Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Your letters...

Make our PM feel welcome

Sir, — I felt sorry at the front page article about the Prime Minister’s security team parking in a loading bay (Standard, Mar 17).

We should relish the fact that Theresa May shops in Henley and, whatever our politics, the Prime Minister deserves and needs security, for all our sakes.

Where the cars parked was not going to cause the problems for lorries or buses turning into Bell Street that have brought the town centre to a standstill on previous occasions and the “normal” parking or waiting restrictions are not appropriate for the PM’s security team, especially as the drivers were in the cars and could have moved if there was a problem.

It is wonderful to see Mrs May in our town and we should quietly and discreetly welcome her and her security team. — Yours faithfully,

Felicity Rutland

Remenham

Exceptionally frivolous

Sir, — I have been a regular reader of the Henley Standard since moving to the town 20 years ago.

I found last week’s edition, in particular the front page article under the headline “You shouldn’t be parked there, Prime Minister” to be exceptionally frivolous. Indeed, at the other end of the scale, a potential threat to national security.

Why should anyone know that the PM shops at a Henley shop or have her clothes cleaned by a local dry cleaner?

If these local businesses “keep mum” about this, as they clearly have done in the past, the whole town should remain discreet and quietly content with Mrs May doing her shopping locally rather than in London.

Thanks to the Henley Standard, the whole world has now been briefed about matters relating to her private life by the irresponsibility of your item. I am, frankly, deeply disappointed by your decision to print.

Also, generally speaking, when are you going to stop your constant banging on and on about “loading bay illegal use”. Leave the police to do their job and local businesses to do well out of our loading bays.

I think they help define Henley town centre as a better place to shop (picking up goods that people buy here later), especially with our older population. — Yours faithfully,

Geoff Walsh

Wyndale Close, Henley

Afford PM some leniency

Sir, — Failing to find a suitable story for the front page of last week’s edition, you decide to compromise the security of our Prime Minister — for what?

It is now in the public domain as to where she does her shopping so I hope the owners of the said premises will understand when the PM is persuaded to do her shopping in a different premises and/or town because of the security implications.

Technically, her car wasn’t parked but waiting with a driver behind the wheel and if the Prime Minster can’t be afforded a little leniency on our parking rules then it is a very sad and small-minded town that we live in. — Yours faithfully,

Judy Perry

Elizabeth Road, Henley

Security has to come first

Sir, — I was perturbed that you should choose to print such an article on the front page last week.

Do we seriously expect the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to be unprotected or exposed when she visits Henley or indeed anywhere else? Is the Henley Standard proposing that the security team should have dropped her off and waited for her in the Greys Road or Waitrose car park?

Surely any one of us, irrespective of our political leanings, would expect and want the Prime Minister to have the highest level of security.

You state that the issue of illegal parking in Henley has been reignited; any reignition has been caused by petty journalism about a situation which should have gone un-noticed or certainly without comment.

Were there any trucks or vans attempting to unload whilst the security vehicles were parked? If so, then it was the business of those trucks to approach the security team and resolve any issue.

As far as I am aware, there was no problem during the period of the parking in the loading bay as I was in the same establishment as the Prime Minister and I had clear sight of the road.

The difference between me and the Henley Standard is that I wanted her to have her privacy while she was in Henley.

My thoughts were focused on how great it was for her to have some time to herself in our town without people bothering her. How wrong I was!

This article and its small-mindedness could cause damage to Henley stores if Mrs May decides that it just isn’t worth the aggravation to come to our town again. I, for one, couldn’t blame her.

Leave our Prime Minister to have her personal time and unless congestion or danger is imminent or evident, don’t let’s find problems where they don’t exist. — Yours faithfully,

Veronica Carlton

Station Road, Henley

Let Mrs May shop in peace

Sir, — How difficult it must be in Theresa May’s position to enjoy a simple shopping expedition.

