Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Your letters...

Blind to the litter blight

Sir, — The bumph accompanying my recent council tax bill included a flyer outlining measures to persuade us all how not to be conned into accepting the services of dodgy waste carriers, with the threat that we could be prosecuted, quite rightly, if that fly-tipped waste could be traced back to us.

However, this flyer’s heading, “Only a fool would give their waste to a fly-tipper”, is not entirely accurate.

Most of us would admit to having paid a tradesman with cash in order to obtain a lower price for their services and I would contend that this fundamental human frailty is endemic.

No worthwhile regulation of dodgy builders exists and therefore they will be able to continue to fly-tip in the countryside with impunity.

And although scumbags, they are very cunning, choosing remote locations at night with a clear view of headlights in both directions. I am surmising, of course!

Who of us has witnessed fly-tippers in action and if we were to, who would be brave enough to accost them?

It is very hard to see how this problem could be overcome. Signage is certainly a waste of time. Attached to the entrance post to the Aston Rowant nature reserve is a warning of prosecution for fly-tipping, in front of which is a truckload of builders’ waste.

Yet although fly-tipping is obviously on the increase, the perpetrators are relatively few compared with the number of motorists who choose to toss litter out of their vehicles, a crime that is every bit as heinous.

South Oxfordshire District Council provides us with a great service yet it fails to recognise the awful blight of roadside litter and it has missed a golden opportunity to launch a long overdue anti-littering campaign by not including a flyer on this subject with our council tax bill.

This rather confirms my long-held belief that our elected councillors are blind to, or are not in the least concerned about, the awful blight of litter in the countryside.

Through this page, I have tried many times to elicit a response from those who purport to represent our views on this matter but, sadly, to no avail.

I would welcome very much the opinion of our MP and that of any district councillors who might feel aggrieved by my criticism of them but, knowing full well that such a plea will again come to nought, perhaps the only solution would be to initiate our own campaign.

I would be very interested to hear the views of your readers. — Yours faithfully,

Paul Sargeantson

Britwell Salome

Community contribution

Sir, — My husband Scott and I love the lights on Henley Bridge and thought it was a fantastic effort on Clive Hemsley’s part to think about it, design it and make a contribution to our town.

We only wish there were more people who thought like him as we do live in a beautiful town but, in our view, it does not have a strong sense of community.

The lights are lovely and subtle and highlight the fantastic architectural features of the bridge as well as helping those navigating the river at night.

We have both signed the petition supporting the lights on Henley Bridge.

In our view, Oxfordshire County Council should be supporting innovation, not hindering it and using bureaucracy to thwart community spirit and initiative.

Thank you so much, Clive, for your contribution. — Yours faithfully,

Ramanie Kunanayagam

Henley

Great gift that’s free

Sir, — I write to you regarding the new lights attached to Henley Bridge.

Sometimes, I think the council just has to admit that an idea is excellent and of value to the town and this is one such occasion. It’s not as if it is graffiti.

The fact that Clive Hemsley has funded this himself, including the complex job of attaching the lights for which a contractor would have charged thousands of pounds, is something to be thankful for, not critical.

The installation looks great and it has been gifted to the town.

Had the idea gone to committee it would have taken months or years to come to fruition and having been approved, as I am sure it would have been, the cost would have borne by the council.

With that money saved, perhaps we could get on with the urgent job of repairing the roads around the town centre… — Yours faithfully,

Giles Hoff

Nettlebed

This is not Las Vegas!

Sir, — I recognise that I may be a little late in the debate, but since many in the community are keen for me to sign a petition to keep the lights that are currently installed (by an artist no less) on Henley bridge, I feel impelled to share my views.

There are two very good reasons why I will not lend my support to their cause.

The first is that dressing any object with lights does not maketh one an artist and so we should not confuse this installation with art just because an artist taped some DIY store lights to a bridge.

If that was the case, we would all qualify to be royal academists when adorning the tree each Christmas.

Secondly, the bridge is already beautiful and doesn’t need spiffing up — I mean, this isn’t Las Vegas for goodness’ sake! — Yours faithfully,

Luke Butcher

Belle Vue Road, Henley

Rare flash of creativity

Sir, — Though tempted to excoriate your correspondent Michael Hodges for his cavalier approach to planning protocols (Standard, March 16), I am minded, in this instance only, to oppose the lack of spark exhibited by Oxfordshire County Council.

Surely it is within the competence of said council, assuming that it has such, to support this illuminating flash of creativity that so many British towns lack.

