Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Your letters...

Agency must act urgently

Sir, — We have a really serious problem on the Thames locally: floating pennywort (hydrocotyle ranunculoides).

This is a non-native, very invasive, floating weed, which has arrived locally quite recently.

Professor Alastair Driver, an ecologist and conservationist, has warned that this plant is liable very quickly to block the surface of the Thames in some areas.

It is reported that the Environment Agency has recognised the problem “in the Sonning area” and has plans to do something about it.

But so far I have had no positive response from the agency to attend to the problem here (apart from telling me that I should talk to Natural England, not them).

On Wednesday last week, I took photograpghs of a new patch of floating pennywort on the Thames about half a mile upstream from Marsh Lock and another of a patch a little further upstream in the Hennerton Backwater.

At the latter site, where the stream flows more slowly, the patch was more than halfway across the stream when 24 hours earlier it had been one third across.

I thought I should at least register the problem with the Environment Agency’s “incident hotline”.

There seemed to be progress in that they had now heard of floating pennywort but then, to my astonishment, the response was: “This is not reportable.” What?

“We don’t take reports as it is the landowner’s responsibility.”. So I was being told that it was not their jobsworth to pass this issue up to senior managers and that any trouble with the nasty weed and failure of the landowner to deal with it should be brought to the attention of the local council and/or the police.

First of all, it is disgraceful of the agency to make it impossible to report to them that floating pennywort has reached as far downstream as Wargrave.

Secondly, it is on very shaky legal ground in denying its responsibility.

Floating pennywort (by definition) does not come from the land and riparian landowners, while being responsible for their banks and for the land under the stream (up to its mid-point), are not responsible for the water flowing along the surface of the river.

Floating pennywort is floating on the surface of the River Thames here and the Environment Agency better get on and do something about it before it overwhelms the river and them.

Floating pennywort is ferociously invasive. As the professor said, it needs to be dealt with very promptly. — Yours faithfully,

Tom Berman

Henley Road, Wargrave

Potential for catastrophe

Sir, — The River Thames Society is adding its concerns to those expressed in your article on floating pennywort (Standard, October 20).

This non-native invader is becoming well established on our stretch of the Thames and is likely, from recorded experience elsewhere (e.g. east coast rivers such as the Blackwater) to become a very serious problem.

It is destructive to native life, chokes out oxygen and forms a physical barrier to movement on the river.

It can only be controlled by physical removal, herbicides not being usable on the river, and in view of its phenomenal rate of growth should be attacked as soon as it is found.

If nothing is done very soon it will spread from the Hennerton into the main river and then downstream to Marsh Lock and the Henley Reach.

It would seem the Environment Agency feels it can place the problem in the hands of the Hennerton residents as they border the backwater.

This is not the time or place to argue the definition of the river under the 1932 Thames Conservancy Act.

The potential for a catastrophe in the near future demands swift and thorough action now. — Yours faithfully,

John Skuse

Middle Thames chairman, River Thames Society, Pinkneys Green

Bus drivers bullying me

Sir, — Recently the residents of Binfield Heath have been subjected to increased traffic due to road diversions lasting several weeks.

However, the main problem occurs when children are collected from Shiplake Primary School, which is situated at one end of Memorial Avenue, causing a certain amount of inconvenience.

Two weeks ago, I was returning from Henley when I decided to use Plough Lane, which I thought would not be so difficult, only to find that cars collecting children were closely parked all the way.

When I was halfway along the road I was confronted by the local bus.

I managed to see a possible space to back into when the bus driver started to advance, blaring his horn at me and waving his arms to say that I should move over.

He advanced so close to me that it was almost impossible for me to move to the side, which I finally did with difficulty and the possibility of damaging my car.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that bus drivers have done this to me and I have decided in future that if any other bus drivers pull such a stunt I will get out of my car and walk over to them.