Give her a break and be glad that she chooses to come to Henley to spend money and precious time.

Did you really need to use the front page of the newspaper to display images of her car and that of her security team parked in a loading bay? Maybe she will look elsewhere now.

Did we really need a whole paragraph detailing what happened in the same parking bay two years ago? — Yours faithfully,

Maureen Brown

They can park there

Sir, — I am very surprised that the Henley Standard did not realise the police protecting the Prime Minister can park their vehicles wherever they think fit and if they are sitting in them with engines running they are not parked.

Their job is protection and they have to be on hand with the Prime Minister wherever she chooses to go.

There are people who are committed to murder and mayhem and the protection officers have to be ready to whisk Mrs May off at the slightest sign of danger.

Henley and the Henley Standard should be proud and pleased that the very busy Prime Minister remains faithful to the town and her favourite shops. — Yours faithfully,

Robert Lobley

Thames Street, Sonning

Our very own VIP shopper

Sir, — Surely we should be pleased that our Prime Minister is supporting our shops and not be petty about her protection team parking nearby, which is necessary for her security. — Yours faithfully,

Sonia Cox

Baronsmead, Henley

What price democracy?

Sir, — What price democracy when our Prime Minister cannot park where she wants when she comes to visit? — Yours faithfully,

Christopher Fenwick

Croft Drive, Pangbourne

I was pleased to see her

Sir, — I was very upset to see that you had used my photograph and comments to support your agenda on illegal parking.

I simply thought your readers might be pleased, as I was, that our Prime Minister should use Henley for her shopping.

I never mentioned parking to your reporter on the phone as I assumed the PM with her security escort could park anywhere it is safe.

Maybe “Fake News” has crossed the Atlantic. — Yours faithfully,

Sandy Doggart

Badgemore Lane, Henley

Fuss about nothing

Sir, — The furore on social media following comments made by Sir Roger Gale MP referring to his female staff as “my girls” had to be seen to be believed. Has the world gone completely mad?

I suggest that had his staff been entirely male and he referred to them as “my boys”, not an eyebrow would have been raised.

We live in strange times indeed. — Yours faithfully,

Geoff Luckett

Lime Court. Henley

Overrun by development

Sir, — Now that the planning rules relating to the infilling of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty have been trashed by the Government, the developers have wasted no time in applying to build multiple dwellings in the gardens of houses in the Chilterns — houses the developers have acquired with exactly this in mind. Quite naturally, those whose property is up for sale are quite pleased to sell to them.

However, people who value the unique character of say, the Chilterns, should prepare themselves for a disappointment. Any protest will be shut down with the accusation of nimbyism.

Until it happens in your back yard.

Even if permission is initially refused by the local authority, it will be rubber- stamped at the next stage.

Perhaps we should have voted to stay in the EU! — Yours faithfully,

David Wood

Maidensgrove

Blame Tories over housing

Sir, — We all know that Henley has a dire shortage of affordable housing: South Oxfordshire District Council’s own figures calculate this shortfall as 330 dwellings.

This means that many young people and key workers cannot afford to live in Henley.

Last week’s Henley Standard contained criticism of the Thamesfield Youth Association for selling the youth centre land to a care home developer.

This criticism misses the point — the association had to get best value for the land under charity rules.

The target of criticism should be the Conservative-controlled district council as the planning authority which continues to approve applications which are not in the interests of Henley.

There should be no question of the district council granting planning permission for a care home on the youth centre site.

Even the Conservative chairman of the district council, Paul Harrison, was rewarded for raising his concerns on planning by being expelled from the Conservative group.

This rather makes the district council’s claim to be “Listening, Learning, Leading” look hollow!

Conservative town councillor Will Hamilton joined in the criticism of the association.

He should look closer to home at Conservative-controlled Henley Town Council, which is selling 357 Reading Road with only the minimum of 40 per cent affordable housing.

