Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Councillors must commit

Councillors must commit

Sir, — Well, the Henley Town Council elections are not far away and we have to select the 16 people to represent us and look after the best interests of our town.

This will be an important choice as this council will have to deal with the 500-plus new homes with the resulting extra traffic congestion, parking difficulties, further deterioration of our air quality and many other linked problems, such as social housing.

This election is an opportunity to vote for those who will best represent Henley and not just use it as national political affiliation.

As a former councillor, I know how much time is needed to attend the various council and other meetings. Prospective councillors must be prepared to put in the long hours to get results.

We need to know that the council members will give the town their commitment to turn up when needed.

Many councils now have attendance statistics for each member on their websites so the public has this information prior to the election. Henley Town Council should offer these statistics to us, the electors. Why shouldn’t we know who does the work?

In my opinion, we need people on the council who have shown their commitment to the town, to the community and to local charities and understand how Henley works. Some of these people are already known to us through our excellent local paper, which highlights their work.

Let us unite the town council by electing Henley people who know and want what’s best for our town. Let us elect those who commit to offering their time and expertise and not the politicians.

I think, and always have thought, that national politics has no place on a town council. The district and county councils take care of that and make decisions on our behalf.

We need workers with a passion for Henley who can sit in unity and have one mission — Henley and its residents.

Local people, local problems, local solutions. — Yours faithfully,

Dieter Hinke

Elizabeth Road, Henley

My road is dangerous

Sir, — I used to live in a prime location adjacent to the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a beautiful lane approximately 3m wide.

Now Gillotts Lane in Harpsden is over 4m wide due to the excess traffic avoiding Henley and making a quick shortcut. (As one lady announced in a traffic jam some months ago, “What’s going on — this is my short cut.”)

Residents have to endure daily speeding down the lane. Having passed the unsighted corners, drivers and cyclists speed to Lucy’s corner, the only straight section of the lane, in both directions.

The Henley Standard frequently mentions the problem of heavy goods vehicles in Henley and they frequently enter Gillotts Lane.

There is one house in the lane which is being reconstructed and requires lorries to deliver supplies but where are the others going?

The residents of Gillotts Lane and Gillotts Hill have endured erosion of their land, endless reversing when leaving their properties and difficulties at school drop-off and pick-up times trying to exit from Gillotts Hill at Lucy’s corner.

Residents’ driveways are used as parking bays and passing bays and they have to put up with the rudeness of drivers who believe this is their right. Then, of course, there are the potholes.

All this has been endured by residents for years.

With the number of developments in Harpsden parish, the situation will get worse as there is no public transport here.

I understood that, as part of its planning permission for the development of Highlands Farm, Crest Nicholson agreed to provide traffic-calming in Gillotts Lane and some work in Greys Road and Valley Road before a house was built. Does South Oxfordshire Distict Council check that developers honour their agreements?

The residents would like many safety measures installed but agree that just two simple measures would make the lane safer:

1. White lines on either side of the road, as seen in other villages, to denote where the road is.

2. 20mph signs, which I understand have been refused by Oxfordshire County Council as the highways authority.

Surely the Gillotts School area should be protected as parents park down the lane to pick up their children where the lane is so narrow.

Memorial Avenue in Shiplake seems to have 20mph signs to protect the public leaving functions at the hall even though the road is much wider with more parking space.

Simple measures are required in Gillotts Lane to prevent a major accident.

More young children live in the area now and some are walking to school, although few parents allow their children to do so now as they are afraid for their safety. No one can walk along the lane and feel safe.

Our council tax has risen and Harpsden Parish Council partnered Henley Town Council on the neighbourhood plan yet we have to endure this misery. Action is required now to keep residents and their children safe. — Yours faithfully,

Odette Moss


Stop relying on the car

Editor, — The recent Peter Brett traffic study suggested morning peak hour heavy goods vehicle traffic volumes in Henley had increased by more than 100 per cent over the past four years.

As the Henley Standard reported, this will further exacerbate air pollution.

