Monday, 28 September 2020

Your letters...

Deceived on the numbers

Dear Sir, — Unfortunately, I owe those of your readers who read my letter “Whatever went wrong?” a sincere apology.

I suggested then that Public Health England (PHE), the Government and the NHS were merely unprepared and incompetent because I could not put my finger on actual barefaced lies or deceptions.

Now, thanks to the work of Professors Yoon K Loke and Carl Heneghan at the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, we know that a massive deception has been and still is taking place to make things look much worse than they are.

The professors have discovered that the numbers of deaths quoted by PHE, and passed on to us by the luckless Matt Hancock, are seriously and increasingly overstated.

It turns out that PHE checks all reported deaths to see if the deceased had ever tested positive for coronavirus. If they had, and had then been treated and discharged from hospital, PHE will then report them as covid-19 deaths even if the people died of natural causes, a heart attack or a traffic accident months or later.

This organisational mendacity means that the number of so-called covid deaths will increase over time as ever more people are tested even though actual cases diminish.

Add to that the fact that with doctors no longer visiting the sick, let alone the newly deceased, at home almost every death is now being attributed to covid regardless of the actual cause.

Thus, the numbers will go on rising to be used to justify throwing yet more money at PHE and the NHS as well as being used to curtail so many of our freedoms.

That this has happened under the noses of the scientists to whom the government always defers is a professional disgrace, which is exceeded only by the obvious lack of any intellectual curiosity on the part of Mr Johnson or Mr Hancock.

Their or their staff’s failure to explore the provenance and meaning of the numbers presented to them would, in the business world, disqualify both of them from running anything more complex than a whelk stall. Woe is us with these gullible folk in charge. — Yours faithfully,

Philip Collings

Peppard Common

Publish the statistics

Sir, — In the absence of the Henley Standard keeping us informed of the most important local public information issue since the Second World War, here’s the latest data from Public Health England (PHE).

Like everyone, we’re in a Middle Super Output Area which aligns with the 2011 census. But enough of that. In week 28 (of the year) of the covid-19 pandemic our closest area of diagnosed infections for that week was Twyford West and Charvil with three persons identified.

Next nearest shown was Thatcham Town with three and then Yiewsley East, on the other side of Slough, with one or two. Henley, Shiplake, in fact all around, including Reading –none.

These are new diagnoses, not deaths. PHE say: “There has been no detectable excess mortality since week 24 in any age group or region.”

Although there’s patently no room for complacency — indeed it may be a tribute to our best behaviour — it’s good to be informed, isn’t it? Perhaps the Henley Standard will follow up with the latest figures each week but hopefully many folk will now be somewhat reassured. — Yours faithfully,

Richard Jones

Reading Road, Henley

Keep roads as they are

Dear Sir, — I am writing to make readers aware of the proposed changes to central Caversham roads rushed through by Reading Borough Council under the auspices of the Traffic Orders Procedure (Coronavirus Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020.

The purpose of this legislation is to allow social distancing to take place by widening pavements and to encourage active transport by adding extra facilities for cyclists and pedestrians. Turning Westfield and Gosbrook Roads and Prospect Street into a one-way system does nothing to address this.

After a childhood in Henley, I have lived in Westfield Road for 29 years. Some 25 years ago, when traffic was 20 per cent less according to national statistics, a near identical scheme was trialled with disastrous results.

It caused traffic jams and made life impossible for all road users and local residents, including the bus service to Henley. The “One-Way-No-Way” committee was formed and after much lobbying, the council was forced to return the streets to normal.

The issue that most alarms local residents is that we are only allowed sketchy details, as despite the legislation, the borough cancelled has failed to publish details in local publications, such as yours.

From what we can gather, the contraflow cycle lane in Westfield Road has been abandoned and it is only Gosbrook road that is getting the wider pavements and cycle lanes, when in actual fact, pedestrians and cyclists already use higher standard alternative routes.

In the current scheme, all traffic would be funnelled from the B481 (Peppard Road) into a wholly residential street that has three primary schools and a playing field nearby. This appears to include all cars, buses and heavy goods vehicles that currently use the wider and largely commercial Prospect Street.