This is the one site that Henley does control but Cllr Hamilton and the other Conservatives on the town council voted down Henley Residents’ Group’s proposal for 100 per cent (and then 70 per cent) affordable housing, describing the idea as “creating a ghetto”.

There are many examples which are part of a pattern: The district council has broken its own rules by allowing only 28 per cent affordable housing on the Makower site in Greys Road and zero per cent on the former Jet garage site in Reading Road as well as ignoring the status of the LA Fitness gym site which residents had registered as an asset of community value.

Henley is being let down by Conservative-controlled councils which go against the wishes of Henley residents.

We need to elect independent councillors who speak out honestly about Henley’s needs rather than the current shambles in which Conservative councillors shed crocodile tears intended to distract from failures of Conservative-run councils to operate in the interests of residents and voters. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Ian
Reissmann

Henley Residents’ Group, Henley Town Council, Gainsborough Road, Henley

Independent alternative

Sir, — The lively and interesting letters published in the Henley Standard reflect the vibrant life of the town.

Your letters page contains a wealth of ideas, comments and, yes, complaints.

People often want something to be done but feel their voice is not heard by elected representatives.

It is true that in many parts of the country, and at many elections, the result is a forgone conclusion and any protest must be made against the tide.

This is not so for the residents of Henley. We do have a choice!

Henley is unique in having a strong party, run by residents, independent of national politics, with a tremendous record of positive achievements: the Henley Residents’ Group, or simply HRG.

HRG has controlled Henley Town Council for most of the last 25 years but, at present, the balance on the council is against us and this is hurting Henley.

For example, our riverside town for a long time had a large gym and swimming pool that was also used for teaching children to swim.

This has closed and the Conservatives let us down by failing to vote against planning permission for its demolition.

It will now be replaced by a care home. HRG would have fought this plan, not simply looked the other way and abstained when the vote came.

We are about to have elections and there is an opportunity for Henley to have an independent voice on Oxford County Council, former Mayor of Henley Stefan Gawrysiak.

Anyone who knows Stefan will also know that he is a passionate champion of Henley who knows how to make his voice heard!

Henley will also be asked to elect two new town councillors which presents a fantastic opportunity to strengthen the independent voice of the residents by returning HRG councillors to the town council.

If any reader is dissatisfied with the cleanliness of the town, the loss of the PCSOs, cuts to bus services and the lack of affordable housing, the excess of retirement properties or anything else, but does not want to join a national party, you are welcome to join the HRG.

Visit our website at http://hrg.org.uk, email us at support@hrg.org.uk or leave a message for one of the HRG councillors at the town hall. — Yours faithfully,

Glen Lambert

Membership secretary,
Henley Residents’ Group

Democratic decisions

Sir, — I want to reassure your readers that South Oxfordshire District Council gives very significant weight to neighbourhood plans.

We see them as an incredibly important tool in enabling local communities to play a crucial role in shaping the areas where they live and work and in meeting the needs of the district as a whole.

It’s why we spend more than £100,000 each year supporting parish councils to produce them.

Along with our local plan, they are at the heart of our decision-making and are also very effective in fending off speculative planning applications for development, particularly in our villages.

However, like our local plan, they are not a fait accompli when it comes to determining planning applications.

While planning law and current guidance states that “where a planning application conflicts with a neighbourhood plan that has been brought into force, planning permission should not normally be granted”, importantly it also says “unless there are other material considerations to indicate otherwise”.

Our planners would be failing in their professional duty if they didn’t consider these other factors.

In the case of Gallagher Estates’ proposed development in Kennylands Road, Sonning Common, there was a conflict with the neighbourhood plan allocation in terms of the size of the site and the number of dwellings proposed.

In assessing these other material considerations, our officers did not identify robust and demonstrable planning harm to justify a refusal, hence their recommendation for approval.

The planning committee, however, placed greater importance on the neighbourhood plan, and the harm of not using a plan-led approach, over these other material considerations and therefore voted to reject the application.

