Sunday, 14 August 2022

Your letters...

Neighbours should help

Sir, — Interesting logic from South Oxfordshire District Council leader John Cotton.

On the one hand, he agrees to spend more than £100,000 of taxpayers’ money to fight 96 homes at Thames Farm (approved on appeal by a planning inspector).

On the other hand, he proposes 677 more homes for Henley in his council’s emerging local plan.

Will he be as generous with his funds to fight housing applications for Lucy’s Farm, the former Wyevale garden centre site and the greenfield sites at Highlands Farm (none of them having been earmarked for housing in the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan) when they come flooding in to meet new demand or does he only react when faced by fierce political pressure?

Unless our surrounding parishes come forward and help produce a sustainable plan to meet the housing needs of our area, Henley will be swamped.

Of course, we will resist this new plan but the reality is that the Government is determined to meet its housing targets so the chances are we will be allocated more homes.

Whatever the final figure, it’s time that some of our neighbours raised the drawbridge to help Henley rather than put enormous pressure on us to fill in every conceivable space with more houses.

This would be a positive step for the upcoming update of our neighbourhood plan.

This is a time for unity and conversation between Henley and its neighbours and I look forward to John Howell MP embracing this cause rather than concentrating his planning brief on one neighbouring parish. I live in hope. — Yours faithfully,

Dieter Hinke

Elizabeth Road, Henley

Make plans sacrosanct

Sir, — I attended the protest before the meeting of South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee in Didcot on Wednesday last week against various planning proposals, including one to build 30 houses behind Kennylands Road in Sonning Common.

The local neighbourhood plan, which was produced with considerable money and effort, accepted 22 houses for this site.

The proposal was in fact rejected but I would suggest that the committee makes a public statement to the effect that a neighbourhood plan is sacrosanct and all applications to the contrary will be automatically eliminated, which, in all honour, it should do.

This might save an enormous amount of time and expense, not only for the general public but even for the developers. — Yours faithfully,

Peter Dayton

Kennylands Road, Sonning Common

Practical help for students

Sir, — Many of your correspondents tell us what they do not want in terms of local planning.

South Oxfordshire District Council just ignores the carefully argued neighbourhood plan for this area. So let us consider some practical, positive ideas for our future. Henley does not wish to become Geriatric-on-Thames, we need young, well-educated, internationally oriented, community focused students who care for their own village or town and for South Oxfordshire.

Having a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is a pre-requisite for employment by an increasing number of firms.

Many local schools and colleges offer this scheme. This helps to create caring citizens.

But we need to do much more. We need to start from scratch with a much better solution.

There is a massive shortage of accommodation for graduates, trainees and apprentices who cannot afford the lowest rental costs in this area.

We need to provide subsidised rental accommodation. Equally, we need similar accommodation to attract the smartest sixth form students from other countries to improve the education of all our local children, at all ages but especially for those students studying for university entrance.

Brexit does not mean we withdraw from Europe; if anything we need to increase our appeal to leading European business people.

Entrepreneurs whose language is not English understand the essential need for their own children to learn and to speak fluent English. The best way to learn good English is to live and study with educated British people.

It would make sense to create a local eco-friendly accommodation unit to house 200 sixth form foreign students and 100 graduates, apprentices and trainees.

These young people would study at local schools and colleges and work with local firms.

Is there a local landowner who would allocate sufficient poor quality farmland for such a purpose?

Surely the majority of the local population would support this initiative. How else can our young graduates live and work near their families? How else can our sixth form students improve to be able to compete with the very best graduates in Europe?

Let us focus on practical, positive concepts for a future where local children learn with the smartest students from more innovative EU countries and are able to pay off their student loans and live near their families upon graduation.

Shall we create a relevant website? — Yours faithfully,

Peter Woolsey

Binfield Heath

Old outside, new inside

Sir, — It is too late now to influence the development of Thames Bridge House near the Henley Royal Regatta headquarters, a subject which has caused comment on these pages and in conversations overheard.

There is, though, food for thought to chew on when a similar situation arises.

