Friday, 15 December 2017

Your letters...

Not what it says on tin

Sir, — I am writing to you to add some colour to the planning application P17/S3332/FUL.

Description: Change of use of rear part of existing building and extension to form seven one-bedroom dwellings and works to existing shop to remove existing internal walls and stair.

I would describe the above more in keeping with “planning speak” or “alternative facts” or even... “fake news”!

Well, if the president of the United States of America can say it, I’m sure one of the little people in the village might get away with it too.

So what’s this all about? This is about the potential change to our town centre and its existing function, value to the community and long- term heritage.

Lovibonds, or should we say the “rear part of existing building and extension”, is at risk of demolition and removal from its current location.

So what? Why should we care? What’s the big fuss?

Well, it’s quite a big deal for Henley and the thousands of visitors/customers that have benefited from this unique brewery and social and entertainment venue with a history of charitable fund-raising and local events over its many years to date.

As a business and long-established community asset, which is unique to Henley, Lovibonds warrants and must be afforded the necessary protections required from the council and community to support it against redevelopment for private gain.

Following the money in this case clearly doesn’t offer the town, its current residents, its visitors or its overall heritage any benefit.

That is the point of many of the objections already submitted to the South Oxfordshire District Council planning portal.

Lovibonds’ current and longstanding location in the heart of the town centre affords easy access without the need to drive/park.

Planners and council representatives of our community must consider the fundamental logic in replacing this type of business with ANY form of housing.

The town is for the people and is already at risk of an unbalanced residential versus retail/commercial mix to make it a viable and affordable place for businesses to enter and remain “on the high street”.

Over the last 10 years, we have seen constant and increasing pressure on business rates and viable units as well as an unacceptable increase in the lack of diversity in redevelopment, particularly in the building of care home businesses, which have displaced community assets such as LA Fitness, the Jet petrol station, other breweries and pubs and numerous independent retailers.

Private commercial developers are welcome and necessary and, in the main, provide positive impact on society.

In this case, I believe this is not apparent and it falls into the category of the erosion of one of the last few remaining community assets this town is lucky enough to still have.

I believe that if this proposal is taken forward and approved it would be another slap in the face for taxpayers, residents and loyal visitors to Henley. I urge those responsible for the assessment of the application to look hard and honestly at the logic around this type of redevelopment/change of use, take on board the many objections to the planning application and explore the existing town and planning measures which correctly identify brownfield sites around the outskirts of town as an alternative.

Perhaps the developer might then be able to help with an affordable housing provision too for those most in need of housing?

I’m not a “Nimby” and have been on the doorstep of profound changes to our location but accept this as we live in a primarily residential area where there is greater capacity and more benefit to these types of development.

Community assets in the very heart of the town centre should remain and be afforded protection to remain as far as is possible. — Yours faithfully,

Paul Maxwell

Newtown, Henley

Pair trying to deflect blame

Sir, — About five years ago Henley and Harpsden started their joint neighbourhood plan.

We were assured by South Oxfordshire District Council that a five-year land supply was in place and the neighbourhood plan was protected.

This is a condition of the National Planning Policy Framework. It means that much greater weight is given to prepared plans when deciding on planning applications.

However, it was found on a planning appeal that the district council did not have a five-year land supply and our plan was vulnerable.

John Howell, with some other MPs, persuaded the housing minister to issue a ministerial statement that the land supply figure would be reduced to three years, highlighting a failure of some district councils to provide the required figure.

South Oxfordshire District Council assured us that it had a three-year land supply and that the plan was definitely protected.

Again, it was found on appeal that the council did not have a three-year land supply and the plan was once again vulnerable

You see the pattern.

How Mr Howell and district council leader John Cotton now have the temerity to accuse the government inspector and an appeal court judge of not understanding planning law in the Thames Farm case is astonishing.

They have both had many years to make sure that the district council had land supply figures which met the requirements. Why on earth was it not done?

To deflect blame away from the real reasons is unfair on the professional planners and the residents of South Oxfordshire. Where the real blame lies is clear enough.

The sorry saga of Thames Farm is of their own making and at substantial financial cost to us taxpayers. — Yours faithfully,

Dieter Hinke

Elizabeth Road, Henley

Appeals only wasted money

Sir, — I see that the appeals by South Oxfordshire District Council and Shiplake Parish Council against the inspector’s decision to approve the planning application for Thames Farm have failed (Standard, November 10).

This has resulted in costs being awarded against both councils of just over £9,000.

