Friday, 23 February 2018

Your letters...

First moan of the new year

Sir, — The dark month of January is always a good time to have a stress relieving moan and I hope I feel better at the end of this letter.

Does anybody feel the same as I do about the road at the side of Henley town hall which continues up and beyond Gravel Hill?

It is 100 yards of back- breaking, bone-shaking highway that badly needs a review by the responsible authorities.

I do not drive a Victorian boneshaker, therefore the fault is not in the vehicle but in the road surface.

When negotiating my re-entry to Peppard from Henley along this stretch, I always compare myself to one of the early astronauts as I am buffeted in my confined car space.

It definitely isn’t air turbulence but irregular levels and adverse cambers that send my car all over the road.

I am in no danger of burning up and have no need of a heat shield as it is definitely inadvisable to have a speed in excess of 20mph.

Now that Henley Residents’ Group is determined to take on responsibility for every area from which Oxfordshire County Council financially retreats, I can only assume that it is participating in road maintenance.

Regretfully, it is always Henley residents who pay through their council tax (the Henley precept will increase by a whopping seven per cent in April due to the town council’s “enhanced responsibilities”).

HRG’s strategy merely moves the bill from county to town council and often increases it simultaneously.

Is it not time therefore for Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak to put down his digital camera and stop photographing potholes and pick up his theodolite and check the road levels along the worst stretch of road in Henley?

Come on, Stefan, a man of your talents should have no problem in surveying and laying a bit of level tarmac.

You could be assisted by a few colleagues who might be better navvies than they are councillors.

There you are, I feel better for a January moan. — Yours faithfully,

Barry Wood

Stoke Row Road, Peppard

Homes must reflect need

Sir, — In reply to Sue Prior’s excellent letter concerning social housing (Standard, January 5), below is the definition of affordable housing, as published on the first page of the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

“Affordable housing includes social rented, affordable rented and intermediate housing, provided to specific eligible households whose needs are not met by the market.

“Most affordable housing will be provided through a registered social landlord at rates substantially lower than the prevailing market rates. It does not include lower cost market housing.”

It is intended to be social housing at below market rent, not private housing.

That’s why I have been pushing so hard for us to actually build the 200 affordable homes we pledged in the neighbourhood plan.

I also believe that young people and key workers in Henley should have priority when deciding on occupancy.

The first affordable homes are now being built at Highlands Farm (approx 68 units) with some more by the shops at the top of Greys Road and yet more on the old Wilkins site. Hopefully, more sites will come on stream next year.

I am hopeful that the Thames Farm development will proceed as that would provide about 40 more, which would give us the 200 we need, taking into account the numbers already lost at the old Jet garage and other sites.

There is also a clear need for more smaller houses/flats, of which I have written previously, which will enable people to buy and start to own their own homes in our area.

The housing mix of the future in our town needs to reflect the needs of Henley now and not be dominated by large detached houses which are favoured by some developers. Times are changing and we need to keep up. — Yours faithfully,

Dieter Hinke

Elizabeth Road, Henley

Time for our say on housing

Sir, — Doesn’t Henley Town Council or its planning committee have any say on what we do and do not want to build?

In my view, whatever they say, South Oxfordshire District Council seems to give developers permission to do whatever they want.

It’s about time town councillors stood up to the district council and decided what they want in consultation with residents.

Let’s have a public meeting so the public can have their say. — Yours faithfully,

Ian Clark

Cromwell Road, Henley

Flats better than garage

Sir, — I always felt the old Jet garage in Reading Road, Henley, was an eyesore.

As a cyclist and visitor to the town, I’m pleased to see it has gone.

The new development of “extra care” flats on the site may not be to everyone’s liking but it has got to be satisfactory to the people who will be living there.

Perhaps the plans put forward could have been mixed and aimed at all members of society but at least this development doesn’t affect the green belt on the edge of town, which would really worry me. In the meantime, Reading Road will see this new look which newcomers will hold to their hearts. — Yours faithfully,

Peter M Adams

Ramshill, Petersfield, Hants

Working hard for the town

Sir, — I would like to thank the Henley Standard for so many positive stories in last week’s paper.

In particular, it is brilliant that retailers had such a successful Christmas.

Since Henley Residents’ Group gained control of the Henley Town Council in May, we have rolled up our sleeves and worked our socks off for Henley just to get things done.

We brought the May Fayre back into the town centre and it was a great success.

We have removed 150 bags of business waste from the streets in the evenings.

We are reinstating the regular washing of the streets and considering hiring a specialised cleaning machine.

Our Mayor Kellie Hinton finally opened a brilliant new skate park for our young people (and all residents if they wish to have a go!)

