Sunday, 25 July 2021

Your letters...

Not a special development

Sir, — The Henley Archaeological and Historical Group has followed the planning progress of the development of Highlands Farm in Henley with great concern for its historical protection and its effect on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The Paleolithic remains are to be protected but we are still concerned about the seeming disregard of the medieval evidence and the design of the development which is no different from countless other estates built on the edge of towns.

Crest Nicholson has the opportunity to turn this ugly brownfield site into a “garden village” with the 15th century farmhouse and 16th century (not 18th) barn into the “hub” of the community where people can meet, hold societies and operate small businesses.

The farmhouse is an example of the footprint of medieval farmhouses in the Chilterns and at the very least there should be a full archaeological survey of this site, bearing in mind that there is evidence that mankind has been on this plot of land since the early Stone Age.

The latest design plans are extremely disappointing. On entry the first thing that greets you on your right is a three-storey block of flats and then the usual two-, three-, four- and five-bedroom houses with garages on the side.

The “community centre” is on the edge of the development near the two football pitches, so I presume this will also serve as the changing rooms for the footballers so is not exactly a building at the heart of the village.

We are aware that only outline planning permission has been granted so far, so we hope that there is still time for Crest Nicholson to stop and improve the plans to show more connection with the town of Henley and build something special. — Yours faithfully,

Pam Syrett

Chair, Henley Archaeological and Historical Group, Makins Road, Henley

Why wait to tell us?

Sir, — On the contentious subject of the invalidation of the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan, I draw your attention to the statement issued on December 12 by Gavin Barwell, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, as reported in your paper well before Christmas.

Mr Barwell’s statement made it crystal clear that, for our neighbourhood plan to regain its full statutory weight in planning decisions, all that South Oxfordshire District Council had to do was demonstrate a three-year rather than a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites.

I think it is outrageous that our public servants at the district council have still not, after all this time, put out a public statement in response to this, knowing full well that our ability to control what is built in our community hinges entirely on the forecast supply of deliverable housing sites.

We have got to be able to put a stop to the proliferation of care homes and to the development of sites previously excluded from the neighbourhood plan.

Surprisingly, however, I have today received a letter from the district council’s planning department in response to an email from me confirming that they do have a three-year land supply.

I think it is scandalous that the council was intending to sit on this crucial piece of information until its annual statement “later this year”. — Yours faithfully,

Trevor Howell

Blandy Road, Henley

Disappearing Chilterns

Sir, — I was very interested in your front page article reporting the attitude of the Chiltern Society to the in-filling in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in South Oxfordshire and elsewhere (Standard, January 13).

Those who live in these areas are asked to have their say concerning this “tidal wave” of building where none was previously permitted.

Well, as far as I can judge from recent planning applications, we have had our say but have been ignored. These applications will be rubber stamped, regardless.

This is an excellent deal for developers but will have no impact on those waiting for affordable homes.

It seems to me that our representatives, local and national, remain silent. I wonder whose idea it was to concrete over the Chilterns?

It probably wasn’t those who live here. Nor the many who don’t live here but ride horses, or walk with or without dogs here.

As time passes they will notice a dramatic increase in house building and road traffic on these narrow tracks and lanes.

It will be irreversible. — Yours faithfully,

David Wood

Maidensgrove

Working life versus profit

Sir, — I was equally saddened and incensed by John Moore’s letter (Standard, January 13).

His attitude to the news of a local doctor resigning through the effect of working pressures borders on callous.

While none of us can neither know how the pressures of her job affected her as an individual, nor any other reasons that may have contributed, I fail to believe that any medical professional makes such a decision lightly.

I fear we will see many more such resignations. As I write, the Government has piled more pressure on surgeries by demanding seven-day working.

Sadly, the above is symptomatic of a wider problem. Sam Brown’s letter in the same issue highlighted the effects of increasing workloads through understaffing throughout the town and the effects upon workers and customers alike.

I contend that the villains here are employers and politicians empowering themselves to enforce “efficiencies” upon the British workforce unchecked, to the point that many, through no fault of their own, fail to cope and fall out of the system, in itself costly and inefficient.

Young people in education are also at increased risk of suffering with mental health issues and this may well be down to the same root cause.

It is time for a serious national debate about how to maintain the balance between the right to a decent quality of working life against considerations of profit and efficiency. — Yours faithfully,

Jonathan Sedwell

Priest Close, Nettlebed

Charge £5 to see doctor

Sir, — I agree with your correspondent Jim Munro that we should all pay £5 to see a doctor (Standard, January 13). I have been saying this for a while.

If everyone (except those on income support) paid £5 to see a doctor I think it would help the NHS in many ways.

It would deter DNAs (did not attend), who waste doctors’ time, and it would provide much-needed finances.

