Sir, — As a collector of local postcards, can I ask any readers to identify either of these two properties, believed to be in the local area?
The images are thought to have been taken in the early 1900s by a photographer from Reading. — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — I am writing in response to a rather bizarre leaflet I had posted through my door last week regarding the preposterous proposed Thames Farm development and to those few people who have written to this paper in its support.
I find it amazing that people who don’t live anywhere near Henley feel they can write to our local newspaper to express a knowledgeable opinion.
It is also no surprise that the people actually living in Henley who did write in support are right next to a proposed development site that has been earmarked in the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan. They also appear not to have actually researched the history of planning on the Thames Farm site.
Henley has been saddled with this responsibility, yes, but not at any cost and not at the expense of ruining people’s lives.
If anyone takes the trouble to read the detail in the repeated refusals of planning permission for this site over the last decade or so, you will see that the proposal has been deemed completely inappropriate and would seriously affect the nature and character of the entire area as well as going against South Oxfordshire District Council’s core strategy.
Claire Engbers and people like her are given a fair crack of the whip when putting forward plans for these sorts of developments and it is absurd to simply suggest that people who oppose them are just wealthy “Nimbys”.
The people of Shiplake simply want the due process and its outcome to be adhered to, not constantly overturned simply because it doesn’t suit the very wealthy who are involved in this development and just want to become even wealthier. I noticed in one letter that Claire Engbers was said to be “community spirited”.
May I remind everyone that only in 2011 she applied for permission to turn that site into an overnight lorry park with 24-hour fork lift facilities. Very community spirited, I’m sure you will agree. If Claire Engbers is so keen on fulfilling the housing needs of this district perhaps she could build the development near her house. A small village like Lower Shiplake cannot possibly cope with another 300 or 400 people straining its facilities.
Latest Government transport figures show the 7.50am train from Shiplake to Paddington alone is 180 per cent over capacity, making it the most overcrowded service on the entire First Great Western network. It is small villages just like Shiplake and Lower Shiplake that contribute so greatly to the beauty and attraction of a market town like Henley.
To develop some of the last open green field areas separating these pretty villages simply succumbs to the greed and avarice of the people not living there and shows a complete disregard for what makes towns like Henley unique and so attractive to much-needed visitors. Destroy that and you seriously damage this town’s income. It is staggering and wholly outrageous that a proposal such as this can be rejected by not only the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan (and therefore the people of Henley) but also twice by the district council and then again at a public inquiry only to be overturned because someone has thrown yet more money at it! It makes a mockery of the hard work done by the people on the plan committee and all the people in the district council’s planning department who thought that their opinions and ultimately their decisions actually meant something.
The Government has been going to great lengths over the last 18 months to ensure local and district councils have a greater say in what goes on in their borough. Obviously it has been falling on deaf ears. — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — In addition to implying the revised proposal has in some way been endorsed by South Oxfordshire District Council, the leaflet regarding the proposed development of Thames Farm is also misleading by posing its question in a way which seems designed to elicit a false number of positive responses.
The question “Do you support the revised plans which have fewer houses, extensive additional landscaping and enhanced highways safety measures?” is mischievously worded by including the unnecessary and distracting “positive” information.
Any evidence produced by the City PR firm who have circulated this leaflet should be firmly set aside by planning officers. — Yours faithfully,
Cynical and contemptible
Sir, — The original proposal for 115 houses at Thames Farm was rejected by the local community, South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning officers and the appeal inspector.The revised plan for 95 houses is of no material Â difference.The question posed by the authors of the unofficial survey is interesting in its construction. “
Do you support the revised plans, which have fewer houses, extensive additional landscaping and enhanced highways safety measures?” The only response options are “yes” or “no”, so yes = 95 houses and no = 115 houses! I am reminded of the similar assumptive question “when did you stop beating your wife?” This survey is a cynical exercise designed to misrepresent local views for the benefit of the developers and the results should be treated with the same contempt as that which the authors appear to have for the clear opinion of the local community, the planners and the inspector. — Yours faithfully,
Where are other sites?
