Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Your letters...

Young people need homes

Sir, — I am writing with regard to the positive news that the owner of the Thames Farm site near Shiplake has finally been granted planning permission for 95 homes (Standard, August 4).

I grew up in Shiplake, lived in Henley for many years and currently live in Sonning Common.

For the last 45 years the Henley area has been my home. My parents still live in Shiplake and my three children all currently live nearby in rented accommodation.

All three children went to school in Henley and have followed their chosen paths, with regard to their careers/ chosen jobs.

They work very hard, full-time, in order to support themselves and pay their rent but for some time now all they have talked about is purchasing their own homes.

Between them and their partners they have reliable, steady incomes and yet are unable to afford to buy a house anywhere even remotely near the area where they have grown up.

My son, who is a tree surgeon, and his partner have even talked about moving to Devon or up north in order to be able to afford to buy a house.

My daughter and her husband and their young daughter are renting in Sonning Common and would love to be able to buy something small nearby as this area is their home and they both work in Henley but there is nothing that they are able to afford, even though they have managed to save a reasonable deposit.

I am fully aware that the affordable housing in the Thames Farm development will be in high demand and that it is only a tiny drop in the affordable property ocean in this area but at least some youngsters will hopefully have the chance to apply and raise their families in the area that they have been so lucky to grow up in.

There is no affordable housing in the area and the council has been slow with its ping-pong deliberations, while all the time the younger generation is growing and there is less and less available to them at the lower end of the market.

This development may not be to some people’s liking but, sadly, there will always be someone who is not happy as you cannot please everyone all the time.

I would love to see small pockets of development devoted entirely to first-time buyer homes only and when those first-time buyers are ready to move on, the houses can only be sold to other first-time buyers.

It would be lovely if our children had somewhere nearby to start their own “grown-up” journeys. — Yours faithfully,

Sarah Pye

Sonning Common (or cloud cuckoo land)

Blame lack of land supply

Sir, — For the sake of accuracy, I was chairman of the governance committee throughout the preparation of the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan and the facts are as follows (I have checked them with Nexus, our planning consultants, to ensure the accuracy of my memory!)

When the plan preparation began, all those landowners who had sites within the plan boundary were invited to submit their sites to a public consultation.

We ran an exhibition in the town hall and representatives of Thames Farm, plus many others, attended to explain their plans to the public.

After this exhibition we ran a public consultation where the public were invited to comment on each site which had been put forward by respective landowners.

Thames Farm received a positive response (approx 60 per cent) from residents of Henley and Harpsden.

All the results were being analysed and the working groups were finalising their criteria to choose which sites to put forward when they received advice to not include Thames Farm in the plan.

Our neighbourhood plan liaison officer at South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, had spoken to Nexus, which then reported to the working groups that the Thames Farm site, in the opinion of the liaison officer, was at risk of not meeting the requirements in the district council’s core strategy (a key part of the process).

This was discussed at great length by the housing working group and in the end it decided to follow the advice of the liaison officer and not put the plan at risk by including the Thames Farm site.

It was not removed from the plan for any other reason than pressure from the district council.

We should ask district council leader John Cotton why his council has not been able to meet the required land supply figures over the last five years.

Firstly we were assured that a five-year land supply was in place and then that was successfully challenged at appeal.

Then we were assured that a three-year land supply was in place but once again it has been challenged and I do not doubt that this appeal will be successful.

Optimism, hopefulness and possible expectations is not the way to calculate land supply figures, as pointed out by the inspector who granted the appeal regarding Thames Farm.

The planning officers at the district council are hard-working and diligent professionals but have had to work against a background of misleading and optimistic land supply calculations.

Thames Farm was approved by the professional planning officers at the district council as being suitable for development but the application to develop the land was turned down by councillors against this advice.

Now the land has been approved by the inspector as being suitable for development.

Our neighbourhood plan has been seriously weakened in the district by a lack of the necessary land supply figures.

These are the basic facts surrounding this site and should be fully considered before spending tens, or hundreds, of thousands of taxpayers’ pounds on any High Court action.