HRG councillors, Colin Brathwaite of the Henley Skatepark Initiative and supporters brought in £200,000 worth of external investment into the town for this project. In addition, as you reported last week, we are going to refurbish the play equipment in our parks.

Most importantly, we are addressing pollution. We have started a tender process to get a new eco bus which will serve the community on a more frequent basis.

This service is for the whole of Henley and hopefully will prove very popular.

And for the first time ever we have submitted air quality plans for approval to Oxfordshire County Council and South Oxfordshire District Council.

We must remember what Henley Town Council is all about. It has absolutely nothing to do with national politics.

HRG councillors are Henley residents working hard in our community on local matters, just improving our lovely town and getting things done. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak (Henley
Residents’ Group)

Henley Town Council, Elizabeth Road, Henley

Expensive failures

Sir, — I completely agree with Henley Residents’ Group’s frequent refrain, encouraging residents to come along and participate at town council meetings.

Those that did so on Wednesday last week would have gained an insight into the different approaches that the candidates in next Thursday’s council by-election take regarding town issues.

The Labour candidate was conspicuous by her absence. The HRG candidate did turn up, for the first time that I can recall, and asked a question about the progress of a table tennis table for the Gainsborough estate.

The Conservative candidate Donna Crook was present, as usual, and asked two questions, the first requesting that local traders be given greater priority for the next Christmas shopping event and the second requesting that the town’s CCTV cameras be improved with night vision capability to help tackle the vandalism and criminal behaviour that is taking place at night in certain parts of the town.

Residents would have also seen the controlling group, HRG, being held to account and their actions carefully scrutinised.

They would have seen HRG being challenged over their proposed seven per cent increase in the council’s share of council tax and their support for Oxfordshire County Council’s 4.9 per cent increase. HRG was also taken to task for having failed to follow through on their election promise made just eight months ago to fight for “no extra houses” without “better roads and services” in the emerging local housing plan.

Their failure to lead by example in tackling poor air quality by choosing a diesel vehicle over an electric vehicle for the town council’s parks services staff was also highlighted.

While we are extraordinarily lucky with the quality of life we currently enjoy in Henley, we need councillors who have a passion to fight for the whole town, not just small sections of the community, and have the time and commitment to work to protect and enhance those aspects we value and care so much about.

As Councillor Ian Reissmann, leader of the HRG group, put it so well in your paper on December 15: “We know Donna. She comes along to the meetings and clearly cares about the town.”

What better endorsement can one ask for? — Yours faithfully,

Frank Browne

Chairman, Henley Conservatives, Remenham

No Punch and Judy antics

Sir, — I must challenge Councillor Glen Lambert’s assertion (Standard, January 5) that only the Henley Residents’ Group candidate in next week’s Henley Town Council by-election would be able to vote freely.

He clearly knows nothing about the organisation of the Labour Party in South Oxfordshire.

Our candidate, Jackie Walker, will be free to vote according to her principles. There is no mechanism for the party to instruct its councillors at town level how to vote.

As she would not be a member of a group, she would, in practice, enjoy more independence than any of the other candidates.

This would enable her to bring her considerable professional skills to the council and provide a powerful and unique campaign against the inequality that many of your correspondents rightly complain about.

We can be sure that Jackie would be there for the long term and not defect to the Tories or cuddle up to HRG.

She would get plenty of help from her local supporters but not interference.

Her approach would be one of empowering the town council rather than encouraging Punch and Judy antics. — Yours faithfully,

David Winchester

Secretary, Henley
xonstituency Labour Party, Kennylands Road, Sonning Common

Worryingly wide-ranging

Sir, — Susan Edwards queries, not unreasonably, the political allegiances of some Conservative and Henley Residents’ Group members of Henley Town Council (Standard, January 5).

However, she is mistaken to assume that someone standing under Labour has a commendably clear political position.

Does the Labour candidate for the vacancy support the Marxist/Leninist convictions of John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn?

Is she a supporter of Momentum, of New Labour or does she take the more traditional left of centre view?

The term “Labour” currently carries a worryingly wide spectrum of meaning. — Yours faithfully,

Douglas Kedge

Lea Road, Sonning Common

Insults not necessary

Sir, — Throughout this by-election campaign, I have been surprised at some of the comments I’ve read about the Conservative candidate Donna Crook.

I know she only wants to do good things for the town and I have been shocked by some of the hateful comments made towards her.

Have those responsible stooped so low to feel these are really necessary?

My mother is a hard-working woman, a part-time cleaner and carer of my 89-year-old grandfather who has Alzheimer’s and dementia.

In previous years she has campaigned to keep the Henley bus routes, enabling those who don’t drive or are unable to walk long distances to keep their independence and daily routines.

