Sir, — Congratulations to David Thomas (Standard, May 6), for maintaining the poor standard of debate regarding the forthcoming EU referendum.
Apparently, it boils down to some clauses in employment contracts and a few pounds here and there. Well, I beg to differ.
Those seeking to leave are accused of isolationism. Rubbish. At the last count the UK’s exports to the EU, taking into account the Rotterdam Effect, were some 42 per cent of the total, so 58 per cent went to the rest of the world.
The UK is actually the exception in the EU, which should come as no surprise because the UK has been outward looking for hundreds of years.
Our universities will collapse. Rubbish. The latest world ranking includes two UK universities and eight American ones.
In fact our own students currently suffer because many UK institutions are striving to attain an undergraduate intake with 50 per cent overseas students.
There is less chance now of a UK student of modest background getting into a top UK university than there was in the Seventies. Brilliant.
The security of Europe is threatened by all this. But the security of Europe is utterly dependent on the financial and military clout of America.
Again the UK is an exception, albeit only just meeting the NATO commitment. The US must get annoyed that so few EU countries pull their weight.
Free movement is a small price to pay to have access to free trade. Well, the housing crisis here in Henley is happening all over the UK but is most keenly felt in England, which is now the most crowded country in Europe.
Oh, and the issues of sovereignty and self-determination are apparently just some sort of aside.
If the vision of the emerging superstate of Europe was so compelling, why don’t the Remain camp invite the likes of Trusk, Juncker and Barroso to tour the country serenading the public with their vision?
Or is it too painful to have to admit that they are more our masters than our own elected Westminster politicians?
Good grief — clauses in employment contracts. There is a bit more at stake than that. — Yours faithfully,
King’s Road, Henley
Fat cats in the asylum
Sir, — In the final paragraph of his letter David Thomas asserts in his usual shrill way that “there is no financial gain to the UK for leaving the EU. It really is that simple.”
In reality it is not that simple because finance is but one consideration of many.
He cites Norway as an example of what can happen to a European country outside the EU.
However, he may be surprised to learn that, according to an article in The Times, opposition to EU membership among the Norwegian electorate is now stronger than ever with a recent poll showing 70 per cent of electors against. Far from clamouring to join the EU, they have thrived outside it since their first referendum in 1972. They had a chance to change their minds in another referendum in 1994 but they did not.
The main arguments appear to be sovereignty and the “democratic deficit” of the EU. For reasons they do not care to explain, neither issue seems to carry any weight with UK remainiacs like David but they do in Norway apparently.
He repeats parrot-fashion what he has heard elsewhere that the Norwegians “accept the rules of the EU without being able to influence their formation”.
He is telling us nothing new here but I understand that between 2000 and 2013 the EU (and therefore also presumably the UK?) adopted 52,183 pieces of legislation but Norway adopted only 4,723 directives and regulations, a mere nine per cent.
David says he is an avid reader of the letters column in the Henley Standard but he evidently did not read my letter of March 18 in direct reply to him in which I presented some arguments for Brexit. Or perhaps he did but none of my points found favour.
By the way, I have it on good authority that EU employees do not pay any tax, anywhere, on their already substantial earnings.
This says a lot about the European Union: among its many faults it is secretive, elitist (EU staff are evidently a cut above the citizens of member countries) and displays little understanding of money.
David, do you really want to continue to belong to this mental asylum being run by its inmates or are you perhaps a willing victim of “Project Fear”? — Yours faithfully,
Cameron isn’t kidding me
Sir, — Just like Private Fraser in Dad’s Army, Mr Cameron cries out “We’re doomed, we’re doomed” should we dare to vote to leave the EU.
In the weeks ahead can we expect him to predict plagues of locusts and of frogs and after that an outbreak of boils with the death of all first-borns to follow?
Will he delegate to Mr Osborne the prediction of diseased livestock, days of darkness, rivers of blood, infestations of lice and swarms of wild beasts?
