Saturday, 13 August 2022

Your letters...

What about our needs?

Sir, — As a long-term patient of the Tuesday nurse-led clinic, this is a summary of my views on the sale of Joyce Grove:

• The way that patients found out about the sale, mostly via the Henley Standard or panic texting each other, was a very negative and upsetting one.

• Because we have been given limited information other than the proposed sale, it has made people fear for what they had assumed would be available as support in the future.

• I personally, in my advanced planning, had stated that I wanted to end my days at the hospice, a place I feel comfortable and confident in the level of care and the quality of the staff.

• There has been no mention of continued services like the Tuesday group, which has been my rock of support, both from the staff and meeting other people in similar situations.

• In the Tuesday clinic we have had the opportunity to consult with nurses, doctors, counsellors, physiotherapists and occupational and alternative therapists as well as taking part in amazing group activities including art, yoga and pilates. Will these services continue?

• Although I acknowledge that the property upkeep is expensive, it is the atmosphere and the staff and facilities, as well as the building and grounds, that make it special.

• Joyce Grove is also a community asset in terms of events, the woodland walks, fireworks and facilities like the donation station and sales as well as access to beautiful grounds.

I think many day patients fear that we will not get the continued support that we most need.

Individual visits at home are not what most people that I have met want. We want access to medical advice but also the ability to meet other people in similar situations to prevent feelings of isolation and form supportive friendships in a positive and supportive atmosphere.

We also want future access to local hospice facilities with familiar staff and facilities in order to be confident of our final care needs.

I feel that when plans for the future are discussed, the views of current hospice staff and service users should be of great importance, not just the financial implications.

Also that future decisions should be clearly communicated to staff and current patients, so that everyone feels confident about future services.

The Sue Ryder organisation was set up to provide “incredible hospice and neurological care” and states that it is passionate about giving people the care they want.

If they have not consulted their current patients how can they provide the care we want? — Yours faithfully,

Paula Humm

Rowan Close, Sonning Common

Sad, but not surprising

Sir, — It was sad to read about the imminent closure of Joyce Grove but not unexpected. I worked at the hospice as a volunteer on behalf of the Red Cross for 15 years, once a week providing hand care, including hand massage, nail-cutting and a one-to-one chat if the patient wanted.

It is a service the Red Cross offers throughout the country in hospices and hospitals, providing there are enough volunteers.

I can remember being concerned at how few patients there were attending the day centre, a service to give respite for those caring for a loved one at home. They could have a bath, play cards or do crosswords with volunteers or painting and craft work etc.

This amazing room looked out on to the gardens and beyond, a peaceful room but busy with more staff and volunteers than patients. Why was this facility not used properly?

The most patients I ever saw in the day centre was eight. The bed capacity for a building that had been completely refurbished during my time there remained at 12. I mentioned on many occasions to the manager that there were people in the community needing day care but unfortunately I do not think the service was advertised sufficiently.

In fact, I suggested to someone to get respite for his wife at the day centre. He lives in Henley and had no idea about its existence.

Many local people have supported the hospice over the years and would like to have the chance to hear from the trustees as to why they backed out of the Townlands project, which was not so long ago, and now their decision to close the home and instead provide community care. — Yours faithfully,

Isobel Morrow

Greys Road, Henley

Littering is plain wrong

Sir, — Many thanks to Johnny Grimond for the wonderful job he is doing clearing the roadside verges outside Nettlebed (Standard, February 23).

I was also delighted to read of the young man who was collecting litter in Wargrave for his Duke of Edinburgh’s Award community service — well done. Perhaps others could follow his example.

Co-incidentally, I am making my way along the verges from Highmoor to Nettlebed.

As a cyclist, I am appalled by the amount of litter thrown out of cars, which is often more visible from a bike. The sooner a deposit system is introduced on plastic bottles and drinks cans, the richer I will become!

I am sorry to say that a reader of the Henley Standard is clearly keen on drinking his/her coffee in a particular lay-by and then dropping the cup and the paper out of the window.

I am also puzzled by the mindset of smokers who carefully fold up their empty tobacco packets, tie them in a knot and then throw them out of the window.

Rather than filling prisons, perhaps the Ministry of Justice could “encourage” those people who commit minor offences to pick up litter from our roadsides as community service.

