Sunday, 20 June 2021

Your letters...

Incompetent and invisible

Sir, — Having read your article headlined “Police don’t care (part 2)” (Standard, April 27), I simply had to write to say a very big thank-you.

I have lived in Sonning Common for more than 15 years and at last we have someone willing to speak up for neglected, taxpaying residents, the very people who directly fund the shambolic Thames Valley Police.

Over the years I have made many an attempt to seek help from the police with regard to blatant and excessive speeding around the village, in particular along Kennylands Road where I live.

I’ve written letters, sent emails and made phone calls, all to no avail.

I make no joke when I say some cars using this road are probably travelling in excess of 60mph when the road has a limit of 30mph. Try exiting your driveway with cars doing these speeds. God forbid, it’s a serious accident just waiting to happen.

Many a time I’ve contemplated filming the speed these drivers travel at and posting it on YouTube but would it do any good? Would it shame the police into doing something about it? I doubt it very much.

Yes, the drivers are the offenders but it’s the police who allow it to continue and their lack of presence gives motorists the freedom to do as they please. Who’s the guilty party?

As for visibility, I can honestly say that the only time I have seen a police officer in the locality this calendar year was when two of them were buying a sandwich in the Emmer Green shops.

Yes, all public services have faced cutbacks but I believe the police use this as an excuse to cover up their incompetence.

The bin men still empty the bins every Wednesday, the fire service still responds if your garden shed goes up in flames and the ambulance service still comes to your aid if you fall down and break your arm. The police...?

Thank you for taking the time to read through my little rant. I’m confident there are many more residents who would replicate my words and more. — Yours faithfully,

Paul Groundwell

Kennylands Road, Sonning Common

Police have given up

Sir, — So we leave our stable doors wide open and every three months 22 parish council chairmen and women discuss why the horses have bolted and forward their conclusions to yet another crime survey to gather dust?

Bring in “fire, housing, and other interested groups” says our new Henley area neighbourhood police sergeant Neil Anns (Standard, April 27).

Thames Valley Police already know exactly what our opinions are and know exactly what the answers are: we need boots on the ground, preferably police ones and not frustrated residents with big shoulders and dark sunglasses carrying knobkieries instead of notebooks. Don’t laugh, the latter is not very far below the surface. People want policing and to see justice done, not talked about in yet another toothless committee.

Before the police accuse members of my village of being vociferous in the press, may I point out that we have bent over backwards to play our part in “neighbourhood policing” but what are we getting in return? Not a lot! They won’t even talk to us.

At the express request of Thames Valley Police, I installed a parish CCTV system paid for by our village taxpayers and gave the force the security passwords to use it for themselves, a live day/night vision x10 camera kit with 24/7 online monitoring and recording facilities. Do they use it? No.

Yet they expect us to spend hours trawling through videos weeks after an event on a cold case call. We are not police officers and we don’t know what we are looking for anyway, it’s a secret.

On the occasions when I have spotted something untoward live and have called the police non-emergency number 101 (when you can get through after the “we value your call” spiel from the Chief Constable), I have been told to stop wasting police time. Is this a working “neighbourhood policing” relationship?

Neither the left or right hands on 101, nor the ivory tower management and the few real boots on the ground are talking to each other.

That, of course, rather assumes there are police officers available to answer their radios in the first place.

We have been asked to provide secure storage space for a Thames Valley Police bicycle so that it doesn’t get stolen but of course there is no crime in Sonning Common so they closed the only police station in the area.

Is this bicycle to provide our sole police community support officer with a means of covering his 100 square mile patch with his whistle and truncheon?

I hope he gets one with decent gears, pothole-proof wheels and a dynamo charger for his radio.

Thames Valley Police (among many others) have lost control but at least our new sergeant has had the honesty to admit he hasn’t a cat in hell’s chance of policing the area properly.

Instead of flying our Union flag with pride at police HQ perhaps a white towel would be a better summation? — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Dirk Jones

Sonning Common Parish Council, Kennylands Road, Sonning Common

I’ve not had a rebuttal

Sir, — While your coverage of my letter to Thames Valley Police accurately represented its content, the contextual matter implied that I was writing as an individual rather than, as was the case, on behalf of Sonning Common Parish Council.

The proposal from Sgt Neil Anns was discussed at some length before and during the parish council meeting held on April 16.