On June 22 could he make a joint announcement, with Mr Blair perhaps, that we only have 24 hours to save ourselves from hailstorms and wildfires?
Abraham Lincoln, a truly great American president, said: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
Mr Cameron should heed his words rather than those of the present incumbent and also those of Corporal Jones — “Don’t panic”. — Yours faithfully,
PM’s flim flam and rhetoric
Sir, — I sat in the car with my son the other morning as we were early for school when the news came on the radio.
In particular, there was a report saying that David Cameron was going to claim that leaving the EU would spark a new world war.
To my surprise, my 11-year-old son asked a simple question: how?
And for once I found no way to explain the statement.
My son and I discuss a lot of things. I try to simplify difficult ideas and use examples or comparisons but this time there was no answer. How could there be? It was just another bogus statement by a discredited, failing politico.
I did find it amusing that my son found that question more concerning than his imminent Sats.
So, Mr Cameron, can you explain that statement? Can you explain why you have to keep lying? What’s in it for you? Have you already bought your ticket for the EU gravy train and don’t want to give up your seat?
Do you actually have a decent answer to anything instead of flimflam and rhetoric? — Yours faithfully,
What a lot of nonsense!
Sir, — Following the Government’s assurances that we will all be several thousand pounds worse off, climate change will accelerate and we will be on the brink of war should we leave the EU, I have today received a government report especially prepared by the Board of Irresponsible People who can further confirm that, following Brexit:
• Men will start to go grey and lose their hair at least 10 years earlier than now.
• We will see a sharp increase in potholes.
• All blackbirds will leave the country in disgust.
• Nine out of 10 goldfish will drown.
• A week after the vote the Thames in Henley will start bending uncontrollably and Temple Island will move several yards to the right.
• Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Henley Royal Reggtta will be a nightmare!
On a more positive note, remember that leaving the EU will mean we can buy tax-free alcohol on all our trips abroad. Win or lose, bring on the booze! — Yours faithfully,
Belle Vue Road, Henley
Stay in for trade’s sake
Sir, — Having seen yet more posters representing the Brexit/Leave campaign in Henley market place, I felt I should write to you to express my strongly held views on why Britain should remain in the EU.
Although some aspects of our being in the EU are still to be improved, one aspect, namedly trade, is an excellent reason for us remaining.
The EU is our strongest trading area and it would be very silly for us to leave.
Only 30 miles away from Henley in Cowley is the very large Mini car factory owned by BMW. If Britain was to leave the EU would there be any guarantee that BMW would keep the factory where it is or would it more likely move production to a country in the EU and be given subsidies for doing so?
In conclusion, can I just say that I know several people from EU countries and, without exception, they are all very kind, sensible people who do not claim benefits of any kind. — Yours faithfully,
Paradise Road, Henley
Less economic risk by leaving
Sir, — One possible scenario of Brexit is, as the governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney was forced to say, the “biggest domestic risk to financial stability”.But the most likely consequence is that a vote to remain would be taken as tacit approval of British commitment to ever-closer union.
This is about more than the outlawing of electric kettles. Our economy would be more closely shackled to that of mainland Europe and our economic growth rate would fall back to their present level of very low or zero.
This would mean loss of investment and jobs and reduced return on investments that would hit pension funds and savings hard.
Britain would be a second world nation, no longer the outward-looking internationalists we have always been.
The pound would find its own level in the slowly changing relationships, although not as dramatically as the dollar is doing now.
A vote to leave does not carry as many risks as a vote to remain. These islands will stay put no matter what.
We are not going away but we need the freedom to progress like a forest needs sunshine and fresh air. — Yours faithfully,
Verey Close, Twyford
Stop our bees being killed Sir, — Unfortunately, insecticides are not selective, so as well as killing pests they kill bees too. The neonicotinoids could have a ban lifted in England while still being banned in the EU.
There is a lot of evidence that these insecticides slow bees down, stop them feeding and lead to hive degradation and death.
