Thursday, 29 July 2021

Your Letters...

End of life choices

Sir, — I was greatly moved by Edward Harding’s letter (Standard, December 9) about his wife who has suffered from dementia of some six years.

My own mother was similarly afflicted for more than eight years. She did not wish to be alive, visits from relatives or others gave no one any pleasure, her carers can hardly have found her continued existence rewarding — no winners that I can see and very expensive all round.

I was very disappointed when the Assisted Dying Bill failed in the House of Commons after previously passing with solid support in the Lords. Our MP John Howell abstained. Why?

The facts are: 82 per cent of the general public are in favour, as are 79 per cent of religious people and 86 per cent of the disabled.

Every two weeks someone travels to Dignitas to die. Every year more than 300 terminally ill people end their own lives at home, often with difficulty and in distressing circumstances.

About 1,000 lives are ended each year illegally by doctors at the patient’s request.

Assisted dying is now legal in Oregon and Washington, Canada and California and is spreading.

Experience over many years shows that most opposing views are simply wrong; vulnerable people are not at risk and to legalize assisted dying is not the start of a slippery slope.

More than half of all GPs would be willing to play some optional role in assisted dying.

Recently former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have spoken out in favour.

Our law is a mess and the Supreme Court has warned Parliament to address the issue. We deserve a choice at the end of our lives. — Yours faithfully,

John Thornley

Makins Road, Henley

Our village is very special

Sir, — Sonning Common is no different from many other villages and towns in that it has problems with unruly youth and areas that are not particularly attractive (Standard, December 9) but it is different in many other ways.

We have a charity called Friends in Sickness and Health that is unique to the village with its befriending service and volunteer bus taking residents to hospital appointments, outings and tea in the village hall, a monthly lunch club, a group providing lunch for 50 on Christmas Day in the village hall, a hands-on gardening group replenishing and maintaining all the flowerbeds, a newly formed tree committee, a 70-strong community choir, guides, brownies and cubs meeting weekly, an annual coffee morning raising hundreds of pounds for Macmillan nurses, an annual charity lunch supporting local organisations. including the Sue Ryder hospice and a proactive parish council financially supporting the youth club and newly built skate park.

The village hall is busy almost every day with WI, indoor bowls, dance groups, baby groups and private parties. We have a primary school and secondary school with inspirational teachers going the extra mile, shops whose staff are friendly and helpful, a Christian community charity shop providing more than just goods, local pubs and churches with their own charity initiatives, a flourishing bi-monthly magazine delivered to every home and a ratified neighbourhood development plan ensuring that we get the best balance we can for new housing while protecting our green spaces.

Your anonymous correspondent’s suggestions that we pull down the Sixties architecture, force shops to shut earlier and make shop staff accountable for unruly behaviour, get rid of seating and paint yellow lines through the centre of the village will not quell the “unruly youth” and anyway are not within the remit of the parish council.

However, as a result of newly acquired funds from the sale of land, the parish council has two newly formed committees to make decisions with regard to sports and hall facilities and to improve the village centre.

The writer suggested “the town planners” should be doing something. We do not have any town planners. We have a parish council, a district and county councillor, who are all volunteers.

If the writer cares to contact our parish clerk, she can be advised of the dates of parish council meetings and she will be welcomed on to our village centre committee and can help make changes for the better.

She might also like to join one of the many volunteer groups that make this village so special. — Yours faithfully,

Chrissie Phillips-Tilbury

Sonning Common

Cadets must have a home

Sir, — I read with interest and dismay 2nd Lt Thomas Fearn’s letter about the problem of funding a new base for the Henley army and air cadets once the Friday Street drill hall closes (Standard, December 9).

He mentions the excellent turnout of cadets and other youth organisations, scouts and guides on Remembrance Sunday.

Henley should be proud of the bearing and enthusiasm of these young people — after all, they are our future.

However, without an easily accessible meeting place in Henley, 2nd Lt Fearn is right to fear what could lie ahead.

Our MP John Howell states that his fears of being shut down and forgotten are misplaced as the cadets are “too much of town life”.

