faithfully.

Tony Taylor

Knappe Close, Henley

Bad news for our wildlife

Sir, — In a chance meeting with Henley town councillor Will Hamilton by the shops halfway up Greys Road, I learnt that the town council is planning to cut more than a third of the area on the Greys Road embankment that was to be left for wildlife.

This was disappointing as things like red clover are just starting to flower and cutting it now will deprive bees and other insects of a valuable source of nectar.

I have long thought this would be a good area to manage for wildlife and people, so in February 2013, prompted by Malcolm Dodds, then chairman of Henley in Transition, we put a proposal to the council requesting that some of the bank be left uncut until the wildflowers had flowered and set seed.

It is disheartening to find that more than a third of the wildlife area is to be cut too early without any consultation, especially as this is the part where two of the three pyramidal orchids appeared, along with various other wildflowers.

Furthermore bees which like warm, sunny banks were seen using it over Easter.

Wildflowers have declined to such an extent in recent times that the British conservation charity Plantlife has mounted a campaign to save nature on our road verges (visit http://plantlife.love-wildflowers.org.uk/
roadvergecampaign2016)

Plantlife is working nationally and internationally to save threatened wildflowers, plants and fungi. Bees are also in serious decline.

Hence it is a great shame that a modest initiative to encourage wildflowers and bees in Henley is to be reduced in size.

It would have been good to have been given a chance to negotiate changes to the scheme so that this reduction could have been kept to a minimum.

The practice of creating wildflower areas is now being widely adopted by many towns, villages and cities so Henley, by cutting our wildflowers, is running contrary to the present forward thinking. What a shame. — Yours faithfully,

Sally Rankin

Henley Wildlife Group, Coldharbour Close, Henley

Importance of fund-raising

Sir, — As one of the Sonning Common/Kidmore End community first responders, I wish to thank Hilda Garnham for organising the street collection in Sonning Common on April 1.

Hilda and her group of volunteers raised £182.92 for our funds.

This money allows us to purchase the additional equipment we need to measure blood pressure, monitor blood sugar levels and take temperatures (once we have completed the necessary training).

This key information will help us determine how we treat the patients we attend to during a medical emergency.

Community first responders are responsible for raising all the funds needed to equip their schemes.

Our next fund-raising target is £1,000 to purchase a new defibrillator as our existing device needs replacing.

If anyone can help us with this, please contact us through our website, www.sonningcommonfirst
responders.co.uk — Yours faithfully,

Chris Brook

Kidmore End

Baker’s boy, Easter 1937

Sir, — Sitting here, listening to the radio, my mind went back to my first Easter at work as a 14-year-old. How different from today. The year was 1937.

I was employed as a van boy or baker’s boy by the Reading Co-operative Society at their branch in the Market Place, Henley. The round I was on was the town round.

Mr Jack Blake, a noted Henley fireman and angler, was the baker or van driver. Having eaten my hot cross bun for this year, I found it was nowhere near as spicy as they were then. Also hot cross buns then were only an Easter delicacy available the week before Easter.

Shops opened Monday to Friday but most hot cross buns were delivered to homes, pre-ordered, between the hours of midnight on Thursday and 8am on Good Friday in time for breakfast.

Hot cross buns were delivered to the shops on the Thursday morning and piled on the clean floor in a heap about ceiling-high. A hectic time then for the next few hours. All non-serving staff were bagging up the buns in sixes or thirteens, 13 being the baker’s dozen. All had to be ready by early evening.

We had three vans working from the shop, delivering to Wargrave and Knowl Hill on one round, Hambleden and all villages another, one van, Shiplake, Harpsden another, Highmoor and Nettlebed, the third, and ours the town.

All these rounds had to be covered overnight, although it was a case of leaving the buns on the doorstop and banging the knocker. When you think of the Henley bakers all doing the same thing, Hawkers, Gosby’s, Hales, Pithers, Goods, to name some, I think it was quite a noisy night.

Morning came, the van empty, no more hot cross buns until next year. Different today.

Home to Mrs Blake’s for breakfast, then bed as we had been on the go since 7am Thursday. No bread rounds Friday, all shops shut and the same for Easter Monday, which meant two bread rounds on the Thursday before and the Tuesday after Easter.

All vans, usually one person, were doubled up on those days. Easter then. — Yours faithfully,

Mr F Harris

Chiltern Bank, Peppard Common

One-size-fits-all mentality

Sir, — J F Bailey’s letter about passengers on the train coming into Shiplake station being informed to have their travel documents ready (Standard, April 7) underlines that to the one-size-fits-all mentality arriving in Shiplake is the same as arriving at, say, Sheffield or Southampton! — Yours faithfully,

Paul Willson

Pound Lane, Sonning

Enjoyable hospital visit

Sir, — We were at Townlands Hospital in Henley on April 3 for Keith’s check-up and were very pleased with the staff and surroundings.

This was the first time there rather than the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading. Even though we had further to go, it was a pleasant experience.

We continue to enjoy your newsy paper and send our best wishes for the future. — Yours faithfully,

Keith and Eva Allen

Donnington Gardens, Reading

Car park is for patients

Sir, — I hope the gentleman dressed in brown attire driving a silver car, who I witnessed parking in the Townlands Hospital car park on Wednesday last week, then skulking down York Road into town (where I saw him again) is aware that substantial fines are to be imposed on people abusing that car park.

His shopping trip may prove to be expensive.

I am a genuine patient. — Yours faithfully,

Name and address supplied

Bring back bicycle bells

Sir, — As a daily dog walker round the rural lanes of Bix and Assendon, I find it so frustrating when cyclists suddenly loom up behind me with no forewarning.

Bikes are so fast and silent these days that it is impossible to hear them approaching. Does nobody have a bell anymore? Surely this should be a compulsory safety feature. — Yours faithfully,

Carol Brown

Bix Common

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