As they walk along the verges and pavements, these offenders will no doubt think about the impact that some people’s actions have on other individuals and the community.

Dropping litter is wrong.

But every cloud has a silver lining and the cut-glass decanter with a silver collar which I founPd makes a splendid vase. — Yours faithfully,

Tony Barry

Stoke Row

Disgrace of road verges

Sir — You don’t need to trawl the ocean depths to find layers of plastic waste: just travel along any main roads or motorways in 21st century England.

Oxfordshire is no exception. Comparing our verges with those of other European countries is a now matter for shame.

There are, as Johnny Grimond pointed out, only two ways of dealing with this. Either we change the British mindset regarding dropping litter or we pay through our council tax to have the main roadsides cleared regularly.

Changing people’s attitudes could take generations. Polite signs and threatening notices have no effect and are unenforceable, so bands of community volunteers have to clear up after those who munch and slurp as they travel and leave their packs, tins, bottles and cups to nature.

Those of us who care can keep our villages and residential neighbourhoods tidy this way but we cannot safely or effectively clear the highways of litter.

That is the responsibility of the district council, which should organise regular rubbish collections, particularly when cutting back the grass and hedges.

The cost should be met through our council tax. That way at least those who cause the problem will also be helping to pay for it to be cleared.

Meanwhile, the verges of our busiest roads remain a national disgrace. — Yours faithfully,

Elisabeth Ransom

Binfield Heath

Bring back chain gangs

Sir, — Like your correspondents (Standard, March 2), I am also appalled by the amount of rubbish deposited by the side of our roads. This is particularly noticeable where the verges have been trimmed back to reveal the quantity hidden beneath the undergrowth.

I often wonder what offenders who have been given a number of hours of community service actually do for their misdemeanours. Would it not be fitting for them to be organised into clearing up the rubbish from our roads?

Perhaps chain gangs should be reintroduced or is that stretching health and safety or human rights concerns a bit too far?

I’m not sure why we need to pay Biffa to do a clean-up if there is an available free source of labour to fulfil the task. — Yours faithfully,

Colin Garnham

Rotherfield Peppard

No need for negativity

Sir, — Despite seven years, five applications, two public inquiries, three appearances in the High Court and two in the Court of Appeal, South Oxfordshire District Council is seriously asking us to believe that the whole political debacle over the Thames Farm development cost taxpayers only £75,000. From Freedom of Information requests, it seems that the council is unable to extract the total figure due to its current accounting system.

However, the final figure, if ever calculated, might reflect badly on council leader John Cotton’s political ambitions and might question John Howell MP’s credibility as being a guardian of the public purse.

Almost seven years ago, Mr Howell sent an email stating that, as an MP, he could not get involved in local planning applications so was unable to offer any advice to the applicant.

Then later, prior to one of the many planning committee meetings regarding this application, he emailed all the members of that committee giving many reasons, in his opinion, why they should turn it down.

They voted unanimously against the application.

He championed the cause of refusing this application, together with Shiplake Parish Council, from day one and in doing so was working completely contrary to the Government’s declared policy “to boost significantly the supply of housing…”

He produced blogs on the subject of refusing this application.

With the Thames Farm development, Henley will have 95 more homes (40 per cent affordable/housing association managed at affordable rents).

These can be subtracted from the likely allocation of another 350 homes in the district council’s local plan.

Therefore there are fewer sites to find and give us the affordable homes we need.

If we also subtract the number of offices being changed to flats that should leave us less than 200 homes to find in the revised plan.

These 95 homes will also guarantee that the district has a three-year land supply figure, thus protecting all new neighbourhood plans within the district. This three-year requirement reverts back to five years on April 14 when the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan becomes two years old, as written in the ministerial statement on neighbourhood planning. Has Councillor Cotton prepared for this?

Was it really worth all this negativity in an area where there is a real housing shortage, particularly affordable ? — Yours faithfully,

Dieter Hinke

Elizabeth Road, Henley

John Howell MP responds: “Thames Farm was excluded from the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan. The case revolved around whether South Oxfordshire District Council had a three-year housing land supply to continue to reject it.

“A planning inspector found that it did not, whereas in any previous or subsequent appeals inspectors found that it did.

