Saturday, 22 September 2018

Your letters...

Uninviting experience

Sir, — The situation of Henley’s retail and food and beverage offering is very worrying for the long-term prospects of the town.

Henley needs to have a long-term strategy and to create a robust “Henley Experience” rather than leaving it to landlords who simply want to fill their vacant premises with multiples which can pay higher rents.

Henley’s retail offering currently revolves around Waitrose, charity shops and a few struggling independent businesses.

The town’s food and beverage offering revolves around a very poor chain-based offering and substandard cafés.

Footfall depends on sunny days, the festival and the regatta. There is currently nothing unique about the Henley experience.

It is even more frustrating when you consider Henley’s natural beauty and proximity to a significant proportion of the country’s population and tourism bases.

Every empty premises is an opportunity to build something special, yet this needs to be led by the local government.

Henley also needs to look at other towns and cities for inspiration. Small towns all over the world are curating shops, cafés and restaurants to create experiences which drive tourism and footfall.

They do their research, find the gaps in their offering and benchmark against other towns to develop these strategies.

Then they work with landlords and entrepreneurs to bring them to life so they actually have a product which they can market to the outside world.

While the likes of Costa, Starbucks and Waitrose pay the rent and rates, these are not assets or attractions to lure consumers to a unique and beautiful town.

The rapid failure of Bensons For Beds is a telling story that retail outlets like this are not desirable.

The introduction of Superdrug will not improve upon anything. — Yours faithfully,

Joshua Van Raalte

Kingwood Common

Where is town plan?

Sir, — What will happen to Henley in 10 years’ time with all the local independent shops disappearing?

Will it turn into a coffee café hub with no shops and Reading and High Wycombe and the internet being our only shopping outlets?

Just look what has happened in the last five years with shops all around closing and now maybe the bakery shop too. Who’s next?

Parking is a nightmare with a lot of people using the bus just to buy everyday things.

Has the town council got a plan because there should be more affordable shops, providing a healthy shopping town for all our needs?

Lowering the rents and rates would encourage independent shops instead of so many large chains. — Yours faithfully,

Lewis Every

Swiss Farm, Henley

We’d miss bakery shop

Sir, — My family and I were very surprised and saddened to read that patisserie Franco-Belge might close after 60 years of outstanding trade (Standard, February 9).

It is an outstanding bakery business and its absence would be terribly missed in Henley by one and all.

All their bakery bread is absolutely superb, especially the brown granary.

We have always enjoyed our visits to the shop and the staff could not be more welcoming and helpful. — Yours faithfully,

Jonathan and Sonia Mason

Fawley Green

No need for coffee on go

Sir, — Regarding the problem of recyclable takeaway coffee cups, just one observation: why do people need to walk around with a cup of coffee?

Surely no one is so “busy” that they have to drink coffee on the hoof. — Yours faithfully,

Mrs J Hadley

Leaver Road, Henley

You moved Berries cafe

Sir, — Once again you have mixed up the streets in Henley.

I am sure prospective customers of Berries café would not be happy if they had to walk up and down Duke street to no avail.

May I suggest you ask your staff to study a street map of Henley or give them a tour of the town? — Yours faithfully,

Pauline Britton

Fair Mile, Henley

The editor responds: “You are right, of course. Berries is in Hart Street. My apologies to readers and the café.”

Concentrate on the future

Sir, — Yesterday, all our troubles seemed so far away....

What a pity that Councillor Ken Arlett spent so much time and newsprint in looking back to the achievements of Henley Residents Group from a bygone age (Standard, February 9).

I, too, can remember this golden age as, in Max Boyce speak, “I was there”.

Cllr Arlett is showing all the attacking nous of a by-election loser but now he should put away thoughts of electioneering and get to grips with the many and mounting problems of our town.

Firstly, why is he not updating us on the state of the neighbourhood plan, which cost the town more than £100,000 and many hours of residents’ time just two years ago?

All we hear currently is how developer after developer tries to secure themselves unique financial advantages and alter the original intent of the plan.

We hear nothing of house completions versus the plan and nothing of the non-house building aspects of the plan, which are of equal importance.

Who now is in charge of delivering the neighbourhood plan? Who is accountable? Why is there not an annual report to the town on this matter?

