Sunday, 13 June 2021

Your letters...

Unity must go both ways

Sir, — Your correspondent Dieter Hinke seems to believe that Henley could accept the 677 extra houses once mooted in South Oxfordshire District Council’s new local plan if the surrounding villages were to take a lot of them (Standard, September 15).

In my view. and that of Harpsden Parish Council, this attitude is both defeatist and misconceived, if only for two reasons:

a) The joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan promised us no more than 450 (subsequently 500) houses until 2027 if we accepted this number, which we did against our will since many of us knew that it could not be accommodated without severe disbenefits, for example, the effect that 170 houses at Highlands Farm will have on Greys Road and Gillotts Lane.

b) The villages around Henley — Harpsden, Rotherfield Greys, Bix, Remenham and Shiplake — rely very heavily on Henley’s shops and services, so building in them adds almost as much to the pressure on central Henley (and the local road system) as building closer in.

In short, Henley would be swamped whether the 677 — or indeed a much smaller number — were put within the town boundaries or in the villages around them.

Fortunately, the Government has just announced a recalculation of housing numbers and South Oxfordshire’s target seems likely to come down, which should relieve Henley of the threat postulated in the first draft of district council’s new local plan.

If so, we should thank John Howell MP for his part in restoring some sanity to the local planning system.

This relief would also give Dieter a chance to restore his perspective by noting that Henley’s surrounding parishes have come forward to help Henley.

In the neighbourhood plan Harpsden accepted plans for Highlands Farm despite its potentially massive local impact and Shiplake is in the process of developing a neighbourhood plan to take more houses.

He could also note that Henley has been less generous to neighbouring parishes.

Thames Farm was specifically excluded from the plan but now he and some others are complaining about the cost of a judicial review to keep it out, ignoring the fact that the petition demanding the review had more than 600 signatures and real people power behind it.

Finally, Dieter rightly calls for unity between Henley and the parishes but makes no mention of the fact that it was Henley Town Council which supported the development and extension of the Bremont factory on a greenfield site between Henley and Shiplake (and actually in Harpsden) despite the availability of a site designated for industrial use at the old Wyevale garden centre less than a mile away.

If this foolish mistake leads to more damaging development outside the neighbourhood plan area for which Dieter himself fought so hard and well, Henley has only its council to blame. Unity is a two-way thing. — Yours faithfully,

Kester George

Chairman, Harpsden Parish Council

Wealth of opinion

Sir, — This is an open letter to the chairman of Shiplake Parish Council Tudor Taylor.

You say that the proposal for 95 homes at Thames Farm should be challenged as it would spoil the rural village of Shiplake. May I point out that the land is not even in the village?

You also say that this development would be too dangerous for access to/from Reading Road.

What abouts the three houses (two of them new) round the corner? It’s three times more dangerous going in and out of there.

You also say that Shiplake Parish Council will pay for the legal challenge but you are asking for donations, so why don’t you go around your multi-millionaire friends who live in Shiplake and ask them?

If Claire Engbers had applied for 20 homes to be built at Thames Farm, each worth £3 or £4million, I bet you would have said yes straight away, so you had more multi-millionaires in Shiplake. — Yours faithfully,

Ian Clark

Cromwell Road, Henley

No need for two appeals

Sir, — I see that two legal challenges are being made against the housing development at Thames Farm, one by South Oxfordshire District Council and the other by the good Nimbys at Shiplake Parish Council.

Remember this application was recommended for acceptance by the district council’s own planning officers and subsequently approved on appeal by a planning inspector.

How can it be acceptable, when there is a known shortage of funds for local authorities and a known shortage of housing (and affordable housing in particular), that two public bodies can justify mounting duplicate appeals against the decision?

This is our money that councillors are playing with so they must be desperate to overturn the inspector’s decision in mounting two attacks on it.

In the meantime, the lawyers will be gleefully rubbing their hands at the expense of South Oxfordshire’s taxpayers. — Yours faithfully,

Garry Forster

Goring Heath

New look not good for me

Sir, — Henley is indeed lucky to be getting a new-look Market Place Mews, presented as a refreshing place to shop and discuss the topics of the day (Standard, September 15).

We are told by others with the know-how that it’s good for us this new look but wait, haven’t we seen this all before?

I know I have and what happens is that all the old brick and flint disappears.

Henley is a very old town and still full of interest for folks like me. What I don’t want to see is the new look and told that it’s good for me. — Yours faithfully,

Peter M Adams

Ramshill, Petersfield, Hants

What about other option?

Sir, — Last week, I was talking to the headmistress of Caversham Primary School Ruth Perry.

This is a school in Caversham Heights, which has been extremely successful for many years.

Mrs Perry shocked me when she said, and I quote: “I would like it known that two years ago the governing body and I requested that Reading Borough Council expanded Caversham Primary School to a three-form entry school, providing 30 extra places every year (on top of the existing 60 places) but this was turned down.

“The main reason behind this idea on our part was to be able to access part of the £64million grant fund to expand schools and rejuvenate parts of the school building — this was the only way of funding any kind of rebuild. It is a shame that this was not explored as this could have resolved the shortage in school places.”

Antony Morris, the chairman of governors at Caversham Primary School, has confirmed he would still like this idea to be considered.