Perhaps the prescription charge could then be lowered to £5 so the maximum charge per visit would then be £10. — Yours faithfully,

Jane MacLean

Kidmore End

Other people work hard too

Sir, — Dr Jim Kennedy at Wargrave Surgery states that most GPs are so overworked that they don’t have time to eat or go to the toilet on duty (Standard, January 13). Really? Honestly? Perhaps just bending the truth a little bit?

While most GPs spend 12-plus hours a day at work they are most certainly not seeing patients for those 12 hours. Yes, we all know the GPs work hard but so do many, many other people. Sometimes the continual busy, busy, busy gets just a bit tiresome. — Yours faithfully,

Mrs J Hadley

Leaver Road, Henley

NHS does a great job

Sir, — Can I concur with your correspondent Colin Malcolmson (Standard, January 6) with regard to the health service?

Like him, I use a local NHS surgery (in Henley) and I could not ask for better care. I fully support the surgery, as I believe most if not all do.

If there was less criticism of the local service and we gave our much appreciated medical service more support, they would find their job easier and it would be better for all.

To the local medical service, thank you for your help and support in good times and bad — keep it up. — Yours faithfully,

David Orpwood

Watlington

We must help young more

Sir, — At a time when young people’s mental health is a matter of increasing concern locally and nationally, I should like to bring to your readers’ attention a local charity that has specialised in this field for 45 years. No5 Young People is based in central Reading and local schools and provides crucial early intervention and specialist counselling, free of charge, to anyone aged 10 to 25 who lives or attends education in RG postcodes and beyond.

It is confidential, so we may not realise, but most of this paper’s readers will know, or have read about, someone who has been helped by No5.

While I welcome Theresa May’s optimistic and inclusive tone in her letter (Standard, January 6) and her speech acknowledging the deficit in healthcare provision for young people, I predict that change will be slow.

Charities like No5 will continue to see the heartbreaking rise in demand for services that I face every day as clinical manager.

Training already overstretched teachers in identifying mental health problems may help raise awareness and acceptance but what then?

Of course, we need more clinics and beds for the seriously ill but there is a chronic failure of support at the early stages of mental illness.

Most of the 500 young people referred to No5 in 2016 had already been seen by GPs, child and adolescent mental health services, talking therapies or social services and needed more.

Increasingly, they are struggling with consequences of bullying, abuse, family breakdown, loss, exam pressure and so on, feeling helpless and hopeless, driven to self-harm or thoughts of suicide, unable to fulfil their potential.

Children of all ages benefit from a trusting, safe, non-judgemental relationship with someone who takes time to listen.

We hear regularly that coming to No5 was the turning point, that it helped people get back into school, apply to university, get a job, make better relationships, get their life back.

The wonderful people who provide this support at No5 are, predominantly, qualified and experienced counsellors working on a voluntary basis.

No5 is not funded by statutory services and manages to stay open with generous donations from individuals and companies. We would like to do more and have big plans for 2017.

Please contact me at
clinical.manager@no5.org.uk if you would like to join us or offer financial support. — Yours faithfully,

Catherine Winchester

Belle Vue Road, Henley

Tackle the root cause

Sir, — While almost all reviews and studies show that the majority of mental health disorders start in childhood and adolescence (and 75 per cent are a direct result of having been sexually abused as a minor), it is shocking that so little help is available on the NHS for such victims in the Thames Valley.

Thames Valley Police revealed a significant rise in the number of such victims in recent years.

Surely it is time that every major town in the area had its own specialist NHS child and adolescent sexual abuse and rape centre and that the NHS commissioners started to commission more specialist or holistic mental health services and staff for these young victims.

To not do this would be, at the very least, a false economy. — Yours faithfully,

Paul Farmer

Wensley Road, Reading

Turn off the traffic lights

Sir, — It is so frustrating to read yet again of the dire situation with regard to the high levels of air pollution on many of Henley’s streets and, seemingly, £20,000 is a pathetic sum of money to spend on practical measures to put it right (Standard, January 13).

The undeniable truth is that the pollution is caused by the superfluity of traffic lights. Why not be really adventurous and try switching off the lights altogether?

We could have mini-roundabouts where applicable and just give the traffic a chance to flow. We used to have a perfectly good roundabout by the station until someone in their wisdom (and at great cost no doubt) decided to change it for more traffic lights and now there’s queues in all directions, causing more pollution and contributing to motorists’ misery!

I’m sure we’ve all encountered situations where the lights have failed and, amazingly, there are no queues! This is surely a practical solution to our pollution problem which wouldn’t cost much. Why not give it a go? — Yours faithfully,

Rhona Mogridge

Makins Road, Henley

Extend ban on mobiles

Sir, — I applaud Shiplake College headmaster Gregg Davies for banning mobile phones during the school day (Standard, January 13).