At that meeting it was agreed that I should compose a response to the proposal that reflected the views expressed around the table.

This I did and then agreed the content with our chairman before sending it.

I can report that, despite many local expressions of support, there has thus far been been a deafening silence from all levels of Thames Valley Police.

One has, therefore, to presume that the criticisms made cannot be rebutted. — Your faithfully,

Philip Collings

Clerk, Sonning Common Parish Council

Those were the days...

Sir, — Recently, we visited the Station House pub in Henley for coffee.

Our visit reminded us of the time it was the police station.

It was built in around 1850, open day and night and very much the hub of the town, used by locals and visitors alike.

In the Seventies it was staffed by an inspector, five sergeants, one of who was a detective, many other policemen and civilian staff.

The station had a front desk for the public, several offices and prison cells and it provided accommodation for police officers in its single men quarters. It even had a kennel for stray dogs. The streets of Henley were patrolled at all times by two police officers on foot and one on a bike, which was later replaced by a van.

The policemen worked three shifts, 6am to 2pm, 2pm to 10pm and 10pm to 6am with a weekend off every seven weeks.

Then there were the village policemen, who were on call 24 hours a day, working split shifts.

These village policemen took their orders from Henley police station.

There were village Police Houses at Nettlebed, Sonning Common, Shiplake, Goring, Crays Pond, Mapledurham, Stoke Row and Benson.

Henley police station also had about 10 special constables and out in the villages there were another six or eight.

All of which is a far cry from how we are policed today. Mind you, the coffee has improved at the station! — Yours faithfully,

JS

Henley

Speeding is just selfish

Sir, — I have every sympathy with Cyrus Contractor who has to endure drivers speeding past his house in Wargrave (Standard, April 27).

We live along a stretch of Lodge Road, Hurst, together with several other people, and are having a similar experience in this 40mph speed limit.

Getting in and out of the property is difficult and dangerous every time as speeding drivers will not slow down.

We have to put hazard lights on to alert them and we still get horn blasts while manoeuvring in and out.

There is a lovely walk along to Dinton Pastures opposite but you take your life in your hands crossing over from the pavement to join the path. Sometimes it’s like being at Silverstone, or sounds like it.

Surely slowing down, whatever the speed limit, should be the safest way to drive when you see pedestrians ready to cross. If you know and use this stretch of road please think of us.

Extending the existing 30mph would go a long way to alleviating the problem, I’m sure, but speeding is a selfish action and should be dealt with. That is not happening in Hurst at the moment. — Yours faithfully,

Cynthia Davidson

Lodge Road, Hurst

(Not) fixing the problem

Sir, — Some months ago, I reported a depression/subsidence on Gravel Hill, Henley, where I daily witnessed cars bounce up the hill, often scraping their undercarriages.

The depression was so significant that sometimes sparks flew and there was an audible noise of impact.

I had a reply from the Fix My Street website, telling me that the problem did not warrant a repair.

Imagine my surprise when it was fixed last month.

In December 2016, a few days before Christmas, I tripped on the pavement in Station Road on my way back from the station and broke my wrist.

I notified Fix My Street of the upstanding pavement slab and was notified some weeks later that it had been fixed. It had not been touched.

I submitted a great wodge of evidence to Oxfordshire County Council looking for compensation for out-of-pocket expenses (notably broken glasses when my face hit the ground) and again complained that the paving slab had not been dealt with. Some time later, I was informed that legal precedent meant that insurers would only pay out if the upstand was more than 1in and the council considered the case closed.

Shortly afterwards, I was surprised to see that the place where I had fallen had been tarmacked.

I resumed my correspondence with the council and was informed that the repair was carried out because there was a crack in the paving slab.

I could see at a glance that there are many cracked paving slabs within feet of the one I tripped on.

While I am pleased that the hazard that caused my fall has been fixed, I am left wondering at an administration that deems something not to be a problem one day but proceeds to fix it another. — Yours faithfully,

Patricia Mulcahy

Milton Close, Henley

This culture must change

Sir, — There’s a single track road from the B481 near Cookley Green to the B480 at Stonor, through Maidensgrove and Russells Water.

On April 24 and 25 Openreach repaired overhead telephone wires along a short stretch at Upper Maidensgrove, about halfway along the road.

Their equipment necessarily blocked the road.