Some researchers say more work is needed but this would probably take more years and more bee deaths.
The lobbyists from the pesticide companies are trying to persuade Liz Truss, the environment minister, to lift the ban. Let’s try to stop this to keep our important pollinators doing the important job they do. — Yours faithfully,
Paul A Robinson
Edinburgh Road, Reading
Pollution puts off visitors
Sir, — As follow-up to your article about Mike Stanton preparing to leave Henley due to the effect of air pollution on his health (Standard, May 13), I was surprised at some reactions received at the civic reception celebrating Lorraine Hillier’s very successful year as mayor.
Speaking to visitors from Wendover, Cookham Dean and Twyford (quite separately), their reaction to hearing that I spend time keeping the air pollution challenge in the public eye, was a clear “Yes, Henley is a very uncomfortable place to visit as the air pollution is all too noticeable”.
Henley people having health problems is well known but visitors staying away from the town came as quite a shock.
Maybe now the councils and the Government will get some actions underway to help us achieve European standards before we add to our problems with 500 more homes. — Yours faithfully,
St Katherine’s Road, Henley
More houses won’t help
Sir, — In view of the pollution in Henley town centre, it is hard to understand why planning permission is given to cover every green space in King’s Road with bricks and mortar. — Yours faithfully,
Little help for abuse victims
Sir, — Adrian Foster, chief prosecutor for the Thames and Chiltern Crime Prosecution Service, was right to state that the emotional impact on victims of sexual abuse and their families is impossible to quantify (Standard, May 6).
Your correspondent Mrs J Hadley was also right to remind readers not to forget “our own children”.
For more than 20 years, I and many others have campaigned (unsuccessfully) for a specialist sexual abuse and rape centre for under-age youths in every town in the Thames Valley and for specialist and holistic help to be commissioned for the ever- increasing number of victims.
It would seem that these victims and their peers with mental health problems are too often being left to deal with their problems with little or even no NHS help. Shamefully, it was just so 20 years ago too. — Yours faithfully,
Wensley Road, Reading
Sir, — If Wokingham Borough Council wants Hare Hatch Sheeplands to be just a nursery rather than a garden centre why was it allowed planning permission for a coffee shop, farm shop and butchers?
Is it sending mixed messages or being hypocritical?
If the council wants Hare Hatch Sheeplands to be just a nursery why was it refused planning permission in 2004 to develop a modern glasshouse facility to meet stringent European law on greenhouse heating and insulation and continue as a production nursery to meet customer demands?
The owner wrote to the council saying that this decision rendered the business unviable, hence the need to trade as a garden centre.
When you read the truth about the struggle that this wonderful community hub has had to endure just to remain viable the council’s action is an outrage and grossly unfair.
Before condemning Hare Hatch Sheeplands people should read the full story at www.harehatchsheeplands.co.uk
Why should an independent, unique ethical, family-run business be so unfairly treated when all it wants is a viable and reasonable compromise that will suit all concerned? — Yours faithfully,
Shurlock Road, Waltham St Lawrence
The facts of planning row
Sir, — Your correspondent Aldon Ferguson states that my complaint concerning Hare Hatch Sheeplands is “misplaced”, which implies it is inaccurate (Standard, May 13).
He also says, rather disparagingly, that I do not seem to understand planning law. But I have done my homework. Has he?
He states: “The garden centre was opened in full knowledge that it was illegal”. This is absolutely incorrect. Hare Hatch Sheeplands was opened legally in 1993.
This sort of inaccuracy is what has caused some people to be of the opinion that the garden centre has deliberately ignored the law when in fact the owner Rob Scott has always worked in consultation with the planning department at Wokingham Borough Council to seek the necessary planning permissions.
Mr Ferguson states: “Despite attempts by Wokingham council to curb the development, it has been consistently extended in direct contravention of planning laws”. Again, this is a totally inaccurate statement.