I take issue with Mr Hodges’s condemnation of Clive Hemsley’s access of creativity as an act of civil disobedience.

Needs must it be classed as an act of gratuitous art, a promiscuous gesture of kindness, benefiting a town confronting its incipient coma, as an entity, and colouring, to boot, individual worlds.

It is not appropriate to dam such a flow of positivity. Indeed it is a simple process to grant retrospective permission.

The benefits of a more relaxed approach? Light and life allied to the forestalling of a spurious expense which in these straitened times would serve no one. — Yours faithfully,

Graham Hodges

Lyndhurst Road, Hove

Principal’s responsibility

Sir, — As a former pupil of Henley Grammar School, it saddens me to hear of the challenges currently facing The Henley College (Standard, March 16).

I would like to make the following points, however:

College principal Satwant Deol reports the financial problems but appears to take no personal responsibility.

She probably inherited a difficult situation and government cuts will have exacerbated this but surely she and the financial director should be considering their (expensive) positions.

The college cannot (especially in its current financial position) be expected to monitor students when they are not in college.

The fact that cuts have led to no permanent police presence just along the road is more to blame.

The town council should make the streets around the college residents’ parking only to ease the situation for those who live there. — Yours faithfully,

Melanie White

Burnham Rise, Emmer Green

Unanswered questions

Sir, — I read your article about The Henley College and have a concern that they have removed the minutes of this academic year’s governors/committee meetings from their website. This is not transparent as these are meant to be available.

In the context of your article, it would be interesting to ask/share with readers:

• How many staff in total have taken voluntary or compulsory redundancy in the past five years?

• What proportion has the head count fallen by?

• What are their student numbers for the past five years and the number of courses?

• How many similar consultations have they now had — three or four?

• Will they divulge the salaries of the principal and leadership team? Will those staff be offering to take a pay cut?

• Will the chair of governors be stepping down? — Yours faithfully,

Graham Lesley

Wycombe Road, Marlow

Exemplary place of study

Sir, — I am a student at The Henley College, studying for three A-levels as well as attending various enrichment activities.

I thoroughly enjoy learning at college and frequently utilise the excellent career and welfare support.

The college’s student leadership team and welfare officer have been focusing on improving the relationship with the local residents, of which I am one.

Currently, a compulsory hour a week is devoted to improving social skills such as safe driving, parking and behaviour as well as subjects such as litter and language.

New programmes are being installed to manage the safe driving and parking issues which have been a strong focus within the college.

I feel that The Henley College is an exemplary place of study as well as providing a safe and supportive environment. — Yours faithfully,

Freya Ruparel

Henley

We’re proud of college

Sir, — I am writing in response to your front page story in last week’s edition and in particular the headline “College staff face the Chop”, which presents a very misleading picture of the work now being undertaken to secure the future of The Henley College.

It is very disappointing that, at a time when we are doing our best to deal with an historic deficit caused by funding changes, we should be painted as a harsh employer just cutting jobs.

We would hope that, as the local newspaper, the Henley Standard would join us in campaigning against the repeated cuts in funding that have had such a big impact on us as well as other schools and colleges both locally and across the country.

While 66 job roles at the college have indeed been identified as being “at risk”, the reduction in the actual number of posts will be small and will be made only once the consultation is complete.

We are involving all our staff in the consultation and seeking to minimise the impact where we can.

Those whose roles are “at risk” are being offered the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy or early retirement and they will also be able to apply for the new roles that are being created.

The hard truth is that we need to reposition ourselves for the future and, to do this, we are having to review the way we operate.

There have been significant cuts in funding over the past few years but our costs have continued to rise.

This is not only about money; we need to reflect changes in the educational needs of our students and the economy and to find ways to continue to deliver the very high standards for which we are renowned.

We have to ensure we are providing a first-class experience of education that will equip our students for the next phase of their lives, whether that is at university, further training such as an apprenticeship, or work.

We are being supported in this by the Education and Skills Funding Agency, which requires us to meet its targets.

The measures we are proposing will strengthen the college management, improve support for students and allow us to embrace changes in teaching and learning for the benefit of our students.

Some job roles will go, new roles are being created and we will have to review the provision of a very small number of courses that are no longer viable simply because students are not choosing to take the subject.

We are, however, confident that the changes we are proposing will put the college on a very firm footing and would hope that the community would support our actions.

The Henley College is far from being the only educational institution in this position.

According to the latest figures released by the Association of Colleges, 55 per cent of colleges have a deficit budget. Funding for students aged 16 to 18 has been cut by 12 per cent in the past seven years.