This will take a while as I use a crutch but it will give me a chance to let them know that their thuggish behaviour is recorded on my dashboard camera. — Yours faithfully,

Georgina F Hitchen

Dunsden Way, Binfield Heath

Now I want a third bridge

Sir, — Twenty or 30 years ago, I objected to plans for a third Thames bridge in Caversham. The need, even then, was obvious but I felt that it should be linked to the A4074 to avoid “rat runs” across the top of Reading and through Henley.

Now think I was wrong. Let’s get the bridge built, so the need for a link road will become obvious and then they will have to build it. It seems to be the only way Government works. — Yours faithfully,

Jon Hatt

Goring Heath

MP’s faulty memory

Sir, — I see from your ever popular journal that Henley’s MP believes that the over-60s become incontinent if they spend more than four or five days in hospital (Standard, October 20).

No wonder he fought tooth and nail to block the beds for Townlands Memorial Hospital.

However, beds were saved because of the groundswell of opinion created by the Henley Standard’s excellent Save Our Beds campaign, the long march of the thousands of residents organised by the then Mayor Lorraine Hillier and the dogged persistence of the Townlands Steering Group.

Yes, Mr Howell, everyone is delighted with the rapid access care unit but, without pressure from residents of the whole catchment area, you were content for it to be open only three days a week. Now it is open five days a week and it is being run by a consultant, not a GP. Also we have 14 beds instead of your five.

Of course, the evidence of them all being fully occupied most of the time shows that there should have been the 18 that the steering group originally asked for... and still there’s a whole empty floor at the hospital going to waste. Since Henley’s MP prefers to impose his views on the community rather than promote the wishes of his constituents, it is really important that the steering group is not disbanded.

Having a working member representing every parish in the catchment area, this group is the only democratic body devoted to ensuring that the community’s voice on health is heard.

Ah, Boris, those were the days, eh? You led marches, marshalled petitions and helped us organise a successful campaign. — Yours faithfully,

Dick Fletcher

Mill End, Hambleden

Inaccurate statement

Sir, — Our enthusiastic MP John Howell made an incorrect statement in Parliament.

On Tuesday last week, he made the following statement in support of the new Townlands Memorial Hospital: “…anyone over the age of 60 who stays in bed for four or five days is immediately incontinent.”

This is regardless of their injuries or ailments or necessary rehabilitation.

How he reaches this conclusion one can only guess. Maybe he spends his time collecting statistics on this amazing fact in order to share this helpful information with the population of Henley?

Unfortunately, this is a generalisation which may frighten some people and affect their care. — Yours faithfully,

Odette Moss

Former nurse and health and social care lecturer, Harpsden

Why are we begging EU?

Sir, — So now all the truths are gradually coming home to roost... the European Union is stalling in order to gain more money.

Angel Gurria, secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, seems only recently to have managed to get hold of transcribed notes from the Brexit campaign as he began reigniting the discredited “project fear’” diatribes.

He forgot that not only did this Great Britain support the European fight for freedom but also that the Blitz made us a hardier, more wary nation that is less inclined to accept Jackboot politics, especially when in charge of a gravy train.

It’s not the EU, or EU representatives, we should be negotiating with but the individual nations’ lawfully and democratically elected leaders, who should already be knocking at our door to beg us to continue the generous trade deals they have in place.

Indeed, leaked communiqués have shown that Angela Merkel is ready to go against Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier and is willing to make “a deal that covers co-operation on defence, security, transport, crime fighting, digital issues and agriculture & fisheries”.

All but the last are separate international agreements not encompassed directly by EU regulations and were made autonomously at separate times.

Why agriculture & fisheries is included in the list is obvious — Germany is in fear of being prevented from having fishing rights in our territorial waters.

It is afraid that our farmers will, once more, begin producing to capacity, affecting German agriculture, markets and farmers — exactly what was inflicted upon the UK when we joined the Common Market. Conversely, it doesn’t include industry (i.e. car manufacturing) because our motor industry was thoroughly decimated at that same time, so is not a current threat to Germany’s hold over the market.