It is also likely that Caversham residents would lose several bus services. For example, the 800 and X38 services to Henley, as it will be impractical for buses to be diverted up Prospect Street and turn immediately right into Westfield Road.

In addition, unless there is a bus stop in Westfield Road, Sonning Common residents using the number 25 service will lose their only stop in Caversham centre.

This scheme may have had some merit in lockdown but, as traffic is returning to near normal and social distancing is largely abandoned, the scheme now has no discernible benefit.

Pedestrians will find it much harder to cross, especially since there are no marked crossings and air pollution will increase from the inevitable congestion.

No user groups appear to have been consulted in the formulation of the scheme and, in fact, Reading Cycle Campaign has started a petition opposing the one-way system in Westfield Road.

In conclusion, I feel that if the scheme goes ahead, it will not only affect the three roads in the scheme but will have a knock-on effect on the whole neighbourhood as roads become congested.

I am also suspicious of the borough council’s definition of temporary, as local residents were assured in 2014 that the Heights School would be leaving after two years and yet had its tenure extended for a further year to 2021. By this logic, the scheme could be with us until 2027. — Yours faithfully,

Sara Fulbrook

Westfield Road, Caversham

Bring in sites for travellers

Dear Sir, — Much has been written about the travellers in our area and others. I fully understand the concerns of people regarding travellers, the mess left behind, the lack of concern for others and the fear they bring, but we must not judge them all by the few.

At Christmas Common we used to have a traveller family headed by Lennie Parker, a lovely family who were not threat or harm to anyone. When they moved site the only sign of where they had been was the remains of their fire-why can’t they all be like Lennie and his family?

There has been, I believe, more incursions by travellers this year and I know certain communities have had concerns, unfortunately these travellers are not the kind considerate lot and while I agree with Mr Calderbank (Standard letters, July 17) that these people just want to travel they must do so in a proper and responsible manner.

The biggest problem, as I see it, is the police or bailiffs are tasked to move them on from sites. I am sure not a job they necessarily want to do, and the travellers just move onto another site for the situation to be repeated.

I have written to our MP John Howell and the police and crime commissioner Anthony Stansfeld suggesting that there needs to be at least one transit site in Oxfordshire and I suggest more.

These sites need to be located on the outskirts of towns where there are (still) police stations such as Thame, Abingdon, Reading and Oxford i.e. where there are constantly police about and where any issues can be dealt with quickly.

There is no point in having the sites in the countryside where there are few police seen. I am glad the police and crime commissioner has taken the initiative to the Home Secretary Priti Patel and she has asked for a briefing on it. Fingers crossed. — Yours faithfully,

David Orpwood


They are not civilised

I’m reacting to Charles Calderbank’s letter in last week’s Henley Standard. I, too, would wish for these people to be allowed to travel but only when they can act like civilised human beings.

Perhaps you would like to live alongside them and pick up the bills when they break on to your land, clear away their rubbish, their human excrement from your garden, have them swimming in your swimming pool, having personal things stolen and your fruit and vegetables taken.

Until they decide to clean up their ways and stop acting like feral animals then they should not be welcome to live alongside us and spoil our beautiful towns and countryside.

If you feel differently then please issue your invitation to the next set of travellers looking to stop for some time and I will look forward to reading your letter after their visit.

Diana Skolar


Moved on for reason

Dear Sir — Mr Charles Calderbank, ask yourself why do councils and landowners move the travellers on?

Would Mr Calderbank like to underwrite the cost of clearing up after these travellers or invite them to stay on his land and use his garden as a toilet? — Yours faithfully,

Name and address supplied

Energy costs have fallen

Sir — M Reid’s information is a couple of years out of date. New-build renewable energy sources have dropped hugely in cost over the last few years, and now really are the cheapest form of electricity production — just Google it.

Yes, subsidies were required to get the early schemes going, but that investment has paid off and new wind farms, in particular, produce electricity much more cheaply than nuclear or gas plants.