Sir, — It was reassuring to see so much comment in last week’s Henley Standard in agreement with the primary concern of the traffic implications of the proposed joint Henley and Harspden neighbourhood plan.
These were regarding the misleading interpretation of the facts of the impact of the increased traffic on the town should Crest Nicolson gain permission for 170 homes on the Highlands Farm site.
It would appear that the number of homes suggested keeps increasing in order to achieve the overall number of 450 requested. While Councillor Kester George, chairman of Harpsden Parish Council, indicates agreement on the misrepresentation of the traffic impact due to comparison of theoretical and not actual numbers, he concludes that it would be foolish to vote against the plan.
The reason is that he feels this is the only way to provide a plan which reaches this required number of new homes.
Going back to common sense and clarity, when the original sites were put forward they included three large ones under consideration to share the burden of the increased pressure on the existing infrastructure in a fairer and, more importantly, better distributed way across the town.
Highlands Farm was one such site but the other two, Thames Farm and Lucy’s Farm, seem to have mysteriously evaporated away.Any chance of distilling them back into the scheme as has been done for the site off Fair Mile? — Yours faithfully,
sMust tackle traffic issue
Sir, — Your article headlined “Developer traffic estimates misleading” and several of your correspondents raised the issue of the growth in traffic that would arise from 500 new homes proposed in the neighbourhood plan and now the latest proposal for 170 new homes at Highlands Farm (Standard, January 29).
Two common themes come to mind: Firstly, the unrealistic projections used for the growth in traffic and, secondly, the lack of an infrastructure plan to deal with additional traffic.
On the first point your article brings attention to a weakness in the current plan by including unrealistic traffic growth projections.For example, 170 new homes at Highlands Farm, including 63 four- and five- bedroom houses, would give rise to a lot more than 70 additional vehicles entering Greys Road.
It is more likely to create in excess of 170 additional vehicle movements each morning with a significant increase in traffic delays on Greys Road and more damage to Gillotts Lane.Where the projected traffic estimates have been provided by interested parties these need replacing by an independent source and the plan updated in the light of Crest Nicholson’s latest proposal and the possibly positive development at Thames Farm.
On the second theme of infrastructure, the neighbourhood plan should be supported with a detailed and costed strategic transport plan taking into account the revised traffic levels and with mitigating measures beyond installing two chicanes in Gillotts Lane.
I raise the matter of cost as I wonder if the low traffic estimates published and the lack of tackling infrastructure issues are both rooted in the plan working group’s unwillingness to seriously address the necessary infrastructure funding required if the state of our roads is not to deteriorate from the present poor state.
Reviewing the value of the proposed houses, based on published market valuation of Henley housing, the 500 homes at local prices must have a market value of over £200million and the Highlands Farm development alone a value of more than £90million.
There is a great opportunity here for the council to raise funds from the developers to be put towards measures to mitigate the traffic impact. What are they doing about this opportunity? To get my support for the neighbourhood plan those we have entrusted to make decisions on our behalf must realistically tackle these issues. — Yours faithfully,
We need to accept change
Sir, — As a relative newcomer to Henley, I have arrived late for the discussions and arguments pertaining to new housing development and, in particular, the Thames Farm saga.
I don’t claim to understand the legal wrangling, where I guess only lawyers are now profiting, but Thames Farm seems to be an ideal site for 20 per cent of our housing requirement.Surely most traffic generated from the development would not be directed into the town since a major supermarket is already in place and the excellent village shop and pub in Shiplake would benefit.
Wherever development sites are proposed, someone will be affected and object. I’m not sure whether it is the style of the Henley Standard reporting, a combination of events or simply Nimbys, but overall attitude and tolerance to change seems so negative in this area.Lack of housing is a national problem and under the auspices of “we are all in this together” surely we can all be more positive in accepting the changes that are needed to keep young people and young families in Henley. — Yours faithfullly,
Sir, —I was very surprised to read the comments of elected district, county and parish councillors regarding the revised proposal for Thames Farm (Standard, February 5). The majority of fair-minded people see the merit of providing new homes (including 40 per cent affordable) at a well-located site like Thames Farm. But instead of dealing with the facts, experienced parish, county and district councillors resort to attacking the plans on the spurious grounds that Thames Farm’s consultation leaflet implies council support. These experienced councillors know full well that every applicant is encouraged to consult the council before submitting a planning application. They also know that Thames Farm was a popular choice when residents were asked for their views. So why are our elected councillors determined to deny new homes at Thames Farm and what are their real motives? — Yours faithfully,
Car park plan is old hat
Sir, — Is nothing ever new in Henley? South Oxfordshire District Council’s proposal to add a layer to King’s Road car park (Standard, February 5) is nothing new.Many people will remember a similar proposal when the Waitrose development was under consideration with details available to view in the town hall.