Our officers have to consider applications on their individual merits and against the national guidance, while the planning committee must also consider the wider implications for the local community.

This case demonstrates that we are achieving a healthy balance between the professional advice from officers and the democratic decision-making process. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor John Cotton

Leader, South Oxfordshire District Council

Please mend our roads

Sir, — I understand that David Nimmo Smith is the cabinet member for the environment on Oxfordshire County Council.

I would like him to take a drive around the rural parish of Harpsden, where the roads are unfit for purpose and are much worse than farm tracks in eastern Europe.

The roads in this parish were built for use by agricultural vehicles and horses and carts and, with the exception of the lower half of Gillotts Lane, have not been resurfaced in 50 years.

Potholes are everywhere and residents have endured them for years but now the roads are being widened by an increase in traffic with drivers trying to avoid congestion in Henley, internet delivery vans, heavy goods vehicles, 4x4s and people who do not use the passing places provided.

These vehicles cause massive erosion of verges and allow craters to develop into which motorists are pushed, causing accidents, ruined tyres and, if you are very unfortunate, a broken axle.

Cyclists and motorcyclists are at risk, particularly at night when these craters cannot be seen.

I understood that local authorities were under a duty to maintain a highway under section 41 of the Highways Act 1980. New housing developments which are planned will mean an increase in vehicles on these roads, causing more destruction of inadequate road surfaces.

I have no idea how monies are allocated for road repairs in the county as we are always told finances are not available but when money is collected from developers in future what proportion will be allocated to small villages like Harpsden, which has the largest proposed development in the neighbourhood plan? — Yours faithfully,

Odette Moss

Harpsden

Get rid of traffic lights

Sir, — I appeal again for our road planners to seriously consider switching off Henley’s many traffic lights to prevent the scourge of traffic pollution.

The Dutch town of Drachten has seen nearly all its traffic lights stripped from the streets as an experiment with some remarkable results.

The main junction in the town handles around 22,000 cars a day and where once there were traffic lights there is now a roundabout.

Progress at the junction used to be slow as cars stopped and started.

Now tailbacks are almost unheard of and almost nobody hoots a horn!

People drive more slowly and carefully and are encouraged to be more considerate of other road users.

During the Middle Ages horse-drawn chariots, handcarts and people scurried about in a completely unregulated fashion, taking responsibility for themselves.

I think the drivers and pedestrians of Henley could do the same today and without the constant irritation of stopping at traffic lights when there is no other traffic to be seen coming from any direction.

Let’s at least talk about it now and in a few years Henley could be that forward-thinking town without the scourge of traffic lights that everyone’s talking and reading about. — Yours faithfully,

Rhona Mogridge

Makins Road, Henley

We’re helping children

Sir, — I was disappointed that the Liberal Democrat candidate Laura Coyle didn’t do her homework before putting pen to paper (Standard, March 17).

The Government is accused of doing a U-turn on a promise to bring 3,000 refugee children to the UK. It has done nothing of the sort.

First, the idea that, under what has come to be called the Dubs Amendment, 3,000 children were going to be brought to the UK was defeated in Parliament and an alternative agreed which did not mention any arbitrary numbers.

So the promise was not to bring a specified number of individuals to the UK but it required the Government to consult local authorities on how many additional children they could manage. This we have done.

I am sure you can imagine that refugee children coming to a foreign country have complex emotional and often physical needs.

It is right that the Dubs Amendment requires the Government to ask local authorities how many more children they could safely accept.

Second, it is implied that the Dubs Amendment is the only means by which unaccompanied children can be brought to the UK. It is not.

In 2016 we relocated almost as many children from within Europe to the UK as the entire EU’s relocation scheme.

Each year 3,000 children arrive in the UK and claim asylum and we are taking approximately 2,000 to 3,000 each year through various resettlement schemes.

All these children need support and protection.

