Monday, 11 December 2017
Unsafe route for children
Sir, — Some of your readers may recall some acrimonious correspondence published in August 2011 about serious risks seen in the travel plans for the proposed new building for Peppard Primary School.
These very real concerns were ignored by Oxfordshire County Council’s planning committee, which approved the application.
It soon became apparent that, although the school owns the site, there was no likelihood of the council, the education authority, funding a new building so it seemed the site would lie fallow, as would our objections.
Since then the school has found funds to build a “hard play area” on the site so that it could be used as a playing field at some point.
In March, you reported that permission had been given to construct a new footpath to the site. As this would pass in front of my house and we had not been consulted, I made some enquiries.
It quickly became apparent that although this would be a significant change to the approved plan, no new plans had been published nor had any consultation been held with the residents of the dozen or so properties that a footpath would have to pass.
After much digging around, I found that the new plan differs markedly from that approved in 2011.
More significantly, it seems that the county council marked its own homework as to whether the new plan represents a new application and decided that it doesn’t.
Objections to the original application had nothing to do with the construction of the school per se but related solely to what many saw as a hugely risky travel plan for pupils and parents.
In a nutshell, this “park and stride” plan assumed that in all weathers and light levels parents would happily park some 300 yards away from the school and then walk along Church Lane to and from it.
Every parent to whom this idea has been described saw it as simply delusional but as it had been devised by an “independent consultant” from W S Atkins and was blessed by the school governors, it was accepted by the county council’s planning committee.
The new plan (not consulted on) is for groups of children to be escorted some 600 yards to and from the field. The pupils will have to walk either along the Church Lane tarmac, often deeply puddled, or on the grass verges which will rapidly turn to mud.
The road is too narrow for two vehicles to pass in opposite directions without one stopping and pulling over so our grass verges now seem doomed.
Works that began on Monday last week are to narrow the north entrance into Church Lane and create a two-part footpath across the “lay-by” outside the old Dog pub. Narrowing the entrance to Church Lane is supposed to reduce vehicle speeds into it which of itself might be sensible were it not for the nature of the B481/Church Lane junction and the traffic using it.
It is a busy junction where cars always leave the B481 at 30mph (or more) because slowing down is too dangerous if there are vehicles behind you. Most fail to indicate, making the first 200 yards of Church Lane risky for all pedestrians.
Putting in a “speed reduction” change makes it very likely that there will now be regular rear end shunts at the junction or dangerous swerves into the northbound lane.
This problem will be exacerbated by the change, making it even more difficult than it already is to drive out of Church Lane in either direction.
We regularly witness noisy frustration as a vehicle trying to drive out is confronted by another one driving in.
All of that may turn out to be just an extra annoyance inflicted on us by the county council and the school.
The option of completely closing the Church Lane/B481 junction and taking all traffic across the centre of the common by adopting the short road already there seems to be beyond the wit of those concerned.
The real risk is to groups of children threading through this mess.
It is one thing, as under the “park and stride” plan, for one parent to be walking along with their own child whose hand can be held for safety but quite another for a group of tired children to be straggling back to the school from the field with their backs to the traffic and with only a couple of teachers in charge of them.
Even if the plan had specified that they must all wear hi-vis jackets and be tightly corralled there must be a high risk of a speeding vehicle ploughing into them — it has happened before.
Were I a parent with a child at the school I would want to know a great deal more about how safety will be managed on this dangerous journey before considering consenting to allow my child to make it.
I raised my concerns with the county council, which has politely decided that it knows best.
Given that we have just seen the dreadful consequences of residents’ concerns being dismissed by experts, I cannot let the matter lie here. — Yours faithfully,
Poor road resurfacing
Sir, — When St Andrew’s Road in Henley was rekerbed, and the pavement was asphalted, I argued for Blandy Road, St Katherine’s Road and Manor Road to be dealt with in a similar way. Unfortunately, the resurfacing of these roads was done to a much lower specification.
The result is that now, less than a year since the resurfacing was done, the kerbstones are moving and the tar slurry used on the pavement has more grass growing through it than there is on my lawn!
However, earlier this month, pavements in a small close off Blandy Road were resurfaced with asphalt, which is far superior to the “tar slurry” used on the other pavements.
Why the difference in the quality of the resurfacing in the same road when the whole road has the same type of footfall and we all pay council tax?
In February, a street light located at a bend in the road was knocked down. It has only just been replaced — almost five months later. Now is the time for the residents of these roads to put our own houses/gardens in order.
