Sir, — I understand the referendum to approve the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan is to take place on March 10 (Standard, January 22).
David Nimmo Smith, a civil engineer by profession, is an Oxfordshire County Councillor with responsibility for highways yet is encouraging us to approve the plan without any traffic plans in place or infrastructure.
By my calculation, the residents of Gillotts Lane and Harpsden village can in future expect 240 vehicles to be passing down the lane and through the village to access transport and retail facilities at the edge of Henley on top of the increase in vehicles due to drivers trying to avoid congestion in Henley.
At the neighbourhood plan working groups’ sessions, Harpsden representatives talked about the difficulties of an increase in traffic in Gillotts Lane and Harpsden village as the roads are not properly surfaced and were constructed for agricultural vehicles and are extremely narrow.
The consensus of opinion was that 140 homes should be built at Highlands Farm and we accepted this figure.Since then the figures have changed and development plans have changed without any further meetings of the working groups.
Now the number of homes at Highlands Farm is 170 with a possible 50 homes at Gillotts School — not a decision reached by any members of the original working groups.The residents of Gillotts Lane and Gillotts Hill have written, via their spokesman, to Harpsden Parish Council and gave their views at the council’s annual meeting.
They have also written Henley MP John Howell, who replied, South Oxfordshire District Council, Crest Nicholson, who were helpful in explaining their responsibilities in promoting safety in Gillotts Lane, and Councillor Nimmo Smith who seemed to be too busy to reply or to meet us in the lane to discuss the difficulties.
Representatives attended all traffic meetings with Peter Brett Associates, the consultants who carried out the traffic study.In reality we seem to have no say in our future, which appears to mean the eventual destruction of tree roots and hedges falling into the road, residents in Gillotts Lane having their verges eroded with the loss of property and all roads filled with potholes and water which cause accidents and poses danger to cyclists and motorcycles.
Many residents would like kerbing to protect properties but Crest Nicholson has suggested chicanes in Gillotts Lane, which all the residents except one think is illogical for reasons that we have outlined repeatedly.
How shall we vote when we are fewer than 500 persons in our village but have been allocated the major part of the development of homes on behalf Henley parish? Harpsden is a village with no infrastructure and very little say in its future. — Yours faithfully,
Traffic would be worse
Sir, — I hope I am not alone in being a Henley resident who wants the plans for new housing development to reflect a decent measure of common sense and clarity.
As such, I was alarmed by your front page article on the planned development of Highlands Farm (Standard, January 22), particularly in respect of the effect on traffic in Greys Road.You reported the developer as saying there would be fewer heavy goods vehicles and “no material impact” on traffic should 170 homes be built there.
In fact, this statement reflected projected traffic statistics should the entire Highlands Farm industrial estate be at maximum occupancy, including the long-closed down Associated Asphalt plant that upset so many Henley residents with its trucks going through the centre of the town.
As a resident of Highlands Lane with a home office overlooking the lane, I can provide correct statistics of the current daily traffic, which is minimal.
If these were to be compared with the traffic from 170 new homes, common sense would mean the developer should have said “considerable material impact” on traffic, particularly at peak times.Crest Nicholson’s emphasis on the new cycleways and paths is also misleading, as we know those would only be utilised by a few Gillotts pupils, dog walkers and those heading to the leisure centre and not replace the main school runs, supermarket trips etc. We are not opposed to housing development on Highlands Farm and are supporters of the re-use of brownfield sites wherever possible.
We just want common sense to prevail i.e. a smaller, more traffic sustainable development to be approved for Highlands Farm.
Common sense must also come to the fore in recognition of residents’ real concern over the serious traffic and safety implications — the talk of traffic-calming measures on Greys Road being introduced to solve the traffic problems is to address a symptom, not the cause of the problem. — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — I for one would like to register that I strongly disagree with both the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan and Crest Nicholson’s plans for Highlands Farm. The site should never been included in the plan because it is outside of the town Â boundary.
It is too far from the town centre, so making residents totally reliant on travelling anywhere by car, and it cannot be joined with the rest of the town.
Most importantly, it takes away a place of what could and should be sizeable local employment.
Not a single picture of the proposed development as featured in your paper included an image of a vehicle of any kind.
However, the reality of 170 homes is going to be at least 340 cars parked outside of them. Gillotts Lane will be much more in need of widening rather than traffic-calming.It is stated that no more traffic would be generated during the rush hour. Even if this is the case, the fact is that this traffic would now be heading in the opposite direction for people to get to and from their places of work.