It is right that we prioritise our efforts on those children caught up in the conflict in Syria and the surrounding area, rather than in safe areas of Europe, so that they can come to the UK safely and directly and with their families.

I am committed to supporting, protecting and caring for the most vulnerable asylum-seeking and refugee children.

By the end of this Parliament, we will have resettled more than 20,000 vulnerable Syrian nationals and a further 3,000 of the most vulnerable children and their families from the Middle East and North Africa and I am pleased that our resettlement programme is one of the biggest in Europe. — Yours faithfully,

John Howell

Henley MP, House of Commons, London

It’s a pub, not a B&B

Sir, — James Lambert, in his letter about the Rose and Crown in New Street, Henley, (Standard, March 10), expressed a view that many of us would wish to endorse.

However, I doubt that he has much chance of persuading Brakspear that saving this much missed pub by letting someone else have a go is the honourable thing to do.

When the Rose and Crown closed in August 2013 it was firstly used for a few months as overflow bed and breakfast accommodation by the Row Barge.

Since then it has been used by Brakspear as a dormitory for staff working at the Bull, despite planning permission for residential use having been unanimously rejected firstly by South Oxfordshire District Council and then a planning inspector in October 2014 after an appeal.

In October last year notice was served by the district council’s planning department to cease this breach of the planning regulations within nine months, effective from December 6.

Four days before this notice took effect Brakspear appealed on the grounds that permission should be granted for residential use and also that the company had been given insufficient time to comply with the notice.

Two points I wish to make:

The Bull is managed by Brakspear in competition with its tenanted pubs in the town.

Has the company abused its near-monopoly position in Henley by closing the Rose and Crown and using its facilities to support the Bull? It has known all along that the pub did not have planning permission for residential use.

In my mind it is abusing the planning system by now attempting to refight all the arguments it has already lost.

If there is doubt about Brakspear’s ability to disregard proper procedures, I would ask your readers to Google the “Battle of Britain” pub in Northfleet, Kent, which Brakspear owned and was bulldozed to the ground, without permission, in the dead of night.

I trust Henley Town Council will support the district council in this matter.

Anyone else who also wishes to should visit https://acp.planning
inspectorate.gov.uk and search for APP/Q3115/C/16/3164488. — Yours faithfully,

Richard Guy

New Street, Henley

Don’t blame the students

Sir, — I am writing in response to Mrs J Hadley’s letter headline “Litterbug students” (Standard, March 10). I take great exception to the students of Henley being called “lazy, dirty teenagers self-absorbed in their tiny world”.

She says she picked up litter from her street (Leaver Road), which is a good 10-minute walk to the college yet it was back again at 9.30am the following day.

Surely, Mrs Hadley, you know students are not at college overnight. Personally, I think your choice of words was disgraceful — I have always found the students to be polite and courteous. — Yours faithfully,

Susan Doyle

Sonning

Please use litter bins

Sir, — I would like to complain about the rubbish throughout Henley.

We only cleaned it two or three weeks ago but as I walked through town it was again messy.

I helped clean it myself and it was definitely fine then.

Is there any way we could prevent this? Maybe putting in more bins or persuading the public to use the bins there are or take their rubbish home.

It’s really not that hard to carry rubbish and to throw it in a nearby bin.

Please help this situation! — Yours faithfully,

Ella Dickson, aged 11

Greys Hill, Henley

Still confused by recycling

Sir, — I applaud your recent efforts to clarify what can and can’t be recycled — you compiled the best list I have yet seen!

I have been an avid recycler for many years but recently realised the error of my ways: I was attempting to apply common sense.

For instance, I understood that card can be recycled so long as it’s not lined. So soup cartons, yes, but takeaway coffee cups, which appear similar, are a no (except the plastic lids), as revealed in a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall TV programme last year.

So much for all those I had scrupulously recycled.

Still, just about logical, on the basis of whether the card has been reinforced enough to take hot liquid?