How much more public money are these bodies going to waste on a planning application that the district council’s own planning department recommended for approval?

This money would have been better spent providing much-needed services in South Oxfordshire. — Yours faithfully

Garry Forster

Goring Heath

Blame Tories for resignation

Sir, — Your front page story headlined “Councillor criticises colleagues as he quits” (Standard, November 10) did not, in my opinion, explain who Henley Conservative town councillor Simon Smith was actually criticising. I can categorically inform you that no members of Henley Residents’ Group had any involvement in this.

The fact is we tried to get Councillor Smith to withdraw his resignation and stay on as an independent councillor.

Unfortunately, as he had put his resignation in writing to the town clerk, it could not be withdrawn.

His resignation was totally down to two Conservative members..

With only 16 months to go until the 2019 elections, one would consider it would make sense to co-opt on to the town council an independent person who has no allegiance to either HRG or the Conservatives.

That would save Henley Town Council another £5,000 on the cost of yet another by-election.

That said, if an election is called, HRG already has a candidate in waiting to help us continue to do what the residents of the town voted for in such large numbers six months ago. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Ken Arlett

Henley Town Council, Elizabeth Road, Henley

Waste issue is sorted

Sir, — May I thank Leslie Plumb for her letter about waste in Henley (Standard, November 10) as it gives me an opportunity to explain.

In March the evening collection of waste was stopped and for three months we had 100 to 150 bags of commercial rubbish on the streets from 5pm until 6am the next day.

This was not good for the night-time economy and look of Henley.

No one wants to walk past bags of rubbish when they are walking around or going to a pub or restaurant.

In May, myself, Henley Residents’ Group and town councillors took control, rolled up our sleeves and decided that this was not acceptable.

We held a number of meetings on a cross-party basis and [waste contractor] Grundon agreed to reinstate the 5pm collections free of charge.

Retailers now put out their bags between 4.30pm and 5pm. I thank Grundon for this and it shows what a brilliant, community-minded company it is.

We also instituted other measures to do with street bins and fly-tipping.

Councillors David Eggleton and Lorraine Hillier and myself have worked tirelessly to improve Henley and we have had success in getting the 100 to 150 bags off the streets.

We still have a few householders and a couple of businesses that persist in putting out bags at the wrong time.

Householders have been written to by South Oxfordshire District Council’s environment department asking them not to fly-tip.

On Saturday and Sunday I drove round the town to look for bags of waste (Cllr Eggleton and myself have been doing this for a number of weekends).

There were two bags near Boots (residential fly-tipping; letters have been sent) and two in Hart Street (the company responsible has been contacted and will not do it again).

In Friday Street there were six Biffa bags of rubbish put out Saturday morning. I went through all the bags but unfortunately could not identify the business responsible. May I ask that this business stops this practice and if anyone knows who it is let me know.

In conclusion, in May HRG decided to tackle this issue and we set about the task. We started a cross-party group and came up with solutions.

I am proud that we no longer have 100 to 150 bags on the streets and Henley is now largely free of commercial rubbish bags.

There are a few householders and businesses that do not comply but we are working on them.

Cllr Hillier is investigating machines to mechanically wash and clean the streets and we had a demonstration this week. — Yours faithfully,

Stefan Gawrysiak

Henley Town Council, Elizabeth Road, Henley

Muppet-style democracy

Sir, — You have to laugh at Henley Residents’ Group’s online survey resulting in its councillors, who control the town council, voting for a seven per cent increase on council tax (Standard, November 10).

The survey carried out was of 125 respondents, in which three-quarters said they would be prepared to pay more.

So, on the basis of 94 people out of a Henley population of about 12,000, the council voted in favour of a rise.

I think we have the Muppets running the council. — Yours faithfully,

Mrs J Hadley

Leaver Road, Henley

Disappointing sound quality

Sir, — “This is the most important day of the year for the town” was the first line in the Mayor’s address at the Remembrance Sunday service in Henley.

What a pity then that the town council could not afford a sound system that would have permitted the many of us in the market place to hear those contributing to the service.

Two weedy loudspeakers and one single microphone fixed too high, too far away from the young readers was an insult both to their effort and to those who would have liked to have heard them. What a disappointment. — Yours faithfully,

Francis Piesse

Queen Street, Henley

Town clerk Janet Wheeler responds: “Thank you for alerting me to the problem for some of the people in Market Place regarding sound.

The sound was clear and heard by those to the front of the town hall but those who were around the sides could not hear. We needed to have another couple of speakers to those sides. For this I apologise and we will make sure we get it right next year.