Mr Howell reminds us that the Government is keen to increase the number of Combined Cadet Forces throughout the country,

All well and good, but this does not address the problem of where our cadets will meet.

Congratulations to Thomas Fearn for raising the issue now, before it is too late.

I do not have the answer to this dilemma but I support his request for people of influence in Henley to help find a solution. — Yours faithfully,

John Green

Chairman, Henley and Peppard branch, Royal British Legion

Speculating to accumulate

Sir, — If readers have already read the article in the Sunday Times headlined “Ex-archbishop left in wilderness by developer” (December 11) read no further.

Many of you will know that Gladman is the developer that has submitted a planning application for 245 houses on land off Peppard Road in Emmer Green. (Application reference: P16/S3630/0-37).

While the Sunday Times article goes into some detail regarding an application that Gladman has made for planning permission to build 85 homes on land on the edge of Newbury, there are some observations that may be of interest to those residents of Emmer Green and South Oxfordshire who oppose the application in Emmer Green.

Gladman is based in Congleton, Cheshire, and has 300 similar applications around the country. The company specialises in submitting speculative applications for planning permission and claims a success rate of about 90 per cent. It also boasts that it is the largest promoter of land for development in the UK.

It operates a “no win, no fee” service that means landowners pay nothing and Gladman makes its money by taking a 25 per cent cut of the proceeds from successful applications when the land is sold on.

Protest groups around the country fighting Gladman applications are finding that they need fighting funds in the order of £40,000 to enable them to support their local councils which are frequently unable to meet the legal costs of fighting this affluent speculator.

They are also struggling to find planning experts to represent them because they have all been hired by the likes of Gladman.

It appears that even when a council has a five-year housing supply developers are still able to make applications, making a complete mockery of the Government’s national planning policy framework.

Gladman and their like are known to target local authorities whose planning is in relative disarray and vulnerable to a quick planning application for a suitable site.

I am not suggesting that South Oxfordshire District Council falls into that category but as the Emmer Green site mainly impacts on Reading but requires planning permission from that council, it can easily be seen why it is the focus of Gladman’s attention.

These developers grab land wherever they can simply to make money with little or no interest in the local residents.

The Emmer Green site has not been chosen because it forms part of Reading Borough Council’s housing plan or it is in the interest of the people of Reading, it has been chosen because it is a great opportunity for a developer to make a bundle of cash.

Right now it’s Emmer Green but soon it could be a field near you. — Yours faithfully,

Eric Yarrow

Emmer Green

Starter, not departer

Sir, — There must be many people in Henley who are disappointed at the way housing developments are being manipulated.

Our local plan agreed that 40 per cent of any development should be for affordable housing. Such housing is much needed in Henley.

If Ashill Land can’t manage this on the site off Greys Road, they should let someone else do it who can.

And how can it be right that several of our agreed development sites are now to be care homes, negating the need to provide the 40 per cent affordable housing?

We need starter homes, not departer homes. — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Hawkins

Berkshire Road, Henley

Allow more change of use

Sir, — Checkendon Parish Council recently held a very constructive meeting with Brakspear chief executive Tom Davies regarding maintenance of our rather neglected Four Horseshoes pub. Mr Davies kindly agreed to fund grounds maintenance to this building while his company seeks change to residential use.

Checkendon Parish Council remains highly critical of the South Oxfordshire District Council planners in their policy of making change of use extremely difficult for owners of licensed premises in this area.

The planners even prided themselves in their actions in a recent article in Outlook, presumably sent from a planet somewhere in the Milton Park constellation.

We simply have far too many character public houses in the area to support a diminishing market.

Much as we may lament their passing, it is surely a far better thing to have the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty tidied up by turning them over to private residential use.

If the demand for more rural licensed premises ever arose then planners could justifiably look back at the historical world in which they dwell and allow private houses to be transformed into such. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Tim Corbishley

Checkendon Parish Council

The editor writes: “On December 2, we mistakenly published an email to the editor from Councillor Corbishley about this subject as a letter.