Some pavements are overgrown by hedges, some of which extend half way across the pavement, thus restricting the passage of pedestrians, prams, pushchairs, scooters and wheelchairs.
We residents must ensure that our hedges remain within our boundaries and do not spread across the pavement as the council can charge residents for cutting these back to the boundary of a property.
Garden rubbish has also been deposited on the bridle path by some residents, presumably to save them the trouble of taking it to the tip.
This rubbish should be removed, preferably by those who deposited it there. This is fly-tipping.
If we all do our part, we will have a stronger case to argue for the improvements to be made to our local pavements, kerbs and roads. — Yours faithfully,
Blandy Road, Henley
Better roads on Continent
Sir, — I notice that the surface of King’s Road, Henley, is to be replaced.
It seems the dates chosen to close the road are during the town’s busiest weeks of the year.
I have just returned from driving in France and Spain, where as well as the superb road surfaces after resurfacing the manholes, drains and other access covers in the road are levelled to the new road surface.
I doubt that this will be done in King’s Road. Drive around Henley and you will notice that the metal covers in the road are generally lower, many at a jaunty angle, than the road surface so not only are the surfaces third world but also your car will bump as it passes over each cover.
Do try Upper Market Place and Gravel Hill.
We are not well served by Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, nor by our previous county councillor who presided over years and years of deteriorating roads.
Do we not have anyone on our town council who can inspect the work on King’s Road and kick up a stink if it is substandard? — Yours faithfully,
Elizabeth Road, Henley
Importance of third bridge
Sir, — I see that Councillor David Bartholomew is pontificating again about our little 18th century single-lane bridge in Sonning — you know, the one that has become part of the daily rat run for many of those living in South Oxfordshire and working in Berkshire — when, quite frankly, he has no right to do so (Standard, June 9).
He quite obviously doesn’t live in the village and he clearly doesn’t drive through the village on a daily basis to get to work.
So, please, what do you really know, Cllr Bartholomew? You’re displaying a somewhat Nimbyist attitude.
There are many who need to traverse the River Thames to reach work each day and you need to look at the issue from a more regional basis.
Sonning Bridge is the only Thames crossing on the busy commuter route between Henley and Reading, enabling those living in South Oxfordshire to access Winnersh Triangle, Thames Valley Business Park, Bracknell, the Royal Berkshire Hospital and Reading University. Not to mention the school run.
A third Reading bridge is desperately needed by so many.
Look at the development that is taking place in this area — the Thames Valley is the UK’s most productive region outside London.
There are landmark town centre regeneration schemes under way in Reading, Bracknell, Slough, Wokingham and Maidenhead, while the University of Reading has begun the construction of its new Thames Valley Science Park just off the M4.
And increased levels of housebuilding in this area will give rise to a larger workforce, so an improved infrastructure is vital.
Businesses and their workforces based in this area benefit from international connectivity but our local connectivity is hindered by those who wish to block the construction of a much-needed third Reading bridge.
Think macro, Cllr Bartholomew, there is no room for those who are not forward-thinking. — Yours faithfully,
Enough small town politics
Sir, — Judging by his letter about the Henley mayor-making ceremony, I must ask does your correspondent Steve Hind know anything about what actually went on (Standard, June 6)?
If he was present he was obviously wearing blinkers and ear defenders and if he was not then he has been badly advised.
His accusation of “what seems like pure hatred” by Henley Residents’ Group has me puzzled. Surely he means this to apply to the Conservatives’ behaviour towards Councillor Lorraine Hillier over the previous year and then at the ceremony?
That behaviour was disgusting and their supporters continued it after the ceremony. Mr Hind’s suggestion that they behaved with dignity is absurd.
I feel a little sorry for Councillor Will Hamilton, but not much. His group’s decision to go ahead with the mayoral nomination before the by-elections was arrogant and stupid. They will have to show far better judgement in future.
HRG gave fair warning of the likely outcome and action and were ignored. The public’s vote in the ballot box presumably means less to the Conservatives than their votes on the council.
Mr Hind’s reference to Barry Wood puzzled me as Mr Wood regales us on a regular basis with his fantasies. They are worth a chuckle but he is no Jonathan Swift!
Mr Hind is right on one point. There have been some personal and spiteful comments made in your letters page in recent weeks.
Henley Conservatives and their supporters should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for writing this drivel and these untruths. To call HRG a “socialist” administration is idiotic.