Some schools and colleges have been in austerity measures for many years and have undergone repeated restructures; others are currently losing very significant numbers of staff and cutting courses.

The Henley College still has capital reserves — it is the annual running costs of the college that are exceeding the income from government funding and other sources.

We are immensely proud of The Henley College. We have outstanding staff and will continue to provide the widest curriculum offer in the area as well as maintaining our excellent achievement levels. Our stated aim is to continue to be an outstanding college at the heart of our community and we are taking measures to ensure this happens.

We really hope that the community, including our alumni, will be able to support us and we are keen to hear from anyone who may be able to offer practical support.

Anyone considering applying to The Henley College can be assured of a welcoming environment and a broad range of curriculum options as well as many opportunities for self-development through enrichment activities such as drama, sport and community engagement. — Yours faithfully,

Satwant Deol

Principal and chief exectuive, The Henley College

No room for pick ’n’ mix

Sir, — There were two puzzling letters on these pages last week in respect of the decision that the development of 95 houses at Thames Farm would finally go ahead.

Barry Wood praised the use of the “tools of democracy” to gain the necessary planning permission.

This is very strange considering that the democratically elected MP and democratically elected councillors at at levels — parish, district and county — opposed the proposal, as did more than 600 residents who signed a petition demanding that the decision to allow the proposal made by one unelected man in Bristol be overturned.

Dieter Hinke implored Harpsden not to exit the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan, stating this would be undemocratic, yet overlooked the fact that some members of the steering group chose to fight hard for their plan when it applied to Henley, yet ignored it when it came to Harpsden by supporting the development at Thames Farm and the building of the Bremont factory on green fields in the parish. How democratic was that?

It is quite understandable that Harpsden feels short-changed by this “pick ’n’ mix” approach. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor David Bartholomew

Sonning Common division and cabinet member for finance and communication, Oxfordshire County Council

Lay down the pen, Barry

Sir, — Having read previous massive missives from Barry Wood on the subject of planning applications, I can imagine the pleasure he derived when writing the section in his latest submission in praise of Claire Engbers.

What a different message we would have read had Mr Wood resided in Shiplake.

Perhaps he should give his pen a rest and get out more? — Yours faithfully,

Mike Kempton

Shiplake

Ridiculous opposition

Sir, — In response to Councillor Tom Fort’s letter (Standard, March 2), my objection to South Oxfordshire District Council and Shiplake Parish Council wasting our money on their (unsuccessful) appeals against the development at Thames Farm is twofold.

Firstly, the site was removed from the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan by political sleight of hand and, secondly, it was recommended for approval by the district council’s own planning department!

So they were using our money against their own planning officers — a ridiculous state of affairs. — Yours faithfully,

Garry Forster

Goring Heath

Help us stop urban creep

Sir, — The Campaign Against Gladman in Eye & Dunsden needs help once again in its fight against the company’s appeal against the refusal of planning permission for 245 houses on the northern edge of Emmer Green on what is currently green belt land.

CAGE has set up a crowdfunding website which it hopes will raise £10,000 to help its fight against Gladman Homes at a planning appeal hearing in May.

When this development was first proposed more than 400 people from surrounding parishes registered their objections online, which was instrumental in South Oxfordshire District Council planning committee’s decision to refuse consent.

If you still object to this development, please visit www.leetchi.com/c/community-cagedunsden and donate whatever you can.

Gladman Homes are experts in their chosen business and you can be assured that they will present a very convincing case for this development to go ahead, so CAGE needs every pound you can spare to enable it to present an equally convincing counter argument.

If Gladman win this appeal it is certain that many other applications will come flooding in, turning South Oxfordshire into a mass of housing developments.

The much-feared urban creep will go rolling on into the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside. — Yours faithfully,

Eric Yarrow

Emmer Green

Country in decline

Sir, — Your correspondent David Dickie surmises that Brexit will not deliver the money needed to pay for the “massive backlog” of public expenditure which he itemises (Standard, March 16).

I rather doubt that those 17.5 million voters who chose Brexit did so in the hope of financing this backlog.

I suggest they did so to wrest control of our country away from the greedy Brussels bureaucrats with all that it entails. Better late than never.

I have it on good authority that as far as Oxfordshire County Council is concerned, it prefers to spend its inadequate budget primarily on various kinds of welfare rather than on, for example, potholes.

Hence the disgraceful and deteriorating “Third World” state of our roads, as your correspondent Ron White says in the same issue. There are many other examples.