It was challenging on Sunday — as all outside productions are — with the wind strengthening and making the speakers move.

The microphones were working perfectly well but most of those speaking did not stand close enough.

Unfortunately, it is difficult with Remembrance to do a rehearsal with these people to make sure they know to move closer. If the mics had been turned up too loud there would have been a high-pitched feedback.

I am very sorry you were disappointed and promise we will take those remarks on board to improve next year. We did receive compliments from others.”

Mayor Kellie Hinton responds: “I am sorry you were not able to hear some of the service. We are likely to have a wash-up meeting with those parties involved in the organisation of the day and the service itself.

“Next year is a very significant year and the crowd is expected to be even bigger than this year, which was larger than normal. The parade was also bigger as we had more cadets and, for the first time, schools joining us.

“However, we can never predict the weather and, of course, wind isn't helpful. We hand out printed programmes with the words of all the prayers and readings so that people can read them in case for any reason they cannot hear them.

“We have also had some wonderful feedback but regardless I believe we honoured our fallen heroes with a truly wonderful remembrance parade and that is what really matters above anything else.”

Where are the police?

Sir, — A recent headline in the Daily Mail read: “Have you seen any police?”

The answer in Henley, where I live, is “no”.

I have lived almost in the town centre on and off for 17 years but I have yet to see a policeman in the town and the police station has disappeared.

A few of the very brave officers emerge from their dugouts when Henley Royal Regatta is on but I suppose the rest of the year they need respite care. — Yours faithfully,

Deenagh Reynolds

Badgemore Lane, Henley

Don’t vote for hard Brexit

Sir, — When people voted in the EU referendum last year, nobody really knew what a future deal with the European Union might look like.

Sixteen months on, it is now clearer than ever that no deal will be anywhere near as good a deal as the one we have now. To top that off, a catastrophic “no deal” scenario is becoming likelier than ever.

The chaos and uncertainty that this is causing is leading to job losses and higher prices across the UK.

The Henley constituency voted to remain.

MPs will soon be debating the EU Withdrawal Bill and we need our MP to reflect the views of his constituents and stop the Government from pursuing a hard Brexit. — Yours faithfully,

D Cole

Whitchurch

Let’s silence fireworks

Sir, — Once again we have been in the grip of fireworks madness, which seems to last ever longer each year.

Apart from the big organised weekend displays we expect either side of November 5, random private events happen on any night of the week for at least a couple of weeks. Indeed it seems that fireworks are being used more frequently all-year round these days.

It’s the loud bangs that particularly terrify our poor dog but it’s not just domestic animals that can be traumatised. Farm animals, horses and wildlife all suffer too.

I love looking at fireworks as much as anyone but perhaps it’s time to take a more considerate approach and encourage the use of silent fireworks, which are becoming increasingly available. Collecchio, a town in Italy, has done just that for the sake of their animals.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Henley area was the first in the UK to follow suit and show the rest of the country how much we care for our animals?

And if people must have noise with their fireworks why not choose some appropriate music — it worked for Handel! — Yours faithfully,

Jane Foddy

Wargrave

Supporting our veterans

Sir, — As we approach Christmas time, we think about donating to our favourite charities.

Like most folk, I am sometimes disappointed with decisions that are made by the charities that I support (not only at Christmas time but throughout the year).

For example, Combat Stress, the veterans’ mental health charity, recently decided to close one of its inpatient centres to help reduce its financial deficit while spending £45,000 on redesigning its logo — “to attract younger supporters” to quote the charity’s chief executive.

At first I felt like withdrawing my support. Why should I spend my precious time organising tombolas and fayres and stand outside with a collecting bucket when the money that I, and many others, raise is being used in this way and not for the direct benefit of our armed forces folk with mental health problems?

But the numbers of our armed forces suffering from mental health problems caused by what they have seen and/or gone through is constantly rising (according to official figures) at an alarming rate and too often the help provided is woefully inadequate — sound familiar?

Because of this, an above national average rate of homelessness exists among our veterans with mental health problems. So, as a mental health campaigner and a volunteer fund-raiser (for the homeless and our veteran armed forces et al), I have decided to continue supporting and fund-raising for Combat Stress, despite not being happy with the above decisions.

This is until I find another charity that specifically helps our armed forces folk/veterans with mental health problems (caused while working to keep our world safe). — Yours faithfully,

Paul Farmer

Wensley Road, Reading

Win our home for only £25

Sir, —When we got married in August 1982 we raised the deposit on our first home by selling my Triumph Stag and saving, something not possible for most people today.