The Hare Hatch Sheeplands site has not been extended. It currently covers less area than the original buildings and the areas where retailing is allowed is less than half that which was open to the public in the past.
Mr Ferguson also states that it is the law of the land, and not Wokingham planners, that prohibits development in the green belt. If he would care to look at the Government’s own website (www.planningguidance.Â communities.gov.uk) he would see the guidelines.
He should particularly note that development can be agreed on green belt by local authorities for “the extension or alteration of a building provided that it does not result in disproportionate additions over and above the size of the original building”.
Furthermore, the latest national planning framework allows for diversification in the green belt.
Mr Ferguson says: “It is no wonder the council has had to resort to the High Court.”
A correct statement would be that it is a ridiculous waste of taxpayers’ money that the council has taken this action to the High Court when a public inquiry has already been set for September.
I would also like to dispute Mr Ferguson’s issue with our petition. A petition is how the people get heard.
The website www.petition.Â parliament.uk says: “Petitions have the power to press for action from the Government or parliament. At 10,000 signatures you get a response from the Government and at 100,000 signatures your petition will be considered for a debate in Parliament.”
Lastly, I would like to invite Mr Ferguson to visit the site and meet with myself or the owner in order to find out the facts of this case. This is an open invitation to anyone who would like to gain more understanding of this situation. — Yours faithfully,
Human resources manager, Hare Hatch Sheeplands, near Wargrave
Our sport has been damaged
Sir, — I have read the recent statements released by British Rowing relating to Messrs Lister, Friend and Morgan, of Henley Rowing Club, with great concern.
I am not familiar with the details but the complaints of which they have been found guilty look to me to be relatively minor in the context of child welfare.
I suspect these volunteers may well have failed to follow some of the guidance in the 48 policy and welfare guidance documents (amounting to 140 pages) available on British Rowing’s website.
I also wouldn’t be surprised to find many other coaches and club officers around the country who could be found guilty of similar infringements, given enough time and money spent investigating them.
I do know that all three have put countless thousands of hours of their time for free into the sport of rowing over many years and have taken positions of responsibility, enabling many others to participate in this great sport.
British Rowing has spent a year on the investigation, which I’m sure will have had a massive impact on these three and their families. British Rowing’s own policy (safeguarding and protecting children policy page 19) states that: “Ideally case management processes should not extend over more than three months; only in exceptional circumstances should they extend up to six months.”
Why did it take this long? These three volunteers deserved to be treated with a lot more respect than that.
For this lengthy investigation British Rowing engaged a third party firm, Sport Resolutions.
How much did this cost? Why did British Rowing feel the need to spend so much of its members’ money (including mine) on resolving this? I’m sure that approach is not financially viable for all welfare cases they deal with, some of which will be rather more serious and much more deserving of having that time and money spent on them. It looks to me like British Rowing has chosen to pick on these individuals and make examples of them by publicly humiliating them.I am extremely disappointed to see that sort of behaviour from the senior management of a sport that, in the 28 years I’ve been rowing, has always had a fantastic positive, friendly ethos.
Trying to bully coaches and club officers into complying with guidance like this, with the implied threat of similar action, is not the way to keep or bring people into the sport.
The senior managers of British Rowing should take a good hard look at themselves. Their behaviour in this incident has fallen well short of the mark and I certainly don’t like what I see. — Your faithfully,
Rower, umpire and a former rowing club chairman, Newtown Gardens, Henley
Editor’s comment: “I would like to apologise for some of the comments in the letter from Sam Brown in last week’s Henley Standard about the action taken against three officials at Henley Rowing Club which some readers found offensive. Those comments do not reflect the views of this newspaper and should have been edited accordingly.”
Be safe when playing sport
Sir, — Sport forms an integral part of our community and plays an important role in keeping us fit and healthy.
However, even when all safety regulations are followed, accidents can happen, often resulting in head injuries or concussions.