In the majority of cases this will be south of the river where another bridge has not been built for more than 100 years. What joined-up planning strategy is this? We take away the opportunity to provide local employment for hundreds of people, forcing both people working at Highlands Farm and the people living in these 500 new houses to commute.
As well as houses we need to equally plan for local business and put them both in the right place. Houses close to the town with a new business park close by would make a real contribution to the area.
I for one will vote against the neighbourhood plan and I urge all Henley residents to do the same. Any plan imposed cannot be worse than this one where 50 houses are also planned for the Gillotts School playing fields, another shortsighted idea as 500 new homes means a lot more school pupils.
If we have to have 500 more houses then these could be accommodated in identified sites much closer to town where the residents could then walk into town to their place of work or study. — Yours faithfully,
Plan is best of bad job
Sir, — Harpsden Parish Council is grateful for this opportunity to make clear its belief that it is in the best interest of the residents of Harpsden to support the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan in the referendum to be held on March 10.
This recommendation in no way implies that the council welcomes the compulsory imposition of any number of houses, only that on balance both communities will be better off with the plan than without it.
As Henley Councillor David Nimmo Smith warned in your edition of January 15, if the plan is not adopted both Henley and Harpsden will be left vulnerable to speculative development that South Oxfordshire District Council may find difficult to refuse.
Given circumstances that should never have been allowed to arise, in the council’s opinion, the plan makes the best of a bad job. — Yours faithfully,
Councillor Kester George
Chairman, Harpsden Parish Council
Time to back watchmaker
Sir, — I write regarding the company expansion plans of Bremont (Standard, January 22).
Here we have a leading global luxury watch company that has chosen to base its headquarters in Henley and through success needs larger premises.Henley (and in particular Harpsden Parish Council) should be celebrating the fact that this company is extremely successful and has desires to relocate in the area.
I applaud its desire to build premises which will no doubt be award-winning again but also of the highest environmental rating.Let’s not forget this company has a proven history of being highly respectful to both the area and environment.Well done, Bremont — bring watch-making back to England! — Yours faithfully,
Time wasting in a crisis
Sir, — We are promoting a site for residential development in Goring. We were sent a form by South Oxfordshire District Council in September 2013 to register the site for consideration during the site allocations process that was being undertaken.
Today, two years and four months later, I have received exactly the same form to fill in to register the site for the neighbourhood plan process.
It would appear that all the work done by the policy planners at the district council at public expense during this period has been consigned to the rubbish bin.
Is it any wonder we have housing crises? — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — I’m writing to you, as well as the college, town council, police and my leasehold company about the noise, litter and parking issues caused by the students of The Henley College.
At Loddon House in Tilebarn Close we get the main noise and litter surrounding us but this would also affect other properties in the area down Deanfield Road.
We have families with small children, people working shifts who sleep in the day and people working from home.
The main noise is a constant beeping of horns in the mornings, at lunchtimes and when students leave or hang out for lunch.
Last week alone we timed six minutes of car horns blasting from four different cars at lunchtime. This is totally unacceptable.Furthermore rowdy students and music from their cars compete in a volume war of “who’s got the best song?”Over the past five-and-and-a-half years it has been an issue and now seems to be getting worse.
Litter is also dropped by the students, leaving a mess.The cars parked by the students have started making it harder to exit our private parking area.
They now park on the bends and corners and are far away from the kerbs, leaving only enough space for one car to drive in or out. Sometimes there are only inches of space.Visibility is reduced when leaving and returning.
This affects everyone in Tilebarn Close. The fence and a lamppost has been replaced at least once in the last 12 months due to parking or driving incidents involving students.
We’ve also dealt with abandoned cars, students jumping on cars and sticking up windscreen wipers.
They use foul language, swearing at the tops of their voices at each other from across the road, which is inappropriate for the young children around.We’ve also heard students boasting about drugs.
Can something be done? — Yours faithfully,
Farewell to Deanfield
Sir, — May I, through the columns of the Henley Standard, bid farewell to Deanfield Avenue.
As I pen this letter, the last vehicle has pulled out of our Deanfield site.
In the 40 years of “street life” I have seen countless generations of Henley College students come and go — often noisily, but always happy and good-natured.
We’ve had all characters in our Deanfield life — tinker, tailor, soldier, spy, rich man, poor man etc, all of whom add to the Deanfield tapestry.
I don’t think I’ll miss the flotilla of student coaches at 4am but I’ll be sad to leave Deanfield.