There is enormous government pressure to provide more homes, particularly affordable, in our area and the fact that the district has built only 29 affordable homes in the last six years (against a target of 300) is a statistic that can only promote planning support to developments which provide the target of 40 per cent affordable. — Yours faithfully,

Dieter Hinke

Elizabeth Road, Henley

Inspector has got it wrong

Sir, — The decision by the planning inspector John Braithwaite regarding Thames Farm is factually flawed and wrong.

If asked, could Mr Braithwaite tell his superiors the exact number of houses for which planning approval has been given within the Harpsden-Henley boundary?

Why has he ignored the 55 apartments being built less than a mile away on the former Jet garage site and the 170 new homes at Highlands Farm less than two miles away?

Mr Braithwaite never mentioned the critical concern of those who may become residents of the disputed Thames Park housing estate.

That concern, and the concern of all of us, is our health and access to medical care when needed.

All medical practices in south-east Oxfordshire are already struggling to provide a good standard of care for their existing patients.

Mr Braithwaite’s decision will make it much harder for patients at the GP surgeries, including the two in Henley.

The Henley Standard keeps residents fully informed about the increasing number of housing applications approved on appeal.

These successful appeals are despite the massive investment in an overall plan created by the people who actually live and work in the area.

Has Mr Braithwaite ever once spoken to the people responsible for providing healthcare to future residents of Thames Farm? I very much doubt it.

Good healthcare is the most critical concern for the vast majority of future residents of Harpsden, Shiplake and Henley.

Mr Braithwaite reports to the housing minister Alok Sharma. He ignored Henley MP John Howell, who has been fighting these developments in Parliament, as you reported last month.

Mr Howell said that more should be done to uphold neighbourhood plans which have passed a referendum.

Last year, after Henley’s plan was made, the district council gave permission for the former Jet garage in Reading Road to be converted into 53 “extra care” flats for the elderly with no affordable element despite the plan earmarking it for 55 flats, of which 22 were to be affordable.

Mr Howell said: “It is a cause of great frustration that so much work has been put into producing a neighbourhood plan and yet it has been overturned.

“The people who have put these plans together are all volunteers who want to embrace new housing for the long-term sake of their communities.”

Mr Howell said the law should be changed so that neighbourhood plans could also specify the size of housing and the amount of “affordable” units with rents or purchase prices fixed below market rate, adding: “It is time to be radical about the future and ultra-localist.”

Mr Sharma, who is MP for Reading West, said he would “look carefully” at Mr Howell’s suggestion.

Mr Sharma lives in Caversham but steadily ignores the democratic decisions of the residents of Harpsden and Henley, so should all the residents of south-east Oxfordshire now demand his resignation? — Yours faithfully,

Peter Woolsey

Binfield Heath

Homes show we’re civilised

Sir, — I am amazed at the outrage being shown at the prospect of homes being built on the Thames Farm site.

I don’t remember such a fuss about the two huge mansions that have recently been built just a little further along the Reading road. Oh silly me, these are multi-million pound boxes so the right people will be expected to live in them and not upset the Nimbys of Shiplake.

Surely providing homes for people is essential in a civilised society and this development will include a number of “affordable” homes.

Nobody seems to be fussing about the numerous care homes that are springing up in Henley, even though their residents will contribute very little to the financial wellbeing of the area and they will need staffing by those on the minimum wage.

The town needs more young people to add a better balance and then maybe there would be fewer empty shops.

As for the argument that the site is a traffic hazard surely all that needs doing is to put a roundabout at the entrance, which would help slow traffic. — Yours faithfully,

Kaye McArthur

Ancastle Green, Henley

Villagers have been ignored

Sir, — We think that we are a democratic society and that our opinions are listened to, particularly when the vast majority of those who are most affected have spoken time and time again in opposing the Thames Farm development.

I knew Konrad Engbers quite well and I remember him turning over the soil in a plot which would become his garden centre.

I recall that he cared about the Shiplake and Harpsden community.

If we look back at the various proposals forwarded by Mrs Engbers over a number of years and her determination to develop the Thames Farm site, there is a litany of repetitive and well-recorded events which are both revealing and concerning.

The original application was for 110 dwellings and the proposer seemed indifferent to the concerns of residents who were simply rationalising the prospect of such a large development.