The architect could use the façade of the existing building as a template for the exterior of the new one, while giving the interior the up-to-date bathrooms, kitchen and so on that people today understandably want. The result: the best of both worlds.

The folk then moving into the new building can justifiably feel excited about living in a property that looks historically accurate — true to the ambience of beautiful Henley — yet also enjoy the benefits of modern technology.

In other words, somewhere unique rather than simply another contemporary apartment which can be reproduced almost anywhere. — Yours faithfully,

Paul Willson

Pound Lane, Sonning

How will new mews look?

Sir, — Please, please, please may the people of Henley have details of the redevelopment of Market Place Mews?

I have been told by the council office to go online but not everyone can do this so please may we have plans, drawings, artist’s impression etc — like we had for the new Towlands Memorial Hospital — so the general public may see what the end result will look like?

I understand there are going to be shops when we already have several empty ones around the town.

Will the flats be for Henley people and where will the residents park? Let’s hope there will be some landscaping. — Yours faithfully,

Diana Coleman

Abrahams Road, Henley

Editor’s comment: “I hope that our front page picture story this week has provided some answers.”

Church has got it wrong

Sir, — Who in the name of God deems it fitting to build a five-bedroom house on Watlington church land when most young local families can’t even afford a deposit on a house of this size here (Standard, September 8)?

And what century are they living in that they feel a new rectory is necessary?

To those who proclaim to worship one of the greatest social philosophers who ever lived, Jesus of Nazareth, I quote: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!” — Yours faithfully,

Valerie Green Powell


Solar power too costly

Sir, — Neil Parsley asks why no solar panels on the roof of Henley town hall (Standard, Septembr 8)?

With the encouragement of the previous town clerk Mike Kennedy and with my hand firmly held by town sergeant (ret’d) Cliff Austin (it’s scary up there), I spent a fair amount of time about five years ago investigating the feasibility of installing photovoltaic panels.

There were three major obstacles:

1) English Heritage didn’t like the view being “spoilt”.

2) Access for installers would have to be by scaffolding up the side of the building — a non-trivial exercise with such a tall building.

3) The lead covering would have to be penetrated to secure the installation.

At the end of the day, though photovoltaic panels on the town hall roof would help reduce the town’s carbon footprint, it was felt that the capital cost (then around £15,000 for a 4.5 kWp array) would not have been good value for money.

The other place they could have been put is the Leichlingen Pavilion in Mill Meadows, but town councillors decided this would spoil the look of the building (as if anything could...)

For the record, and thanks to the initiative of Mr Kennedy, a lot of the buildings owned or controlled by Henley Town Council do have solar panels on their roofs.

The income generated helps keep Henley residents’ council tax considerably lower than any other town in Oxfordshire. — Yours faithfully,

Dick Fletcher


Stop moaning about trains

Sirs, — The whingeing about two- rather than three-car turbos on the Henley branch line (Standard, September 8) has got to stop. Great Western Railway is having to train staff to operate the new trains and has been given contractual obligations to fill while being hampered by late-running works by Network Rail.

You cannot make a cake without breaking some eggs.

The turbos should have gone to operate services long ago in the Bristol area. So far only the Severn Beach service has them — five 166 three-cars engines have been moved west. The period between September and December is when the next major timetable change takes place and more 387s can be used this side of Maidenhead.

One set of 166s was spotted last week in Taunton — I presume this was driver training in preparation for the upgrade of the Taunton-
Bristol-Cardiff route.

There is at least one 165 set out for engineering modifications and fitment of the disabled-person compliant toilets. All the 166s have been done and, as far as I am aware, the first 11 165s also. All have to be done.

Don’t forget that on the 166s (despite the incorrect letter in the Henley Standard), only one end of the 166 (with the new toilet) has a first class area. The other end with a standard toilet has only standard class seats, which also applies to all seats on 165s operating in the Thames Valley.

The 165s are far better for seating capacity than the 166s. They have opening windows that means the air can be changed instead of passengers being boiled by poor air conditioning systems.

Finally, GWR is not obliged to provide passengers with a seat. The fare paid is only for travel, not a seat — this has been the terms of carriage for many years.