Why on earth are we acting like beggars, going cap in hand to an institution that, both now and historically, has always considered us an enemy and a soft financial target to support their private pension piggy bank and their pocket money funding? — Yours faithfully,

Edward Sierpowski

Henley

Double standards

Sir, — Brexit shadow secretary Kier Starmer has double standards on economic matters.

On the one hand, he (presumably) supports the Labour Party’s economic policies, which would by their own admission cause such a severe run on the pound as to require government intervention.

On the other, he opposes Brexit on the grounds that it might take a few percentage points off GDP growth over the next few years. — Yours faithfully,

Tim Beechey-Newman

Gravel Hill, Caversham

Drugs should be affordable

Sir, — Recently the pharmaceutical industry has been rocked by one scandal after another.

We frequently hear of someone else who has been refused the medicine that they need because it is “too expensive”.

It seems that this pricing is sometimes opportunistic on behalf of the drug companies.

For example, in America last year they were charging $600 for the EpiPen antidotes to allergic reactions, while our NHS negotiated a price of about $70 for the same product!

Drug companies are able to charge runaway prices because new drugs are protected by legal monopolies and this makes the pharmaceutical industry the most profitable in the world.

At the same time, millions of people around the world suffer and die from treatable conditions because they cannot afford to pay for expensive medicine.

The companies claim they need to charge high prices to recoup their research and development costs.

But nine of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies spend more on marketing than on research and development.

Furthermore, the majority of innovative, early stage research is publicly funded.

At 7.30pm on Wednesday (November 1), at the Reading International Solidarity Centre in London Street, Reading, there will be a meeting called “Sick of corporate greed”, as part of Reading International Festival, where Global Justice Now campaigners and Sibongile Tshabalala, of the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, will talk about how we can change this state of affairs; how we can put people before profit in the global drug industry. — Yours faithfully,

Jackie Oversby

Co-ordinator, Global Justice Reading, The Mount, Reading

Dangers of dog walking

Sir, — I had an almost identical experience to Kay Parton (Standard, October 20) when walking my dog on Peppard Common recently. I saw a man in the distance with a greyhound and a pitbull walking towards me.

I quickly put the lead on my dog and was glad that I did as when the other two dogs drew level with us the pitbull went crazy, growling and barking and snarling.

We continued on our walk and the man and dogs disappeared.

After that I let my dog off the lead but later the man emerged again from some woods, having done a circuit.

I could not get to my dog in time and she was attacked but was, fortunately, unhurt. The man apologised, saying they were not his dogs.

I assume the pitbull had been bred for fighting and had been roughly treated to make it so aggressive. It was obviously not a domestic pet. — Yours faithfully,

Adrian Vanheems

Baskerville Road, Sonning Commong

Firemen save show launch

Sir, — On behalf of the Henley Arts and Crafts Guild, I would love to thank two stalwart Henley firemen who came to our rescue on Friday evening at the Old Fire Station Gallery.

Having spent quite a while preparing a lovely exhibition of members’ paintings and sculptures, we were just about to welcome guests to our grand opening by the Mayor when the fire alarm in the gallery went off.

After more than an hour and many attempts to turn off the alarm, nothing we did would work and the noise was deafening!

Suddenly a fire engine passed by on the hill going back to the fire station in West Street after a job and we managed to flag down the pair in the cab and, after taking their machine home, they returned to help.

Without too much ado, they managed to stop the dreadful ringing with a little coercion from a screwdriver and by flapping a tea-towel (what else?!) in front of the smoke alarm.

I should add that the alarm in question was about 12ft off the ground, so that’s our excuse!

Thank you so much, gentlemen. We really would have had to cancel the opening if you had not arrived just in time. — Yours faithfully,

Ann Spicer

Chair, Henley Arts and Crafts Guild

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