That plan was opposed by many King’s Road residents on the basis that it would detract from their rear view.However, if I recall correctly, that plan called for the car park to be levelled with the rear part virtually underground and as a result the top deck would not have been intrusive.
Would we still have parking problems if that plan had gone ahead? — Yours faithfully,
The village that suffers
Sir, — I write in response to Councillor David Bartholomew’s letter (Standard, February 5) in which he pontificates, yet again, about the proposed and much-needed third Thames bridge.Cllr Bartholomew states that many South Oxfordshire residents are against a third bridge, fearing it would deposit extra traffic on inadequate rural roads.
My response to you, Cllr Bartholomew, is of course some of them are — why would they want extra traffic through their villages when it can all be directed through this historically important Â village? You and those fellow residents seem quite happy to queue for hours each week in our village, within inches of our front doors, waiting for the traffic lights to let you cross our little, single lane bridge, which was designed and built for horse and cart in the 18th century.
Make no mistake, Cllr Bartholomew, the road through Sonning is also a rural road even though it is not treated as such.Let me ask you, too, do you know when the last bridge across the River Thames in this area was built? It was Reading Bridge, which was completed just under 100 years ago in 1923.Before that Caversham Bridge was rebuilt in 1869 and before that it was little old Sonning Bridge in 1775 — a whole 100 years before the motor car was even invented! With the huge economic growth this area has experienced in recent years, it seems utterly ridiculous and quite unbelievable that measures have not been taken to ease traffic flow around our major towns.
I would go as far as to suggest that both South Oxfordshire District Council and Oxfordshire County Council have been incompetent in not adopting a more forward-thinking attitude.Cllr Bartholomew proudly states that he represents nine parish councils. I really wonder what percentage of those residents really do have grave reservations about a third bridge.I’m sure they spend hours each week pondering this as they make their laborious journey through Sonning to get home from work.
I would encourage residents of those nine parish councils to take a closer look at those who claim to represent them.One last request — when any of those Cllr Bartholomew claims to represent are queueing up to cross our little bridge along with 19,999 other cars (yes, 20,000 cars each day cross our bridge), who use our village as a rat run in their wish to get to work, or the M4, or the hospital or any one of the numerous schools we have in this area, spare a thought for the damage it does to our Â village.
Think of the noise and pollution you are delivering to our front door while protecting your own environment. And if you do happen to stop outside my house please be decent enough to turn down your radio and not empty the contents of your ashtray into the road. — Yours (yet again) faithfully,
Third bridge makes sense
Sir, — I am very much in favour of the proposed “third Reading bridge” and congratulate Wokingham Borough Council in its attempt to work with both Oxfordshire County Council and South Oxfordshire District Council to further this.Like many people, I travel from Oxfordshire (Sonning Common) to Berkshire (Bracknell) each day, a journey that is painfully slow and hindered by flooding issues, traffic light problems, road maintenance issues and endless roadworks.
The proposed third bridge linking the A329 to the outskirts of Caversham will reduce my daily commute by half at least.
In this economically vibrant region a third bridge makes total sense not only to me but to many people I know who also travel from Oxfordshire into Berkshire to work each day. — Yours faithfully,
Sorry story of incompetence
Sir, — John Howell MP reminds us (in response to my letter of the previous week) that there will now be intermediate care beds on the Townlands Hospital site (Standard, February 5).