The sudden increase in the local population, the considerable strain on village resources and school and the need for new pedestrian thoroughfares from Thames Farm to Lower Shiplake (routes requiring pavements, lighting and crossings alongside and across a busy and sometimes dangerous A4155) were understandably their main concerns.

At a later date there was a sudden flurry of support for the proposal from named individuals who it appeared later were not the authors.

An equally ambiguous pamphlet arrived through everyone’s letterbox with some assertions which were highly questionable.

A later proposal reduced the number of dwellings to 95 while latching on to the moral catalyst of affordable housing but in essence this was a carbon copy of the original application.

Not least was Mrs Engbers’s proposal to turn Thames Farm into a 24-hour lorry park — such was her greener, more caring community spirit.

A development on the scale which is now on the cards will probably bring about a satellite community half in and half out of Shiplake, bridged across a fast and dangerous road with blind bends and high levels of traffic, particularly at peak times when children have to get to and from school.

Due to its location, it will become a precinct.

Developers hungry for infill projects will no doubt squeeze in more buildings and the village will be changed irrevocably.

Mrs Engbers is reported as being “overjoyed”. Large numbers of Shiplake and Harpsden residents, however, will be underwhelmed. — Yours faithfully,

Clive Duncan

Station Road, Shiplake

Change must be embraced

Sir, — While many residents of South Oxfordshire will doubtless be dismayed by the decision of the inspector in relation to Thames Farm and its implications, the simple fact is that the electorate and councillors of the district have no one but themselves to blame.

Given the evident shortfall in the housing supply, he had no real alternative.

For decades now, the electorate almost everywhere has failed to grasp the fact that our villages need to expand and that the most suitable sites need to be not only identified but actually developed.

Perhaps to make themselves more electable, councillors have almost always tended to side with their electors in opposing development in their wards, usually on the well-known Nimby principle, i.e. seeking to shift the provision of new housing elsewhere, to where their electors are not affected by it. The result is the sad situation that we now face.

So few new homes have been built in recent years that the law of supply and demand has resulted in the prices of all sizes of houses in the area being ludicrously high.

There is a particular problem with smaller and (relatively) more affordable houses.

Our children cannot easily find anywhere nearby where they can afford to live, often leading to a lack of parental involvement in the lives of their children and vice-versa.

Older people find difficulty in downsizing for lack of choice.

South Oxfordshire seems to be slowly becoming a geriatric ghetto. Local businesses such as pubs and village shops find it difficult to expand or even survive because the potential market is static. And so on.

There is a lesson to be learned here. It is the responsibility of councillors to govern for the benefit of the long-term future of the whole community, not just to pander to their present electors’ wish to pull up the drawbridge and not be touched by any whiff of change in the form of new development.

Efforts to identify, allocate and actively bring forward new development sites in every parish must be redoubled until the housing supply hits and indeed exceeds its target.

Until that happens, every parish will run the risk of having a similarly unpopular decision foisted upon it.

Villages, through their electors and councillors, need to get into the mindset of embracing change, not rejecting the very thought of it. — Yours faithfully,

Nicholas Blandy

Quarry Lane, Shiplake

Time to close loopholes

Sir, — We were very surprised at the planning inspector’s decision in relation to Thames Farm and fully support the statement issued by our MP John Howell.

Henley and Harpsden joined together to produce a neighbourhood plan to provide for the housing which the National Planning Policy Framework and South Oxfordshire District Council’s local plan called for.

That number was increased by 25 per cent by the time the plan was made.

Now we find that the framework has so many significant loopholes that not only is major development taking place beyond those defined in the neighbourhood plan but has also previously enabled the removal of the provision of 40 per cent affordable dwellings.

We must lobby every level of government to remove these loopholes so that this framework, local plans and neighbourhood plans achieve the intended twin objectives of empowering the local community and providing the dwellings and affordable homes in the timeframe and quantity required.

In the meantime, we will work closely with the district council to ensure that all applications are approved with the 40 per cent affordable element except where current legislation specifically provides otherwise.