The Government’s current disagreeable but, in my view, prudent and essential “austerity” measures (which preceded the Brexit decision) are intended to help the UK live within its means, just as everyone else has to do.

History tells us that only a Conservative government has the cojones to carry out such a programme.

The big picture, David, is that our country is broke, having been in gradual and genteel decline, relative to other states, for decades.

It is hard to believe now but, for example, little more than a century ago our royal navy was the largest in the world.

Nowadays we simply do not have the money to do everything in spite of punitive levels of taxation.

Perhaps Mr Corbyn will soon have a chance to fix that?

Relatively low productivity is at the heart of our financial woes. — Yours faithfully,

Michael Emmett

Peppard Common

Okay when it suits MPs

Sir, — I am sure most users of Facebook and Google would prefer that their actions were not tracked for any purpose, political or otherwise.

What a pity it is, therefore, that our politicians’ current interest in our privacy while using these sites is motivated purely by the fact that personal information may have been used in relation to two recent votes (Brexit and the American presidential election) whose outcome they do not like.

When opinion pollsters were interviewed by MPs on one of the select committees six months ago and repeatedly asked why they had failed to predict the outcome of the referendum and the general election, the MPs on the committee seemed desperate for the pollsters to improve their analysis of social media in order to better predict which way people would vote. — Yours faithfully,

Tim Beechey-Newman

Gravel Hill, Caversham

Don’t close the hospice

Sir, — Having just lost my husband at Sue Ryder Nettlebed, I know how upset he would have been to hear about the proposed closure of this wonderful hospice.

He had been attending the Wednesday centre for more than four years and was full of praise for the attention he received there from all the staff and volunteers.

He always said he felt at peace as soon as he entered the doors. It was a chance to talk to others suffering, although they rarely talked about their illness. It was just nice to meet someone else who was in the same boat as you.

Also, he realised that it gave me and other carers some hours to ourselves to unwind.

When his condition deteriorated he was admitted to the care of the “upstairs” team — an amazing caring body of professionals of all ranks.

They were popping in the door just to chat for a few minutes and make him feel that he was cared for. This went for all branches of the staff.

How will they do this once the facility is closed? No more personal contact and instant medical attention.

My family were offered the use of a suite of rooms and spent the last five days there so we could be with him all the time without outside worries.

If patients were in their own homes their carers would still have to deal with running a home as well as being responsible for their loved one.

Think before this wonderful facility is lost to us and the team is dispersed. — Yours faithfully,

Mrs J Selman

Goring

Thanks for the thanks

Sir, — May I, through the letters pages, share with all our neighbours and friends the thanks from local folk who have been helped through the Henley Lions Club’s winter fuel project.

So far, eight individuals and eight families all living within the Henley area have been assisted with paying fuel bills when they were unable to do so by themselves.

All have expressed sincere verbal thanks to the unnamed donors, Citizens Advice Henley, Nomad and the Lions for implementing the winter fuel assistance scheme.

I’d like to share the contents of notes from two recipients, as follows:

“Dear Henley Lions,

Thank you for your help with my heating bills this year. My sincerest thanks to the volunteers and to those that donate to help us when we most need it.”

And: “I just want to say a big thank-you to you all for helping me with my gas and electric donations for Christmas. You really did a lovely thing for me.

“No one has ever been so kind. If there were more people like yourselves, we would all live in a better world. Thank you to all of you. With all my heart, thank you.”

If you receive the winter fuel allowance and would like to donate all, or part of it, to this worthy cause, we would welcome your help via our website, henleylions.org.uk

Please be assured that every penny donated is ring-fenced and only used for those people that really do need help to stay warm and to have hot food in this cold winter period. — Yours faithfully,

John Moore

Henley Lions Club

Message to brave Caitlin

Sir, — This is a letter to Caitlin Donaldson, who was featured in your edition of March 9.

Dear Caitlin,

I read the article about you and was very touched by it. I would love to meet you and help you to paint rocks. I feel that children like you shouldn’t have to deal with it all but, as I read, it sounds like you are handling it well. You are a true rock star!

I would love to meet up with you sometime because you sound like a very brave and courageous girl.

Even though I am the same age as you, I can’t imagine what it is like to handle it but I feel that you are doing great!

Painting rocks is a great idea and I would love to help you paint some rocks and spend some time with you and become good friends. I believe in you, you are doing great! — Yours faithfully,

Charlotte Alvey, aged 10

Heather Close, Sonning Common

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