Yet HGVs are only one cause of air pollution. Another is cars (and vans) stopping and the drivers leaving their engines running.

At Henley in Transition, we have been running the No Idling campaign in Henley’s primary schools and it has been a great success.

But still more needs to be done to tackle the problem of air pollution and increased traffic. Too many of us have become lazier and more set in our ways. It’s just too easy and convenient to hop in the car for short journeys or to the shops for just a few items.

We all need to change our mindsets by leaving cars at home and walking.

Not only would this cut down on air pollution and traffic but it’s great for your mental health and wellbeing.

You may even find yourself bumping into an old friend, renewing a friendship through a conversation.

If you can’t bring yourself to walk then there is always the town’s local bus service, where plenty of conversations are to be had.

It is time for all of us to act for our own health and that of our children. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Donna Crook

Henley Town Council, Abrahams Road, Henley

Understand the problem

Sir, — Air pollution, particularly from vehicles, is an important topic nationally, internationally and also here in Henley with our own air pollution problems. It is of interest to many people and a worry. Pollution affects us all, shortens lives and is particularly harmful to the young.

Henley’s problem is made worse by our position in a valley and the increasing amount of traffic generally and also from car ownership associated with new housing in the town.

But it’s hard to visualise vehicle exhaust pollution, so here I want to help with that.

Think of a small car, a 1.2-litre Ford Fiesta, for instance, and a bigger car, say, a 2.2-litre Land Rover. Now picture a 1-litre bottle of milk.

These cars have come to a stop at a red light on Reading Road, or the bottom of the Greys Road or at the bridge. The lights are against them for two minutes. Their engines are idle at about 700 revs per minute.

You look out of your window in the small car and in that time you are surrounded by 840 litre bottles of pollution. In the big car 1,540 litre bottles.

Now you can actually see the pollution. It’s a lot in such a short time. All the exhaust is made up of various toxic gases.

Of course, this is just two cars but there are hundreds doing the same thing in the rush hour and they do not make just one two-minute stop but a number as they edge towards the traffic lights.

Many cars now have stop-start technology and Henley is well off for electric cars and hybrids but the majority are without these technologies.

Slowly things do get better — remember when we had harmful lead in our fuel?

There is not too much we can do but next time you are in your car waiting for 10 minutes for a friend or your child from school and you have the motor running just to be a little warmer or the air con running, multiple those numbers by five.

Or how about the buses in Bell Street and Hart Street usually leaving their engines running or at the taxi rank?

Perhaps our council could put up signs that tell these drivers to stop their engines when parked even when temporarily. This letter is not meant to be scaremongering but hopefully a way of visualising and understanding vehicle pollution in the small town of Henley.

Understanding a problem goes a long way towards changing attitudes and behaviour and maybe in a small way this might help with that. — Yours faithfully,

Phil Perry

Elizabeth Road, Henley

Particulate monitoring

Sir, — Henley suffers from poor air quality. Our air does not qualify for a clean air label and has not done so for nearly 15 years.

South Oxfordshire District Council measures nitrogen dioxide and quite regularly we don’t meet government standards. Some serious health problems are the result.

However, it is now known that particulate matter is a bigger health hazard and diesel vehicles in general are the cause.

We have too many of them in Henley and the more we can avoid traffic in the centre and encourage walking, scooting, cycling and the bus, the better for everyone’s health.

Having spent some time doing my own unofficial particulate measurement, I am now so pleased to say that there is to be authoritative particulate monitoring done by the district council, probably at the bottom of Greys Road.

This is a first for South Oxfordshire and we should be pleased that Henley is ahead of the game.

I am most grateful to Stefan Gawrysiak, a town and district councillor, who has taken time to persuade both the district and town council to support and fund air quality measures.

Further actions are in the pipeline too. At last the future may be better. — Yours faithfully,

David Dickie

Clean Air for Henley (Henley in Transition), St Katherine’s Road, Henley

Keep up the campaigning

Sir, — It was a pleasure to read about the campaign for better air quality in Henley by making drivers aware of the unnecessary harmful emissions they inflict on our lungs while they sit in the safety of their vehicles (Standard, April 5).