I do not like the idea of the new Crossrail trains with Underground-style seating and no toilets.

TFL has even locked up toilets on another line where they had been converted with disabled-person type toilets.

So, put up and shut up about standing in rush hour. Crush loadings now are far less than those I experienced when I started to commute. In those days there was no space to move and we were packed in like sardines.

Remember, you do not have to work in London, you do it out of choice. Working locally is far less stressful and you get home earlier to enjoy family life. — Yours faithfully,

Mark Jameson


Does GWR really care?

Sir, — In your report on the Great Western Railway trains failing to stop at Wargrave, you clearly showed that GWR bosses were sorry for passengers not being able to get a train at Wargrave station.

You quoted them as saying that “we know how important good information is to our customers...”.

Obviously they don’t know how important it is otherwise they would have not left passengers stranded.

I hope the Henley Standard will press GWR on this and demand an explanation from the railway bosses.

In the UK we have been running trains for nearly 200 years, so surely something as elementary as this would have made British Rail or the “proper” GWR a laughing stock in the old days. — Yours faithfully,

John Margetts


Stop blaming big lorries

Sir, — In their quest to reducing air pollution, your correspondents Gill and Deon Melck are sadly misinformed (Standard, September 8).

Vehicle weights are measures in metric tonnes these days, not imperial tons, and a ban on all vehicles over 10 tonnes (gross vehicle weight, gross combined weight, gross trailer weight, unladen weight, design weight, kerb weight, payload weight?) would most certainly not allow for vehicles large enough to supply Waitrose and Tesco.

In the main, these two companies operate and deliver to Henley with vehicles at 36 or 40 tonnes GCW.

The fact is our society depends on large commercial vehicles. Everything you have — everything — was brought to you by truck.

Already some 28 per cent of today’s truck population are at Euro VI standards, way cleaner than Euro 6 cars, because of the way they’re tested (thanks “Dieselgate”).

In many cities, Euro VI trucks almost act as “particulate vacuum cleaners” due to the screening effect of their diesel particulate filters.

Trucks are moving steadily to alternative power sources too — electric, beginning to be practical for lighter goods vehicles that return to base every evening for charging, and natural gas for larger, heavier vehicles that do higher mileages and are away from base for longer.

And because they’re bigger, there are fewer trucks registered and on the road today than there were in the Fifties — fact.

While I’m on the subject, trucks come through Henley because they’re trying to reach a destination for a delivery. No one goes for a “joyhaul”.

Trucks, their drivers and operators actively want to stay on motorways because that’s where they’re at their most efficient, using the least amount of fuel and making fastest progress to their next delivery.

The bigger they are, the more likely they are to be routed too, with traffic offices monitoring their progress and ensuring they remain on prescribed trunk routes. Moving off these routes costs them money.

Your motoring correspondent Nigel Wigmore’s comments about truck “platooning” (Standard, September 1) were also sadly misinformed.

Platooning is to be trialled to understand the environmental and safety opportunities of using the very latest technology already used in road transport in a “joined up” way.

Each truck would always have a driver present, so “autonomous” refers simply to the way the truck drives.

When you get on a plane to Malaga for your holidays or Paris for your next motor show, do you still believe that a pilot has his or her hands on the controls all the way, Mr Wigmore?

Sorry to disappoint you, the plane effectively flies itself for most of the journey. We accept that for passenger flight, so why not for commercial vehicles? As ever, I’d be delighted to help anyone, any time, with the facts about trucks and road transport.

The reality is that we all depend on trucks for everything we have.

Manufacturers and operators alike have invested billions to ensure that not only do they continue to deliver but also that they do so in a way which prioritises respect for the environment and the welfare of all of us that share it. It’s time that was understood. — Yours faithfully,

Peter Symons

Bell Street, Henley

Solution is less traffic

Sir, — Following recent correspondence from Felicity Rutland, Deon and Gill Melck and Clive Hemsley, it should be noted that the key problem for Henley is the bridge.

To save Remenham and to reduce air pollution in Henley requires less traffic. Preferably reducing the diesel impact would be best for children’s health.

