Wednesday, 28 July 2021

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Paxman deserved better interviewer

Paxman deserved better interviewer

Sir, — The appearance of Jeremy Paxman at the Henley Literary Festival was spoilt by very poor interviewing by Anne Robinson.

Regrettably, Ms Robinson chose to adopt a bombastic approach with ill-thought/planned questions.

Her style grated on many nerves and diminished what should have been an intriguing hour learning about Mr Paxman’s life and career.

The interview focused disproportionately on Mr Paxman’s relationship with his father with an uncomfortable level of inane questioning. There was frustration in the whole room.

I went with six friends and everyone sat there looking pained at Ms Robinson’s grating manner and petulance. What a missed opportunity.

I am looking forward to reading his book — I just wish a different person had been selected to carry out the important task of interviewing a man of Paxman’s calibre. — Yours faithfully,

Connie Brown


Eastbourne of the Chilterns

Sir, — Since South Oxfordshire District Council announced recently that the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan was out of date, due to its failure to provide a five-year land supply, it has been reticent in using the document.

Four years of work and £100,000 spent and no one speaks up. There is a total, complicit silence.

For example, the former Henley youth centre site was bought by B&M for a care home.

At due diligence stage the planners confirmed the site did not have a residential allocation in the district council’s local plan so I guess B&M was very confident that it could build a care home.

At this point, our plan was nearing completion and was clear in its suggested use of this site for dwellings.

The company has just had positive pre-application advice from the council, confirming that in principle a 64-bed care home is acceptable.

The council has told B&M that although there is a neighbourhood plan that allocated about 23 homes to this site, with 40 per cent affordable housing, this doesn’t carry sufficient weight to overturn its local plan, which states the site does not have a residential allocation.

Incidentally, our plan states that all sites should provide 40 per centre affordable homes. That is a prime policy.

B&M is likely to make a full application within the next few months.

This means that the neighbourhood plan needs to find at least 23 more homes (on top of the 55 that were allocated to the Reading Road site) to satisfy its 500 total requirement of the type of homes Henley needs.

That’s 32 affordable homes and 46 apartments so far. Where will these homes come from?

With all of this going on, it seems to me that the district council is disregarding our plan, even though it vociferously persuaded us to prepare one and subsequently approved it (just last year). It has approved the McCarthy & Stone development at the former Jet garage site in Reading Road, is being recommended by officers to approve an 80-bed care facility at the former LA Fitness site and now looks likely to approve a 64-bed care home on the old youth centre site.

Soon it will also consider a Shiplake site for a 174-bed care village.

Is this what Henley really needs instead of affordable housing and apartments for the workers and young people of the town? That’s what the neighbourhood plan stipulated — 40 per cent affordable homes on all sites.

Will this help the economic future of our town? Are we to become the “Eastbourne” of the Chilterns?

We thought that by embracing the introduction of “localism” that we would have a say.

What a let-down by a district council, which does not seem to consider the needs of the people of Henley and what a let-down for the promises given for having a plan. — Yours faithfully,

Dieter Hinke

Chairman, Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan steering group,

Elizabeth Road,


Protect the countryside

Sir, — I don’t know how many of your readers have noticed the unprecedented housing developments going on in the villages surrounding Henley, presumably as a result of relaxing planning restrictions in an area previously with some protection as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

I drive through Checkendon regularly and from one end of the village to the other you will see development, largely new builds.

There are at least five new houses being built with others planned. Most of the houses are being built on a garden partitioned from an existing house or on a razed existing plot.

A bungalow is becoming two new houses with three houses on plots that originally were gardens.

It would seem there is nothing to stop all village houses with large gardens being bought up by developers and split into multiple new properties, spurred by high profits.

The same thing has happened or is happening in Bix, Satwell, Sonning Common and probably most other villages.

Just outside Sonning Common, at least six houses are replacing two with stone cladding and town bricks.

Our country pubs, as many of you will know, are also under threat from developers and businessmen.

The Lamb at Satwell was turned into a car sales dealership before being shut down after complaints and a lengthy legal battle.

The White Lion at Crays Pond was bought to become a restaurant, then was turned into a house without planning permission and could now be turned into five bed and breakfast units and two five-bedroom houses!

As mentioned in previous letters, the Crown at Nuffield, the Dog and Duck at Highmoor and the Four Horseshoes at Checkendon have been left to decay and will almost certainly end up as large houses with small gardens and large profits for developers and the pub company.