He omits to mention both that these will be only eight in number (not the 18 promised and for which planning permission was granted) and that they will not be in a qualified-nursing staffed hospital, as we were also promised, but in an adjacent care home — not to be confused with a nursing home. This at a time when our local acute hospital (the Royal Berks), and indeed hospitals nationally, suffer from increasingly serious bed-blocking. Losing Townlands’ beds has made this worse, as Jean O’Callaghan, chief executive of the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, predicted in her letter to the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group last summer. She strongly opposed the plans not to provide beds in the new Townlands Hospital. Mr Howell goes on to say “the overall facility at Townlands is being greatly enhanced”. Not so: the outpatient facilities are indeed (hopefully) to be expanded, but the bed provision has been reduced in quality, location and number, from 18 to 8. Improvement of the outpatient facilities at Townlands together with the introduction of integrated health and social care will be welcome — if the NHS can execute their plan, fund it, get social services and health staff working together and make it work. Thus far our local NHS has not even delivered the rapid access care unit which they promised would be open by now, nor found a doctor for it. Furthermore, they have not found a tenant for space which could have been occupied by the originally planned 18 beds — unless they can persuade our local GPs to move. Why does the NHS prefer to move the GPs from their perfectly good existing premises into space that was intended for, could and should be used for patient beds? I can see only a financial explanation for this: the GPs would pay a substantial rent whereas we patients would be a cost. Perhaps naively, those of my generation expected eventually to benefit from some of the health/national insurance and tax money that we have been paying for the past 50 years. The NHS cheated us after closing the War Memorial Hospital and now they are doing it again. The whole sorry story is one of diminution, incompetence and lack of realism in my language, even if it is one of enhancement in that of our current MP. — Yours faithfully,
Wrong place for home
Sir, — It was a shame to hear the Orchard Lodge retirement/nursing home in Sonning Common had closed last year due to being poorly managed but I fully understand these places need to be professionally and caringly run.
However, I am now much more concerned to hear it is may be re-opened as a residential home for vulnerable children (aged five to 18) on behalf of Calcot Services for Children.I am not normally one for “Nimbyism” but in this case I think the proposed location for such a facility is totally inappropriate both for the children concerned and the local residents.
Vulnerable children from disturbed backgrounds have complex needs and need space and facilities specifically designed and aimed at such persons as well as good communication links. Orchard Lodge is small and has no outside space or gardens and Sonning Common is a quiet South Oxfordshire residential village with very few facilities aimed at younger persons. Orchard Lodge is also centred in the quietest part of the village nowhere near any parks or open spaces.
I really feel this would be a poor choice of location and bring major problems for the children concerned but also potentially for the local residents and community.
I also don’t fully understand why Calcot Services for Children from West Reading offers any old piece of land it immediately becomes “suitable”. — Yours faithfully,
Ignorant and cowardly
Sir, — A friend recently received a letter posted through her letterbox regarding Orchard Lodge in Baskerville Road, Sonning Common.
The letter, sent anonymously, invited residents to campaign against the opening of a children’s home at that location. It talks of starting a petition against the home. Apparently a company called Calcot Services for Children is hoping to open a residential home for vulnerable children at this site.
The letter says the children “have come from disturbed and abused backgroundsâ€¦ some will have very complex needs”.
I can only praise anyone able to help such children and hope that the anonymous, and therefore cowardly, actions of those who sent out the letter think very carefully about how their ignorance and unpleasant behaviour impacts on their neighbours.
I also hope they can reflect on how many foster children already live in the area who also come from “disturbed and abused backgrounds”.Perhaps instead of blocking this community development, they could think about fostering themselves. On the other hand, they may not be suitable. — Yours faithfully,
The folly of electrification
Sir, — Michael Porter writes that electrification of the Henley branch line will be “of great benefit, providing a reliable, faster and cheaper alternative to driving to Heathrow and parking” (Standard, February 5). Let us examine this claim. “More reliable?” Does our present diesel train often break down? I thought not.“Faster?” The current time between Henley and Twyford is 12 minutes, so any small increase in speed would only reduce journey times by seconds. Worth all the expense and disruptions? It’s when the word “cheaper” is used that we enter the world of fantasy because rail is the most expensive form of transport known to man.
