Friday, 15 December 2017

Your letters...

What’s best for our town

Sir, — I write with reference to Conservative district councillor Paul Harrison’s letter (Standard, November 17).

In 2012, I submitted a proposal to Henley Town Council that Henley should start a neighbourhood plan. Harpsden joined later.

I was chairman of the neighbourhood plan governance committee from the start until the plan was completed. I also chaired the town council’s planning committee for four years.

I wish to make the following points in response to Cllr Harrison’s letter:

1. He started by mentioning affordable housing. The neighbourhood plan states that 40 per cent affordable homes should be built on all sites. That’s 200 homes.

He mentioned Highlands Farm as though it will solve all our problems, although he didn’t mention a figure. Highlands Farm will provide only 68 affordable homes.

I have doubted that we can reach the 200 affordable figure after losing one site (with another one pending) to care accommodation.

Perhaps Cllr Harrison can suggest how we can reach our figure of 200 affordable homes?

2. He stated that Thames Farm was never a preferred site. In fact, it achieved 60 per cent approval in the very first public consultation.

Our independent planning consultant and I were then asked to recommend to the neighbourhood plan working groups that the site was removed from consideration as South Oxfordshire District Council had stated that it did not conform to the core strategy so it could not support it.

It has since been approved by the planning officers at the district council and a planning inspector following an appeal.

3. I know very well that the neighbourhood plan was widely supported in the referendum. I played a main role in the “yes” campaign.

4. He stated that all the neighbourhood plans in South Oxfordshire would become defunct if planning applications outside of the plan were approved.

On the contrary, approvals outside of the plan would immediately increase the district council’s land supply figure and protect all neighbourhood plans in the district. District councillor John Cotton has already made that point.

Cllr Harrison should be aware that it’s the district’s lack of the required land supply figure causing all the current problems.

I was instrumental in bringing the neighbourhood plan to Henley but the current lack of land supply figures and the extra houses being allocated in the new local plan have to have an effect.

The core strategy of 2012 will become defunct at some time next year and we in Henley face the prospect of not being able to meet our current affordable housing demands or to find new sites for the extra homes.

I may be selfish but I believe that we have contributed enough houses within our town boundary and should not be expected to squeeze more homes in an already overfull town.

That’s why I support sites for the extra homes that, importantly, meet the current planning laws and are outside our town boundary but still in the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan area. I am aware that new sites and more affordable homes is a divisive issue but I will continue to promote what I feel is best for our town. — Yours faithfully,

Dieter Hinke

Elizabeth Road, Henley

The editor writes: “In a letter from South Oxfordshire district councillor Paul Harrison in last week’s Henley Standard, headlined “developer’s mouthpiece”, it was implied that former Henley town councillor Dieter Hinke was a “mouthpiece” for a developer.

We have been asked to make clear that this is not the case. This implication has caused great offence to Mr Hinke and his family and is totally refuted.

The Henley Standard apologises to Mr Hinke and his family for any offence or distress caused as a result of publishing Mr Harrison’s letter.”

How would you like it?

Sir, — Would Mrs Aida Dellal consider 40 new homes and an office block in the grounds of Fawley Court?

Or 20 homes and an office block, or no office block and 10 homes, or two affordable homes in the pastures of Fawley Court? I doubt it.

The developments proposed for Shiplake and Harpsden will be the tip of the iceberg, turning Shiplake inevitably into a suburb of Henley.

How about one affordable home in the grounds of Fawley Court? — Yours faithfully,

Clive Duncan

Station Road, Shiplake

Do we need more houses?

Sir, — Well, after discovering plans for nine houses off Hazel Gardens, Sonning Common (Standard, November 17), I’m a little miffed.

One four-bedroom property would be so close that we could shake hands but I have not received a letter to tell me about the plans so that I could have commented. It was my neighbour who informed me of the planning application, hence my grievance.

Sonning Common Parish Council has recommended this scheme is approved, believing most development should be in the centre of the village.

I guess they don’t live there and these houses would not be directly looking into their bedroom windows.

It’s shocking that so many houses have been built in Sonning Common over the last year, with many not sold, yet the council is prepared to allow nine more to be built and with limited parking.

I feel it is all unfair on the younger generation who have lived and worked here for years but cannot afford to buy the elitist homes being built and are being priced out of the market.

I blame those developers who are greedy. — Yours faithfully,

Ali Rumble

Wood Lane, Sonning Common

It’s time for independents

Sir — The letter from my good friend Councillor Ken Arlett regarding the resignation of a Conservative town councillor (Standard, November 17) smacks of a man who “protesteth too much”.

Whatever the reasons for Simon Smith’s departure, it is a fact that there are times when, through back-biting, back-stabbing and general discourteous exchanges, the town hall chamber is reduced to the level of a Punch & Judy show. This unwelcome, unnecessary nastiness is continued in social media, through the pages of the wonderful Henley Standard and elsewhere.

