Sunday, 20 August 2017

Your letters...

My solution to parking

Sir, — I have several concerns regarding the letter headlined “Best solution for parking” from Sarah Moberly, the practice manager at the Hart surgery in Henley (Standard, June 2).

The Henley Volunteer Drivers, of whom I am one, have many years of experience of car parking for the surgeries and Townlands Memorial Hospital.

1. Ms Moberly says that when Townlands and the Chilterns Court care centre announced a parking system “we had no choice but to introduce our own scheme”.

Was any thought given to Townlands and the surgeries having the same scheme? This would give surgery visitors the possibility of, if necessary, parking in the larger, and less used, Townlands car park. It would also be administratively easier.

2. She says that the number of disabled spaces in the surgeries’ car park has been tripled. This is not the case. The two disabled spaces in the top corner have been removed and four new spaces installed in the bottom corner.

I have driven patients with a blue badge to the surgeries many times. It has been quite unusual not to find one of the two old spaces empty. Maybe three spaces would be sufficient but six would be far too many.

3. She says that the disabled spaces are “not just for blue badge holders but for anyone who genuinely cannot walk far”. Really? It has always been the case, not only in the surgeries’ car park but nationally, that any car parking space with the yellow disabled symbol can be used only by blue badge holders.

Ms Moberly says that the four disabled spaces can be used by “anyone who cannot walk far” i.e. a blue badge is not necessary. This free-for-all use of these disabled spaces surely can’t be intended?

4. In a previous letter I suggested that the Townlands car park is too large compared with the surgeries’ car park which probably has many more visitors.

I now realise that the Townlands car park was designed in the days when there were to be beds on the first floor of the hospital as well as beds on the second floor for Sue Ryder. Patients on both floors would have had many visitors requiring car parking in addition to the parking for the outpatient hospital visitors. None of that extra car parking is required.

5. The new system of controlling car parking in the surgeries’ car park seems to be no improvement on the old one. I was informed that one of our drivers was unable even to contemplate getting a parking space mid-morning one day recently. The car park was full to overflowing with much double-parking.

6. It has long been said that the use of the car park by people (shoppers?) not using the surgeries has caused it to be constantly overfull.

The new parking scheme eliminates these people (their vehicle number would be photographed and the driver fined). The fact that the car park is still often full to overflowing shows that the car park was not used improperly as much as was thought.

7. So the surgeries’ car park is too small and Townlands car park is, relatively, too large as it has to cater only for patients visiting the hospital. I suggest that the surgeries’ and Townlands car parks are, effectively, combined so that both would use the same car parking scheme.

An alternative would be for the large amount of staff parking to be moved from the surgeries’ car park to the Townlands car park.

8. Either of these suggestions could ease the situation to such an extent that all patients, not just those who are “frail, disabled or acutely unwell”, would be allowed to use the surgeries’ car park. — Yours faithfully,

Michael Hollas

Queen Close, Henley

Voting system has to change

Sir, — Well, did you get the result you wanted? I bumped into a good friend of mine at the market on Thursday morning last week.

I had just voted and she was about to. She called it her “wasted vote”. We didn’t vote the same.

I can understand her point but this is where our generation departs from the younger one. We understand the value and privilege of being able to put forward our opinion in an election.

No, the first past the post system isn’t fair and certainly with the apathetic turnouts it isn’t representative of the needs and desires of a nation.

This can be seen in stark comparison to the EU referendum where a greater proportion of the electorate than at any general election turned out to have their say.

This was in great part due to the fact that each and every vote mattered. We chose. We as a nation chose. And that is a powerful ability only available where freedom, justice and right prevail.

If someone didn’t vote, they basically said, “I don’t care.” Some countries make voting a legal requirement; should we adopt this measure? I’m not sure.

What I am sure of is that our current system is out of touch with a modern electorate and that a referendum- style form of proportional representation would motivate a greater part of the population than it does now.

Just like in the referendum, people would feel they had voice via the ballot box.

It would make politicians pay more attention to the electorate. It would modernise our democracy and redesign it into a forward- thinking political power.

Did my friend waste her vote? Absolutely not! The only wasted vote is the one not cast. — Yours faithfully,

Edward Sierpowski

Henley

Inspector has got it wrong

Sir, — Once again I feel obliged to comment on the future of the Rose and Crown in Henley, this time the strange decision by a planning inspector to allow Brakspear to continue using the pub for residential purposes despite having been refused permission to do so (Standard, June 2).