At Headway Thames Valley, a local charity that supports people affected by brain injury, we want to ensure that everyone is able to enjoy sport while being better protected from the risks of concussion.
We’re asking all local sports clubs, schools and colleges to sign up to our new concussion aware campaign and take an “if in doubt, sit it out” approach to head injuries.
Everyone who plays sport should be concussion aware, particularly those at grassroots level who are playing purely for the love of it and do not have ambulances and doctors on standby should something go wrong.
We would therefore encourage all your readers who love playing sport to show they are concussion aware by pledging their support at www.concussionaware.org.uk or by contacting us at www.headwaythamesvalley.Â org.uk — Yours faithfully,
Chief executive, Headway Thames Valley, Greys Road, Henley
So is land in plan area?
Sir, — I have recently read many letters and articles regarding a revised planning application for Thames Farm but am still somewhat confused.Maybe one of the people involved in the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan could tell me is this particular site actually in the plan area?
If it is, was it considered as part of the consultation process and what was the end result of that process? Thank you. — Yours faithfully,
Greys Road, Henley
Coffee shop looks shabby
Sir, — Back living in Henley after some time away, I understand there is a lot of resistance to certain chain food establishments opening in the town.
It is obviously not due to any standards regarding establishment upkeep and general appearance.
Myself and friends have not failed to notice the shabby, unkempt appearance of the Starbucks coffee shop. We have all commented on the filthy windows and general state of furnishings.
It surprises me that such a large chain would allow such standards to drop and that local people tolerate lack of care to general upkeep. Sorry, not a good look. — Yours faithfully,
Albert Road, Henley
A Starbucks spokeswoman responds: “We aim to offer warm and welcoming environments in all our stores and we’re sorry to hear of this customer’s recent experience.
“We regularly review our stores to ensure they are meeting our customers’ expectations and there were already plans for our Henley store to undergo a refurbishment, starting on Monday.
“We look forward to Â re-opening our beautiful new-look store for the local community in Henley.”
We’ll miss this PCSO Sir, — We have lost the front desk at Henley police station and I believe we are about to lose one of our community support officers, Helen Anderson, who is a very familiar face in the town.
I am sure most residents know Helen as she has been in the job for 20 years and, like the PCSOs, has done an amazing job, not only walking the streets in all weathers, both night and day, ensuring the residents are safe, but also taking unnecessary abuse when only doing her job yet remaining professional at all times. I will certainly miss seeing Helen in and around the town, as I am sure residents will.
I know we are still lucky to have both Janice Smith and Claire Hewett, who will continue to serve the community but I would personally like to thank Helen for all her hard work over the years and to wish her every success in her new career and for the future. — Yours faithfully,
Games made me feel proud
Sir, — How privileged we are as Brits to witness last week, through our wonderful BBC television, the Invictus Games from Florida.
We also saw the Invictus choir led by Gareth Malone, which was very emotional and again made one feel very proud of our nation and our servicemen who serve our land.
I do hope that those who would like to see this Britain divided also felt a moment of pride and emotion in being part of the British nation and maybe it will make them rethink their views. — Yours faithfully,
Elizabeth Road, Henley
New name for hospital...Sir, — If there’s a chance of changing the name of our new hospital, I’d like to throw another idea into the mix: Towny McTownlands. I think it has a certain ring to it. — Yours faithfully,
What a wonderful year for bluebells
Sir, — The bluebells this year have been outstanding.
I took this photograph on Monday last week on Nettlebed Common, not far from where the old windmill stood before it was burnt down in April 1912. — Yours faithfully,
Animals looking for food everywhere
Sir, — This happened in our garden the other day.
The blue tit attacked the robin for nesting material but the robin didn’t seem to mind! — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — The first scream of swifts swoops over the Red Lion, the Angel on the Bridge and St Mary’s Church, shouting their greetings — boy, boy, boy, girl, girl, girl sound the two different notes.