“With a neighbourhood plan the requirement is to demonstrate a three-year housing land supply. This was a key case with implications beyond Henley itself and in my role, as government champion, I was drawing this important point concerning new government guidance and case law to the attention of the planning committee.

“Government policy is not to boost significantly the supply of housing under any circumstances but to do so according to a plan-led system. Neighbourhood plans are an integral part of that system.

“It is simply not good enough to say that because an application contains a requirement for affordable housing it should have carte blanche regardless of the neighbourhood plan or the local plan.”

How deep are her pockets?

Sir, — In the interests of transparency and balance, I wonder if the Henley Standard would now obtain from Claire Engbers, and publish for the benefit of its readers, the total legal costs and consultancy fees spent on her side in the pursuit of her two planning applications to build at Thames Farm? — Yours faithfully,

Geoff Thomas

Mill Road, Lower Shiplake

How were sites chosen?

Sir, — We back on to one of the fields in Woodcote that is not in the plans for being developed.

I was rather pleased to learn this but also curious to know why.

I therefore attended the meeting at the village hall to attempt to learn the formula regarding sites chosen for development so that I might understand whether the field behind me might one day be developed.

I attended the meeting on the Saturday morning and asked questions but to no avail. No one knew.

I was eventually directed to Councillor Geoff Botting, chairman of the Woodcote neighbourhood plan steering group, who was having his photograph taken with John Howell MP and too busy to talk to me.

I am still somewhat puzzled as no information was available about how choices were made so I left none the wiser.

Like your correspondent Suzie Lawman (Standard, March 2), I too would like to know how these decisions are arrived at. Can the Henley Standard find out please? — Yours faithfully,

David Butler


Councillor Geoff Botting responds: “The site selection hangs on a whole number of issues. For example, the national planning policy framework is very firm on what constitutes a ‘major’ development in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and we’ve taken extensive advice on this, looking at case law, previous appeal decisions and the district council’s own emerging local plan.

“If we try to include sites that don’t meet those criteria, we won’t be putting forward a plan that’s in any way credible and it will just be kicked out.

“There are many other considerations including ecological concerns such as the preservation of hedgerows and protected trees. Then there’s the social impact, which takes into account the proximity of housing sites to local services like shops, schools, bus stops and doctors’ surgeries as well as road safety and access.

“We’re still awaiting the response from a number of statutory consultees but we will be publishing a full account of the tests each site had to pass within the next few weeks.”

Let’s control population

Sir, — I cannot recall the last time I read the Henley Standard when there was not a debate on where, and more frequently where not, to build thousands of additional new houses in our area.

No one should be surprised to know that this debate is going on throughout the country and all of these debates involve the word “no”. The whole country is effectively saying enough is enough.

May I invite you to stand back from the debate for a while and consider the far more crucial and important question of why? Having built so many houses over the decades, why do we still need more?

The answer to this is simple — the UK had and continues to have a soaring population for which there are two reasons: excessive net inward migration and families having too many children.

To have a soaring population when we are already massively overpopulated is at best stupid.

While we need to build houses now for the people we have who need them, primarily starter homes for our young people, to preventing the need for yet more houses in the future, we need to stop our population growing.

That requires two actions:

1) Net migration must be zero, which means leaving the EU and its insane free movement of people rule.

2) We must invite and encourage couples to start a family later and have fewer children, ideally no more than two. — Yours faithfully,

Tony Chandler

Lea Road, Sonning

Village is so busy now

Sir, — I have lived in Sonning Common for about 80 years.

It used to be a quiet village in the early days but over the years it has gradually got more busy (car-wise).

It is now a case of should I take my life in my hands to cross Wood Lane, for example, to get from the Co-op to the chemist, a dangerous few yards?

Is there anyone out there who can come up with any bright ideas as to how to solve the problem for, as we know, the situation is only going to get worse if all these houses get built in the future? Help! — Yours faithfully,

C A Pryke

Woodlands Road, Sonning Common

Beautifying our town

Sir, — Thank you, Clive Hemsley. Surely we should honour a man who has chosen a dangerous mission to beautify our town.

What has any of those who have criticised him done to improve Henley?

The bulbs and cables lighting the bridge are unseen during the day, bring beauty and light to the town at night and, as Clive says, make navigating the river at night safer.

How can councillors complain when they allow old rusty broken lights to adorn the bridge when they should have been removed?