As expected, Brakspear has decided this decision means it no longer needs a house of multiple occupation for its staff, which the company’s agent told the inspector was required to run “efficient and viable” operations at its other premises, i.e. the Bull on Bell Street, and the loss of which would jeopardise the running of its pubs and restaurants. Now, of course, a “quality residence” is what is needed for the efficiency and viability of Brakspear.

The company’s only argument, beyond “it’s ours and we can do what we want with it”, for closing the Rose and Crown is that it was not viable.

But this was not the original argument. Do your readers remember chief executive Tom Davies telling the Henley Standard in April 2014 “we had to do that in order that others survive”?

Nevertheless, Brakspear seems to have persuaded an unsuspecting inspector, with the aid of a report that it commissioned, that only beer sales matter. Well, of course they do, it might mean less sold in the Bull.

The inspector’s report is an interesting read. He states it is a re-run of the previous appeal in 2014 but there is no indication whatsoever he has re-read the previous arguments.

He says he does not need to consider whether or not the pub was a facility that benefited the community because the previous inspector had decided it was not.

However, he does reconsider her decision to place great weight on the need to support the economic vitality and viability of the town centre as a whole and hence does not need to address her further conclusion that “the harm to the character of the conservation area” by the loss of a pub “would not be outweighed by a public benefit”.

She was required to give “great weight” to this by the National Planning Policy Framework but he doesn’t even need to think about it!

He gets facts about the Rose and Crown wrong. He speculates as to the purpose of the arch; if he had read the submissions he would know.

He calls the kitchen “tiny”, which it wasn’t, and he says there is a “courtyard area” with “enclosing walls”. In fact, it’s a full burgage plot with gardens to the south and west — it’s on the map.

He gets facts about the location wrong. He says there are no retail or leisure uses in New Street, not noticing the Kenton Theatre and Hotel du Vin.

He says the river frontage has “some” (?) commercial activity “but for the public it is a dead end at the junction with New Street” and “there is likely to be very little passing traffic down New Street”.

The previous inspector found New Street to be “a main thoroughfare and a key route from the upper part of the town to the busy river front”. (She also saw the Kenton and Hotel du Vin.)

He also has a pretty cavalier attitude towards South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning policies.

CST1 (town centres) he dismisses as a “general” policy and reduces the weight given to CSHEN1 (the strategy for Henley) on the grounds that it is supported by outdated figures for retail and leisure uses despite those same figures appearing in the GVA Grimley Leisure Needs Assessment which he seems to think trumps all.

The fact that the town is doing nicely does not invalidate those figures. They are the only ones we have and include bars, restaurants and cafés, not just pubs.

The inspector doesn’t seem to realise this document is a report with recommendations, not policy.

He creates new categories of peripheral town centres and non-vibrant market town character that policies need not apply to. He deigns to consider any policy relating to the character of a conservation area.

So, all in all, local democracy, backed up by an inspector who could at least see what she was looking at, is overruled and national and district council planning policies are trashed by a credulous inspector with nothing but “vitality and vibrancy” on his mind.

The district council can still take this to the High Court and, I think, should do so.— Yours faithfully,

Richard Guy

New Street, Henley

Tell us what’s
happening

Sir, — The fascinating Henley version of Game of Thrones has drawn to a close with the ex-blue Queen’s move to a home on the Thames in a far-away territory. As if to copy Henley, Westminster, our arch rival, now launches an alternative version, but will it have the passion, treachery and authenticity of our home grown original?

How can Brexit possibly have the same interest of U-turns, intrigue and legal wrangling as our very own neighbourhood plan? Shall we have a “hard neighbourhood plan” or a “soft neighbourhood plan” in the future? Will it be good for business or just suffocate us to death with toxic car fumes?

Will the usual “councils’ Coalition of Chaos” prevail and our previously agreed neighbourhood plan be changed repeatedly before our very eyes? Will our wonderful town only be a place fit for the old as central planning in Wallingford passes retirement home after retirement home?

