Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Your letters...

Leave off my lights

Sir, — Thank you to Mr N Robinson, of Peppard Road, Sonning Common, for his suggestion of floodlighting Henley Bridge (Standard, April 6).

I must say that is like going back 30 years — I presume he wants halogen bulbs!

I have always said in order to stay the same you must change.

For me, lighting the bridge is all about featuring the five arches of this magnificent structure, bearing in mind we are an Olympic town.

On a normal night, to achieve five glorious gold circles reflecting from the water (the five Olympic rings) getting the right balance of light is so important.

As all artists are aware, light (and composition) is paramount when creating a painting. All I’ve done is visualise for you.

It would be, in my opinion, a big mistake to put back the floodlights.

Mr Robinson is clearly not aware of the extra revenue this light feature will generate from visitors as well as supporting all the events and, more importantly, Henley’s global brand.

It is highlighting, without causing any damage, our glorious Grade I listed bridge. We should make a big deal of it as it’s one of our town’s main features.

Most photographers love it, so it will go viral and bring Henley to the forefront globally — something so simple yet so powerful should help everybody locally.

If you want to get the balance absolutely right, let’s ask Mark Dunlop, landlord of the Angel, to tone down his landing lights on the pub — he is an extremely helpful chap and, like me, very much for supporting the town.

Perhaps Mr Robinson might like to see some of the correspondence I have received in support of my bridge lights, including this note (I won’t say who sent it to me):

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo.

“You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.

“Because they change things. They push the human race forward and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

I do agree with Mr Robinson that you cannot have anybody just decide to high-light public property, especially classic buildings, but I will say (without going into detail as that would be going backwards) that it was not done without consultation.

Finally, I will do whatever the townspeople want me to do, not what the bureaucrats dictate. They report to us. These people generally don’t live here (I note this issue is now being used for political gain/agendas, which is totally wrong).

Can we please all start thinking like Marlow where people work together?

Nearly 2,500 people have signed the petition to keep the lights — surely that should influence the politicians and bureaucrats. I thank every one of you who signed.

We live here, so respect our democratic wishes and let’s see Henley Town Council put in a retrospective planning application for these commercial fairy lights (that’s all they are) and have the balls to back me. — Yours faithfully,

Clive Hemsley

Hart Street, Henley

In defence of cyclists

Sir, — I refer to Mr K C Bushnell’s letter headlined “Put road tax on cyclists” (Standard, March 30).

Road tax: Hopefully to the advantage of your readers, I would like to clarify a misconception about “road tax”. Winston Churchill abolished it back in 1937.

Readers of the Henley Standard still paying it might like to consider contacting whoever they have been paying it to and asking for their money back!

Road tax is often confused with Vehicle Excise Duty. The latter, which many car owners pay, is based on emissions.

The more polluting the vehicle you drive, the more you pay. Low or zero emissions do not incur a charge — hence the exception of electric vehicles and cycles. Bicycles are, of course, carbon neutral.

This is not to say that people cycling are saints saving the planet. It’s highly likely the folk you see out cycling also drive.

The memberships of Cycling UK and the AA do not hide the fact that large proportions of our members cycle and drive — more than 90 per cent in the case of Cycling UK.

When it comes to paying for the upkeep of our roads, we’re all equal as our roads are paid for from the general tax pot which drivers and cyclists contribute to through income tax, VAT, council tax etc.

If Mr Bushnell still feels hard done by, perhaps he should consider replacing his three vehicles with an electric one or even a bicycle — these tax advantages, which protect our shared environment, are accessible to everyone after all.

Potholes: It is disheartening that Mr Bushnell employed what must have been a serious pothole accident as another opportunity to bash cyclists as opposed to recognising our common cause: potholes are a danger to all road users.

He also used a rather odious comparison given that on the one hand he was talking about damage to a vehicle and on the other about what was clearly a very serious injury with potentially life-changing consequences.

Instead of using potholes to take pot shots at each other, we should be working together, just as Cycling UK has done with its Fill that Hole campaign and its recent research and mapping of the cost of unfixed potholes on local authorities and the wider economy.

Insurance: Along with all Cycling UK members, I do in fact have third party insurance.

However, the Government has considered making such insurance compulsory and it worked out that to do so would require vast levels of investment to register the 25 million cycle owners in the UK (many of whom are children) with very limited return on public benefit.