I call on Alok Sharma, the housing minister and MP for Reading West, to remove those loopholes as a matter of urgency to provide the right atmosphere and legislative infrastructure which will enable the provision of much-needed housing in a clear and fair manner, removing the loopholes of care homes (C2 etc), viability, permitted development rights and land- banking in the latter case by giving planning authorities the power to conduct compulsory purchase to release hoarded building land. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Julian Brookes

On behalf of the Conservative group on Henley Town Council, Parkside, Henley

How about a new school?

Sir, — We all appreciate the need for housing, especially affordable housing, in this area.

However, I wonder if the inspector considered where the children living in the development at Thames Farm will go to school?

Shiplake Primary School is full and occupies a very small site. Perhaps the developer will provide land and funds to build a new, larger primary school for Shiplake.

I’m looking out for a blue moon and flying pigs. — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Hawkins

Berkshire Road, Henley

How to sign anti petition

Sir, — As you reported last week, there is local outrage after a planning inspector decided to overturn the decision of South Oxfordshire District Council to refuse planning permission for 95 houses at Thames Farm.

An online petition set up by a neighbour requesting that South Oxfordshire District Council leader John Cotton refers the decision to the High Court attracted more than 200 signatures within 24 hours of being set up.

The petition states: “Every tier of local democracy was opposed to the creation of an urban island of 95 houses adjacent to rural Shiplake at Thames Farm: parish, town, district and county councillors fought the scheme and were supported by Henley MP John Howell.

“An unelected civil servant from Bristol spent a few days listening to expensive lawyers, paid for by a local landowner, and democracy was crushed as the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan was tossed aside. We call on you to get the appeal decision referred to the High Court and thence reversed.”

Readers wishing to add their name should visit Change.org.uk and search for “Thames Farm SODC” to locate the petition. — Yours faithfully,

K Hydon

Shiplake

Cyclists fear busy road

Sir, — There is a very old joke about a man bragging about the effectiveness of the anti-tiger powder he was spreading on the M1.

When asked why he was spreading the powder when there were in fact no tigers on the motorway, his reply was that it showed how effective his powder was.

I was reminded of this joke when I read the inspector’s report in overturning the refusal of permission to build 95 houses at Thames Farm.

The inspector stated that the low cyclist accident figures on the A4155 between Shiplake and Henley proved it was a safe cycling route.

The reality is that the low accident record is a reflection of the fact that few local cyclists use the A4155 as they know how dangerous it is.

In fact, local residents have been campaigning for more than 25 years for a safe cycling route between Shiplake and Henley!

This is just one of the many reasons I hope John Howell MP is right when he says the inspector’s decision will end up in the High Court. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor David
Bartholomew

Sonning Common division, Oxfordshire County Council

Ludicrous development

Sir, — With reference to your article on possible approval of the proposed development for 245 homes in South Oxfordshire but on the edge of Emmer Green, Reading (Standard, January 28), I’d like to make the following points:

The applicants, Gladman, are neither the developer nor have they acquired the land, but are speculative agents acting on behalf of the Phillimore Estate and their job is to take the negative focus away from the landowner for their hefty percentage fee if successful.

The proposal site comprises not three but two-and-a-half fields and the half-field stretches towards Peppard Building Supplies on the B481, without any obvious demarcation between the two halves, therefore begging a further request for development upon any granting of the present application.

Once that has been achieved and the precedent set, there may be no stopping the rest of the vast swathes of land owned by the Phillimore Estate from being converted to mass building, so inviting “urban creep” that would stretch towards Sonning Common and Henley.

The lack of development in Didcot that was mentioned in the article is caused by South Oxfordshire District Council’s own failure to force developers to build on land already given approval for housing, thereby allowing landowners, developers and their agents to quote under-performing figures for the council’s housing supply in order to make their case for allowing further development, both in Didcot and on rural greenfield sites throughout South Oxfordshire.

If the council was to chase up this shameful land-banking and impose a compulsory purchase order, that would resolve any shortfall in its housing quota obligation.