Your article delivered the message to parents sitting in cars idling outside schools, of all the most inappropriate places.

Now to the many drivers who do the same in town, most noticeably in the Bell Street loadings bays with delivery drivers and bus drivers who stay for 10 minutes while they pump out their poison on to the public.

I have often tried to make these drivers see the dangers of this lazy, unthinking practice but the Arriva bus drivers either want to argue with absurd statements like, “We have been told not to switch our engines off or else the bus won’t restart”.

If the buses are that dodgy they shouldn’t be on the road.

Or they will smile and pretend not to understand what I’m asking them to do, using the lame excuse that they come from abroad and have difficulty understanding. I look forward to the day when Henley Town Council invokes the Clean Air Act and fines these drivers, as happens in Oxford.

While we wait for that, perhaps they could put up courtesy signs on all the roads leading into town asking drivers to turn their engines off when stationary for the sake of the public’s health. It would also help if the council contacted the bus company to ask it to tell the drivers to switch off.

Keep up the pressure and the good work. — Yours faithfully,

Danny Darcy

Piggotts Road, Caversham

Still waiting, councillor...

Sir, — More pictures of Henley councillor Stefan Gawrysiak endorsing an emissions campaign and helping to clean up rubbish (Standard, April 5).

A letter, too, reminding us of his Henley Residents Group’s efforts to keep our streets clean.

And words about imposing a 7.5-tonne limit in the town centre and the need to respond to a particulate problem here in Henley.

All good stuff, not least at election time.

But no calls as yet — either from him or any of his transport strategy group colleagues — in response to my offer to inform them more about trucks, vans, what they do and how.

Commercial vehicles are perceived as the source of at least part of the problem and my aim is simply to provide them with a better understanding that would hopefully help them in making the right decisions.

Through the Standard’s good auspices, I await the call. — Yours faithfully,

Peter Symons

Newtown Road, Henley

Misleading memories

Sir, — I refer to Ian Clark’s letter headlined “I know from experience” (Standard, April 5).

He suggests that I have not lived in Henley long. I have lived in Henley since 1945, but perhaps not as long as Mr Clark.

Although he claims that two-way traffic and a roundabout in the middle of Henley would allow traffic to flow easily, the photograph with his letter in the March 8 issue showed stationary traffic on the north side — hardly free-flow.

Although he does not specifically say so, I wonder if Mr Clark is in favour of replacing the traffic lights at the town centre junction with a roundabout?

As to the size of Falaise Square, the photo also showed how narrow the square was when there was traffic on both sides — hardly a bigger and better square as Mr Clark claimed. — Yours faithfully,

Paul Clayden

Church Street, Henley

Who’s paying this bill?

Sir, — With reference to the OVO Energy Women’s Tour visiting Henley on June 12 (Standard, March 29), who is paying for the 30 police officers and 30 marshals, etc?

I trust not Henley and district residents via their council tax. — Yours faithfully,

Mrs P Bird


Schools need more money

Editor, — While I agree with John Howell MP that the current formula for distribution of funds “for those little extras” is unfair (Standard, April 5), he entirely misses the point on school funding.

The key point is that in England, spending per pupil is down eight per cent since 2010. This is indisputable according to research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, which concludes: “Total funding per pupil in England has been reduced, when looked at in the round, taking into account changes in pupil numbers and different routes of funding schools and age groups.”

The Education Policy Institute has said almost a third of all council-run secondary schools are now in deficit and, according to last year’s Kreston UK report, eight in 10 academies are in deficit.

The Deparment for Education has been strongly criticised by the Office for National Statistics for using misleading responses to this (and other) funding stories.

Sir David Norgrove, who chairs the UK Statistics Authority, has written to Secretary of State Damian Hinds on four separate occasions.

In the last letter in October, he stated that he had “serious concerns about the DfE’s presentation and use of statistics”.

He continued: “School spending figures were exaggerated by using a truncated axis and by not adjusting for per pupil spend.