I believe in people power so good on you, Clive, you have done something fabulous. You and your colleagues have done a wonderful job.

Have they that criticised you considered the risks you all took to make the town more attractive?

Let them do something about the shabby hotel that greets thousands of our visitors when they come off the train. It has been an eyesore for years. How can it be allowed in our town that is know worldwide for its beauty?

The variety of bollards now being added along our river bank looks such a mess, some wood, some just chains, and some completely missing. Where is the continuity? These are also one of the first things seen by visitors who walk along the river path. Can you believe we now have two rows adjacent to each other opposite the Chocolate Café?

Where is the continuity and what is wrong with sturdy, attractive, cannon- style old ones? A coat of paint would restore them to their former glory.

Thank goodness for Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak who has been working diligently since the council elections with South Oxfordshire District Council.

In the 60 years I have had a home here, the district council has never bothered with us as we are on the edge of the county.

He has at last secured a substantial amount of money to improve our town and turn it green by placing pollution-eating shrubs in planters all along the streets. It has taken him almost a year to get that.

We are grateful to you, Stefan, you were a “hands- on man” when you were a mayor and, like our present mayor, you are working hard to bring our town back to the fabulous place it used to be.

What I would like to know is why Henley can’t spend some of the £5 million we have in the bank (probably more now) to improve our pavements and for them to be continually cleaned and to get the now waste ground behind Waitrose built on, as intended. What is going on there?

We need people power to stop the heavy traffic polluting our formerly beautiful town. Landlords who allow their unoccupied shops to fall into disrepair should be heavily fined and dog owners should be mindful as to where their pets pee in order to stop the street furniture paint being ruined! — Yours faithfully,

Val Stoner

Wyndale Cose, Henley

Brilliant idea, Clive

Sir, — What a splendid sight is Henley Bridge resplendent with its new illuminations.

The lights show off this structure at its best. These, with the reflections shimmering in the river below, make a fine addition to Henley’s attractions.

Clive Hemsley’s plan was a masterstroke and the implementation of that plan superb. Let’s hope Oxfordshire County Council does not want the lights removed.

All in all, there is only one word to describe this. Brilliant. — Yours faithfully,

William Fitzhugh


Can you fix bridge too?

Sir, — How typical of bureaucratic jobsworths to do absolutely nothing to improve the town but when somebody takes the initiative and actually achieves an amazing transformation of Henley Bridge, it is opposed by the jobsworths.

The lights are wonderful. I saw them.

Well done, Clive Hemsley, and thank you to all who helped him.

I suggest Clive is appointed immediately to organise the repair of Henley Bridge in time for Henley Royal Regatta. Then it will be done. — Yours faithfully,

Judy Dinsdale

Northfield End, Henley

Wonderful light show

Sir, — What a wonderful and worthwhile walk it was to trudge through the snow to see the wonderfully lit-up Henley Bridge. — Yours faithfully,

Erik D’Arcy Donnelly

Henley Veterinary Centre, Reading Road, Henley

Transformed for the better

Sir, — The LED lighting on Henley Bridge has made it stand out and the arches look really wonderful in the evening.

It has also made rowing and canoeing safer for those out in the evenings.

I cannot understand the problem with Oxfordshire County Council — how can it object to such a wonderful transformation?

Clive Hemsley has brought life to our old, historic bridge and I hope the council will allow the lighting to stay.

I can see the lights clearly from my cottage and they have made such a difference.

I am sure Mr Hemsley must be thrilled with the project as I and lots of residents around here are. He has made the bridge stand out, which is marvellous.

Great for the boating people at the regatta and festival when returning home late in the evening too! — Yours faithfully,

Jillian Adams

Wharfe Lane, Henley

Now for a weight limit

Sir, — What a great asset these newly installed lights are!

From both upstream and down, they make the bridge look really attractive by night and will draw more visitors to the town during the hours of darkness, particularly in the winter. Many Thames bridges are illuminated, some nowhere near as attractive as Henley’s, so why should our bridge not be lit?

The lights will also make the arches much easier to navigate by night when the bridge pillars are known to accumulate damage from the glancing (and some not so glancing!) blows of passing river craft.