We were fortunate that we could pay the mortgage on one salary and over the next 30 years moved up the housing ladder until building Reve House five years ago. Being nomadic, we decided to sell and placed the property on the market on and off.

After a series of hiccups due to stamp duty increases, elections and Brexit we got fed up with people who were mostly looking for design ideas for their own projects.

The people who enthusiastically said they loved the house were delivery drivers, postmen, cab drivers and our cat sitter friends, all of whom said, “If I won the Lottery I would buy your house” and so the seed of this idea started.

We wanted to give people a chance to own it for a manageable sum, so decided to hold a competition with our house as the prize. Being very naive, we thought this would be a simple process. How wrong were we.

Firstly, we had to find a law firm with the expertise in gaming and found one in the City of London. We were surprised that so many things we thought possible were illegal and settled on a spot-the-ball competition as it had been tried and tested.

We then had to find a software company to do this and came across one in Glasgow.

The next hurdle was a card provider as, due to chargeback, they would not consider anything until fully satisfied with the legalities.

Having finally launched two weeks ago, the competition will run for six months or until the maximum number of spot the ball attempts have been sold.

At 200,000 entries the house becomes the prize with all stamp duties paid. If fewer are sold then the winner will receive 75 per cent of all the proceeds.

So if you are not lucky enough to have or be the bank of mum and dad for your first house, or want to give a £25 Christmas present that could change someone’s life, then why not enter?

After all when we reach 200,000 entries the odds of winning are better than the National Lottery and someone will wake up to a view of the Thames every morning. Who could ask for more? — Yours faithfully,

Helen Weller

Reve House, The Warren, Caversham

Come to our Santa fun run

Sir, — People disappointed at the cancellation of this year’s Henley Santa fun run (Standard, November 10) may be interested to hear that the Reading Santa run, organised by Rotary Club of Reading, will take place on Sunday, December 3.

It’s a great fun day for all the family — all ages and all abilities are welcome to take part. All outfits are supplied free of charge.

Charities may enter a team to raise money or contribute to the charities that Rotary is supporting this year.

We have raised more than £70,000 for charity in the past three years. This year we are supporting No 5 Charity and Reading Family Aid and making smaller donations to several other charites.

For more information, visit www.readingsantarun.co.uk — Yours faithfully,

Sheila Hobbs

Rotary Club of Reading

Constructive criticism

Sir, — Thank you for your review of A Chorus Line (Standard, November 10). Finally, an honest review of an amateur show.

As I spend time in that world myself, I very much welcome this realistic representation of what is on offer at the Kenton Theatre.

Amateur productions should be held to account as much as professional ones and your readers deserve to know the facts, not the “alternative facts” of how these shows are perceived.

I hope the players involved take this constructive criticism to heart, as I would if it were me treading those boards. — Yours faithfully,

David Parsonson

Fernbrook Road, Caversham

Honesty was refreshing

Sir, — How refreshing to read your review of A Chorus Line at the Kenton.

It is so tiresome to read fawning reviews of amateur shows that are basically free advertising and, having attended the show myself, it seems like an unusually fair and honest report on a show that had many good qualities but also many faults.

Perhaps if more reviews were as honest, your readers might be better informed and more interested in what the entertainment section has to offer. — Yours faithfully,

Ed Waldron

London

Review was quite right

Sir, — Thank you for giving us an honest review of an amateur production at the Kenton.

Too often, we are treated to a trite and ingratiating column that has seemingly been written by either someone in the cast or one of their friends.

I read this review after seeing the show and can firmly attest to it being right on the money. I subsequently read a review of the same show elsewhere and could barely control my laughter. What nonsense! Please keep this up with more honest reviews. — Yours faithfully,

Margaret Smith

Station Road, Marlow

Back to the Seventies

Sir, — The “Gillotts in the Seventies School Reunion” will take place at the Catherine Wheel in Hart Street, Henley, tomorrow (Saturday) from 6pm onwards.

Twice a year I organise this event for former students and teachers who attended Gillotts in the Seventies.

Not everybody does social media, so I would be very thankful if you could find somewhere in your paper to let people know. — Yours faithfully,

Rupert Burden

We play spot Cllr Eggleton

Sir, — Is it only me that scours the Henley Standard on a weekly basis to see which page Councillor David Eggleton will appear on?

It’s becoming a “sport” in our family home... — Yours faithfully,

Tracey Sugrue

Henley

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