“In the blog about government funding of schools, an international comparison of spend, which included a wide range of education expenditure unrelated to publicly funded schools, was used rather than a comparison of school spending alone. The result was to give a more favourable picture.

“Yet the context would clearly lead readers to expect that the figures referred to spending on schools.”

Last week, 1,115 local councillors wrote a joint open letter to Mr Hinds..

The letter from the National Education Union stated: “The NEU believes the situation cannot go on and there needs to be a reversal of cuts to school budgets since 2010 and for the funding of schools and special educational needs and disabilities provision to be of a level that ensures all children and young people get the education they deserve, regardless of where they live.

“The Government must heed the calls of locally elected representatives who can see first-hand the havoc that school cuts — compounded by biting cuts to precious local government funding — are wreaking on many young people.”

The F40 campaign group, which has been campaigning for fairer funding in education for more 20 years, has three core aims, including achieving an immediate cash injection of £3.7 billion into education.

All parents understand the effects of these cuts of children’s education.

You are in the best position, Mr Howell, to lobby for increased funding for schools in your constituency. Please start fighting. — Yours faithfully,

Michelle Thomas

Prospective candidate for South Ward on Henley Town Council (Henley Residents Group)

Right to ban barbecues

Editor, — There have been recent inferences hinting that the banning of barbecues in Henley has a hidden, non-inclusive agenda, which in its very speculation appears covertly discriminatory.

This ban should not become a political point-scoring exercise, finger pointing, nor be seen as a penalising measure.

If some Shiplake residents have unfounded concerns perhaps a barbecue area in their village would ease this seemingly contentious decision? Many of us were grateful for and are in favour of the ban as it prevents barbecue detritus such as meat bones, discarded cooking oil, smouldering coals, even entire metal barbecues and cooking racks!

It also eliminates the smoke, odour and hopefully some antisocial behaviour as the designated areas proved to be too far from the park toilets and defecating in the woods became popular.

What is wrong with a picnic? There is less paraphernalia, leading to less rubbish, no fire risks and it’s odourless and can be enjoyed closer to the toilet facilities if needed.

Most of the park-keepers welcomed the ban as it enables them to dedicate more time tending our lovely parks (thanks for all their hard work) and less time collecting the litter associated with barbecues.

With all that’s going on in the UK today, let’s all just enjoy a good old picnic and put the barbecues to bed (and not in the flowering kind!). — Yours faithfully,

Louise Daly

Duke Street, Henley

The hazard of A-boards

Sir, — I was surprised, albeit pleasantly, to see in your “Turning back the pages” section (Standard, March 29) that regulatory powers had been passed from Oxfordshire County Council to Henley Town Council 10 years ago last month.

This means the town council now has the right to remove or ban advertising boards.

This apparently came about after complaints about the potential hazards for pedestrians, especially people with limited vision.

This potential hazard also applies to people in wheelchairs and those with Parkinson’s disease who do not like passing through the confined spaces which these boards can cause sometimes.

Looking around the town at the profusion of A-boards, I think it’s about time someone at the town council had a look themselves.

These annoying A-boards that clutter the pavements are mostly for businesses that have wall-mounted advertising signs already, so why on earth do they see the need for this litter?

Come on, Henley Town Council, please remove/ban these A-boards and clear the pavements for their proper use, i.e. pedestrians. — Yours faithfully,

Ernie Povey

Shiplake Cross

Inconsistent decisions

Sir, — I read with interest your report about the refusal of planning permission for solar panels on Christ Church in Reading Road, Henley, the main reason being visual impact as “the external architectural appearance of Christ Church is of particular value and worthy of preservation” (Standard, March 29).

Although Christ Church is a fine early Edwardian building, and was deservedly listed in 1974, the solar panels are not likely to last as long as the building and indeed can be easily removed and the church returned to its original glory.

The conservation officers at South Oxfordshire District Council are being completely inconsistent when this case is contrasted with the case of Goring Heath almshouses.