Some may criticise her for joining the Conservatives but she would not be the first and is excited by the changes the Henley Conservatives are making.

She wants to help and has a clear passion to make the changes so needed for the town.

She is also totally committed to serving the interests of the whole town rather than just one particular section and would find it a real honour to be elected to the town council on Thursday. — Yours faithfully,

Amber Roberts

Acton, London

Party doesn’t really matter

Sir, — I think it both sad and unnecessary that seats for Henley Town Council should be fought under party political banners.

Surely all that matters is what a given candidate can give to the community.

I am not clear what being a Labour candidate is supposed to tell us per se about that person’s priorities and principles.

To be principled and to have reasonable priorities is not the prerogative of one party.

A party ticket is in itself no guide whatsoever to the calibre of the candidate.

If Jackie Walker is a good candidate then I wish her well regardless of party.

Surely at a local level it is possible to debate local issues and come up with reasonable courses of action.

If not, then how can we expect democracy to work on a national level? — Yours faithfully,

Ann Law

Binfield Heath

Your vote does matter

Sir, — Is it worth voting in Thursday’s Henley Town Council by-election?

The council meets for a full session every six weeks to consider and conclude the business of the committees responsible for finance, planning, recreation & amenities and town & community and to make the final decision on the more important issues.

One or more of these committees meets every week.

The agenda, minutes and reports from last week’s meeting comprised 10 documents and a total of 95 pages.

Every page contained a series of items to be considered.

Each item may be of small import but many a mickle makes a muckle, as the saying goes!

The accumulated effort spent on this pile will steer the direction of Henley in the future. Is that important?

Henley has valuable investments, owns land and property and has responsibilities. Can we afford to neglect them?

Please pause and consider how much time and energy our councillors voluntarily give towards managing the town’s affairs.

Please consider what it will cost you to cast your vote.

No party currently has a majority on Henley Town Council.

May I suggest that your vote does matter? — Yours faithfully,

David Feary

Treasurer, Henley Residents’ Group, Walton Avenue,
Henley

Listen to
Mr Micawber

Sir, — With reference to your article about Henley Residents’ Group’s proposals for the town council budget (Standard, December 29), the third sentence of my quote was meaningless and not what I said.

I was quoting Charles Dickens and his David Copperfield character Mr Micawber (not macabre!) whose name has become synonymous with someone who lives in hopeful expectation.

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery.”

The council has now set a deficit budget, planning to spend more than it earns and not living within its means, which is something I cannot support. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor David Nimmo Smith (Conservative)

Henley Town Council, Oxford

Adding to our pollution

Sir, — It is very disappointing that Henley Residents’ Group has decided to buy a diesel vehicle for the town council’s park services department despite many alternatives that are eco- friendly being pointed out by the opposition Conservatives.

Henley Sales and Charter is promoting electric boats, Henley in Transition is doing its best to promote clean air yet our town council is adding to the pollution.

A great opportunity to lead by example has been lost. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Joan Bland (Conservative)

South Oxfordshire District Council, New Street, Henley

Let’s use new bus service

Sir, — A new bus service has appeared linking Henley and Oxford via Wallingford.

It would be helpful if the Henley Standard could give us an idea of its timetable so that we can benefit from this service rather than using the car.

If more people were made aware of its existence, it would become more sustainable. — Yours faithfully,

Valerie Alasia

Makins Road, Henley

The editor responds: “As we reported in November and December, Thames Travel’s new River Rapids X38 route runs 12 times a day, Monday to Saturday.

“Its main drop off/collection point in Henley is in Hart Street but some services also stop in Deanfield Avenue and at the shops in Greys Road.

“You can download a timetable at www.thames-
travel.co.uk/riverrapids”

Yacht can’t be justified

Sir, — The support of John Howell and other MPs for a new royal yacht to showcase Britain plc around the world (Standard, January 5) is laudable but I doubt it is practical in these days of constrained defence spending.

Although proposed to be built with money from a special lottery, she would fly the white ensign and be crewed by the Royal Navy.

In addition, for security, she would always require a naval escort as did HMY Britannia, the last royal yacht.

The Royal Navy is desperately short of highly trained technicians required to man even our much-reduced fleet of very expensive warships of which six, incidentally, are currently in dock for repairs to their engines. The priority is to provide more men and escort ships to support the two giant aircraft carriers, Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales, now coming into service.

Other ways must be found to promote Britain plc. — Yours faithfully,

Malcolm D Lewis

Lt Commander RD RNR (retd), Pearces Meadow,
Nettlebed

Lottery’s for good causes

Sir, — I was rather dismayed by John Howell’s comment that “the new Royal yacht could be paid for by a lottery rather than by taxpayers”. Who does he think the current Lottery is funded by?