Secondly, is there any news of the transport plan which cost the town more than £50,000? Who is in charge of delivering the transport plan? Who is accountable?

Meanwhile, Henley continues to make its annual contribution to national deaths through poor air quality.

There appears to be lots of middle class intellectual input to the air quality debate but very little action to make a difference.

The death toll can only get worse as more houses are built, equating to more cars and increased air pollution unless there is a commitment to drastic action.

Thirdly, who is trying to do anything about the struggling Henley economy? An answer to the deleterious effects of internet shopping must be developed.

Perhaps your double page spread on coffee shops (16 in total) is all the evidence we need to show that Henley has become a low added value economy.

Where is Michael Heseltine’s 2000 vision that the future of Henley is on its first floors with high added value businesses?

It is always very telling that talk in the Henley Standard pages of a thriving Marlow increases when Henley does less well economically. We have this problem in spades now and the inferiority complex of the town grows apace.

Please look at the town through dispassionate, unemotional eyes and you will see that Henley traders are having a tough time and the run-down local infrastructure is less supportive of their businesses.

Who now is going to make a difference to the town and pick it up with a burnished identity, civic pride, increased tourism, and enable residents and visitors to spend money easily in the town?

There is a big job to do and it needs people with vision to think the town through this trough.

HRG councillors should cease basking in the glory of past years and thinking only about HRG and the next hand-to-hand combat with the Conservatives.

All councillors of whatever hue should start to think co-operatively about the future or, in that future, Henley could become just a part of a greater Marlow! — Yours faithfully,

Barry Wood

Stoke Row Road, Peppard

Councillors don’t listen

Sir, — Councillor Ken Arlett states what Henley Residents Group has done over the last 27 years (Standard, February 9).

He also says they call themselves independent councillors. I don’t think so.

They vote as a group and because they hold the majority of seats on the town council they do what they want to do and do not listen to other people’s opinions. — Yours faithfully,

Ian Clark

Cromwell Road, Henley

Many more questions

Sir, — Since the last two Henley Town Council by-elections, political partisanship has well and truly broken out in both the letters pages and the council chamber.

It culminated recently in some Conservative members putting a motion of no confidence in the Henley Residents Group chairman of the neighbourhood plan committee. This is a complete waste of the council’s and officers’ time and is, at best, flippant.

For goodness’ sake, this is a parish council which sits at the bottom of the local government pile, not Whitehall.

We have real issues to discuss which require joined-up thinking by joined-up people.

None of the 500 new houses coming our way have yet been completed but on top of that we have about 300 more in the new local plan plus about 100 others where government rules allow offices to be converted into flats.

That’s about 1,800 extra cars. Where will they park? Which roads will be gridlocked? How much more pollution will they emit? How will we provide the new infrastructure? What plans do we have to mitigate all these questions and where will the money come from?

These and many more questions need to be answered by real towns people on the council addressing real town issues, not wasting time by framing partisan questions about the responsibility of volunteers who freely give their time in the council chamber and work on behalf of Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Dieter Hinke

Elizabeth Road, Henley

Parish needs levy money

Sir, — I read with surprise the brief item on the community infrastructure levy debate (Standard, February 2).

It stated that Harpsden Parish Council would receive a payment of £537,000 from the developers of Highlands Farm in the parish of Harpsden. It also stated that Henley Town Council wished to request some of this money. The town council has always been aware of the fact that the Highlands Farm site has no amenities whatsoever and, at present, no public transport.

When the houses are completed the obvious quick route to all the amenities in Henley (a supermarket with parking facilities, a petrol station and railway station) and to Reading avoiding congestion in Henley will exacerbate the traffic problem in Gillotts Lane and Harpsden village.

Harpsden’s roads are in desperate need of repair. They were formerly used for agricultural traffic but have been widened, causing craters, accidents and a danger to all types of traffic.

In Gillotts Lane residents’ properties are constantly being eroded by lorries and cars.

There is a number of young children in the village and it is impossble for them to walk safely on any road as speeding is another issue on country roads.

Therefore we need the money due to Harpsden Parish Council to carry out the repairs to the roads and assist with traffic problems.

Our council has supported us in asking for kerbing and other measures to assist the current problems.

Another 170 houses at Highlands Farm means disaster for our roads if money is not spent on repairs and residents can expect further accidents and road rage and parental worries about children’s safety.