The almshouses, dating back to 1720, were listed as Grade I back in 1951 when the listing of buildings of outstanding architectural or historic interest was first started, so have always been recognised as having outstanding merit.

At Goring Heath, the setting of the Georgian chapel and almshouses has been significantly damaged by the removal of the cobbled courtyard, which was given the nod by a council conservation officer.

The cobbles were ripped up without either planning permission or listed building consent.

There is no time limit for enforcement action in respect of unlawful works to listed buildings, but in this case the conservation officer has wriggled and wriggled to avoid taking action, making statement after statement with no basis in law and ignoring advice from national bodies such as the Georgian Group and English Heritage.

English Heritage commented: “It would be reasonable to conclude that the cobbled surface contributed to the significance of the almshouses — they were an unusual surfacing that enhanced the appearance of the building and were of historical interest in that they represented a local craft tradition. Therefore their removal harmed the significance of the building.”

However, the conservation officer dealing with the almshouses said: “It is worth noting that the existing use of the building, which is also the original intended use of the listed building, is not inhibited or put at risk by the resurfacing works.”

He or she added: “The use of the building has not been jeopardised by the works and remains in its original use.”

So nothing is going to be done. The conservation officer’s excuses for not taking action in the case of the almshouses could equally well apply to Christ Church, as the solar panels have absolutely no impact on the use of the church.

But the courtyard of the almshouses is Grade I listed and under national planning policy should be given the highest level of protection: “Substantial harm to Grade I and II* listed buildings... should be wholly exceptional.”

It would seem that in this case the district council is more interested in protecting itself from the consequences of its failures than fulfilling its statutory duty to protect listed buildings. — Yours faithfully,

Peter Dragonetti

Chairman, Goring Heath Parish Council

Victory at a price

Sir, — I was delighted, as will many others have been, to read the news that Gladman have finally abandoned their efforts to build a housing estate just outside Emmer Green (Standard, April 5).

They have retreated with their collective tail between their legs, and that represents a huge victory for local democracy.

The alliance of parish councils, local campaigners and South Oxfordshire District Council mounted a tremendous fight against the march of speculative, predatory development.

That alliance fought both the original application and the subsequent appeal successfully and it is highly gratifying that Gladman’s subsequent legal manoeuvrings in the High Court have got them nowhere.

The district council, whose officers originally recommended that the 245-home plan should be approved, deserves great credit for having got fully behind the campaign.

So a great win — but at what cost?

One of the many iniquities of the current so-called planning system is that companies such as Gladman are able to appeal against planning decisions on the flimsiest grounds, engineer an appeal, lose it — and yet have to bear none of the financial costs incurred by the other side.

I do not know what the appeal cost the district and the various parish councils, but it was a very substantial sum — money that could otherwise have been spent on public services.

It is utterly scandalous that Gladman and the Phillimore Estate — both of which stood to gain many millions had the plan got through — should be able to walk away without having to pay the proper price for their profit-seeking and attitude towards local communities. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Tom Fort

Sonning Common Parish Council, Wood Lane, Sonning Common

New parking arrangement

Sir, — In August, lay members of the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s stakeholder group, including Townlands Steering Group members, met with NHS Property Services.

The objective was to discuss parking problems at Townlands Memorial Hospital, highlighted for months by the Henley Standard’s Not Very Smart Parking campaign.

NHS Property Services agreed the situation was unacceptable and said a new nationwide contract was about to be issued and the Smart Parking contract would be terminated.

Smart Parking ceased issuing tickets at the site, solving the immediate problem of victimising bona fide patients.

The steering group completely accepts the need to manage parking at the Townlands site.

We offered to work with NHS Property Services and the new operator (when appointed) to ensure parking worked in the interests of patients, staff and residents. NHS Property Services was more than happy to agree to this offer.

Now we are assured that the appointment of the new operator is imminent and that we will soon be working with it on the new scheme.

The steering group has always taken the view that engaging with NHS organisations is the best way to maintain and improve services.

The Henley Standard’s campaign was a big help in ensuring that NHS Property Services understood and accepted there was a problem.