The article’s stated question about the lack of primary school places is just one of numerous bona fide and material concerns that prove this proposal to be unsustainable, including:

lIncreased pressure on existing Thames crossings.

lAir pollution from increased traffic.

lUnsustainable means of getting to any schools that may or may not have places available at all age levels.

lAnd, most importantly, a clear definition between urban Reading and rural South Oxfordshire countryside and its villages.

All significant concerns have already been put before the district council’s planners by 400 local residents, eight local parishes and Reading Borough Council and can be seen on its website.

I see, from another article in the same edition of the Standard, that the district council’s planners refused a small development of five homes on a 0.2-hectare site in Gallowstree Common because they said it would have “a negative environmental impact on the area”.

The appeal inspector agreed, saying: “The open, undeveloped appearance of the appeal site makes an important contribution to the rural setting of the built-up part of the village… the introduction of five new dwellings on the site, along with hardsurfacing, car parking areas, vehicular access and associated domestic paraphernalia, would significantly change the appearance of the site and the contribution it makes to the landscaped setting of the village.”

Whatever negative environmental impact five dwellings makes to the edge of a village would be magnified 50 times by a development of 245 dwellings over a 13½-hectare site on the edge of another village, so why the double standards?

The only conclusion I can make is that the planners must have one rule for the “big boys” threatening to send in the lawyers and another for those who don’t appear to have such means. Luckily, Henley’s MP seems to be made of stronger stuff than the district council’s planners. John Howell visited the site in April and pledged his support to opposing this ludicrous proposal for unsustainable development in open countryside that is not in line with any development plan within the South Oxfordshire district. — Yours faithfully,

Veronica Leeke

Emmer Green

Real cost of urbanisation

Sir, — Regarding the article revealing that an offer of £2million could be made by Thames Properties to Henley Town Council for access across the grass verge on Fair Mile to a development site, (Standard, August 4), it sounds like a steal.

This access would involve the destruction of a number of trees on the verge to make the new entrance to the development — all in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. If we assume that the proposed 60 units will have an average value of £700,000, the total development value would be £42million.

Sixty new dwellings without access would be unmarketable and therefore the value lies in the access. A £2million offer would equal £33,0000 access cost per unit — a figure from the Sixties?

If the value added to each property by granting access is, say, £100,000 the cost of site access would come out at £6million. Even that sounds cheap. Sixty dwellings create just under 60 vehicle movements per hour. The pollution factor warrants investigation.

It is said that local authorities commonly impose a charge on developers to cover infrastructure upgrades, in this case perhaps a roundabout and/or traffic lights. Upgrades of essential services might also be required.

This development would begin the urbanisation of north Henley, changing the rural nature of this AONB for future generations. — Yours faithfully,

T Lawson-Smith

Fair Mile, Henley

We did run out of bricks

Sir, — Sonning Common parish councillor Leigh Rawlins inadvertently identifies one of the most severe challenges currently facing the construction industry — the ready availability of construction materials (Standard, July 28).

He is indeed correct to say that no development should be commenced prior to all materials being approved — a position no local authority or developer would disagree with.

In the case of the Lea Meadow development in Sonning Common, Bewley Homes is in possession of full approval for all on-site materials.

Unfortunately, the industry is not only facing a crisis in the delivery of houses into the market but also a crisis in the availability of building materials, including bricks.

This is absolutely the position here with the approved brick supply no longer being available. Bewley Homes has therefore sought suitable alternatives and has recently resubmitted our application for a change of bricks.

Seeking approval for alternative materials is essential for the continued provision of much-needed housing. — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Brooks

Managing director, Bewley Homes, Baughurst, Hants

Don’t cycle on pavement

Sir, — I was very surprised to read the series of letters regarding cycling on pavements (Standard, July 28 and August 4).

Clearly the writers have never read the Highway Code. Under the section headed “Rules for cyclists” it is clearly stated in point 54 that “You MUST NOT cycle on the pavement.”

The “MUST NOT” is in capitals and coloured red!

I regularly cycle both in the UK and abroad and do not cycle on pavements. If there is a problem in a town I get off and walk. Pavements are for pedestrians — end of story. — Yours faithfully,

Leslie Plumb

Queen Street, Henley

Empty buses waste money

Sir, — Downtown Henley mid-morning Monday: The X80 bus with three passengers pulls up and waits for six minutes with engine running.