At the request of Openreach, Oxfordshire County Council had issued a formal notice under section 14(2) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 prohibiting the use by motor vehicles over two miles of the road, from Maidensgrove to the B481.

For everyone in Russells Water and many in Maidensgrove that was their only route to the outside world.

There was no reason why people shouldn’t use it normally, just avoiding the blocked point, save only that by doing so they became guilty of an offence.

As with other offences under the same Act (such as ignoring speed limits), it’s no defence to point out that the prohibition is excessive, or that it shouldn’t be enforced.

A public authority has no business to be imposing criminal sanctions in this kind of case, even if it should say it has no intention of enforcing them.

It is unacceptable for a council to use statutory powers to stop the public using public roads without very clear necessity.

The council may have wide discretion but no reasonable person acting reasonably (the legal test) could have thought it necessary to close the whole two miles of road.

So the closure was probably unlawful as well.

As a matter of elementary common sense, the public should have been allowed to find out from the council what the proposed works were and where exactly the road would be impassable.

When I asked the council this by telephone three days before they said they didn’t know.

That won’t do — they charge a £750 fee to Openreach for making the prohibition.

Abuse of power may seem a colourful term but, sadly, that’s what this was.

It would be good to see a change of culture at the county council. — Yours faithfully,

Arthur Weir

Maidensgrove

Can’t ignore town brand

Sir, — I refer to N Robinson’s letter about my lights on Henley Bridge (Standard, April 27).

Two weeks ago, I was forwarded a photograph from a regatta enthusiast of Henley Bridge completely lit up in July 1902.

The photo is from the Gieves and Hawkes official regatta catalogue — it does show you the vandalism of lighting up the bridge in 1902!

As for N Robinson calling me “arrogant” and my letter a “verbose pompous epistle”, all I can say is thank you and I would respectfully reply that the majority of people love the lights otherwise nearly 2,500 would not have signed the petition to keep them.

As for artists and Old Masters, I certainly believe we can learn a lot from the past (in lots of areas) but I am mindful that your correspondent is using the art world as an excuse to get personal with me.

As for wanting Henley to stay a lovely riverside town, well, it is but it’s also the home of the most important rowing event in the world.

We are and should be proud of our Henley brand name. That’s why we all should be aware of our town image, from its cleanliness to Henley in Bloom (great job) to being civil and friendly to our visitors.

But if N Robinson wishes to keep his/her head in the sand then so be it. Clearly a waste of a great brain!

I think we should all move on to much more important issues in the town. — Yours faithfully,

Clive Hemsley

Hart Street, Henley

Lit town hall looks nice

Sir, — I have noticed that Henley Town Council has taken a leaf out of Clive Hemsley’s book and has decided to illuminate the town hall fascia.

It looks very elegant and sits beautifully lit at the top of Market Place.

I hope they got planning permission for the lights. — Yours faithfully,

Ione Stacey

Sonning Common

Visitors need ‘experience’

Sir, — To further my concerns about Henley’s retail offering, it is now very apparent that the town is becoming well known for its wide selection of charity shops.

“Is this intentional?” I ask those in power.

Last week, I was entertaining a very influential person in world tourism and he was taken aback by the state of Henley, specifically singling out the number of chains and charity shops which sit alongside too many empty store fronts. It is embarrassing.

I believe that the current administration has failed and any new leadership needs to move away from the pomp and history and focus on nurturing year-round footfall.

They need to work with landlords to curate a “Henley Experience” because it’s not going to happen organically. — Yours faithfully,

Joshua Van Raalte

Kingwood Common

Penalised for tiny mistake

Sir, — I was extremely upset when I arrived home on Tuesday evening last week to discover that my recycling bin had not been emptied.

On closer inspection, I discovered a label attached to the bin, explaining that it had not been emptied due to the fact that it contained “either a small electrical item or some fabric”.

It certainly didn’t contain anything electrical, so I can only suppose that I had inadvertently binned some small amount of fabric.

I now have an overflowing bin which will not be emptied for another two weeks. I have nowhere to store clear plastic bags of recycling.

I totally understand the need to recycle the correct items, and I do my utmost to carry this out, but there are still some grey areas that we are not always sure about.

Apparently the refuse collectors had been looking through the bins to identify those not complying with the rules.