Elated or saddened, we say goodbye Deanfield and hello to Newtown Road industrial estate, where I look forward to a rich depth of characters and stories therein. — Yours faithfully,
John C Miles
Wilkins removals and storage,
Saddened by shop closure
Sir, — What a shame that another independent shop in our town is closing (Standard, January 15).
St Audrey’s has always been so different to other gift shops, stocking risky, eccentric, unusual and amusing products.
It is imaginative, funky and modern and doesn’t follow the usual dull trend.
Let’s not forget, too, how the closing of a business is not only sad for the customer, it is a wrench and the end of a chapter and years of commitment for its owners.
I will miss you, St Audrey’s. — Your faithfully,
St Mark’s Road,
Sir, — In his review of Welwyn Garden City’s new QEII Hospital (Standard, January 22), John Howell MP failed to mention the continued existence of the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital in Welwyn, five miles away.It is a rehabilitation hospital, just as Townlands was until a few months ago, and was refurbished in 2012 with two additional private patient rooms in addition to its bedded wards.
So Hertfordshire has a new clinic-type hospital plus a refurbished bedded community hospital whereas South Oxfordshire had a community hospital which is currently closed then will be downgraded to a clinic with a few beds in an adjacent care home.
Our nearest community hospital is in Wallingford, 13 miles away.
The East & North Herts Clinical Commissioning Group seems to be more generous than ours in Oxfordshire.
It is high time for our MP to recognise and fight for our local needs, as his predecessor did, rather than defend the clever but impractical Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s high-handed approach, decisions and attitude — unlikely, I suspect, but I live in hope. — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — I would like to ask John Howell MP how the Government obtained its findings that 70 per cent of people would like to die in their own homes (Standard, January 8).
Seventy per cent of how many and what was the age group of those asked and in which part of the country were they? If so many people want to die in their own homes, why does Henley and the surrounding area have so many private nursing homes? I’d like to die at home but realistically this would put a dreadful emotional, financial and physical burden on my relatives, who don’t live in this area.
Can Mr Howell guarantee that a person sent home to die, too weak to use a telephone, or get to a toilet or the kitchen, is going to have the 24-hour care they need and that they’re not going to be lying in soiled sheets in desperate need of pain relief, dehydrated and dying mainly of neglect? The owners of the new Chiltern Court care home state that they’re looking to recruit “quality care staff” and that eight beds will be available, replacing those on Peppard ward.
The NHS staff on Peppard ward at Townlands Hospital not only gave “quality care”, they gave “qualified care” and now they’re gone, relocated elsewhere in the NHS.So to liken these beds with those we had in the Peppard ward is wrong and misleading. Instead of visiting a well-run, clean and orderly hospital in Hertfordshire, Mr Howell would be better informed if he spent a week with a carer, travelling around to patients’ homes, trying to give the best possible care for the patient in the limited time available, within houses or flats that may not even be equipped for a disabled person. — Yours faithfully,
Hospital is good for all
Sir, — Is the view of a retired actor, complaining about the view from his house being affected by the completion of a new hospital, worthy of headline news (Standard, Janaury 15)? Surely the headline story should have been the one on page 5 regarding the completion of the new hospital for the benefit of everybody. With major advances in medical treatment and an ever-increasing elderly population, hospitals need to be bigger.
The only alternative to building it taller is a single storey building on a larger greenfield site, which would be difficult to obtain local support for. House prices rise in an area with good community facilities, not only of Mr Bewes, but every house in the area.
Let’s congratulate all those who were involved in successfully creating this great community facility for everybody. — Yours faithfully,
More dangers from fracking
>Sir, — I read David Dickie’s letter about fracking with interest (Standard, January 22).
Fracking is a process which involves drilling into rocks and then injecting many gallons of water at extremely high pressure, together with sand, salt and chemicals, some toxic and carcinogenic, such as benzene, to fracture the rock and extract the fuel.Earthquakes aren’t the only problem associated with this process. There are possible serious side effects, both to human health and the environment.
Fracking generates a toxic sludge and a massive amount of contaminated water, both of which need to be treated.
Between 20 and 40 per cent of the toxic chemicals used in fracking remain underground where they can and do contaminate drinking water sources. Most of the water in southern England comes from such sources.
Methane liberated by fracking can also seep into groundwater, contaminating it.
From this perspective, fracking has the potential to cause colossal damage to us and our environment. — Yours faithfully,
Earthquake? Surely not
Sir, — I was astonished to learn from your correspondent David Dickie that “Canada has just set a new world record for earthquakes as a result of fracking”.
Although I follow the subject quite closely, I have to admit that this startling fact had escaped my notice.