Germany is closing 24 of its existing coal plants in the next couple of years. China and India are mainly building new coal plants to prop up their collapsing coal mining sector, not because they are cheap.

The green recovery is possible - wind and solar power are already giving us lower-cost electricity with zero air pollution. Driven by the economics, many more offshore wind farms are being built in the North Sea. The intermittency issue is being solved by 250m tall offshore turbines reaching more regular winds, and by innovative approaches to energy storage.

As governments around the world ramp up stimulus packages to create jobs and reflate their economies, two things are clear. We should invest in things that strengthen the health and well-being of our citizens. And we must look at reducing economic and infrastructure vulnerability.

Propping up old, polluting industries is not a solution. Renewable energy is the cheapest form of new power generation for most of the world, has no dependency on imported fuel and no air pollution. — Yours faithfully,

Dominic Hall

Peppard Common

Replacing fossil fuels

Dear Editor, — Last week a swordfish was seen in the sea near Edinburgh. This highlights the fundamental change in climate that we are experiencing in many different ways.

The sea is absorbing the extra heat from all the fossil fuels we burn. This energy is causing higher sea levels. I’m part of a group designing a Baltic Sea Barrier needed within 50 years.

Meanwhile, the strength of storms will increase, powered by surplus energy in the warming oceans and seas.

As a child on a family croft in the western highlands, I learned it took thousands of years to grow the peat that we cut for fuel and less than thirty minutes for it to burn in our open range stove.

However, in 1950 we also had the first tiny wind turbine on the north west coast. It was a small wind powered 12 volt Lucas Fanlight. It provided our croft with electric light, but only when the wind was blowing. I learned first-hand about the possible future of climate change.

This is why I’ve been developing community wind farms since 2004. Your correspondent Mr Reid (Standard, July 17) should know that we did not receive any subsidy for developing our 50MW site on the Island of Skye.

Our development has been funded by risk capital. Energy generated will have to compete on the open market.

In addition, we shall pay annually £250,000, to six neighbouring communities, for the next 23 years. This money will be invested to create sustainable jobs for local crofters and services for their families. The wind speeds over north west Scotland, plus, using modern, efficient, aerodynamic turbine blades on larger turbines, have helped to halve the costs of on-shore wind energy.

In the Sixties, when I studied in the USA, I became increasingly aware of fossil fuel emissions. I also became aware of research by James (Jim) Hansen and James Lovelock, both of NASA who, separately, have provided continuous incontrovertible evidence of the reasons for climate change. They also provided the instrumentation, in the case of Lovelock and factual evidence about climate change, to the US Congress in 1988, in the case of James Hansen.

Mr Reid and any who doubt climate change should recognise that Co2 emissions are the reason my grandchild, and their descendants, may live in a more Mediterranean climate than the one I grew up in.

We need to act intelligently to replace fossil fuels by using cost efficient renewable energy, of all types and cost-effective methods to either ‘time shift’, or store energy as hydrogen or electricity. The technology is available. It now needs to be made cost effective.

Last week, the European Commission recognised our fundamental break-through in creating a quantum physics based technology that makes methane = natural gas and shale gas, less damaging. We provide 18 per cent more energy whilst reducing Co2 emissions by 18 per cent. I’m now trying to convince the UK government’s experts(?) in energy to fund UK-based industrial applications, to earn future export licence fees that will be paid, for the use of UK technology.

Meanwhile, the Estonian government and the European Commission are assisting us to develop cost effective ways of delaying climate change by making methane less polluting and the production of hydrogen more cost efficient.

Yes, we use rare earths, in minute amounts, sourced from Estonia, where rare earths were originally discovered. We also use electricity capacitors, again developed by Estonian technologists. These can time shift wind energy and will become an alternative to existing batteries.

Hydrogen is the future fuel. It is also the most common element in the universe. The UK government needs to focus more on supporting export earning technologies that will enable our children to be educated more efficiently.

Maybe it is just a coincidence Estonia currently has the best education system in Europe and has also switched from burning oil shale to developing offshore wind energy, cost efficiently.