“This appeared to suggest the gardens of the Cherry Tree pub in Stoke Row were untidy when in fact Cllr Corbishley was referring to the closed Four Horseshoes.

“We are happy to clarify this and to apologise to Cllr Corbishley, the landlord of the Cherry Tree and the pub’s operators, Splash Inns.”

Forgotten passengers

Sir, — I refer to the letter from Neil Gunnell of Henley Trains and the news story headlined “Rail passengers upset at thought of shorter trains” (Standard, December 9).

A huge amount has been written about the branch line and its decline and it appears to me that no one, including our Prime Minister, can influence the flawed attitude of First Great Western and its managing director Mark Hopwood. Common sense does not prevail.

Despite Philip Meadowcroft’s constant efforts, the concept of trains not stopping at Wargrave makes no sense. How long does it take for a train to stop and start at a station? If a train operator cannot make this work they should not be operating trains.

The Henley user group exacerbates the situation by suggesting that commuters travelling from Twyford to Wargrave can do so by travelling to Shiplake and catching the return train from Henley.

Who are they kidding with the comment, “Well, every train from Twyford stops once at Wargrave”? Yes, on the return journey! Sensible and useful comment? No!

Turning to the story, the trains on the branch line are always two-coach trains except at peak times and not as he states.

Similarly, the length of trains for the regatta have become substantially shorter over recent years despite gross overcrowding.

FGW clearly does not consider the passenger in their deliberations; anyone using the Reading to Waterloo line enjoys a regular service with modern eight-car trains with plenty of seats, so why can’t we enjoy a similar service?

Finally, a word of warning: We are being promised a grossly improved service once Crossrail opens and are told there will be more seats.

Well, an eight-car train should have more seats but not that many as there will be far larger standing areas and these trains are scheduled to stop at all stations so the journey time from Twyford to Paddington is unlikely to improve and more people will stand.

And really finally, the gantries to carry the overhead lines are well advanced either side of Twyford station — enjoy the Victorian canopies and architecture while you can.

End of rant, thank you — Yours faithfully,

Aldon Ferguson


Trains make progress

Sir, — Regarding last week’s article about shorter trains, GWR has since updated its position to say: “Following recent meetings, Mark Hopwood has looked at the shuttle service that will operate between Henley and Twyford when we move to connecting services.

“We will still do the counts in the New Year but we now anticipate that three-car Turbo trains will be deployed on the majority of services.”

Bearing in mind that daytime services and the evening shuttles from Twyford off the busiest trains from Paddington currently have two cars, this is still further progress.

We wait to hear plans for morning shuttles to Twyford when through-trains stop but note that the maximum train size into platform 5 at Twyford is four cars and it has been suggested in the past there will be at least one extra rush-hour service down to the main line. Further, none of this is imminent. — Yours faithfully,

Neil Gunnell

Henley Trains, Blandy Road, Henley

Good news for Leavers

Sir, — Tim Farron has declared the Richmond by- election result a triumph for his cause, suggesting that it shows that many people who voted Leave in the referendum have now switched to remain.

That is not what the numbers say to me.

In the referendum the people of Richmond voted 70 per cent for remain but in the by-election, if we take both the Liberal Democrats and Labour as being a remain vote, this number dropped to 54 per cent, a swing to Leave of 16 per cent — something to celebrate if leaving is your preference. — Yours faithfully,

Tim Beechey-Newman

Gravel Hill, Caversham

Let Leaping Lady be

Sir, — Just when I thought that readers had stopped whingeing about the Leaping Lady sculpture on the Tesco roundabout, we had a late addition thanks to Andrea Golder (Standard, December 9).

I would like to point out that, as a resident of Henley, I think the sculpture is fantastic and I admire it every time I drive past it.

The level of skill involved in producing it and the movement it cleverly depicts is something we should be encouraging budding designers to aspire to. It’s much better than an old rowing boat and I would be disappointed if it was removed.