Ultimately, we will need a primary school.

Henley Town Council had every opportunity when the neighbourhood plan was formulated to raise the issue of traffic problems in Henley as the streets are medieval and narrow.

They ignored this fact and the number of houses was raised after the working parties disbanded.

Building some houses at Thames Farm and fewer at Highlands Farm might have eased the situation.

As a partner with Henley Town Council in the formulation of the neighbourhood plan and agreement on sites for housing, Harpsden would be the victim of a monstrous betrayal of trust if it did not receive the monies allocated to it.

I believe little would be achieved in alleviating Henley’s traffic problems by taking Harpsden Parish Council’s rightful dues.

The town council has other sites from which it will receive money. — Yours faithfully,

Odette Moss

Harpsden

Like Burns’s Rough Roads

Sir, — I have just driven along Harpsden Way, Henley, bumping in and out of rain-filled potholes and splashing through deep, muddy puddles.

When I reached the end of my journey I was reminded of the poem written by Robert Burns in 1786. It is entitled Rough Roads and goes as follows:

I’m now arrived — thanks to the Gods;

Thro’ pathways rough and muddy,

A certain sign that makin’ roads

Is no’ this people’s study;

Altho’ I’m not wi’ Scripture cram’ d,

I’m sure the Bible says

That heedless sinners shall be damn’d

Unless they mend their ways.

Oxfordshire County Council should take note! — Yours faithfully,

Bill Port

Victoria Court, Henley

Blame NHS for fines

Sir, — When I park in a South Oxfordshire District Council car park, I get a printed receipt which shows the time I checked in and my vehicle registration number.

I can look at this and see if it is correct before placing it on view inside my car. If there is a dispute, there is evidence.

This is not the case with Smart Parking so users are not given any printed evidence that they have registered, nor are they given a record against which to check that they have entered their details correctly.

The NHS has a duty of care to its users to ensure that the parking system at Townlands Memorial Hospital is readily and effectively usable.

They are the ones at fault for having engaged with a company operating a defective system.

I understand that Henley MP John Howell has written to Smart Parking.

Rather, he should be in touch with his friends at the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group. We know that he has considerable influence there — he was able to stop Henley’s beds being installed, after all.

So far as I know, he has no influence with Smart Parking.

The ultimate holding company appears to be registered in Perth, Western Australia, and some of its principals are resident in Australia and New Zealand. It seems to have made profits in excess of £2million. — Yours faithfully,

Dick Fletcher

Hambleden

Don’t scrap fines system

Sir, — Has our MP gone off his trolley?

Townlands Memorial Hospital is fantastic, so why is John Howell trying to remove the parking cameras that ensure free parking for patients and dependants just because some cannot be bothered to read notices?

There are always likely to be those with genuine parking problems but scrapping the fines would not be the solution.

The next thing you know, every Tom, Dick and Harriet will be taking advantage of the “free parking” and clogging up the spaces for those who use our much-needed hospital. — Yours faithfully,

Michael Skinner

Wyfold

Nonsense predictions

Sir, — It has not proved possible to create a single riposte to the two letters criticising me in your edition of February 2, so I will take them in the order printed and respond now to Andrew Hawkins’s questioning of facts and leave Tim Dickson’s frothings from the church of Al Gore and Michael Mann for another day. There is no questioning the fact that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that has the effect of helping to trap heat within the atmosphere.

Indeed, without CO2 and its effect, originally caused by volcanic activity, Earth would not have emerged from any of the ice ages over the millennia.

It is actually suspected that at least one ice age, the 200 million year long Cryogenian 850 to 630 million years ago, was triggered by a massive reduction in CO2 caused by dying organisms sinking to the bottom of the sea.

Then, 230 million years later, the Karoo ice age was triggered by an explosion in plant life that sucked so much CO2 from the atmosphere that the greenhouse effect failed.

The present inter-glacial CO2 level is actually having a wonderful effect on plant life all over the world, causing arid areas to green and farmers to rejoice in increased crop yields.

Indeed, regarding ice ages, even the notoriously pro-warmist New Scientist opined that “human effects on the climate notwithstanding, the cycle will continue to turn, the hothouse period will some day come to an end and the ice sheets will descend again”.