Department for Transport statistics clearly show that cyclists cause negligible levels of injury or damage to third parties compared with motorists.

Towpath riding: The Thames Path in our area is classified as a footpath and I do not deny that cyclists ride along it.

I do not see how rowing coaches can run along it to encourage their crews in training. They have been riding it for years.

All canal towpaths in London are “shared use” for pedestrians and cyclists with little room for error when passing either.

Two rings on the bell is sufficient warning that a cyclist wishes to pass. It is a legal requirement to have a bell fitted on a new cycle and courteous use of it as an early warning device would be appreciated by all using our towpath.

If enough cyclists regularly use a footpath without the landowner challenging them for (usually) 20 years, then a restricted byway may be claimed through “presumed rights” under s31 of the 1980 Highways Act. — Yours faithfully,

Bob Somers

Mount View, Henley

Tories can’t be relied on

Sir, — So yet another Conservative town councillor has given up on their commitment to Henley (Standard, April 6).

To lose one councillor may be considered unlucky or careless, to lose four in two years suggests that something is very wrong.

Whatever the reason, Conservative councillors have proved to be unreliable.

These four resignations will have cost the town circa £23,000 in by-election expenses which could have been spent much more productively.

Henley Residents Group councillors all sign up to work together for the good of Henley.

Even when not in control of the council, they resurrected the May fair, bringing it back to the market square, and made it a tremendous success.

They work hard for the town and have all stayed the course.

HRG will be content to leave the seat vacant and save Henley the expenditure. In our democracy, however, any 10 registered voters in the Henley South ward can call for an election. If this is the case, then we will respond.

A year ago, HRG regained control of the council. Residents will have already seen many initiatives in progress, addressing air quality, the new bus tendering process and park improvements.

We must also remember that it was HRG and Colin Brathwaite that brought the new skate park to Henley for our young people.

We are sure that the town will show their appreciation at the full polls in 2019. — Yours faithfully,

David Feary

Treasurer, Henley Residents Group, Walton Avenue, Henley

Expensive resignations

Sir, — Your readers will have noted last week that yet another Conservative councillor has walked away from the job, the fourth in this civic cycle.

They may also be interested to know the cost of these resignations.

The three by-elections held so far, prompted by the resignations of Conservative councillors, have cost Henley council taxpayers more than £15,000.

Councillors Dylan Thomas and Martin Akehurst represented something of a bargain in resigning together and at a time when the costs could be shared with the county council elections.

The latest resignation — only three months after the by-election to fill Councillor Simon Smith’s seat and barely a year before the full four-yearly elections for all town council seats — risks bringing the total above £22,000. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Jane Smewing

Henley Residents Group, Henley Town Council, St Mark’s Road, Henley

Save money on elections

Sir, — That’s four Conservative Henley town councillors who have resigned over the last three years.

That will probably cost us well over £40,000 for the by-elections. Can I suggest that in future the council simply co-opts members of our community, who are independent and suitable, to fill vacant seats until the end of the four-year cycle? It is within the rules.

That would save taxpayers’ money and having endless elections.

We have, after all, only a parish council which could make use of more independents in the council chamber. — Yours faithfully,

Dieter Hinke

Elizabeth Road, Henley

Uninspiring development

Sir, — The Highlands Farm development is now called Highlands Park. I despair. Boring, boring, boring. How can such a fantastic site be so uninspiring?

When I first saw the Crest Nicholson plans long ago during the town hall presentations I felt a little optimistic but now that it has started building the houses I feel oh dear, have they got no inspiration or vision?

There are many excellent architects in the UK, who should have been given the chance to submit plans for this fantastic site as it deserved special attention.

But no, it is all very pedestrian and, frankly, boring. Then there is the other site behind the shops in Greys Road which looks as if something went wrong. — Yours faithfully,

Anne Johnson


Keep up the support

Sir, — I am a volunteer for the Sue Ryder hospice in Nettlebed, working as a fund-raiser and in the sales team.

My commitment stems from the marvellous support that I received looking after my terminally ill husband.

I have read both the press releases and the letters and comments regarding the closure of the hospice and do understand that some people have a feeling of great loss and loyalty, both towards the building and the caring and wonderful staff.

I also understand that change is often difficult to manage but I fully support the exciting and innovative trial of the “hospice at home” service.