I think it is bad enough that a very successful local primary school was not considered for funding to help solve the shortage of primary school places in the area.

Mrs Perry also said she was concerned about how the trend of too many children for local school places was now reversing and this could mean that in future the pupil numbers drop and schools have empty spaces.

We would then be in a position where we are fighting for pupils to keep our schools afloat.

A few phone calls to some Caversham nurseries confirmed there were spare places and this is not normal.

If all six Caversham nursery schools are slightly low in numbers you can see the possible problem developing.

I also hear some local primary school classes are not full this year. How terrible would it be if not only did the new Heights Primary School ruin Mapledurham playing fields, football, tennis and community centre prospects, but also in five years’ time caused a very good existing state school to close down through lack of pupils?

Is this a case of the borough council being completely transfixed on fulfilling its 50-year dream of taking over Mapledurham playing fields and failing to see or consider better and easier options? — Yours faithfully,

David Maynerd

Chairman, Mapledurham Lawn Tennis Club

Don’t you get caught out too

Sir, — I am writing to inform you of a situation in King’s Road car park in Henley that you may be interested in. I returned to my car on Tuesday to find a car park attendant about to slap a ticket on it.

I fear others may have made the same mistake as me and fear that others are being fined despite good intentions or poor yellow crisscross lines on the Tarmac.

The area I am speaking of is in the little area near the King’s Arms Barn.

There are nine spaces fenced off here. There is a single bay adjacent to this area but with the present works and the fenced-off area I have parked (and seen others park) next to the single bay. There is enough space for three cars in total.

I had to ask the parking attendant what I had done wrong as I was well inside my ticket’s allocated time.

He explained that I wasn’t parked in a “marked bay” as the terms and conditions on the board state we have to.

I explained I had seen many others do the same and thought that under the circumstances and during the extensive groundworks causing reduced capacity of the car park, that these were sensible spaces to park in.

He drew my attention to the barely visible yellow criss-cross lines beneath my car.

I was shocked that I had done wrong and more shocked to hear from the parking official that he had been ticketing others who had made the same mistake.

I think it is grossly unfair. There are fewer spaces in the car park and the painted lines in this area are bearly visible.

I feel there are others like me who have made the same mistake or used their initiative to park sensibly with the current groundworks and shortage of spaces.

I don’t want others to get caught out and feel fellow users of the car park need to be aware of the unforgiving nature of the South Oxfordshire District Council parking attendants before they fleece others motorists for making an honest mistake or for using their initiative in a car park with less capacity and ever- increasing demand. — Yours faithfully,

Dr Rachel Beswick

Satwell Close, Henley

Better way to remember Di

Sir, — Brenda Nichol, you are on my wavelength (Standard, September 15).

All the flowers left in memory of Princess Diana have concerned me too.

I have maintained for years, and particularly when Diana died, that a vast amount of money could have gone to good causes.

The very presence of all those people would have been enough to show the world how upset the British people were.

I am certain Diana herself would rather have had that money go to all the charities she supported. — Yours faithfully,

Ann Chivers

Westleigh Drive, Sonning Common

Help pay for skate park

Sir, — Thamesfield Youth Association announced a donation of £20,000 to the Henley Skate Park Initiative during the original fund-raising effort to raise £290,000.

However, as the fund-raising progressed, it became apparent to the trustees that there was a £22,000 shortfall in the funding of the skate park.

This was not least caused by some of the hitches along the way. We wanted to see the skate park happen and not add to the six-and-a-half year wait, so we took the decision to underwrite the shortfall.

At the time we did this confidentially but now we feel the time is right to “come out”.

It was always the intention of the Initiative to fund-raise and repay the association for the underwritten amount.

We are thrilled that the skate park has proved so popular with the young people of the town.

We are asking those who enjoy the skate park, their families and friends, to help with raising money to repay the trustees that £22,000.

The association exists to support the young people of the town. We are receiving more and more requests for help from youth organisations and by receiving some of the underwriting money back, we will be in a stronger position to help more young people in the town.

You can donate via Paypal at www.henleyskatepark.org

We thank those who put money in the buckets at the skate park launch on Saturday but we need more! — Yours faithfully,

Gill Dodds

On behalf of the trustees of Thamesfield Youth Association

Please help animals

Sir, — I am writing to ask your animal-loving readers to join me in celebrating Blue Cross’s 120th anniversary.

The pet charity, which has a rescue centre at Lewknor, near Watlington, has been helping animals since the 1800s and is hoping to inspire people to help during Blue Cross Week from October 2 to 8.

Sadly, over a century later, tens of thousands of cats, dogs, horses and small pets still turn to Blue Cross for aid.

The charity cares for them when they’re sick or injured and finds them loving new homes if they’ve been given up or abandoned.

Pets count on us and Blue Cross counts on generous supporters to make sure its doors are always open.

That’s why this October, for the charity’s anniversary, it would be wonderful if readers could fund-raise and raise awareness for pets in need.

My two dogs, Stan and Elsie, are very dear to me and they get so much love and attention, I wouldn’t be without them.

Sadly, not all pets are as lucky. Please visit bluecross.org.uk for more inspiration. — Yours faithfully,

Pam Ferris

Blue Cross ambassador

More News:

POLL: Have your say