This is such a sweeping statement that I must ask him to state his source for this alarming information.
I think those who write to the Henley Standard would do well to give chapter and verse when making such major assertions.
Evidently your correspondent Mark Corbett agrees because he makes precisely the same point in his letter in response to Karen Edwards’s comments in the article about the Heights Primary School.
I suspect that in both cases those involved have found it convenient to exaggerate and make unsubstantiated claims for the sake of effect in the mistaken belief that to do so furthers their respective causes. — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — Ours is supposedly the oldest parliamentary democracy in the world and we talk often of our British belief in fair play.Yet with the Trade Union Bill, this Government is putting these values at risk. We’ve already seen them make it harder to register to vote and soon they will redraw the parliamentary map in a way that benefits the Conservative Party.Furthermore, hidden in the Trade Union Bill is a clause that is deliberately designed to cut off trade unions’ financial support for the Labour Party, while doing nothing to limit the hedge funds and millionaires that support the Tories.
They’re attacking democracy by silencing opposition, whether it’s from unions, campaigners or charities, and by changing the rules to make it harder for anyone else to win an election. As the House of Lords debate the Bill over the next weeks, I can only hope the Government will take the opportunity to embody the values of democracy and decency it claims to support, and drop these unfair proposals. — Yours faithfully,
Fir Tree Avenue,
Sir, — I would like to comment on your article regarding the application that the Kenton Theatre made for two allocated parking spaces in New Street (Standard, January 22).I would like to make it clear that councillors were very supportive of our application and fully understood the necessity for the Kenton to have the use of these spaces.
It was, however, made clear by the town clerk that neither the council nor Oxfordshire County Council were legally allowed to convey these spaces to the theatre and therefore the compromise was reached whereby these spaces will be coned off, as required. This was the best that could be achieved.
The theatre has furnished the town clerk with a schedule of dates and the wardens, I am sure, will be informed accordingly. I would also like to mention the excellent support that the theatre gets from parking warden Norman and his colleague in always assisting the theatre in its parking requirements where they can help.
A positive outcome to a difficult situation. — Yours faithfully,
Ed Simons Chairman,
Don’t forget unsung heroes
Sir, — I write with regard to your support for the recent Christmas appeal for the Sue Ryder hospice in Nettlebed.
I am aware of the wonderful care given at the hospice as I had first hand experience some 20 years ago when my husband passed aware there.
It was shortly after this that I became a volunteer, not in the hospice but on the outside where all of the donated goods are sorted and prepared for the sales which take place every third Saturday throughout the year.These sales raise a lot of money which goes towards the care of the patients in the hospice.
It is hard work done in all weathers by a large number of volunteers.Because of the generosity of local people there is an enormous amount of donated goods to be sorted every week into the large number of different departments at the sale days.
I was very disappointed and hurt that no mention was made at all in your articles about this loyal band of volunteers who contribute so much to the ongoing success of the hospice. Many of them feel, as I do, that it is about time that these largely “unsung heroes” were given some appreciation for their efforts and dedication.Perhaps it might be the subject of a future article in your excellent newspaper. I very much hope so. — Yours faithfully,
Help with heating bills
Sir, — Are you having problems heating your house, or do you feel that you’re paying more than you should? Citizens Advice is urging people to take action, cut their bills by checking that they are on the best possible deal, switch tariff or supplier, or take up offers of help to insulate their homes.
You could benefit from savings of up to £320 a year from energy efficiency measures, an average of £100 by paying by direct debit and up to £200 by shopping around.
For those with internet access, Citizens Advice has published new energy advice information and links to comparison tools.
To find out how you can benefit, visit www.citizensÂ advice.org.uk/consumer/energy/energy-supply/get-a-better-energy-deal/save-money-on-your-energy-bills/oxfordshire
Citizens Advice has also issued eight money-saving tips:
1. Check your bills carefully and read your meter regularly so you can check that you’re paying the right amount.
2. Talk to your supplier if you think your bill is wrong or if you have problems paying. They will give you advice or talk you through repayment options.
3. Make sure that you are on the cheapest tariff. Check with your supplier and use an accredited tariff-switching website to see who is offering the best deal. Most energy suppliers offer fixed price tariffs, i.e. the price of a unit of energy will stay the same for the length of the deal.
4. If you use a pre-payment meter, remember that standing charges will be added daily, even when you aren’t using energy. Check how much these standing charges are and keep your meter topped up to avoid unexpected charges.