Perhaps your parish correspondent could have a new career as “a Henley John Betjeman” viz:

Come friendly bombs and fall on Henley

It isn’t fit for youngsters now

There isn’t grass to graze a cow

Swarm over. Death

But NO — there is hope coming to Henley town hall. Former UKIP wizard, Councillor Ken Arlett (HRG revived) is now chairman of the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan steering group. Before I offer congratulations, could I please ask for a statement on the neighbourhood plan that we can all understand?

What is the status of the Plan and where are we against the plan for housing? As importantly, what is the position on all the non-housing aspects of the neighbourhood plan, which made the plan balanced and liveable?

Ken, we are all starved of information on the direction of travel of the neighbourhood plan. Take a lesson from Donald Trump and tell us “what the hell is happening!” — Yours faithfully,

Barry Wood

Rotherfield Peppard

Diary of a commuter

Sir, — Further to your various articles on the state of Great Western Railway’s services, I decided to record a diary of my commuting travels in London for two weeks.

This shows the inconsistencies of being a commuter from Wargrave but also reflects any branch line user’s painful life.

It just became worse with the new 30-minute timetable which regularly leaves before delayed mainline services reach Twyford.

Twice in the last week the taxi drivers at Twyford have benefited from my being stranded by GWR — £10 a time on the train fare and much more for Henley and Shiplake users. Add to this the one-hour Wargrave off-peak version of the service (which saves GWR one whole minute) and it’s very painful.

It can’t be that hard to run a reliable service but GWR makes it look difficult.

Here’s my GWR diary for April 24 to May 5.

Monday

07.49 on time but huge ticket queue at Paddington. Nowhere else to buy one as ticket guy on train was swamped and no machine at Wargrave!

19.05 leaves at 19.11 from platform 12, not 8 as usual — mad rush once platform announced four minutes before train leaves.

Score: 2/10

Tuesday

07.49 on time so I arrived on time and bought a ticket on the train which worked in the barriers!

17.05 on time and connection made — result! Ticket home worked as well! Stone dead wi-fi throughout but thankful that rest of the day worked well.

Score: 9/10 (or like it should be every day)

Wednesday

07.49 leaves on time, wifi stone dead. Train arrives 08.28, one minute late, not bad! Bought ticket on board which worked in barriers!

23.18 home — left on time and made connection but branch line train then delayed and left at 00.09, six minutes late.

Score: 7/10

Thursday

08.54 from Twyford leaves at 09.02 due to “congestion”. Busy on platform at Twyford. What it will be like when there are no through-trains heaven knows! Wifi on board has been upgraded — wow, it’s a modern world. Bought ticket at Twyford which worked in barriers. Arrived at 09.44 having coupled with another train at Paddington, 13 minutes late.

21.48 home — left on time and made connections at Slough and Twyford on to branch line. Didn’t even try wifi.

Score: 7/10

Friday

07.49 on time. Train less busy but still people standing from Maidenhead. Wifi upgraded and fast, bought a ticket on board which worked. Train arrives on time (Friday bonus!) and no barrier as platform 9. So far, so good!

18.18 no barrier as platform 1, train left on time and, OMG, then wifi is fast.

Score: 9/10 (or as it should be every day!)

Monday

Bank holiday

Score: 10/10!

Tuesday

07.49 on time. Bought ticket on train — ticket guy has to move through train before Maidenhead or too packed. People standing after Twyford day after a bank holiday! Upgraded wifi but slow as train fills up.

18.18 leaves three minutes late, upgraded wifi works well. Easy connection at Twyford to 18.59 which is almost on time leaving!

Score: 8/10

Wednesday

09.39 on time, bought ticket at Twyford, wifi good.

18.18 left three minutes late, wifi upgraded but too slow when train packed.

Score: 8/10

Thursday

07.15 on time, no ticket seller on train, wifi upgraded but very slow once train packed at Maidenhead, standing room only from Twyford as usual. Wow, lots of ticket sellers waiting at fares to pay window — is this progress, I wonder?

19.36 left/arrived on time, wifi good, branch line slightly delayed but we’re making progress here!

Score: 8/10

Friday

Final day of diary, let’s hope it’s a good one!

7.49 left on time, bought ticket on train from John who was his usual slightly grumpy but humorous self — getting up at 4am can’t be good! Arrives on time!