Do we need more protection for the Chilterns? Will these houses be subtracted from the hundreds required in the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan? — Yours faithfully,

Peter Sutcliffe

Highmoor Cross

Watch out for robots

Sir, — Amid the plethora of planning applications to build care homes in Henley, including some on sites identified in the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan for normal but also affordable housing, any supposition that these facilities will provide jobs requires an important caveat.

Many such roles will start to be taken over by robots within the next five years. Indeed, many older people will probably prefer to remain in their homes on that basis!

This is not a joke — people are already beginning to plan to spend their advanced years attended by a friendly “machine” (that’s just how computer people refer to a computer). It goes without saying that robots will be cheaper in the medium to longer term and will further enhance the very attractive all-inclusive-care-home business model.

The time to grab a site in Henley is clearly now.

I would urge South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee to take this factor into account when considering applications currently on the table and instead support ones that increase the provision of affordable housing. — Yours faithfully,

Jim Munro

Blandy Road,


Remarkable poll result

Sir, — The referendum on the Sonning Common neighbourhood development plan resulted in 48 per cent of the electorate (1,429) voting — one of the highest turnouts in the country for such referenda — with 94 per cent of the votes in favour of the plan.

This remarkable outcome is the result of the huge amount of hard work put in over a period of four years by our neighbourhood plan working party, chaired by Councillor Barrie Greenwood, and to the essential help received from many residents in the initial surveys of possible development sites.

Many public consultations helped to develop the plan. The support given by our parish office from the very beginning has been an invaluable contribution.

The plan’s external consultant stated at an early stage that the work being done was a model for others and it is clear that the whole process, right up to encouraging a good turnout on Thursday last week, was at a professional level.

Our village owes a great debt of thanks to all involved. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Douglas Kedge

Chairman, Sonning Common Parish Council,

Lea Road,

Sonning Common

Don’t threaten electrification

Sir, — I refer to your article headlined “Developer accused of ‘land grab’ over care home plans” (Standard, September 23).

What has to be considered by Network Rail is the long-term cost of lowering the track as there will have to be sump pumps available whenever there are flooding threats.

Would this lowering and maintenance cost be more than the cost of raising the bridge? On the other hand, raising or replacing the bridge to allow electrification means that the houses in Mill Lane near the river will be cut off while this is being carried out and there is no obvious alternative access route.

That means that lowering the track is probably the only option, needing less land to achieve this.Stuck between a rock and a hard place comes to mind.

It means that the fight for the electrification of our branch line is more important than ever.

On a different issue, as a Henley town, district and county councillor, I investigate and resolve emails and phone calls from my constituents.

This includes reporting highways defects such as potholes, worn-out road markings, blocked gullies and overhanging vegetation to Oxfordshire County Council and litter and leaves on the streets and overflowing litter bins to Biffa, South Oxfordshire District Council’s contractor.

However, these can also be reported directly, preferably with photographs, to the relevant authorities.

This allows them to be dealt with without an officer having to investigate it further. Highways defects can be reported at

Litter and overflowing bins can be reported to municipal

These will be picked up and passed directly to the locality teams to deal with.

The county council’s highways staff and Biffa both carry out excellent work.

However, in these instances, the speed of them being able to deal with issues will be helped if they are reported directly. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor David Nimmo Smith

Cabinet member for environment,

Oxfordshire County Council, South Oxfordshire District Council and Henley Town Council,

St Andrew’s Road,


Great lifts but why the wait?

Sir, — With regard to your article on the opening of the passenger lifts at Goring station (Standard, September 30), it is not only the elderly and disabled who are celebrating.

My daughter commutes to college with her 13-month-old son, who she drops off at nursery in Reading.

Clambering up and down the now lengthened steps with a pushchair, baby and college bag has been nigh on impossible without help, so as a family we’re also delighted to see the lifts open.

We are, however, curious to know why they were in situ and powered but not in service for so long. — Yours faithfully,

Philip Jones

Ambury Road,


Problems with pool closure

Sir, — The Arthur Hill swimming pool at Cemetery Junction in Reading is 105 years old and has seen better days but it is much-loved and used not just by locals but people from Henley, Twyford, Woodley and Wokingham.

Reading Borough Council is threatening to close it at very short notice on December 19, blaming government cuts. It has promised a replacement at Palmer Park in three years’ time.

Similarly, the Reading Central Pool is closing this time next year with a demountable “temporary” pool at the Rivermead leisure centre in Caversham.Protesters have been lobbying to get the Arthur Hill closure decision overturned until the new pool is built.

There are no other pools in Reading which do lane swimming sessions.