5. If you use heating oil as your main fuel, aim to buy before winter and see if there are any local oil-buying clubs you can join. A scheme covering many local villages is Community First Oxfordshire’s Bulk Oil-Buying Scheme. For more information, visit www.communityfirstoxon.org/
6. Make your home energy-efficient. Insulate lofts and cavity walls, install double glazing or use thick curtains to keep the heat in. Get your boiler serviced or replaced to ensure that it is energy-Â efficient. There are schemes to help pay for this and Citizens Advice can tell you about them.
7. Save money and energy — don’t leave appliances on standby. Fix leaking hot water taps and turn off the light when you leave a room.
8. Do a home energy check — visit the Energy Saving Trust home energy check at http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/domestic/home-energy-check Use this check to get a full report with details of your home energy use and the savings you could make.
If money is tight, Citizens Advice can look into your situation and see whether you are getting all the benefits you’re entitled to, or if you can get help paying your bills.For further help, call Adviceline on 03444 111 444 or drop in to our Henley Citizens Advice at 32 Market Place, next to the Town Hall.
If you know of family, friends or neighbours who would benefit from switching supplier, please share this information with them. — Yours faithfully,
Oxfordshire South and Vale Citizens Advice Bureau
Hunt for old servicemen
Sir, — The British Element Trieste Force Association was formed in 2004 for those ex-servicemen who served in the Free Territory of Trieste from 1945 to 1954.
Although our average age is now 85 we are still hoping to recruit new members! There are opportunities to contact old colleagues through the quarterly magazine and association website.
Regional meetings are held in various parts of the country and annual reunions take place at different locations, the next being near Lichfield in March.
A visit to the National Memorial Arboretum is planned to coincide with the eighth anniversary of the association’s re-establishment in its present form. If you are interested in knowing more about the association, please get in touch with me by phone on 01665 589289, by email at email@example.com or write to me at the address below.
We also welcome associate members, for example people whose relatives served there or who, as children, attended the military school. — Yours faithfully,
British Element Trieste Force Association,
Sir, — Visiting Henley early in the New Year my husband and I were delighted to see that something was on at the Kenton Theatre — Beauty and The Beast performed by members of the Henley Children’s Theatre.
What a delightful surprise. The pantomime was brilliant with a great, amusing script and very well-rehearsed, excellent songs and all spoken words were presented clearly too.
What a lot of hard work it must have been for Muffin Hurst and her team and for the children. They all looked as though they enjoyed every minute. What a joy — so many happy faces, cast and audience alike.
Productions like this are priceless, giving so many people such pleasure and boosting the confidence of such young performers.
Credit to everyone involved. I shall keep an eye out for further events. — Yours faithfully,
Thank you for support
Sir, — Ivor Godwin and family would like to express their heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped support and care for his wife Josie during her illness.
With your help and support, we were able to fulfil mum’s wishes that she stayed at home with her treasured family, something we would not have been able to do without your help.
Mum and dad celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary two years ago with an afternoon tea party for more than 80 friends and family.
It was a tremendous afternoon with family and friends travelling from far and wide. They asked guests to donate money to the Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance Trust as opposed to giving them gifts and were delighted to raise a considerable sum.
For mum’s funeral we asked for family flowers only and again donations to the trust raised £274.10, which we know mum would be so pleased with. We would like to thank everyone for their generosity. — Yours faithfully,
Ivor, Mandy, Teresa, Jo-ann and families
Sir, — Whenever I pass the female sculpture on the Reading Road roundabout I assume that she is some kind of mermaid who has just stepped on an electric eel! I think that scales, rather than Ian Forster’s suggestion of black paint, would suit her. — Yours faithfully,
Good to see giraffe back from safari....
Sir, — How lovely to see that the giraffe of Rotherfield Greys is back in his garden (just past the Maltsters Arms pub).
We have missed him for these past few months. I suppose he has been on safari! —Yours faithfully,
Claypits turned into wildlife ponds
Sir, — The old claypits at Nettlebed where clay was dug for bricks have been cleared and have been formed into many ponds.
I can remember playing there as a child 70 years ago when it was all exposed clay. It looks superb now after a lot of hard work. Thanks to all involved. — Yours faithfully,
The story of Pilot Bear
Sir, — Here’s a picture of “Pilot Bear”, holding the string of his balloon.
He has attached just enough Blu-Tac to the string to achieve neutral buoyancy.
It has been drifting around the house for several days now between the floor and the ceiling, following whatever draughts and temperature gradients there might be.
A nice demonstration of the Archimedes Principle, he thought. — Yours faithfully,