The whole carbon cycle is much more complex than Mr Hawkins seems to think and there is a huge body of scientists who not only understand this but who are actively pushing back against the “man-made climate change” zealots (they used to call it “man-made global warming” but have backed off from that) who until now have grabbed all the attention.

Remember the oft-quoted 97 per cent of all scientists agree? Well, it turns out that it is indeed true that 97 per cent of a vanishingly small sample of scientists working in “climate science” do agree that we are causing warming but then their salaries and perks depend on keeping the faith so, as Mandy Rice-Davis famously said, “they would, wouldn’t they”. The rest keep their heads down to avoid being attacked by the zealots.

That said, only last week Will Happer, emeritus professor of physics at Princeton University and a renowned expert in atmospheric physics, summarised the state of long-range climate forecasting by saying that “predicting climate temperatures isn’t science — it’s science fiction”.

He is far from alone as renewed consideration is being given to the effect of Milankovitch cycles and to the influences of the Sun, especially as we appear to be moving into what may be a new Maunder Minimum phase of sunspots such as is associated with the dreadful freezes between 1645 and 1715.

Returning to CO2, recent calculations show that in the totally unlikely event that every nation at the last Paris conference meets its goals for CO2 reduction the effect on global temperature at the end of the century will actually be undetectably small.

All other nations at least have the option to change their plans in the light of evidence but thanks to Ed Miliband and the 2008 Climate Change Act the UK is required to bankrupt its citizens and prostitute its industries to meet a goal that will have no meaning or effect anywhere else in the world. Stupid or what?

Finally, to cheer everyone up, do remember that climate predictions come in two types, those that failed to materialise and those that are yet to fail to materialise.

Let’s enjoy the rest of the inter-glacial. — Yours faithfully,

Philip M Collings

Peppard Common

Happy days for criminals

Sir, — What a strange attitude we have regarding law and order these days.

On page 2 of your publication last week, bizarrely, we had an article entitled “Police staffing right for level of crime” and another smaller piece headed “Crook is spared jail”.

Even stranger, your Take Five article item on the same page reflected on the lack of visible policing in Henley and district.

We know that our former home secretary (now Prime Minister) decided that we did not need as many police officers and that their numbers have been reduced by around a third.

Your main piece also reminded us that the number of police community support officers has also been reduced.

The article about the crook reminded us that if caught (an increasingly unlikely event due to the lack of officers), even while still holding their ill-gotten gains, they will receive what amounts to a slight slap on the wrist.

This isn’t a party political rant, but common sense seems to have gone out of the window.

Ask any acting police officer, at any level, and they will tell you how much they are struggling to cope. The first duty of any government is protection of their citizens. — Yours faithfully,

Bill Weaver

Ash Copse, Dunsden

What about us men?

Sir, — In this year celebrating the centenary of women being granted voting rights, I was surprised to see your sexist double-page article about Sue Ryder’s women of achievement awards (Standard, February 9).

It is my understanding that women were seeking equality 100 years ago.

Yet Sue Ryder thinks it appropriate to limit its award to women. Surely men should be granted an equal opportunity? Sue Ryder has already let Henley down badly with its actions regarding Townlands Memorial Hospital.

Regardless how good its nursing is (something I know nothing about), the image of the organisation has been severely dented and this discriminatory competition only adds to that. — Yours faithfully,

Tony Taylor

Knappe Close, Henley

The editor responds: “The Henley Standard is happy to support Sue Ryder’s women of achievement awards and will continue to do so.”

Wonderful family help

Sir, — I am a young 78-year-old widow with three wonderful children.

My son lives just around the corner and visits me every day and my daughters live in Crowmarsh and Didcot and visit every Thursday. Nothing is too much trouble for them.

For a month now I’ve been very unwell with bronchitis. I haven’t wanted to eat, drink or move out of my chair.

I have had no energy and I felt ill. But all my friends and neighbours heard of this and in no time they were making me toast, soup and nourishing dinners, even hot cross buns, with constant hot and cold drinks by my side.

My washing was taken away and came back washed and ironed, there was never any dirty dishes in the sink and one of my friends even washed the floor and cleaned my wet room. On one occasion I couldn’t get up the stairs as I felt so weak so I phoned a friend and she helped me but before she left she made sure I had my phonebook, phone, glasses, tissues and a drink by my bed and insisted I phoned her if I needed help in the night.