Yellow local bus sweeps past with about five customers. Double-decker red bus stationary and totally empty.

I see these buses most days on my bike rides and, on average, about 95 per cent of seats are empty. A monumental waste of public funds.

Things are done differently in aerial bus companies, where a well-known airline with giveaway fares recently posted profits of more than one million euros. How? It had a 93 per cent load factor, in practice full every flight.

We can’t go on throwing away public money like this. The answer is to copy what less affluent countries have been doing for years and go over to minibuses and Dolmus shared taxis.

Large buses are wholly inappropriate for residential estates and country lanes.

With all this talk of air pollution, it should also be obligatory for bus drivers to turn their engines off when stationary, as many modern cars now do automatically. To keep an engine for running six minutes for no good reason is unacceptable. — Yours faithfully,

Rolf Richardson

Wootton Road, Henley

At least we took action...

Sir, — Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, where has Councillor Sam Evans been these last three months? Obviously not at Henley Town Council meetings.

Her letter of August 4 had so many inaccuracies with the true story being on page 9 of the same edition.

If Cllr Evans had bothered to even contact Julian Brookes, her Conservative leader on the council, he could have told her that a cross-party working group had already met three times to come up with a solution to the waste bags being left on our streets.

Julian had even sent an email to myself and Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak, saying: “Dear Ken, Excellent. Congratulations to the waste team. Warmest regards, Julian.”

The problem with the waste started on March 1, so the question is why did the then Conservative-run council that Cllr Evans was part of do absolutely nothing about the issue?

Yes, there have been problems along the way but rather than sit back like Cllr Evans, Cllr Gawrysiak in particular has worked his socks off to help resolve those problems. I would suggest we are now 90 per cent there.

Cllr Evans was given the opportunity at the council meeting on July 25 to join the waste working group but declined.

By the time council meetings resume in September (other than planning meetings), she will have attended three meetings in four months. I think this tells the true story.

As for Julian Glasspole’s letter, a little information is more dangerous than no information at all. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Ken Arlett

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

Councillor Evans replies: “I am flattered that Councillor Arlett has missed me at meetings. Maybe he could change his committees so that we attend all the same meetings.

Just for accuracy, I wasn’t attending council meetings until late April as I was receiving cancer treatment. Since the end of my treatment I have attended the majority of my committee meetings (and have arranged substitutes for those I have missed), in addition to all full council meetings.

Unlike Cllr Arlett, I have to work, and my business generates revenue for Henley by bringing visitors to the town, and sometimes, albeit rarely, my commitments to my business clash with those to the council.

Personally, I wish Cllr Arlett would spend more of his spare time effectively tackling issues in the town as opposed to issuing attacks on his fellow councillors.”

...just look at the evidence

Sir, — The streets of Henley are largely clear of evening business waste and on Monday Grundon takes over the scheme.

Thanks to Grundon, which is a wonderful, community-minded company.

It was good to see that Harpsden Road was resurfaced on Friday. Lower King’s Road has been done and Hop Gardens will be done shortly.

A small gang will spend 10 days in Henley during September to fix kerbside granite sets and overgrown vegetation. In October all Henley’s drains will be sucked out and cleaned. Details will shortly follow regarding how to begin to sort out some of the minor worn roads and potholes.

We have a backlog of street repairs and, with Oxfordshire County Council officers, I am working out a systematic scheme to tackle these issues. Progress is being made.

On another matter, I have a pot of money (£5,000) as part of the South Oxfordshire district councillors grant scheme.

I want to target small organisation that would get great benefit from a grant of, let’s say, £1,000. There are rules for this grant. Please would organisations email me at stefan.gawry@gmail.com and I will give them details. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak

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

We’ll clean up properly

Sir, — The Chartered Institute of Waste Management has about 7,000 members made up of leading waste management professionals, mainly from the UK.

The membership voted yours truly their industry leader for 2015 and it was with this hat on that I was asked to assist and offer impartial advice to the meeting of Henley Town Council’s waste group on Thursday week (I am conservative with a small “C” and am proud of that).