If the relevant local authorities have, seemingly, been unable to instigate the much-needed repairs to the lorry damaged left-hand balustrade on the town side of the bridge for so long, then why should they be concerned over the installation of these lights which enhance the appearance of both the town’s bridge and the town’s principal approach route?

Perhaps it would be more constructive for them to place a weight limit on the bridge which would have the doubly effective result of reducing both the town’s congestion problems and its pollution levels. — Yours faithfully,

Chris Thompson

Ancastle Green, Henley

Let’s have a vote on it

Sir, — We support the lighting of our Henley Bridge 100 per cent. It looks stunning!

Thank you, Clive Hemsley, for your generosity and artistic foresight.

Okay, so Clive’s a naughty boy for not first obtaining the relevant permissions from our various authorities but, as he says, our bridge should have been lit 20 years ago.

So, hats off to him (and his brave cohorts) for sticking their heads above the parapet and making something stupendous happen for the town and all our visitors — it’s a patently obvious enhancement.

As to the major legal furore this has engendered, would Henley Town Council be able to bring some influence to bear on South Oxfordshire District Council and Oxfordshire County Council to let this be put to the vote?

Have a local referendum quickly and before anything is “enforced and removed” and let the townsfolk decide whether they agree with the lights on the bridge or not.

As Clive says, if as townsfolk we all felt that those councils’ houses were in order on all other matters concerning the town, like the state of our roads and lack of bridge repairs etc., then fair enough, but they’re not.

Henley is monumentally neglected by both in so many respects so it would be churlish of them to make us take the fairy lights down. After all, the lights are only temporary and people need to see what it looks like in order to vote one way or the other.

Fingers crossed that no kneejerk drastic action is necessary. — Yours faithfully,

Helen and Alan Gaynor

Bell Street, Henley

Never seen moonlight?

Sir, — Shame on any artist who considers draping Henley`s ancient bridge with “fairy lights”.

I would have thought his vision was far deeper.

Has he not observed it by moonlight? I wonder how the roosting bats etc., feel about it?

Light pollution is a big enough nuisance in our environment, so why add more by gilding the lily in this way? — Yours faithfully,

Valerie Green Powell


Clean the toilets!

Sir, — Since moving to Henley about 15 years ago, I have noticed a distinct deterioration in this, on the surface, beautiful town.

I am appalled at the condition of the public conveniences. The facilities at Mill Meadows and Greys Road car park are outdated and disgustingly dirty and unhygienic, as are the toilets in the King’s Road car park.

Many hard-working people do their best to organise events in Henley and bring in the much-needed visitors. What a shock and let-down it is to have such inadequate facilities.

I don’t know whose responsibility it is to check the cleanliness of these toilets but, clearly, they are not doing their job.

Come on, town manager Helen Barnett, be positive and do something about this and the parking problems, then we can be positive that visitors will take with them a good impression of Henley.

Marlow appears to be getting it right, so perhaps a visit to their town manager might help?

Well done to Clive Hemsley and his band of innovative workers.

The lights on Henley Bridge are just delightful and a great enhancement on this beautiful bridge to be enjoyed by day and night. — Yours faithfully,

Andrea Smith


Under par facilities

Sir, — Henley is beautiful but the toilets in the Greys Road and King’s Road car parks are disgusting! They stink. It’s not the cleaners’ fault but the tired sanitary fittings.

I was so excited about Henley leisure centre swimming pool revamp but now very disappointed. It’s quite a chilly place, especially the shower rooms and lockers.

The shower fittings are so small and very little water appears (often chilly!). Floors are mucky. Please do not swim in the pool with any form of abrasion. Thank you, Chrissie Phillips-Tilbury, you work tirelessly for others. Councillors have difficult jobs and cannot please everyone. — Yours faithfully,

Heather Allwright

Wood Lane, Sonning

Benefits of charity shops

Sir, — I read with concern your article headlined “Charity shops ‘killing our high street trade’” (Standard, March 2), which featured interviews with sections of the business community who inferred that charity retail should be discouraged in Oxfordshire and that its shops hurt the high street.

Rather than withdrawing rate relief, we believe that charity shops provide excellent value for money.

Only around one in seven charity shops receives the full top-up rate relief from their local authority but this support helps the sector to thrive and contribute much to the local community.

The commercial retail sector should view charity shops as partners and not competitors. They encourage footfall back into town centres and let otherwise empty retail units.