We will continue to work with the various stakeholders to ensure a permanent solution to parking management at Townlands that safeguards the needs of patients, staff and residents. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Ian Reissmann

Chair, Townlands Steering Group, Gainsborough Road, Henley

Fewer pills, more therapy

Sir, — Is it any wonder that (a) the use of antidepressants has doubled in the last decade and (b) that NHS England is currently claiming that many of those taking these do not need to simply because of a “pill for all ills” culture when so very few alternatives (such as adequate, appropriate, one-to-one and timely “talking therapies”) are available? — Yours faithfully,

Paul Farmer

Wensley Road, Reading

Union minus democracy

Sir, — Professor Dan Remenyi accuses Brexiteers of intemperate language (Standard, April 5).

Remind me which side originated “fruitcakes” and “swivel-eyed loons”.

The Brexit bus didn’t state that money saved by Brexit would be allocated to the NHS, it was advocating it: “Let’s fund our NHS instead”.

If you want to complain about misrepresentation, I suggest looking at the Conservative manifesto for the 2017 general election.

I reckon that qualifies as “betrayal” and I’m content to repeat it to someone who feels able to describe the referendum as deeply flawed (i.e. they didn’t like the result).

Let’s assume for a moment that more than 17 million dullards voted for Brexit. Why did the Remain MPs only now decide to put us right, when they could have voted against the Withdrawal Act?

If we lacked capability to answer a straightforward yes/no question the correct way, I wonder how we cope with complex manifestos at each general election.

Perhaps we should have a series of indicative votes on all the main points of all parties’ manifestos!

Will Stevens claims that various things were only made possible by EU membership. That’s a cute technique, listing things that only the EU can legislate upon (because states ceded their powers) and then imply that all would be abandoned if we left the EU.

We lead the EU in certain respects. For instance, 40 per cent of sows in the UK are outdoors and most of the indoor ones are kept on straw.

In the rest of the EU very few pigs are kept outdoors or (except for Sweden) on straw indoors. Most are kept on slatted floors. The EU sets a base level; it does not lead the way in animal welfare.

The UK ranks second behind Denmark in mitigating climate change, among 25 countries analysed in a report by academics at Imperial College.

Hardly a case of being dragged along reluctantly by the EU.

Human rights existed before the advent of the EU, the UK having been the first signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, which came into effect in 1953.

There is no reason why European co-operation in fighting crime and international terrorism must be affected by Brexit. Europol is an EU agency, though it has no executive powers and it has a joint working agreement with Interpol, of which we are a member.

We have close intelligence arrangements with America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand without being in union with them.

On defence matters, NATO is the vehicle for European co-operation, not the EU. Mr Stevens derides the significance of sovereignty but then lauds the collaborative project by 28 “bloody-minded sovereign states”.

The whole point about the EU project is that ever-closer union should result in a United States of Europe but without the democratic structure that evolved with the gestation of the United States of America.

But what do I know about any of this — I’m just an ignorant Love Europe/Hate EU Brexit voter? — Yours faithfully,

Ken Stevens

Red House Drive, Sonning Common

Be civil and responsible

Sir, — I would like to add my voice to that of Professor Remenyi.

I am less concerned about the issue of sovereignty than I am with the outpouring of discrimination, abuse, lies and bullying that now accompany what calls itself a debate.

There can be no real debate without free speech and this is increasingly hard to find.

I am ashamed to say that I now find myself pausing sometimes before expressing an opinion which I would once have put up for discussion without a second thought.

There is a great difference between freedom and licence: the former assumes responsibility.

What happened to those words which were once so central to our understanding of ourselves as a civilised country? Moderation, compromise, responsibility: are these not the cornerstone to any discussion?

My own fear is that whatever the outcome of the Brexit situation, we will be left with a poisoned chalice unless we consider those values that make this a wonderful country in which to live. — Yours faithfully,

Ann Law

Binfield Heath

Compromise for success

Sir, — It is hard to understand why Tory politicians appear to hate talking to Labour so much.