I hope that in the future Mrs Golder can find something more important to moan about than this very “middle class problem” of hers! — Yours faithfully,

Rebecca Smith


Hoping to see the lights

Sir, — While it is disappointing that Henley Town Council has not seen fit to replace the Christmas fairy lights at Station Park this year on a like-for-like basis with what was removed, we live in hope that this gateway to the town will be in the frame for festoons next year. — Yours faithfully,

Steve Ludlow

Station Road, Henley

Town clerk Janet Wheeler responds: “We have spoken to the contractor and it will cost extra to install the festive lights Mr Ludlow requests.

“We have had three quotes ranging from £1,150 to £2,425 but there is no money left in the budget for this year.

“I will, of course, see if we can include Station Park for next year.

“It is impossible to cover all of Henley with Christmas lights without a much larger budget.”

I won’t miss poor service

Sir, — With regard to your article about the new catering facilities at the River & Rowing Museum in Henley (Standard, December 9), may I offer my best wishes to Wild Fork for a successful and profitable operation at their new location?

Your article mentioned that the Quince Tree struggled to make a profit. I am not in the least bit surprised.

There is a number of coffee shops in Henley providing good food and drink, backed up by good service.

The service at the museum was abysmal as my wife and I found as we regularly eat and drink in Henley. After a number of visits to the museum, each time the service left me exasperated and we vowed to never return until the management changed.

Places like the museum should realise that providing poor service may irritate one-time visitors to Henley but it turns local regulars off.

The coffee was fine, the eggs benedict were fine, but when it takes 50 minutes to place an order and get it on the table — longer than it takes to walk from Shiplake — I would rather walk the extra distance to Café Rouge.

I suspect, but have very little proof, that the Quince Tree at Stonor suffered from the same problems.

Let’s look forward to Wild Fork. — Yours faithfully,

Malcolm Gregory


Making a difference

Sir, — I want to take this opportunity to personally thank the hundreds of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Britain in Bloom and It’s Your Neighbourhood group volunteers across the Thames and Chilterns region for the work they have done to bring communities together and create greener, more environmentally friendly and healthier surroundings for all to enjoy. This year, Amersham represented the Thames and Chilterns with great distinction at the RHS Britain in Bloom Awards and the group’s success reflects well on everyone.

That so many people have given up their time and taken on the challenge of positively transforming their neighbourhoods is testament to their commitment to living in a greener and more pleasant place.

I’ve been driven to write this letter to ensure that the amazing contribution they’ve made is acknowledged and celebrated.

Their efforts, not just over this year, but year in, year out, prove that the Thames and Chilterns’ community spirit is alive and well.

The benefits of the work they do go far beyond the aesthetic as research and experience have shown that when a community gardens together civic pride, community spirit and health and happiness levels all increase.

The benefits of gardening and turning grey to green don’t stop there. The work they’ve done has created habitats for wildlife, highlighted the value of the natural world and inspired children to get in touch with nature and learn more about where their food comes from.

That all these benefits have been driven by the community is truly tremendous.

With nearly 50 Britain in Bloom and It’s Your Neighbourhood groups in the Thames and Chilterns region, they really are making an enormous difference. Thank you to each and every one of them for helping to make Britain a cleaner, greener and more beautiful place to live. — Yours faithfully,

Sue Biggs

Director general, Royal
Horticultural Society

Successful Poppy Appeal

Sir, — We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have collected for the Harpsden Poppy Appeal 2016 and to all those people who have been so generous in their support with donations.

We are happy to report that the total collected to date is £3,100. — Yours faithfully,

Hilary Andrews and Helen Karim

Poppy Appeal organisers for Harpsden

Appropriate names...

Sir, — The last paragraph of Shirley Cooke’s letter (Standard, December 9) reminded me of the years I spent running a retail car dealership in Wokingham.

The lady who typed the estimate in our body repair shop was called Mrs Dent.

A little further afield, I recently came across a firm of solicitors in Leamington Spa called Wright Hassall.

Let us hope that dealing with them is not as bad as their name might suggest! — Yours faithfully,

Geoff Luckett


More News:

POLL: Have your say