It is becoming so difficult these days to dispose of anything with recycling areas charging more and more and insisting that you must only go to your designated site, that it is hardly surprising fly-tipping is on the increase and spoiling our lovely area.

Just last week I have observed polystyrene sheets and two armchairs dumped in our local woods.

I would have quite understood if my bin had been full of nappies or suchlike but I don’t think it is very helpful to penalise the odd mistake and surely they could have just removed it themselves! — Yours faithfully,

Carol Brown

Bix

End hostile environment

Sir, — It is a damning indictment of what kind of country we have become when we hear stories of people who have been here for decades being deported or denied healthcare.

But let us not forget that Theresa May’s hostile environment impacts more than just the Windrush generation. It poisons the very fabric of our society.

It forces landlords, doctors, police officers and others to be suspicious of everyone who “could” be a so-called “illegal” immigrant. This makes the UK a more hostile place to be for many British citizens too.

Immigrants, whether they arrived in 1948 or 2018, are our neighbours, our friends and our children’s classmates. Respect, love and a good welcome — not hostility — is what they deserve.

This Government must stop treating them like the enemy within and focus on the inequality and poverty that is the true enemy tearing our society apart. Apologies and assurances are not enough. The Government must end the hostile environment policy completely. Full stop. — Yours faithfully,

Jackie Oversby

Co-ordinator, Global Justice Reading

Good reason to trim trees

Sir, — Just an update for all the kind people who have expressed their moral support to the problem with our neighbour’s overgrown leylandii trees (Standard, April 27).

To prevent further damp and damage to our home, we have paid for the branches to be professionally cut back.

We didn’t take up Councillor Treacher’s suggestion that my husband did the work himself — he’s 81 with a heart condition!

The photographs in the Henley Standard alone clearly indicate the scale of the problem that out-of-control leylandii trees and their roots can cause when planted too close to a neighbouring property and allowed to grow to unacceptable heights by not being cut back on a regular basis. — Yours faithfully,

Joan and John Bawden

Shiplake Bottom, Peppard

Neighbour trouble

Sir, — I can commiserate with John and Joan Bawden over their problem with their neighbour’s overgrown leylandli hedge.

I have lived in my property for 49 years and, like the Bawdens, have experienced the problem when neighbours allow their trees and hedges to overgrow.

My neighbours have not only leylandii, which they planted next to my paddock, but also many trees and hedging annexing my garden and encroaching into my property.

Trying to resolve this situation with my neighbour was upsetting and proved to be a total nightmare.

It was finally agreed, due to the damage to my paddock fence, that his trees caused the damage.

My neighbour, on the advice of his contractor, had the trees and hedging cut back and the fence was duly repaired.

However, I am left with a more serious problem after my contractor noticed that my neighbour has also planted yew trees in his garden directly next to the fence separating our properties.

One of the trees is within feet of my paddock where I keep sheep and ponies for friends from time to time. These trees, which can grow to a height of 30ft, are poisonous to all animals and especially toxic to livestock, so I cannot now take the risk of offering my paddock to friends.

Perhaps your readers can offer a solution? — Yours faithfully,

Name and address
supplied

Happy days behind bar

Sir, — I enjoyed reading the memory of Vincent Ruane (Standard, April 27).

“Chalky White” was a customer of our pub from 1975 to 1995. It was called Ye Olde Bell in those days.

Keith and I enjoyed being there for all that time. We did a lot of food, lunchtime and evening, except Mondays when darts were played in the evening against other pubs.

How many pubs carve the joints with roast potatoes and seven vegetables these days? I loved it and we would have stayed longer were it not for Keith’s health. — Yours faithfully,

Val Wells-West

Priest Close, Nettlebed

Come and play with us

Sir, — While there is huge emphasis on keeping fit, regular exercise etc., it was great to see the flourishing band of happy walking footballers in Sonning Common (Standard, April 27).

Readers may like to know we have a small group who play regularly at Gillotts leisure centre in Henley every Friday at 7.20pm.

The cost is minimal and the benefit is superb for both for mind and body!

Walking football is a fast- growing and popular sport.

Although originally for the over-60s we do not check birth certificates. Likewise, a few grey hairs or wrinkles (plus ladies in my case) will blend in well. Be assured of a warm welcome. — Yours faithfully,

Sue Pegg

Periam Close, Henley

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