No doubt it has something to do with appealing to their hardcore supporters and trying to make sure that they do not lose voters to the other party.

But what about the national interest? Is it not more important to do the right thing for the country than to focus on how terrible the Opposition is?

At least it seems that our Prime Minister has at last realised that. I wonder if she and her successor could keep that in mind in the future. The two big party system has served us well enough for a long time but, like it or not, times have changed and their behaviour in the Brexit shambles suggests that they won’t be able to do well for the country in the future.

Our problems today are far too complex to be bashed about by often petty party differences.

Compromise seems to be the only way forward that is likely to bring us the success that the country deserves as we “progress” into the 21st century. — Yours faithfully,

Professor Dan Remenyi

Kidmore End

No monopoly on opinions

Sir, — I wonder who I have done a disservice to according to Will Stevens.

Is it to those with autism about whom I spoke in the House of Commons? Is it to Gillotts School, which I am helping try to get funding, or those waiting to follow apprenticeships at The Henley College?

Perhaps it is those who have been subjected to knife crime, on which I also spoke, or indeed those who object to wildlife crime or who want answers on health and social care?

Or maybe it is those facing the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge Expressway?

These are not the minutiae of government to which Mr Stevens refers. They are things that matter deeply to the people of this constituency and I am proud to have been able to speak up in recent debates in the Commons about them and would do so again.

When the saga of Brexit has passed, people will know that I stood up for those who wanted their voices heard on these issues.

Mr Stevens is completely focused on nothing other than Brexit. He seems to think that he alone knows what is in the national interest.

But there is no monopoly on this and indeed finding where the balance lies is what politics is all about. It is a debate that could do with humility rather than dogma and with more thought.

I have supported the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement because I believe it best marries the desire of the 52 per cent to leave with the needs of the 48 per cent who, like me, voted Remain. I still believe this.

There is no other consideration — political or otherwise — involved and, rather than try to put words into my mouth, Mr Stevens might want to direct his remarks to someone who voted Leave.

My own views I set out on my website and send out electronically as a newsletter from time to time. — Yours faithfully,

John Howell

MP for Henley

Prepare for the worst

Sir, — I thank Nick Brazil for taking time to read my letter of March 29.

He is perfectly entitled to express his view on Brexit that differs from mine. However, I am disappointed that he has chosen to misconstrue my comments in his letter (Standard, April 5).

1. I did not say or imply that leave voters were xenophobic. I said that there is a minority that is xenophobic.

Surely he would not deny that some Right-wing xenophobia exists in UKIP and BNP parties and that they have contrived to influence others to their intolerant way of thinking?

2. I did not compare Brexit with the slave trade. I said that in my opinion Brexit is probably the worst period of history since the slave trade. That is an observation, not a comparison.

However, on reflection, I acknowledge that mentioning the slave trade to make my point was unnecessary and clumsy.

I invite Nick to give his considered opinion on how he relates the Brexit process as a period of our history.

3. I did not suggest that cancelling Article 50 is anything more than our best option to the predicament that we find ourselves in. Far from it. I said that the damage had already been done and that the repercussions will be with us for years. Cancelling Article 50 would be just the start of a long and painful experience.

The point of my letter was to register my dismay to the damage that Brexit has done by splitting our nation in government, communities and even families. We require a fresh approach and attitude.

If we continue along on our present lines, it will destroy all respect that we have previously held and enjoyed as a nation.

I am under no illusions. Cancelling Article 50 will cause an uproar with Brexiteers but it is the price that we may have to pay for the chaotic mess that the Brexit process has created and in order to preserve our identity. — Yours faithfully,

Edward G Hallett

Longfield Road, Twyford

Thank you, Mrs Merkel

Sir, — Very constructive noises coming from Germany, hopefully not too late! — Yours faithfully,

Jim Munro

Blandy Road, Henley

Sad to have been right

Sir, — When I was on the hustings for Leave in Henley, Theresa May crossed the road and told me she was for Remain.

Knowing her to be a poor home secretary, e.g. cutting policing and stop and search, I told her she would never be prime minister.