However, for 10 years South Oxfordshire District Council has failed to address the air pollution issue. It is now one year since it held a consultancy meeting in Henley town hall but as yet has failed to publish the results. [Council leader] John Cotton, these are both a disgrace.

For the bridge traffic issue, I believe the current Prime Minister promised in a recent election to help find solutions.

The only way is to reduce traffic and that means as a start no new housing for Henley with the exception being affordable properties.

However, I am grateful to Mike Stanton, who is one of a number of people who has left Henley because of breathing difficulties. He no longer needs his expensive handheld particulate monitoring device, so he has graciously given it to me so we can continue our drive for a better Henley. — Yours faithfully,

David Dickie

Clean Air for Henley, St Katherine’s Road, Henley

Ripped off by new machines

Sir, — On Tuesday morning I tried to park in the King’s Road car park in Henley. I put in £1 for two hours and was given a ticket for one hour. The lady behind me put in 60p for one hour and couldn’t get a ticket at all.

Two of the machines were out of order with queues to pay across the zebra crossing at the end of Waitrose.

Nowhere on the machine is there a phone number for complaint. This is a complete rip-off! When are these machines going to work properly? — Yours faithfully,

Penny Cole

Stoke Row

Carer fined unfairly

Sir, — I am a full-time carer for my husband who has vascular dementia.

As he was unable to collect his hearing aid from Townlands Memorial Hospital on July 12, I was told by a doctor from Reading that it would be okay for me to collect it: “You don’t need to book in, just ask for Tristan at 12.30pm.”

On the day of collection, my daughter booked her car in but two weeks later I received a parking fine for £60 because I wasn’t on the appointment register at the reception desk.

I thought this was unfair but duly paid it. Now I’ve read your readers’ letters, I feel obliged to put my concerns forward.

I’ve nursed my husband for eight-and-a-half years — I can’t leave him on his own so have to wait until one of the family can visit with him.

Hope this problem can be resolved for all concerned. — Yours faithfully,

Jo Andrews

Gainsborough Road, Henley

Don’t forget state schools

Sir, — I was dismayed by the title chosen for your guide to private schools, provided as a special supplement (Standard, September 1).

For many parents, “The Right Choice” is one of the excellent state schools in the area. — Yours faithfully,

Gillian Seymour

Kennylands Road, Sonning Common

Wasted opportunity

Sir, — Well intentioned as it may have been by all the people who went to London to pay a belated tribute to Princess Diana, it was a wasted opportunity. Sadly, she did not and will never know.

Surely all the money spent on flowers and travel, not to mention food and drink, would have been better spent on donations to her charities.

Sharon Irons, for instance, could have sent a sizeable cheque to Sue Ryder with the message “In memory of Princess Diana”. — Yours faithfully.

Brenda Nichol


Drivers are appreciated

Sir, — The Henley Volunteer Drivers held a street collection on Friday, September 1. A total of £406 was collected.

We are always grateful to the people of Henley for continuing to support our very much appreciated service.

This collection not only raises money towards our expenses but provides an opportunity to recruit new drivers.

Anyone interested in driving should call our office on (01491) 572923. — Yours faithfully,

Michael Hollas

Queen Close, Henley

Dave Allen lives on!

Sir, — It is a most unusual and rare moment when I feel the urge to find the ancient goose feather quill and Waterman’s ink in order to put pen to paper.

However, on this occasion I do need to congratulate the person responsible for the article entitled “Found among the effects of G L Jones, of Whitchurch”, together with the accompanying illustration (Standard, September 8).

It may, of course just be that my sense of humour is, as my good lady always says, an acquired taste. However, I must record that I found the article priceless.

The underlying truth of what we encounter in everyday life is so well observed and demonstrated.

The humour is so well articulated that it reminds me of the late Dave Allen, the Irish raconteur and comedian. For me to compare it to him is, I can assure the author, praise indeed. — Yours faithfully,

Terry Allsop


Only short thoughts

Sir, — I agree with your correspondent Ann Chivers (Standard, September 1). Keep your letters short! — Yours faithfully,

Mark P Hatt


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