We’ve got 2,400 signatures on a petition, thus passing the threshold to have it discussed by the full council on October 18. That does not mean the baths are safe and they are still in great danger.

This affects Henley Standard readers who use the Reading facilities. Many more of them may start using the pool at Henley leisure centre, together with many others from the Reading area, thus crowding that pool and creating obvious problems for users. It has already been affected by the closure of LA Fitness and its pool.

We know the Arthur Hill pool has seen better days but it is all we have and some 40 per cent of Reading’s swimming capacity just disappears.

Please support the campaign to keep Arthur Hill pool open. Find us at or on Facebook “Save Arthur Hill Pool”. — Yours faithfully,



Awkward truth for archbishop

Sir, — The reported and lauded comments by the Archbishop of York at the Henley Literary Festival last week beg and parallel this original multiple choice question:

Once upon a time a certain lawyer asked “who is my neighbour?”

He was offered one of three options, these being the priest, the Levite (politician) and the Samaritan. We know that the lawyer chose the Samaritan as only he had crossed the road to help the victim, without prejudice.

At the risk of mixing metaphors, we can note that the politicians have spoken and now the priest has spoken. It is time for the Samaritan within us to act.

The Archbishop advocates our staying put on this side of the road where the politicians are huddled, busy blocking the pavement with the heavy obstacles of popular argument.

Entitled as he is to express his judgment, we should surely remind the Archbishop that it is not for us to stand back and blame Herod, the Schengen States, the bigots and the census, but rather to find room in our inn when it is full and to embrace those in need without question, as if they were our own. Only good can come of it. We know the lesson that is taught us in Sunday school. That is to ignore the priest, avoid the politician, and rather go with he who helps those in distress, without question.

He may not be a priest or a politician. He is more likely to be a lawyer and most probably, a layman.

That is the “awkward truth” represented by the last resort of Calais that John Sentamu in his wisdom chooses to comfortably pass by. — Yours faithfully,

Peter Burness-Smith

St Mark’s Road,


Helpful staff at restaurant

Sir, — I would like to thank the staff at Pizza Express in Henley. On Monday, 19 very excited cub scouts from the 1st Henley (Monday) pack descended on the restaurant.

The staff explained how pizzas were made and gave guidance to the children on how to make their own pizzas and include additional toppings.

The cubs ate the pizzas that they made and the few that couldn’t finish them got to take the remains home.

I would like to thank the staff at Pizza Express for their helpfulness and the time they took with the cubs. They are a credit to the company. — Yours faithfully,

Stephen Colver

Akela (Monday) cub scouts, 1st Henley scout group

Thank you for support

Sir, — Last week the Henley Standard carried my story.

I have a rare blood cancer and in August was mid-way through treatment to prepare me for a stem cell transplant when the NHS announced that the funding had been withdrawn and I could not continue.

On Tuesday, I was informed that the transplant could go ahead and I will be going into hospital later this month. I don’t know exactly what caused the change of mind but I do know that the fantastic support I have had from friends, family and local people has been amazing.

Thank you to those of you who signed our petition and thank you to the Henley Standard for helping to highlight the terrible situation. — Yours faithfully,

Dr Harriet Scorer

St Mark’s Road,


Thanks for backing move

Sir, — We would like to thank both Henley Rugby Club and Henley Town Council for their support of Physiolistic.This will allow us to continue to be both a local employer and provider of a first class physiotherapy/treatment to patients in Henley and the surrounding areas from brand new premises.We hope to move to the new purpose-built clinic in the winter and are excited about this new chapter for Physiolistic. — Yours faithfully,

Angela Botha

Director, Physiolistic,

Greys Road,


Dig moved parishes!

Sir, — Your interesting article on archaeology at Blounts Court (Standard, September 30) began: “The remains of what could have been a medieval chapel have been found in Sonning Common.”

In fact, Blounts Court is in the ecclesiastical and civil parishes of Rotherfield Peppard and is not in Sonning Common.

As if to provide supporting evidence, the current edition of Peppard News carries a leading article on the scientific work carried out at Blounts Court by Johnson Matthey. — Yours faithfully,

K B Atkinson

Red House Drive,

Sonning Common

Can you solve mystery of how unofficial record of Henley Town FC was gifted to club?

Sir, — Henley Town Football Club would very much like to thank someone but they have a problem: they don’t know whom to thank.

As last season was drawing to a close, chairman Kim Chapman arrived one evening to open up the ground when he saw on the step of the clubhouse a red leather book with gold lettering on the cover reading: “Henley Town Football Club./Founded 1862”.