Two weeks ago the national press ran a story which proved just that with the teenager who found it cheaper to fly to Berlin and back rather than take a short train ride in the UK. This when even the eye-watering fares we have to pay don’t reflect the true cost of rail travel, which has to be supported by massive subsidies. Rail electrification is already years behind schedule and millions over budget — all paid for by us, the taxpayers. There’s no reason to extend this folly to the Henley branch line. — Yours faithfully,
Can’t have it both ways
Sir, — The headline on David Dickie’s letter (Standard, February 5) was “I’m right to be wary” and indeed he is, but I think he also owes it to himself to be objective and perhaps a little more sceptical. We now learn that the “facts” in his original letter came from an internet search for “fracking earthquakes”. I think “tremors” would have been a more accurate and less emotive word. As I have commented previously, it would have helped the readership to judge the merit of his statements if he had included his sources.The internet is big enough to accommodate many shades of opinion, including those with a (political) axe to grind as well as those whose opinions do not enjoy the benefit of being grounded in facts. It does not necessarily pretend to be the gospel truth. If instead Mr Dickie had used “fracking no earthquakes” for his internet search he would, unsurprisingly, have found a lot of other, possibly contradictory, information.
His juxtapositioning of “carbon” (sic) and “floods” suggests a connection which I believe is disputed, at best. Many observers seem to agree that our vast shale gas reserves have the potential to ensure the long-term energy security of the UK, not to mention their economic impact. If Mr Dickie were “the Government”, charged with making the big decisions that would affect us all for decades to come, would he really reject fracking on the basis of some unproven articles from the internet, or indeed even from New Scientist magazine?Or perhaps he wants the freedom to criticise, cast doubt or ascribe base motives (profit) while sheltering under the decisions of the elected government and enjoying our energy independence from some of the most unstable regimes in the world? If that is your position, David, then I suggest you cannot have it both ways. — Yours faithfully,
No respect for woodland
Sir, — I enjoyed the very interesting article about Professor Richard Fortey and the fauna and flora in Lambridge Woods (Standard, February 5). We walk in the woods virtually every day and agree wholeheartedly with his view that it’s a lovely area on Henley’s doorstep. There are, however, a few things that mar this lovely wood and they’re all man- made:
• Professional dog walkers with up to eight dogs — they haven’t got a clue where some of the dogs are
• Horse riders not keeping to the designated bridleways
• Indiscriminate fly-tipping (see the letter in the same issue from Robin Batchelor-Smith).
We can only describe these activities in the same way as Mr Batchelor-Smith i.e mindless and antisocial. The people involved can have no respect for this lovely area that they leave churned up and in a mess. — Yours faithfully, Stephen and Karen Â AldridgeSwiss Farm, Henley Message to our cat’s killer Sir, — To whom it may concern. On Thursday last week between about 4.15pm and 4.30pm our beloved cat Baby was run over outside our house in Crowsley Road, Shiplake.
This has left us heartbroken as she was very much loved and a very affectionate, friendly and vocal little cat. The thing that makes it worse is that the person responsible for this accident didn’t even have the decency to stop and check on her or try to find the owner.
This reflects a larger problem of people speeding down quiet residential roads with no regarding for the safety or feelings of others.
To you she may have been a “just a cat”, but to us she was a member of the family and we are devastated. To leave her there without any effort to find the owner is heartless and one hopes they feel guilty.
This sort of thing is, sadly, all too common and needs to stop and I wonder what it will take — another cat, a dog, a child? I have put a sign up relating to this matter and have had numerous friends, neighbours and strangers stop and personally pay their respects to us. We thank you all for your kind words.
This is an appeal as much as a shaming — any information would be welcome to give us some peace of mind. — Yours faithfully,
Is this really community awareness?
Sir, — Perhaps Townlands Hospital developer Amber’s community awareness doesn’t extend to its builders’ dining arrangements? — Yours faithfully,
York Road, Henley
Long tails and big appetites
Sir, — Here’s a photograph of some long-tailed tits visiting my bird feeder.
I have a flock of 12 come in every day. — Yours faithfully,