They cannot tell the other sex until they hear the call, as a Dutch researcher discovered by recording the swifts poking their heads into nests and calling to find a partner.
They appear to mate on the wing but the true copulation may take place on the nest.
We saw them making landfall over Portland Bill, having flown overnight from France, and now they are with us.
They sleep on the wing during migration, rising to such an altitude that they can drift on fixed wings until the changing atmospheric pressure of a downward current wakes them and they fly up again.
As the bluebells at Greys Court fade, go higher to Nuffield, the Ridgeway and Nettlebed.
Take the old Roman road behind the church at Bix and walk straight across the field to the most exquisite woodland, its tracks pockmarked by the hooves of fallow deer and the humpbacked little muntjac, which you may spot during the day if you walk and dress quietly.
The ravens are calling here and there are wild primroses. The wood sorrel has a single, delicate white flower as well as emerald, clover-like sweetly bitter leaves which refresh.
On walks by the river you may see the large white shells of the geese, carried off by predators, or the broken shells of freshwater mussels with an iridescent lining, or even, sadly, the two red legs of a moorhen — all that is left after probably being dismembered by a sparrowhawk.
All the beasts are busy feeding their young, including the two harassed robins, visiting the nest in the ivy every three minutes but only when our heads are turned away.
Look out for both blackbirds or robins frantically searching wherever you have gardened, they have young to feed. — Yours faithfully,
Stonor spring festival was fantastic
Sir, — I was very surprised not to see a report of the fantastic Stonor Tulip and Spring Flower Festival in the Henley Standard.
I visited Stonor Park with friends on the Sunday. What a lovely surprise to enter the house and be greeted with an abundance of flower arrangements throughout.
They were fantastic and gave a wonderful lift to the house, which was full of furniture and artefacts. The chapel, too, was a delight to see.
Most of the flowers were donated and arranged by the students of Berkshire Agricultural College in Burchetts Green, who are to be congratulated on their work. It was brilliant and breathtaking.
After all the months of hard work by the Camoys family in organising this event, it lacked support from the public due to three other big events in and around Henley that weekend.
Thank you so much. We thoroughly enjoyed the festival and appreciated it all. — Yours faithfully,
Benning Way, Wokingham
Let children be creative and you’ll be pleased with the results
Sir, — The letters from Liz Steele and Melanie White (Standard, May 13) reminded me that I have not properly thanked Ms Steele and her splendid art club for the innovative and exciting work that the children have produced in the past few years at my request.
Two years ago, the Sonning Common Village Gardeners entered Britain in Bloom and we were awarded a silver medal.
I was looking for a piece of art that would be quirky and catch the judges’ eye and left Ms Steele and the children to come up with some ideas.
They made six giant sunflowers which were attached for some weeks to the Co-op shop railings and were much admired by both the judges and the residents.
Last month I set them a bigger task — to make something special for the champagne cream tea party taking place at the village hall on Sunday, June 12.
The challenge became a project that involved every class and the results have already been admired by the organisers of the tea.
They have made 12 one-metrehigh soldiers to guard the Queen, dressed in a variety of brightly painted and material-clad uniforms. The soldiers will be on parade in the village hall at the tea party.
Over the years I have seen some of the work of the art club when the Village Gardeners have been working in the school gardens.
I have seen a tree covered in wonderful bright green woolly caterpillars. I have seen a variety of beautiful wooden owls, a display of royal montages and pictures for the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations and I’m sure there are many more.
Perhaps I could throw down another challenge and ask Ms Steele and the children to produce a retrospective exhibition of all the children’s work to hang in Sonning Common village hall so that parish councillors and members of the public can see for themselves the very high standard of artwork that has been produced over the years.
Quentin Blake, who is one of our of our most prolific and exciting illustrators for children, said: “Children are born creative. It is unthinking adults that stifle their innate talents.” — Yours faithfully,
Councillor Chrissie Â Phillips-Tilbury
Sonning Common Parish Council, Woodlands Road, Sonning Common