Over the past two years I have attended a few council meetings and am always saddened by the way certain councillors react when criticised or out-voted. Self-indulgent dignity is not a pretty sight.
So recently, I read the council’s code of conduct and concluded it is such a badly-written, convoluted document that having hiccups in the town hall is probably an offence.
Mr Hind quotes clauses three and seven, both of which I suspect were contravened by the Conservatives at the meeting which “appointed” Cllr Hamilton to the mayor-elect role.
We need common sense and good behaviour from our councillors, not the small-town party politics that make councillors, and our town, look silly. — Yours faithfully,
Deanfield Road, Henley
Let’s reject ‘Hard Brexit’
Sir, — Congratulations to John Howell on his re-election as MP for Henley. On June 8 the British people rejected the “hard Brexit” advocated by Theresa May.
But the Right wing of the Conservative Party and the Democratic Unionists will no doubt still try to impose a “hard Brexit” on our country.
When the election results were announced, Edward Vaizey, the Conservative MP for Wantage, called it a rejection of “hard Brexit”, remarks which I endorsed.
Will Mr Howell now pledge to stand with Mr Vaizey and other Remain-voting MPs of all parties in opposing any attempt by the Right of his party to impose a “hard Brexit”, which would be a catastrophe for Henley and our country, and instead work for a deal which maintains as close a relationship as possible with our European neighbours? — Yours faithfully,
Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Henley
Hoping for the best
Sir, — Michel Barnier is reported as (in effect) instructing Britain to get a move on with the Brexit negotiations, although one cannot rely on accurate translations nor absence of spin.
I am reminded of another “trip to Brussels” made in 1944/45 which his nation was very keen should take place and from which many Brits and servicemen of other nations failed to return.
I live in hope that the real attitudes and courtesy of Messrs Barnier and Juncker are in reality far from how they have been reported on this small island. — Yours faithfully,
Blandy Road, Henley
UK position is very clear
Sir, — Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiatior, is complaining that the UK election result makes our position less clear. This is simply not the case.
The Labour, Conservative and UKIP manifestos all stated that they would end free movement and together these three parties picked up more than 84 per cent of the popular vote.
As the EU insists that membership of the single market requires acceptance of free movement, Mr Barnier now has complete clarity on these two major areas of the negotiations. — Yours faithfully,
Gravel Hill, Caversham
My ‘Good Samaritans’
Sir, — On Friday, June 9, I was on my way from Henley to Maidenhead when my car suddenly stopped on a dangerous bend (the gearbox had packed up). I tried to call the AA but reception was not good.
Two people I can only call “Good Samaritans” stopped their cars to help. To some danger to themselves, they attached a tow rope to one of their cars and towed the car to the Temple Golf Club car park where the AA could be reached.
I understand one of the men was on his way to Wallingford and had turned round to help. I have been singing their praises ever since as I will always remember their kindness and would like to express my heartfelt thanks. — Yours faithfully,
Message for all customers
Sir, — Annie Gray and Abbey Gillett, the ladies at Spoon in Duke Street, Henley have cracked the code (Standard, June 16).
Their sign saying “When you buy from a small business, a real person does a little happy dance” is pretty close to a perfect message encouraging support for independent businesses.
Maybe they should have a byline which reads: “We carefully choose and make our own food and drink. And we pay our taxes.”
Since taxes pay for the UK’s NHS, education etc, customers can decide with their feet who they choose to support. — Yours faithfully,
Reading Road, Henley
Patients wait for transplant
Sir, — Right now there are 51 people in Oxfordshire waiting for a kidney transplant and every single day one person in the UK will die while waiting for a new kidney. This must change.
Most people don’t want to think about their kidneys but the reality is that one in eight people will develop chronic kidney disease, which can affect their general health and may ultimately mean they might need dialysis or a transplant in order to stay alive.
The average time waiting for a kidney transplant is three years and there are almost 30,000 people on dialysis in the UK, a treatment that leaves patients hooked up to machines for hours at a time for several days every week, which has a knock-on effect on their ability to study, work, socialise and, ultimately, live their lives to the full.
Patients tell us that greater awareness of kidney disease and the impact it can have on their lives would be lifechanging for them, which is why I’m asking your readers to become kidney aware by visiting www.kidneycareuk.org
We are here to ensure that no one in Oxfordshire has to face kidney disease alone. — Yours faithfully,
Chief executive, Kidney Care UK, Alton, Hampshire
26 June 2017
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