How sad it is that I was right about her lack of political ability but wrong about her becoming PM. — Yours faithfully,

Yvonne Kedge

Lea Road, Sonning Common

Not to be convinced

Sir, — I suppose we are all used to your correspondent Douglas Kedge having a pop at the Thought for the Week column, especially with regard to Christianity and, of course, he writes with his tongue firmly in his cheek (Standard, April 5).

But what is his opinion worth? As much as anyone else’s, I presume.

What he has failed to grasp is that the New Testament is not based on people’s opinions or philosophy but on eye-witness accounts of actual events (first letter of John, chapter one).

Some people don’t want to believe these accounts and that is their choice. I am reminded of the old saying, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” — Yours faithfully,

Mrs K Pinder

Lambridge Wood Road, Henley

Keep statue out of sight

Sir, — I deplore the raising, from its watery grave, of the hideous garden ornament called a “mermaid statue” (Standard, April 5).

I hope that Henley Town Council will find a suitable place in which to hide it from view. — Yours faithfully,

Jacqueline Geldart

Watlington Hill, Christmas Common

Menstrual memories

Sir, — Jamie Presland’s article about Widge Woolsey and the women of Africa (Standard, March 29) bought back memories of when at the age of 10 my mother cut up old sheets into squares to make sanitary towels for me.

She hemmed around them and sewed two loops of tape at opposite ends of the squares.

I then had to fold the squares into a narrow shape, thread a length of tape through the loops and tie up around my waist.

Then, at the age of 14, sanitary towels became available — bliss.

At the age of 85, the memories are still strong. — Yours faithfully,

Mrs E A Mundell

New Road, Twyford

‘Taffy’ was 11th player

Sir, — I thank all those who have responded to my request to identify the players in the 1949 cup winning Henley YMCA team.

Those who thought there were only 10 team members photographed were wrong.

There were 10 outfield players in their team colours but there was also the goalkeeper, D J “Taffy” Mayers, in the centre of the back row. He was wearing the customary roll-neck sweater of the time.

I did make one error in my initial letter. While my father was captain for some years, this was not the case in 1949 and he is seated to the viewer’s right of the cup.

I now have all the players’ names, although three still need to be identified in the photograph. Does anyone know the names of the four officials in the back row? — Yours faithfully,

Tony Taylor

Knappe Close, Henley

Thanks, you saved my life

Sir, — On Saturday I was on my way home with a small bag of groceries, without a care in the world, when without warning I crashed to the pavement in Bell Street, Henley, and went out like a light after smashing my head.

A neighbour tells me that three ladies passing by were concerned about me,

Then a Halfords van stopped, parked on the pavement and a young lad got out and started CPR.

He was concerned because although he had been on a training course, he was unsure. He kept at it.

By amazing good fortune, two cars carrying an out-of-hours doctor and paramedic respectively also stopped immediately.

They gave me CPR and had the presence of mind to fetch and use a defibrillator from Waitrose and call an ambulance.

I’d had full heart failure. They brought me back.

These wonderful local Good Samaritans most probably saved my life.

I am pleased to report that I am making good progress and am being regally and wonderfully treated by the terrific staff of Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.

It turns out that the doctor was a lady cardiologist from this hospital called Hannah Zacharias — she called on Monday to ask how I was doing.

Apparently she gave me CPR six times. I’ll be eternally grateful to her.

I’d love to know who the other gallant gentlemen were so I can express my heartfelt appreciation. — Yours faithfully,

José Goumal

Bell Street, Henley

Drier spring in Shiplake

Sir, — I am always interested in Denis Gilbert’s weather report for the previous month which appears on your Diary page (Standard, April 5).

It seems that Shiplake is having a drier spring than here in Henley.

I try to keep a record of rainfall using my conical rain guage and my readings for February and March have been 55mm and 70.5mm respectively, which is about 20mm more that Denis’s readings in Shipake in each case.

Normally our readings agree with each other. — Yours faithfully,

Mike Hails

Blandy Road, Henley

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