How it got there was a mystery and there was no note of explanation attached. Inside the book were copious, mainly handwritten, records of the club running from 1928 to 1950. It was not a minute book but something with a wider brief.

The book was recently passed to me, as the club’s president and historian, for evaluation and to try to work out the authorship of the volume, not least because that might offer a clue as to where the gift came from.

From the writing, I am almost certain that the earliest entries are in the hand of Frederick Lowthian Tozer, who took over the secretary’s position in 1928. He probably compiled the entries for only the two seasons while he held that job but it is hard to be certain when each change in the authorship occurred as there was a clear effort by subsequent compilers to stick to Tozer’s format as closely as possible.

On first opening the book, I wondered whether it was an official club document or a labour of love by an individual. In view of the fact that it has definitely been passed down through several compilers, I must conclude that it was the former yet clearly the various collators were free to express their own opinions.

While sometimes the wording of the secretary’s report or a passage in the Henley Standard is repeated verbatim, the committee is occasionally criticised, for example, for failing to try to buy the freehold to the Reading Road ground in the Thirties and for selling off the stand there during the war.

The season for which there is most information is 1929-30. There is a summary of events on and off the field, a balance sheet, a list of subscriptions and donations, another of programme advertisers and what each paid, details of the local six-a-side tournament, full team listings for internal trial matches, the number of attendances made by each member of both the general committee and the selection committee, a list of signed players and the clubs they had played for in the previous season and a table of results for all the teams who played in the same divisions as Henley’s first team or reserves.

For every match played by either of Henley’s teams, there are not only the results with complete team listings and goal-scorers (and occasionally small comments), but also the number of spectators and the amount of gate money. Oddly, there is a final league table only for the reserves. As the Thirties draw towards a close, the entries become a little less meticulous with matches sometimes being missed from the listings but, for the wartime season of 1939-40, locally stationed soldiers and an evacuee schoolmaster are specifically noted in the list of players.

The book was never quite the same after the war and it seems likely that the then compiler was still in the services or away on other work of national importance when football in Henley restarted.

A cutting from the Standard from the summer of 1940 has been pasted in under 1945-46, with the compiler seemingly under the misapprehension that no team was fielded in that season.

There are comparatively short entries for the next two seasons but an effort has been made to achieve something like the old standards in 1948-49 and 1949-50, after which we hear no more.

There are some 840 match results in the book and I have checked these against my database of all matches since 1871, where there are currently almost 8,600 entries. There were discrepancies in about 20 cases and I have been able to establish which was correct in the majority of these, although half a dozen still require further research.

More importantly, the book gives exact dates for every game, which were not previously noted for these years. While the book gives much valuable information about the seasons it covers, it is unreliable about anything that happened before its own time. Unfortunately, the foundation date on the book’s cover is incorrect.

It is one of at least four dates that has been put forward for the club’s formation, a scenario not uncommon for sports clubs and competitions before someone does some serious research. Inserted loosely in the book, however, is a letter from G W Gordon, the long-serving secretary of the Oxfordshire Football Association, who politely expresses some scepticism about the date shown on the Town’s affiliation form, probably for the first time, in 1929.

While there is nothing in the book that radically changes one’s view of the club during the years in question, it does contain details that are not found elsewhere. Those gate figures, though given for only one season, are valuable, as is the list of 21 vice-presidents found a year earlier and such nuggets as the groundsman being paid two shillings (10p!) per match.

Yet arguably the book is more important as an artefact than as a source: the care that has been taken to produce an item that is not only a fund of information but also pleasing to the eye is most impressive and proves the affection for the club held by the various compilers.

It would be marvellous to learn the book’s provenance and if we could thank the person who has donated it. — Yours faithfully,

John Bailey


Magic of the Thames on misty Monday morning

Sir, — This picture of a misty River Thames in Henley was taken opportunistically at about 8am on Monday while I was on my way to work in Maidenhead and waiting at the traffic lights by the Red Lion Hotel. — Yours faithfully,

Jeff Kinghorn

Kingwood Common

Singer did remember previous visit

Sir, — This is my uncle Dave Beck being greeted by David Essex when signing his book at the Henley Literary Festival.

Contrary to your story last week, the singer told my uncle that he did remember staying with him at the former Rose & Crown pub in New Street in 1967 when he was a young actor.

However, he could not recall playing the piano, which is where perhaps the confusion lies. — Yours faithfully,

Ginny Hayes

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