My family have done the shopping, put clean sheets on the bed and cooked dinners for the freezer. Without all their help, I think I might have had to spend some time in hospital.

The doctors have been very kind and I’m still taking the tablets. I’m not 100 per cent but am getting better so to my family, Mick and Julia, Sylvia and John, Ingrid, Ian and Fiona, Harry and Sarah, Beryl and Patricia, and the endless phone callers, a very big thank-you for caring. — Yours faithfully,

Barbara Maynard

Vicarage Road, Henley

Exciting life at sea cadets

Sir, — This month, Henley Sea Cadets are calling on young people aged 10 to 17 to come on board to see how being a cadet can make a difference to their lives. We offer water-based and land-based adventure at a heavily-subsidised cost, opening up countless opportunities to all young people, regardless of their background.

Throughout February, our #NeverOrdinary campaign aims to raise awareness of what the charity has to offer.

With us, you can enjoy sailing, kayaking, rowing and power-boating as well as life-changing offshore voyages on one of our five vessels. But did you know we also offer so much more, including first-aid training, rock-climbing, five-a-side football, band practice, physical training and marine engineering as well as an international exchange programme and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award?

We are always looking for volunteers to help, too. You don’t need any qualifications; all you need is commitment and enthusiasm. We will provide the training.

In a recent survey by the sea cadets, 79 per cent of our cadets said they get useful qualifications with us, while 94 per cent of parents said they felt their child’s self-confidence, motivation and team work had “greatly improved” at sea sadets.

Henley Sea Cadets (aged 12 to18) and the Royal Marine Cadets (13 to 18) meet on Mondays and Fridays from 7.15pm to 9.30pm. Our junior cadets, aged 10 and 11, meet on Fridays.

For more information, visit www.sea-cadets.org/henley or email info@henleyseacadets.org  — Yours faithfully,

Abi Bollon

Officer in charge, Henley Sea Cadets

Supporting the disabled

Sir, — Thank you for publishing the story about my son John and the iTunes vouchers situation (Standard, February 9).

The BBC has been in touch with Apple and W H Smith on more than one occasion. Neither company was prepared to comment.

The good news is that the media interest has resulted in a good news story for John.

They have found a way of refunding the money. It’s quite complex and will take more than three weeks but they at least have found a way of doing something, which I appreciate.

It is a pity I was turned down on several occasions but the outcome is great.

Thank you so much for your continued support. The Henley Standard always supports our learning disabled in this town and our community values the contribution that you make. — Yours faithfully,

Barbara Carr

Swiss Farm, Henley

Now that was service

Sir, — I am writing to say a huge thank-you to Henley Glass for coming to our assistance at the coffee house last Friday afternoon.

The glass on the front of our refrigerated serve-over was partly open and shattered when a glass cake dome slipped and fell on to it. Thankfully, no one was injured.

I went into the Henley Glass shop in Greys Road and Simon, who was working there, came back over with me straightaway.

He removed all the glass, which was no easy task, and inserted Perspex until they can fit the specialist glass replacement.

Within the hour normality had resumed and they would not accept payment for this emergency. It was fantastic to have this level of service on the doorstep. — Yours faithfully,

Lorraine Hillier

Hot Gossip, Friday Street, Henley

Thriving theatreland

Sir, — I am so proud of the production of The Hound of The Baskervilles at The Mill at Sonning, adapted by me.

It was so bold and imaginative of Sally Hughes to put it on. It has clearly paid off as the audiences are loving it and the box office is very busy.

Mike Rowbottom’s very flattering review (for which many thanks) gave the cast and crew a well-deserved boost.

As president of the Friends of The Mill, I am very excited at the thought of the major revamp that is going on at the theatre and can’t wait to see many more shows there, especially as the programming seems to be getting more adventurous.

With The Kenton giving us a real variety of great entertainment and HAODS producing really fabulous shows, we are spoilt for choice on this stretch of the river — lucky us.

Happy theatre-going. — Yours faithfully,

Simon Williams

Bix

P.S. Having sold out at The Kenton, Lucy Fleming and I will be at The Mill doing Posting Letters To The Moon on April 11. Do come.

Top quality newsprint

Sir, — Congratulations on the new compact Henley Standard and, in particular, the excellent quality of the newsprint itself. — Yours faithfully,

John Downing

Reading Road, Henley

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