Climate change is inexorable because wealthy members of the human race will not accept a lower standard of living. There is increasing evidence that public opinion will use social media to force investment in new technologies that can slowly but steadily become cost efficient alternatives to the polluting energy sources in increasing use today. — Yours faithfully,

Peter Woolsey

Binfield Heath

Hoping for weight limit

Your article on page two, (Standard, July 17), offers hope that positive action can be taken to mitigate the increasing traffic noise and consequent pollution in central Henley.

In recent years, life in the town centre has become blighted by inessential through traffic, particularly heavy goods vehicles.

Windows shake, sleep is disrupted and the background noise is continuous. Pedestrian safety is constantly challenged by the increased volume of inappropriately large vehicles.

Congratulations are due to Mrs Chumas for her detailed summary of the problem and her tenacious investigation of a potential legal solution.

Thanks also to Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak for taking the proposal forward to the next meeting of Oxfordshire County Council.

If Burford can do it Henley can too! — Yours faithfully,

Irene Fox

Bell Street, Henley

My home is suffering

As a New Street resident, I would like to put my full support behind the 7.5t weight limit scheme for Henley.

My grade II listed house is suffering due to the increased traffic from heavy goods vehicles, as I now have significant cracks showing in a number of my walls, which weren’t there four years ago when I purchased my home.

The HGVs start using the “rat run” through Henley and down New Street every weekday before 6am, as I am woken up due to my building shaking and the noise they make bouncing down the street and air braking into the corner.

My home office looks directly over the corner at the bottom of New Street and I have been collating the names of the main offenders (company branded vehicles) and I know these trucks are using it as a rat run to improve their efficiencies, as 99 per cent of the trucks are empty haulage trucks, cement mixers, aggregate trucks and trucks moving shipping containers with no local business in the area — plus grocery companies that have no locations that require routing through Henley.

The restrictions need to be put in place ASAP. — Yours faithfully,

Justine Harris

New Street, Henley

HGVs broke my window

I live New Street and the HGVs are absolutely horrendous. My house shakes every time they go past and my top bedroom window has broken.

Every time I have guests staying they are constantly woken up by the HGVs from 6am. My windows are dirty continuously and I fear for my grandchildren crossing the road as they come hurtling round the corner at speed!

Please can we divert them to avoid Henley town centre? New Street and the bridge are not suitable for HGVs. — Yours faithfully,

Jennifer Seale

New Street, Henley

Protect our heritage

Dear Sir, — I wholeheartedly support Mrs Chumas’s 7.5t weight restriction proposal for lorries through the centre of town.

I live in a listed building on the “lorry run” and every night the windows shake and the furniture vibrates with the immense flow of heavy loads.

The foundations of the listed buildings are all very small which is how our heritage buildings were built. I wonder how long they will last with the strain of this traffic.

The proposal is a lot of money but if we hope to maintain the heritage of our town we have to look to protect it. — Yours faithfully,

Joanne Burgess

Bell Street, Henley

Danger to pedestrians

It would be such a relief to have a 7.5 tonnes weight limit on HGV through traffic in our town.

The noise and air pollution that is added by huge lorries feels really aggravating to me as a pedestrian, and being passed by these large vehicles, when negotiating our narrow pavements, is also scary and dangerous.

I hope this order will be introduced as soon as possible. — Yours faithfully,

Julia Herbke

Simmons Road, Henley

Let’s all help with cost

As a newcomer to Henley I can only admire the efforts of Mrs Chumas of Bell Street to limit the juggernauts thundering through Henley. Lockdown was bliss with the reduced traffic.

As she stated, legitimate delivery vans must not be prohibited, but cut through lorries should be stopped.

With a population of about 14,000, could we not have a one-off payment of £10 and so get the weight limit installed ASAP?

At present every man, woman and child, cyclist, pram-user, disability vehicle, is endangered just walking through pretty Henley, and the lovely old buildings are shuddering. — Yours faithfully,

Diana Hutchinson


Re-open all our libraries

Sir, — It is great news that Henley Library has re-opened, especially if you live in Henley or are able to get there to visit the library.