As we approach the season of goodwill to all men and subsequent New Year resolutions time, might it be the moment to ask all of our local councillors to resolve to stand as “Independents” at the next local elections in 2019?

As such, they should come together as one, discuss the matters of the day without political party or group pressure and make decisions based on what is best for the majority of Henley residents.

There is no place in local government for party politics and the sooner we have 16 truly independent councillors, the better chance we have of ensuring that Henley will be a town in which it is a pleasure to live, to work, to do business — and to visit.

Simples! — Yours faithfully,

Geoff Luckett

Lime Court, Henley

Refreshing appearances

Sir, — Your correspondent Tracey Sugrue’s letter regarding counting the photographs of councillors in the paper (Standard, November 17) is not the only one to indulge in this quasi sport.

My friends and family also take note of the frequency of appearances and eagerly text one another with the results of our searches.

We were bitterly disappointed the other week when there were no pictures to report.

A conspiracy theorist might argue that it is all done by strategically placed cardboard cut-out figures but we do not hold with that pack of fake news for a minute!

It is, however, refreshing to see councillors out and about and involving themselves in the day-to-day activities of the community rather than facelessly pontificating from an ivory tower on issues they know little about — and have even less control over. — Yours faithfully,

Simon Haynes

Watlington

Don’t deter enterprise

Sir, — I recall that our town manager recently suggested that Henley needs diversity of commerce and noted that there should not be too many coffee shops, beauty shops etc.

So why is there going to be another charity shop at the former No 27 premises in Duke Street? We have plenty of these shops already.

I understand that one of the main reasons the men’s outfitters ceased trading was largely as a result of very high rent and rates.

This makes it very hard to compete against charity shops, which I believe are able to occupy the same premises but with more favourable rates and charges. This is not at all fair.

Indeed, were the rents on properties in town less onerous we might see a greater range of shops. Henley is such a special place, let’s not drive away enterprise.

While writing, I would like to add that my husband and I fully support the application to build on the old Wyevale Garden Centre site if, as the published sketch implies, houses are built in an interesting mix of compatible styles with plenty of green spaces and trees.

This way the town could go some way to providing houses that have to be built but with attractive designs. — Yours faithfully,

Margie Fuller

Henley

Tax rise will offset cuts

Sir, — I would just like to reassure Mrs J Hadley that the tax rise she speaks of (Standard, November 17) does not increase council tax by seven per cent at all.

It is only a precept rise, the precept being the share of council tax that goes to the Henley Town Council.

The effect on council tax overall will be an increase of less than 0.3 per cent for a typical Band D property, approximately £6 per household, per year, in line with inflation since the last time the precept was increased.

The Henley Residents’ Group represents residents and our public surveys help steer us.

The Government, Oxfordshire County Council and South Oxfordshire District Council have all been reducing their funding of local services such as street cleans, police community support officers, town centre manager, children’s centre etc.

We can either stand by and watch as these services are removed or we can try to plug the gap and retain them.

We have chosen the latter because we want to keep Henley clean, safe and special and our survey results support this policy.

Henley Town Council is doing more than ever to plug the gap between public expectation and county/district council delivery yet still remains exceptionally good value when compared with other town and parish councils in South Oxfordshire — between £10 and £40 per year cheaper than Didcot, Chinnor, Wallingford and Thame for a Band D property. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Glen Lambert

Henley Town Council, Greys Road, Henley

Put a tax on takeaway box

Sir, — I hear that the Chancellor is seriously considering a tax on takeaway boxes. This makes a lot of sense and may help in our town centre.

There is a history of success in taxing things we see as harmful to our common good but don’t want to ban outright. Things like booze and fags.

Why not apply the same to carbon emissions? If done seriously, this would raise a lot of revenue. The money would need to be returned to households to keep it politically acceptable and only the richest would end up worse off. What’s not to like?

There is actually a group campaigning for this, the Citizens Climate Lobby, which is especially prominent in America.

With globally warm regards. — Yours faithfully,

Ed Atkinson

Queen Street, Henley

Now for new benches...

Sir, — Many thanks to Biffa for agreeing to clean the paving in Station Park, Henley, following my letter (Standard, November 13).

I do hope Henley Town Council will respond as positively and quickly to my request to replace the dangerously decayed Station Park benches, which are now a health and safety issue. — Yours faithfully,

Steve Ludlow

Station Road, Henley

What are fun run costs?

Sir, — I was sad to discover that the annual Santa Fun Run had been axed from Henley Town Council’s Christmas festivities due to costs (Standard, November 10). What costs?

I started the fun run in 2011, when I was mayor, and organised it for four years.

My intention was to introduce a family event to the Christmas calendar that was not commercially driven.

The emphasis was very much on fun rather than run, although some of the young participants were extremely competitive.

We provided Santa hats but most participants came in fancy dress. This created a great deal of laughter as the costumes were admired.