18.05 Frome Flyer leaves on time and arrives at Twyford in time for dash over bridge for connection which also leaves on time. Didn’t bother with wifi as too busy on board. My God, progress or a false dawn?

Score: 9/10

Conclusion

Total score 68/90 over nine days = 75 per cent. Must try harder to be consistent! — Yours faithfully,

Will Rowson

High Street, Wargrave

Train times

at regatta

Sir, — Wargrave User Group (WUG), which seeks to monitor and safeguard services to and from Wargrave, is appalled by Great Western Railway’s (GWR) inadequate communication skills in respect of services on the Branch Line during Henley Royal Regatta — Wednesday, June 28 to Sunday, July 2.

GWR is only providing timetable information online — no handy printed leaflets — although GWR has promised to post details at all stations immediately prior to June 28.

In essence, and to overcome GWR’s unwillingness to communicate other than online, here are the key changes, as notified to us by GWR and National Rail:

1. No trains will stop at Wargrave in either direction on regatta Saturday, July 1. Instead a minibus service will leave Wargrave station for Twyford station hourly at 7.27am, 8.27am, and then every hour (departing from Wargrave station) from 9.58am through to 10.58pm to connect at Twyford with a non-stop train to Henley. Total journey time from Wargrave to Henley will be about 30 minutes.

There will also be a minibus service leaving Twyford station for Wargrave station at 7.02am, 7.46am and then every hour (from Twyford station) from 9.16am to 11.16pm linked to a non-stop service from Henley to Twyford, from the 9.01am departure from Henley and then every hour (departing Henley) at three minutes past the hour unti 2.03pm, then leaving hourly from Henley between 3.01pm to 12.01am. Again, total journey time will be about 30 minutes.

2. On regatta Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday after 8.45am (but excluding the evening peak) each morning the branch line trains to Henley will not call at Wargrave and branch line trains from Henley will not call at Shiplake.

The rush hour evening through services from Paddington to Henley will not operate beyond Twyford. The services will merely continue to Reading.

During the evening peak (5pm to 7pm) services out of Twyford will call at Wargrave. However, in the opposite direction, services from Henley will not call at Shiplake.

3. On regatta Sunday there will be an hourly service direct from Wargrave to Henley and vice versa starting at 8.49am through to 9.49pm and then at 10.19pm.

Return direct services from Henley to Wargrave start at 9.29am through to 9.29pm then at 10.01pm and 22.31pm. Whether you travel between Wargrave and Henley and vice versa by having to travel via Twyford, GWR have confirmed the ticket price will remain the same as if the journey was a conventional direct one. Shiplake users should check with GWR that the same applies to them.

Of course there is no guarantee that GWR will alter these plans but you have been warned. WUG disclaims any responsibility for the accuracy of any information supplied by GWR and National Rail. — Yours faithfully,

Philip Meadowcroft

Wargrave User Group, Watermans Way, Wargrave

Help out at

playscheme

Sir, — The Henley Outdoor Playscheme, known as HOPS, is more than 40 years old and a Henley childhood institution.

We are proud that many parents who send their children to enjoy HOPS have fond memories themselves of coming to the summer scheme.

This year, HOPS is being held at Trinity School from July 31 to August 4 from 9am to 1pm and we are looking to recruit local young people aged 16-plus to help us with running all the fun.

It’s a paid role: those aged 16-17 earn £150 and those aged 18 and over earn £175 for the week.

In return, we ask for help on set-up morning on July 29, and attendance at all five mornings.

They gain experience in working in a team, being proactive, and running or supervising a number of activities from cooking to sports.

We will happily write references for future jobs and university applications if required.

To apply, young people should email hopsenquiry@
yahoo.com for an application form.

Registrations for children to attend HOPS week open today, June 16, and the form can be downloaded from www.hopshenley.co.uk

Children in school years 1-7 inclusive can attend, i.e. they must be in year 1 now.

We are very grateful to the Henley Standard, Wilkins and Tesco for their continued support of HOPS and if any other local businesses would like to support this volunteer-run playscheme in any way we would love to hear from them.

We also welcome anyone who would like to join our friendly committee to help organise and run HOPS. — Yours faithfully,

Emma Taylor

Chairwoman, Henley
Outdoor Play Scheme

More News:

Latest video from

VIDEO: WW2 battles relived at Mapledurham
 

POLL: Have your say