The community hubs, as I understand it, will provide a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service and there will be beds available to those who need them.

It is more important than ever that the community continues to financially support the hospice and staff in the unstinting work that they do and the new service that will soon be on offer.

Many of the readers of the Henley Standard will have benefited from the hospice care and residents of Sonning Common have been particularly generous.

We have at least three events in aid of the hospice due to take place in our village hall and would value support, not just from Sonning Common residents but also from others in the near neighbourhood.

Our next event will be on Friday, May 4, starting at 7.30pm, and is a concert by international classical guitarist David Jaggs (look him up on YouTube if you can).

Tickets cost £20 each, which includes wine and tapas, and are available at the Occasions gift shop in the village or email me at

All proceeds will go to the hospice.

We are very excited to be bringing live music to our village hall and hope that this will be the first of many concerts. — Yours faithfully,

Chrissie Phillips-Tilbury

Sonning Common

What about the patients?

Sir, — Your issue of March 30 contained an interview with Holly Spiers, Sue Ryder’s executive director of hospices and fund- raising in which she talked about the closure and sale of the charity’s hospice in Nettlebed within two years.

She claimed that this decision was based on a statistical analysis of bed use over the past four years showing a decline of 12 per cent.

What Mrs Spiers hardly mentioned was the high cost of running the hospice.

Those who have visited it in the last year or so will have seen the poster stating that the daily cost of running the hospice is £9,000, or £3,285,000 annually.

That is a very large upkeep cost, which is mostly funded by donations and regular sales so why did she not state that this was the main reason for closing the hospice?

Rather, Mrs Spiers chose to emphasise that most people wish to die at home and would be better served by the new “hospice at home” service.

Statistically, this is almost certainly correct.

However, she seems to ignore the fact that most of those occupying the beds at Nettlebed have gone there to die.

They need palliative care provided by highly trained specialist nursing staff 24 hours a day with all the equipment involved in that treatment.

That is the ethos of Sue Ryder hospice care.

Why has Mrs Spiers not consulted the families who have had relatives die at the hospice? Let’s have less finance-speak and more emphasis on palliative care.

Would it be possible, through your newspaper, to persuade Mrs Spiers to address a public meeting at the hospice? — Yours faithfully,

Alfred Waller


Deficiency of car parks

Sir, — A major deficiency in the parking system at Townlands Memorial Hospital and the adjacent Chilterns Court care centre is that the user has no evidence of what they entered on the screen at reception.

Surely (so-called) Smart Parking could attach a small printer to give people a paper receipt. Without this the company holds the only evidence when it comes to fines and, more importantly, to appeal.

Then, even someone who made a slight error in entering their registration number could prove that they were genuine visitors who should not be fined for a minor mistake made, often in a stressful situation.

In the meantime, could I suggest that people take a photograph of the completed screen with their mobile phone as I, and a number of others I know, now do.

This precaution is the lesson learned from being wrongly issued with fine notices and subjected to an unsympathetic, stressful and one-sided appeal process. — Yours faithfully,

Charles Whittaker


Excellent NHS service

Sir, — Much has been aired about the parking charge problem at Townlands Memorial Hospital.

However, we have heard nothing about the standard of care given by the minor injuries department, which I had to visit very recently with a serious cut to a finger.

The way I was received and treated and the care shown were superb.

Henley and the local area should be grateful that we have such an excellent service at Townlands. — Yours faithfully,

Douglas Kedge

Lea Road, Sonning Common

Vital service for families

Sir, — I am one of the mothers who would very much benefit from having more children’s services in Benson (Standard, April 6).

We would definitely use this most days if it was available but instead we have to travel mainly to Chalgrove or Cholsey to use their centres — two or three times a week.

Benson’s own small facilities already attract children from the RAF base and other local villages, so what happens when all the new houses are built?

These services are really important for our children’s development and learning skills and for parents/carers to develop relationships with others.

They also help to give more routine to our children’s day. — Yours faithfully,

Katy Brizell


Crash driver was unlawful

Sir, — Your readers may be interested to know that the overturned car pictured on the letters page last week had no current road fund licence or MOT.

The young driver was unhurt. The police attended and the highways team came and put absorbent material down to soak up the oil on the road. — Yours faithfully,

Jennie Spooner

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