Sadly, for many people this is not possible, so it is vital to put pressure on Oxfordshire County Council to re-open village libraries as soon as possible.

The libraries in Sonning Common, Goring, Woodcote, Benson and Watlington are so much more than book lending services and all are very keen to start looking after their customers again.

My greatest fear is that the powers that be will decide that all these marvellous libraries are dispensable and that now we are beginning to get used to them being closed would be the ideal time to close them permanently.

Please write to your MP and to the county council, as I have done, and urge them to re-open all their libraries without further delay. — Yours faithfully,

Melanie White

Burnham Rise, Emmer Green

Eternally grateful

Last Monday, July 13, I started a walk with my husband at 9.30am along Norman Avenue and then turning into the pathway leading to Church Street in Henley.

He complained that he was “not feeling too good” and as he finished saying this to me — he dropped to the ground, hit his head and died from massive heart failure. He was just 74 and in relatively good health.

I want to say heartfelt thanks to all the people who helped me that morning. I have met one of the ladies who called the paramedics and thanked her for her compassion in such a shocking time for me.

But there were two amazing gentlemen who were on the scene in seconds, passing by who immediately stopped and, under directions from the paramedics on the phone, began CPR on my husband.

I cannot express enough our family’s heartfelt thanks for their efforts and humanity. They did not hesitate to help him. They stayed with the paramedics and I was in such shock I did not thank them properly.

If they could contact the Henley Standard with their details I would like to meet them and thank them in person.

There are angels on this earth and I will be eternally grateful to them for their kindness to my husband. Thank you. — yours faithfully,

Maureen Dougall

Station Road, Henley

Footbridge is overdue

Dear Sir, — As a resident of Shiplake I wanted to say that I think that building a footbridge over the River Thames between Shiplake and Wargrave is a great idea.

We could even look further and use the rest of the railway tracks and extend the route to Henley and Twyford. This could link up with a cycle route along the A4 to Reading so you could conceivably cycle safely from Henley to Reading on a level route.

The rail track used to be two tracks wide so while there is a lot of undergrowth to be removed and other furniture, the foundations are still there so laying tarmac over it that is suitable for bikes and walkers could be relatively low cost.

The road from Shiplake to Henley is not safe to cycle on unless you are a confident cyclist. We have 230 new houses planned for Shiplake so giving a safe, green option to get into our local town would be a great addition.

Let’s hope that this happens this time. — Yours faithfully,

Mike Cawthra

Northfield Avenue, Lower Shiplake

Stop finger pointing

Sir, — Regarding Councillor Anne-Marie Simpson’s letter (Standard, July 17), we are in the middle of the biggest pandemic of our lifetime and residents are not interested in political posturing.

Concerns about the government asking the country to “Build, Build, Build” are not a top priority for most.

However, as cabinet member for planning at South Oxfordshire District Council Ms Simpson should welcome the Secretary of State’s interventions.

Nearly a year and a half has passed and the Lib Dem and Green administration at the council is still banging on about a Local Plan that was submitted last March and should by now be in place. What a waste of council officers’ time and public money.

Self-righteous indignation and pain are quite frankly not good attributes of anyone elected to public office.

Now is not the time for political posturing. Instead, local representatives need to be quietly getting on with the jobs they were elected to do.

The government has requested local authorities keep the planning process running — instead of pausing.

Building better integrated communities will go a long way toward building a better society and all involved in planning should be very aware of this.

Pointing a finger at fellow councillors, the previous administration or the government is not professional and certainly not good practice in the current health crisis which is affecting us all in so many ways.

Having no Local Plan, wanting to pause, not listening to your parish councils and blaming others is not the answer.

These are difficult times for everyone but residents are not going out to find people to blame. Instead, they are doing all they can to help their fellow human beings and their communities. I suggest our elected representatives do the same. — Yours faithfully.

Felix Bloomfield


Attack was unwarranted

I was appalled by the report of the public attack on our MP, Dr John Howell (Standard, July 10).

I do not support the Conservative Party, and frequently disagree with him, but have never detected any sign of racism. I myself have been unjustly accused of racism, and I know how painful it is.