Last year, charity shops raised more than £270million for good causes and were also the largest source of volunteer opportunities in the country.

This helps to tackle social isolation among older people and equip young people with much-needed job skills.

Charity shops also help local councils save money. To take just one example: charity shops kept 323,000 tons of textiles out of landfill, saving councils across the UK £27million in landfill taxes.

It must also be remembered that every penny raised in charity shops goes to the parent charity, not profit for shareholders or private owners.

Just like our partners in commercial retail, we want to see diverse, thriving villages and town centres and there is a place for charity retail on any healthy high street. — Yours faithfully,

Mark Chapman

Communications and campaigns executive, Charity Retail Association, London

Make town safe in snow

Sir, — Regarding last week’s “snowpocalypse”, on the Thursday afternoon, I drove back from Oxford on the ungritted A4074 and A4130 and through the ungritted streets of central Henley and penguin-walked over ungritted pavements to buy the latest edition of the Henley Standard.

Inside was the official announcement of the new council tax rates for 2018-2019. Will any of this money be spent on preparedness for bad weather?

At the very least we can and should make our own town safe.

The town council should buy half a dozen hand-pushed gritting machines for the pavements and a couple of towed spreaders for the park maintenance trucks to do the roads.

I am sure some public-spirited volunteers could be organised to help with the work if the equipment was available. — Yours faithfully,

Richard Milner

Market Place, Henley

Ode to the snowstorms

Sir, — I thought you might like this poem for your letters section or to accompany a report on the snow and bad weather. — Yours faithfully,

Lucas Jones


So, the “Beast from the East”
Is fashioning a piste
As the sky continues
This arctic creation
Ignites inspiration
Surely it’s time for a poem!

On a carpet of white
I shiver, and write
A blizzard of rhyme with ease
But, just as I finish
My joy is diminished
As I realise I’ve forgotten my keys.

Locked out and alone.
No coat, hat or phone.
Feeling my body heat going...
If this is goodbye
It can’t be denied
That the cause of death was this poem.

Confusing message

Sir, — In his Thought for the Week, Rev John R M Cook (Standard, March 2) tells the story of how Mary, born in 1784, a girl from a poor family, had to struggle to own her own bible, “God’s precious, life-giving Word” in Mr Cook’s view.

The account raises an interesting question. Why is such a crucially important communication from God so difficult to access, both for Mary and for others past and present?

In addition, why is its message, once accessed, so unclear? It would be helpful to have Mr Cook’s considered response to each of the following points:

1. Is it sensible to source the “life-giving Word” in a collection of disparate documents written between c3,500 and c2,000 years ago?

2. Is it sensible or fair to make personal awareness of God’s “Word” dependent upon:

a. The invention of the printing press.

b. The ability to read at a very competent level.

c. Being able to afford a bible? (Mary had to save for six years)

3. Why is the “Word” so ambiguously written that over the centuries different Christian groups have come to widely differing interpretations of the message?

For example, Roman Catholics are sure that the Bible advocates the institution of the papacy, while Gospel Hall Christians generally regard the Pope as the biblical anti-Christ.

Calvinists believe that the Bible teaches that God has pre-ordained a minority of human beings to be saved and the rest to end up in eternal Hell, while “universalism” (now the prevailing doctrine in most Church of England seminaries) is based upon the belief that the Bible teaches that all will be saved.

The contradictions and disputes are almost endless, from very significant issues to a wide spectrum of less vital variations in doctrine and practice, all sincerely based upon different understandings of the “Word”.

4. Why is the Holy Spirit, the person of the trinity charged with guiding Christians, so self-evidently ineffective, despite much prayer, particularly when the fragmented result strongly undermines the credibility of the Christian faith?

At other times when I have felt it appropriate to question the reasonableness or the morality of Thought for the Week there has been no considered response from your Christian readers. I seriously wonder why. — Yours faithfully,

Douglas Kedge

Lea Road, Sonning

Is there a tunnel?

Sir, — Recently I heard tell of a secret tunnel that runs underground from the cellar of a property in Henley market place (currently Pizza Express) all the way down to St Mary’s Church and “other places”.

I have to say I was intrigued but, frustratingly, an internet search revealed nothing. Can anyone shed light on this mystery? — Yours faithfully,

Kerry Miller


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