Then we have carrier bags, a yes, but cling film no. Aha, so that’s a matter of thickness? No, salad bags and the thick film on food containers belong with cling film in the no camp, whereas carrier bags of all thicknesses are a yes.

A matter of stretchiness, then? No, shrink-wrap from magazines is stretchy but recyclable, while salad bags are neither… and by any logic, what about the thin little bags used for fruit and veg when you select your own, do they count as carrier bags?

If recycling is to become truly widespread, it has to be more intuitive, something that can be deduced rather than checked item by item.

Meantime, I really would like to know about those smaller fresh-produce bags. – Yours faithfully,

Catherine Rubinstein

Harpsden

PS I was also told that greetings cards with glitter on them cannot be recycled — is that true?

Pure of spirit not welcome

Sir, — I recently visited Henley’s very own “happy clappy” Baptist church at the d:two centre and was shocked to discover that those who feel the urge to dance or arm-wave are led to an area at the back of the church.

While some in the congregation sit with tablets playing computer games, the pure of spirit are kept corralled at the rear.

I departed d:two filled with sorrow. — Yours faithfully,

John McCracken

Largs, Ayrshire

Roger Cole, minister of Henley Baptist Church, responds: “It is nice to be known as a happy Henley church and, yes, we do encourage clapping and even dancing where it fits the songs we sing.

“However, not everyone is helped by people dancing at close quarters in the front, so the leadership team has worked a compromise and made available a good space at the back of the meeting where people can dance and join in enthusiastically without distracting others.

“We are happy to say that the space is used well and people are choosing to move out of their seats to dance.

“We don’t monitor the use of tablets as many people use them for looking up bible passages and taking notes. We leave it up to the parents to allow their children to play games or not.

“We try to make the meetings as interesting and inclusive as possible so both children and adults feel they can engage.

“At present, we are encouraged by the excellent numbers on Sundays, including many visitors.

“It’s always disappointing for us when people leave feeling that we didn’t quite come up to their standard but I guess we can’t please everyone all the time.”

Fed up with these calls

Sir, — Since March 3 I’ve received 18 unwanted phone calls. I have spoken to my phone supplier who told me to “put the phone on the floor and go and make a cup of tea — they are paying for the call, not you”.

This has been going on for years and I’m sure most people have experienced the same problem.

What baffles me is with the all wonderful things people can do in the world today nobody can stop these calls. Over the years I’ve tried but nobody can help.

I have a note of the times of the calls and all the numbers and some have 15 digits! The mind boggles.

I’m 80 and a full-time career to my husband, who has vascular dementia and I can do without the unnecessary stress caused by these calls. — Yours faithfully,

Name and address
supplied

Lucky to have new hospital

Sir, — How lucky is Henley? My 88-year-old mother has just experienced the brand new Rapid Access Care Unit at Townlands Hospital.

My mother had been very ill for a week but within a day the brilliant Dr Espley and her team had her diagnosed and on a recovery programme at the new Orders of St John Chilterns Court Care Centre next door.

Townlands have the use of several carpeted, very pleasant single rooms with en-suite facilities.

My mother spent a week there in rehabilitation and her recovery was extraordinary. They made visitors very welcome and the whole process so easy for us.

This building (run by a not-for-profit organisation) is well-designed, comfortable and pleasing, representing everything that modern aftercare should be about.

I have a great deal of experience in elderly aftercare and nothing comes close to the high level of care, with such kindness, from the nurses, led by Jane Pullen, all free on the NHS as part of the RACU initiative.

I am so grateful to the planners of Townlands Hospital who had the vision to fulfill such a service for the people of Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Wynn Jones

Henley

* In Gloria Wright’s letter last week, there was a misprint stating: “Without the necessary passing 30 customers...”. This should have read: “Without the necessary passing thirsty customers ...”. We apologise to Mrs Wright for this error and any embarrassment caused.

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