I knew that the cost of closing a road was at least £400 so I approached Invesco Perpetual, who gave us permission to run around their perimeter path, while Great Western Railway gave permission for us to run through its car park.

We started and finished at the River & Rowing Museum, taking in some of the river path and the meadows.

Participants were encouraged to run, jog or walk around the two-mile mile course.

The first fun run in 2011 had 37 entrants, plus a two-year-old on a scooter and four dogs. This number doubled each year so that by 2014 we raised almost £400 for the Mayor’s charities.

So what were the costs? Entrants were rewarded with hot soup and French bread organised and donated by Henley Lions Club, which also provided marshalls for the event. On alternate years Tesco and Waitrose donated mince pies.

There was a prize for the fastest runner as well as the best fancy dress outfits for adults, children, teams and families. These I donated but they could easily have been taken from the entry fee as they were Christmas chocolates.

The Santa hats were bought in bulk and again could have been absorbed by the entry fee. The website was managed by friends for three years and the town council accountant for the fourth year.

I was not involved in the Santa Fun Run in 2015 and 2016 but I understand that last year it made about £500 for the mayor’s charities. — Yours faithfully,

Pam Phillips

St Mark’s Road, Henley

Dredge river to stop floods

Sir, — In reply to Oxfordshire county councillor David Bartholomew and David Woodward, chairman of Eye & Dunsden Council, talking about raising the Playhatch Road to protect against flooding (Standard, November 17), in my view they should talk to the Environment Agency in order to have the river dredged.

This is what they used to do in the days of the Thames Conservancy.

Now the river hasn’t been dredged in 40 years and that is what is causing the flooding in Sonning, Shiplake, Wargrave and Henley.

Doing this wouldn’t cost as much as raising the road. — Yours faithfully,

Ian Clark

Henley

Find cause of road problem

Sir, — After reading your article abut the necessary repairs to the B478 Playhatch Road, I am of the opinion that it is time to ask for a full and thorough investigation into what caused the subsidence under this road and the nearby A4155, which has just been repaired at cost of more than £1million to taxpayers.

Both roads have undergone serious and expensive repairs, which has caused a lot of inconvenience to local traffic.

Has this subsidence been caused by excessive gravel extraction along both sides of each road?

Perhaps with a proper investigation by Oxfordshire County Council we can get this serious problem sorted. — Yours faithfully,

John Hill

Broad Plat

All welcome to meetings

Sir, — Having read Mink Elliott’s column that mentioned Overeaters Anonymous (Standard, November 10), we would like to point out an inaccuracy.

While many people do find freedom from compulsive eating and compulsive food behaviours by attending OA meetings, members do not “drop to their knees, praying to God to be miraculously healed”.

Members who attend meetings are actually from a wide variety of backgrounds and religions, with many being agnostic or atheist.

Anyone who is experiencing difficulty with food, eating, body image etc, in any shape or form, is welcome at meetings of Overeaters Anonymous. For more information, call 07583 533090 or visit our website, www.oasouthandeastengland.
org.uk — Yours faithfully,

The Reading group of Overeaters Anonymous

Farewell to a good friend

Sir, — This is for my friend Mike Buckett, who died last week. — Yours faithfully,

Edward Sierpowski

Crisp Road, Henley

The firmament has darkened once again. Another guiding light has been extinguished. The black mantle encroaches relentlessly on.

Farewell wise soul, farewell. May the currents ferry you to your tranquil destination. You leave us. You leave our hearts as rudderless ships.

I bid you my final adieu, tearfully and with a heavy heart I acknowledge: it was, is an honour and a privilege to call you — friend.

You forgot the sponsors

Sir, — At the Chiltern Centre for disabled children, we are grateful for the wonderful support the Henley Standard has always given our charity.

However, your coverage of our charity golf day (Standard, November 17) held last month, while impeccable in almost every regard, failed to mention the two foremost sponsors of the event.

We welcome this opportunity to correct that lacuna.

On behalf of the Chiltern Centre, we would like to thank our sponsors Coditex Electronics and Jerry Luckett for their wonderful support in aid of our golf day. — Yours faithfully,

Paul Barrett

Chairman of trustees, Chiltern Centre for disabled children, Henley

Enjoyable musical

Sir, — We were very surprised and disappointed to read the letters criticising the Henley Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society’s autumn production of A Chrous Line at the Kenton Theatre (Standard, November 17).

We were there on the Thursday evening and both thoroughly enjoyed the musical. The whole production, the chorus and solo performances were of the highest standard and the band was excellent.

The audience applauded enthusiastically, which we well-deserved. — Yours faithfully,

Sheila and Geoff Freer

Elizabeth Road, Henley

• In last week’s Henley Standard, we published a letter in good faith purporting to be from David Parsonson, of Fernbrook Road, Caversham. Mr Parsonson has asked us to point out that in fact the letter was not written by him and that he no longer lives at that address.

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