Before I moved to Sonning Common I was a parish councillor. A developer wanted to “improve” a house by carrying out unlawful work. The house was in a conservation area and the developer was required to show exceptional circumstances.

I objected to the planning application both as a councillor and a private individual. The developer had openly accused me of racism. Planning permission was refused but the developer went ahead. The local authority unofficially permitted the development by failing to take action. — Yours faithfully,

Tom Geake

Red House Drive, Sonning Common

Where’s my apology?

Sir, — Simon Brickhill (Standard letters, July 17) has openly apologised for not making clear that his comments on African civilisation were meant to refer only to sub-Saharan Africa.

I was confidently assuming that I would find on the same letters page an apology from Mr Reissmann for seriously misquoting me in his letter (Standard July 3) by claiming that I regarded pre-colonial sub-Saharan people as ‘animalistic’, when in fact I was referring to the then prevailing ‘animistic’ religious beliefs. No such apology has appeared.

It seems that having cancelled me by claiming that my arguments are “racist” he regards me as a non-person who deserves no apology for his mistake, a serious one by any standard and particularly so in these deranged times. — Yours faithfully,

Douglas Kedge

Lea Road, Sonning Common

Outstanding support

Sir — The governors of Woodcote Primary School would like to thank headteacher Elizabeth Hunt and her team for the outstanding job they have done supporting families in and around the village during the lockdown.

Despite being a small school, Mrs Hunt and her exceptional staff have demonstrated a dynamic and inspirational approach to the new environment we have found ourselves in.

They began work on ‘home schooling’ arrangements in the weeks leading up to the announcement that schools would close and our learning platform has allowed teachers and pupils to keep in touch easily from the very start.

Not only has work been uploaded but photos have been shared, teachers have organised story time, how-to videos have been shared to help with work and small group chats have been organised so teachers and pupils can stay connected.

While pupils’ wellbeing has been at the heart of decision-making, staff have also tirelessly supported parents who have been thrown into the challenging and stressful world of home schooling.

Teachers, teaching assistants and support staff have shown a level of commitment to every single pupil in their class, as well as their families, which we truly believe is second to none.

Whether it’s hand-delivering presents (at a social distance) before half-term, sending postcards or camping in their gardens on a week when the class would have been on a residential trip. they have gone above and beyond to ensure pupils still feel part of the school community.

And it’s not just the governors who want to show their appreciation as one year 5 pupil nominated Mr Langley for “teacher of the week” in The Week Junior magazine and he was chosen. Clearly he is highly regarded and this demonstrates how lucky we are.

We were also reassured by the amount of detailed planning which was undertaken prior to the school re-opening for reception, year 1 and year 6. This was a logistically and mentally challenging process but we know pupils are in very safe hands with Mrs Hunt’s team working to create as safe an environment as possible.

The school has had, and continues to have, the governing body’s full support at this challenging and unsettling time and we are proud to be part of such an outstanding school community. — Yours faithfully,

Woodcote Primary School governors

Reasons to be cheerful

Sir, — I would be grateful if you would please correct the error in your printing of paragraph two of my letter (Standard, July 17).

The paragraph in which you made the error should have read as follows:

UK life expectancy for men age 71 (according to the Office of National Statistics) is 86. So Mr Vanheems can expect more than the four to five years he predicts.

I am a woman aged 70 and can expect/hope for at least 18 more years! — Yours faithfully,

Ann Shankland


Joy to record our landscape

Sir — I read with much gratitude the letter printed in the Henley Standard (July 17) by Leslie Maynerd.

I try to convey my and Rosemary’s experiences on our explorations as clearly as I’m able and hope that I encourage your readers to enjoy our landscape and wildlife as much as we do. We are indeed so happy to have found each other through our excellent, local newspaper.

Leslie, I’m engaged in the arduous process of compiling a book. It will be produced, whether self-published or otherwise by a going concern. I will keep you informed.

Thank you for your heartfelt comments. I’m charmed by your letter as is Rosemary. — Yours faithfully,

Vincent Ruane

Henley Road, Caversham

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