The use of the mobile phone has definitely become an epidemic, resulting in almost total dependency by youngsters on it as their sole means of communication.

I think mobiles ought to be banned in restaurants as well as many other public places.

I certainly object to being party to snatches of one-sided conversations in many public places and being intruded upon while going about my everyday life!

I do own a mobile phone which I regard as something to be used for emergencies only and I don’t want to be constantly at everyone’s beck and call. — Yours faithfully,

Judith MacBeth

Highdown Avenue, Emmer Green

Well done, headmaster

Sir, — I have to say a hearty “well done” to Gregg Davies.

I am a former teacher and over the years I have seen individuals and families gradually draw away from one another, mainly due to the use of mechanical devices.

As a grandmother, I have seen all too often not only the grandchildren but their parents too, sitting at the table, engrossed in their phones/iPads.

How can children learn to interact if their parents don’t teach them? Social, verbal interaction is not something that happens by osmosis.

So well done, headmaster, I only hope that other headteachers across the country have the backbone to do the same. — Yours faithfully,

C Overton

Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire

Outstanding headteachers

Sir, — I can only assume that your correspondent Simon Brickhill has not met any of the local secondary headteachers before outrageously stating that they “don’t care if able students get the education they deserve” (Standard, January 13).

Not only is this a totally unwarranted attack on their professional and personal integrities, but also a complete distortion of the facts.

Had Mr Brickhill had the courtesy to check these with, for example, Catharine Darnton (headteacher of Gillotts School, which has not had a “headmaster” since 2001), he would have discovered that government statistics demonstrate the progress made by high prior attainment students at the school this year all but matched that at the nearest selective state school and that only in one of the last nine years has this group not made better progress than the national mean, in most years very significantly so.

I have worked with several outstanding headteachers over the last 15 years and each of them cares passionately about providing the best possible education for each individual young person in their charge.

The objection of Oxfordshire secondary heads to grammar schools is founded on precisely this point.

In my view the debate should focus on the failure of this and other governments to provide them with the proper resources to do their jobs and not on turning the clock back 40 years. — Yours faithfully,

Nick Walden

Governor, Gillotts School, Henley

Future is in our hands

Sir, — I take issue with Rev Brendan Bailey’s conclusions in his Thought for the Week (Standard, January 13).

There have always been natural disasters to face, as will continue to be the case. When was there not a war, many of them religious, which did not result in man’s inhumanity to man and the movement of those who could escape out of the affected areas?

Nothing has changed. Rather, we now have minute-by-minute updates which may well make us despair.

In addition, having no interest in celebrities, I look back to those whom I have lost over the past year and am simply glad that they enriched my life.

If my only hope for the future is that God will guard me against “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” then I do indeed despair.

But I do have hope: hope that we will eventually realise that the future is in our hands and that it is we who can make a difference if we only care enough.

Am I to suppose that man was created in God’s image and left as a mere supplicant?

We have the gift of reason — God-given if you please — and should use it. There can be a better future but only if we take it upon ourselves to make it so. — Yours faithfully,

Ann Law

Binfield Heath

Not interested in residents

Sir, — Wokingham borough councillor Gary Cowan has just resigned from the ruling Conservative party on the council.

In his resignation letter, he describes Wokingham Borough Council as “an autocratic, secret regime with a blatant distrust of its residents”. Mr Cowan goes on to accuse the ruling group of acting “to silence any reasoned vocal debate”.

He adds: “Lack of debate has had a major impact on planning policy. The majority of decisions are therefore officer-driven. They are only casually in the interests of our residents and very often can be detrimental.”

Employees of Hare Hatch Sheeplands garden centre have been aware of this situation for the past few years.

During this time we have tried to reach an agreement with the council that would allow us to continue trading.

That’s something that residents in their thousands have made clear they want to happen. Instead we have been forced to take the highly expensive legal route to prevent the council from closing our business down.

Is it too much to hope that Cllr Cowan’s resignation may change the situation? — Yours faithfully,

Gill Saxon

Human resources manager, Hare Hatch Sheeplands garden centre, near Wargrave

Women bind us together

Sir, — May I, through your letters page, thank Margaret Moola and Elaine Williams, founders and creative directors of Nottakwire, the community singing choir based in Sonning Common, for their very welcome donation of £100 to Club SC Youth Club.

They are so very supportive of our local young people at the club as well as providing an opportunity for so many people to enjoy taking part in such a wonderful community choir.

They have become an integral part of village life and incorporate and support so many other community groups.

They have, in a few short years, become the thread that binds and enhances the whole of Sonning Common and their interconnecting villages of Peppard and Kidmore End. — Yours faithfully,

Carol Viney

Management committee, Club SC, Sonning Common

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