As he is a former member of staff at Ernst & Young, I would have thought he would understand basic facts about economics.

Just another way to divert money intended for good causes! — Yours faithfully,

John M Evans

Grove Road, Sonning
Common

My three bones to pick

Sir, — I am afraid I have three issues with our MP John Howell. Firstly, I have just read in the Henley Standard and in the national newspapers about the idea of a lottery to pay for a new royal yacht.

This idea has the support of 50 or so MPs, including Mr Howell.

To me, this seems rather frivolous with our present housing crisis and rough sleepers.

I should think Mr Howell’s efforts would be better employed in raising capital for affordable housing.

Secondly, I am most disappointed that Mr Howell could not support Anna Soubry, Nicky Morgan and Ken Clarke on their vote in scrutinising the transfer of EU law into English law considering that the Henley constituency was a remainer.

Finally, the farce of the neighbourhood plan over affordable housing and all the Henley care facilities.

Some people in Henley spent a lot of their own time on this plan buy I do not see Mr Howell trying to support all their hard work. — Yours faithfully,

Anne Johnson

Henley

What planet is MP on?

Sir, — People relying on food banks, nothing being done about building council houses, bills going up all the time, no wages rises and Mr Howell seems to think a new royal yacht is important.

What planet is this man on? — Yours faithfully,

Mrs J Hadley

Leaver Road, Henley

Our right to speak out

Sir, — I read Peter Blaker’s Thought for the Week article (Standard, January 5) with mounting disquiet until, by the penultimate paragraph, I knew I had to put pen to paper.

Much of what Mr Blaker writes is laudable stuff. Of course, the world would be a better place if we all treated each other with gallantry.

However, the realities are very different. Clearly, as a man, Mr Blaker has never had to endure the everyday sexual harassment which is the lot of all women, whether from the wolf whistle at the building site, from disturbed men exposing themselves, from the inappropriate touching of a knee, arm or other more intimate parts of the body or from unasked for and more direct approaches in the workplace.

My indignation reached a high point when it was suggested that to draw attention to this is to “make a fuss”. Twice in the article Mr Blaker used this word.

So what, I ask, are women supposed to do? Are we to accept this behaviour in silence? Are we, as has been the case for so long, to shut up about it and say nothing? Uncomfortable as it clearly is for people such as Mr Blaker to read of the appalling behaviour of powerful men who abuse that power for sexual gratification, I would suggest that, for a healthy society, it is right that these facts should be made public and that women should not only speak out but should be positively encouraged to do so. — Yours faithfully,

Ann Ducker

The Hamlet, Gallowstree Common

Inaccurate prediction

Sir, — Looking out at the snow here last month and then seeing reports since of heavy snow in the northern part of the UK prefacing other reports of record cold and snowfalls right across North America, one was immediately reminded of one of the most spectacular scientific forecasting errors since the astronomer royal announced in 1957 that “Space travel is bunk” just two weeks before Sputnik was launched.

I refer to a prediction made in 2000 by Dr David Viner, then a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit of the University of East Anglia, who announced that within a few years winter snowfall would become “a very rare and exciting event”.

“Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said.

Although Dr Viner has since moved into the more lucrative world of consultancy, the scare that he was peddling was one of those that persuaded Ed Miliband to propose the 2008 Climate Change Act and a scientifically gullible Parliament to pass it.

This Act has condemned the UK to the ultimate double whammy of vastly increased energy costs combined with reduced reliability of supply for the foreseeable future.

Mr Putin could hardly have done better.

Perhaps Dr Viner could be recognised for eternity, or at least until the next ice age, by having the word “Vinerism” incorporated into the Oxford English Dictionary and defined as “making completely unfounded and fallacious forecasts”. — Yours faithfully,

Philip Collings

Peppard Common

Museum cafe disorganised

Sir, — I called into the café at the River & Rowing Museum in Henley on Sunday for a light lunch.

The café was totally disorganised with not enough staff.

After queuing for a table, we were totally ignored for 15 minutes, so we left, very disappointed.

It was the same story around us, with one family having to wait for an hour for their order to be served before they too left.

I spoke to the museum reception desk ladies who said they had received a number of complaints but their management didn’t appear to be listening!

This is not a good advert for the museum or Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Heather O’Halloran

Mayfield Drive, Caversham

A River & Rowing Museum spokeswoman responds: “We were very sorry to hear that Mrs O’Halloran did not have an enjoyable experience when visiting the café at the museum last weekend.

“The café is operated by a third party company, Leafi, who are specialist museum caterers.

“Unfortunately, on the day in question, they suffered a number of unexpected staff absences and the service was not at the high standard that we would expect.

“Leafi have contacted the customer directly to apologise and have put plans in place to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”

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