So with the fact that an unlawful waste transfer site had been set up by Henley Residents’ Group behind Tesco (and everyone seeming to be up in arms with how waste/recycling was being handled in Henley), one would have thought that someone with my credentials and experience would have been welcomed in a small, local meeting about waste. Not at all, I was asked to leave. No, I was kicked out of the meeting along with a senior reporter from the Henley Standard.

So I would like to publicly say that Henley Conservatives will contribute to making Henley the cleanest place in the UK by offering advice and guidance on lawful solutions to Henley’s waste problems. — Yours faithfully,

Julian Glasspole

Shiplake

Alarming calculations

Sir, — The following may seem simplistic but, if so, it’s time our elected representatives conducting the Brexit negotiations explained the basis or starting point of calculating the amount of taxpayers’ money to be paid to the EU.

The last published accounts for the EU are for 2016. Those accounts show a deficit, net liabilities of minus 72,040million euros. (The 2015 figure was minus 72,442 million euros.)

In any negotiations for parties separating, be it business partners, corporate entities, individuals divorcing etc, the central basis of any settlement is the net assets available.

In the case of businesses, the added complication of a settlement is a “valuation”, which effectively is what a willing “seller” is prepared to accept and a willing “buyer” is prepared to pay.

With 27 member states in the EU, the starting point would surely be each member state responsible for 1/27th of what’s available (adjusted for the size of each state, their contributions and other such negotiable complications).

If that’s the starting point, on the basis of last published accounts, the UK should be responsible for approx. 2,668 million euros plus/minus any adjustments for the negotiable complications plus the UK’s share of the EU’s pension liability (computed up to the date of Brexit).

What type of accounting is it that the EU negotiators use for the UK’s alleged Brexit bill of between 60 billion and 100 billion euros?

Are they really saying there’s a mysterious enormous additional liability of up to 97 billion euros?

The press now reports that the UK is willing to settle at 40 billion. How can this be?

It’s high time the electorate was given at least a clue as to how these alarming settlement figures are computed. — Yours faithfully,

Jose Goumal

Bell Street, Henley

Wise move to broaden remit

Sir, — I am completely in agreement with the views expressed by Douglas Kedge (Standard, July 28) — it is time for the Henley Standard to rethink its Thought for the Week column.

As he points out, wisdom and humanity are not exclusive to the religious, a point which I have myself made in previous letters.

I am sure that many of your readers would approve a broader remit on your part. It might also lead to more of them actually reading the column. I must admit that I had given up in despair before feeling moved to respond to Mr Kedge’s letter. — Yours faithfully,

Ann Law

Heathfield Avenue, Binfield Heath

How come pay soared?

Sir, — In a 1994 Aurum published book by Steven Barnett and Andrew Curry, entitled The Battle for the BBC — A British Broadcasting Conspiracy, the following statement jumps out on page 7: “No one joins the BBC to get rich...”

Recent salary disclosures must surely cast doubt on the current validity of that remark and beg the question when and how did the BBC lose its battle to maintain that much-valued ethos? — Yours faithfully,

Jim Munro

Blandy Road, Henley

Fun way to make friends

Sir, — I am a supporter of the Apples for Eggs event run by Jessica Hayes at T S Guardian, the Henley Sea Cadets’ training unit in Wargrave Road, Henley.

She had a very good morning at the event on Saturday, July 29 — in fact, the best one she has had since transferring from Wargrave to Henley.

Let’s hope this continues as it is fun and very beneficial to all growers, bakers, preservers and picklers and a very good way of making new, like-minded friends. I wish Jessica the best of luck for future events. — Yours faithfully,

Janice Tomlin

Caversham

Missing you already, Brian

Sir, — So sad to read the farewell from Brian Poole, one of the Faces of Henley (Standard, August 4).

Being Italian, I was particularly impressed by his “buon giorno” shouted across the car park towards me on my way to Waitrose. He was always ready with a joke and a laugh that cheered me up.

I miss you already, Brian. My only regret is that I never bought anything from you! Farewell, my funny man, and enjoy your well-deserved retirement. — Yours faithfully,

Valerio Filippini

Formerly of Antico restaurant, Market Place, Henley

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