Monday, 14 June 2021

Your letters...

Town looks run down

Sir, — I have just read Henley town manager Helen Barnett’s article in the Henley Magazine, which is published by the town council, stating there are very few empty units in the town.

I think I should jog her her memory as it seems she has not walked around the town lately.

The Victoria, Da Luca, Loch Fyne, Maison Blanc, the old John Hearne shoe shop (which is nothing but an eyesore), all the units along from the Station House and many more are empty.

The only time they are filled is when another charity shop moves into town. Please tell me, how many more charity shops do we need?

The town is looking tired and run down with many flats above the shops in need of repair.

Why is the council not putting pressure on landlords to smarten up their properties? Why are there so many markets in the square selling the same old junk and tat?

I now read that Cau, the Argentinian steakhouse company, is in trouble so perhaps our outlet may close.

Let’s be honest, if it was not for the river and the visitors, why would you want to come to Henley? — Yours faithfully,

G Morse

Station Road, Henley

P.S. We could always open another coffee shop — that would really be original.

Shambles of a service

Sir, — I write in disgust regarding the Thames Water mains pipe repairs in Shiplake (Standard, June 8).

It was not until the Monday afternoon that we realised there was no water and, unaware of any announcements, we began to use bottled water that was luckily in the cupboard (albeit sparkling).

The company claims in your article to have delivered water to those people on the vulnerable customers register. We are on it but received nothing. There was no note through the door nor a telephone call.

As the problem went into a second day, I had a serious issue as the primary carer for my 86-year-old disabled and housebound mother who has uncontrollable bowel issues.

To put it bluntly, an episode occurred, as it often does, and having to use wet wipes to clean excrement and urine was not amusing.

There was also the matter of cleaning the linen and there was no way of controlling hygiene.

I am sure that the bosses of Thames Water were happy in their offices being flush with gallons of hot and cold beverages and able to wash themselves.

However, when it comes to an emergency situation, it seems that a large company with all its profits and bonuses is unable to supply an emergency “manned” drinking water bowser to the main housing location, while we, who pay for the services of a mains water supply, get nothing. This is not acceptable but I suppose it’s the norm and, as with any other supplier with a service breakdown, they will still expect the full service charge.

Is there nothing in this contract that has a budget for someone from Thames Water to come round the houses and put a leaflet through the door to acknowledge the problem and a support reference? They know which houses are affected! What a complete shambles!

Oh, and what’s that about leaving a pallet of water bottles by the main road junction? When were we supposed to know about that?

How many people passing through the village on the main road took the opportunity of free water not left for them? Did a business swallow the lot?

It took until the Tuesday evening for a local scout group to try to rescue Thames Water but again to no avail as, being the evening, there was no way my mother could have answered the door as her risk of falling would have been high.

Arriving back home the following day to find the water on again, I was not the only one coughing and spluttering.

There was a deluge of air and muck from the tap and the poor central heating system crashed, banged and walloped back into service. Despite the warmer weather, my mother still requires heating and, of course, hot running water. — Yours faithfully,

Mr S

Plowden Way, Shiplake

A Thames Water spokesman responded: We’re very sorry to hear of Mr S’s issues and the disruption a burst on one of our water pipes caused.

“We worked hard to get everything back to normal as quickly as possible and sent alternative water to the area for people to collect while we did this.

“During an incident like this our customer representatives also hand deliver water to those who are vulnerable or cannot collect water themselves.

“Unfortunately, neither Mr S nor his mother are registered as vulnerable customers with us, so we were unaware of their circumstances and didn’t know they were unable to collect water themselves.

“However, now that this has been brought to our attention, a representative will visit them over the coming days to register them, meaning their needs can be prioritised if any other emergency arises.”

Burst just got worse

Sir, — I live not far from the mains water pipe near Shiplake that burst.

For the first two days at least the water just gushed forth as if Moses had hit the ground with his staff a mite too hard.

However, the other kind of staff, specifically those from Thames Water, were nowhere to be seen, not until all the taps in Shiplake Cross had dried out.

The site of the gushing spring became rather colourful, what with the traffic cones and the traffic lights.

Driving past one day, I saw three orange-coloured gentlemen looking at the hole they or somebody else had dug. One was scratching his head, so perhaps just a touch of dandruff. — Yours faithfully,

Antonio Carvalho

Plough Lane, Shiplake

NHS parking review due

Sir. — It is welcome news that there is to be a review of the parking system at Townlands Memorial Hospital (Standard, June 8).

In April last year a new parking system started operating on the three health sites at Townlands, the new hospital, the Chiltern Court care centre and the GP surgeries.

It is important, firstly, to recognise that there is a need to manage the parking at all three sites to ensure that the parking needs of staff, patients and residents are being met.

It was quickly obvious that the scheme was badly flawed and many innocent victims were being issued with penalty notices. (I received one myself!)

People with valid appointments received notices, residents driving through the site received notices.

It was obvious that the number plate recognition technology failed regularly and that it was easy to make mistakes when using the keypad terminal in the hospital, care centre and surgeries.

Worse was the near impossibility of dealing with Smart Parking and, even worse than that, its debt recovery agency DRP.

These organisations kept all the receipts from the penalty notices so, not surprisingly, they had a powerful incentive not to refund incorrectly issued notices.

Soon after the scheme began operating, I contacted all three organisations which had commissioned Smart Parking, asking to discuss the new parking arrangements. I have continued to pass the details sent to me by victims of the scheme and raised the issues at meetings of the Townlands Stakehoder Reference Group.

The GPs quickly recognised the failure of the scheme and cancelled their contract.

On the remaining two parts of the site, the steady flow of incorrect penalty notices continues as the Henley Standard’s campaign has shown.

Since last autumn I have been asking NHS Property Services to change the arrangements in consultation with the community.

The first step to solving a problem is to recognise that it exists.

Let us all hope that with NHS Property Services and the Orders of St John Trust entering into a review, the stakeholders and community can now work together to put in place a scheme which meets the needs of residents and patients.

I have asked NHS Property Services to work with community groups to ensure that the new scheme works properly. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Ian Reissmann

Chairman, Townlands Steering Group, Gainsborough Road, Henley

Boys should wear shorts

Sir, — Given the extent of the influence of the current gender ideology in our society, I was only mildly surprised to read your front page headline “Boys can wear school skirts” (Henley Standard, June 1).

This is a broad issue but I can’t help thinking that given the problems with sexting and similar issues in schools, adding the dimension of boys in skirts will only exacerbate those behaviours.

I am aware that nowadays many girls wear cotton shorts under their summer uniform, presumably to preserve modesty. I wonder whether girls at Chiltern Edge School are allowed to wear these as shorts are not part of the school uniform.

Consider this incongruous situation: If they are allowed, will boys be allowed to wear them too, under their skirts?

If this is the case, then boys actually are allowed to wear shorts — but only under skirts and only shorts that girls would wear in order to be consistent.

If neither sex is allowed to wear shorts under their skirts we then have a scenario where teenage boys and girls will be wearing (probably short) skirts at school, with no shorts underneath to preserve modesty, or anything else.

Either way, I think it’s foolish and quite apart from the question of gender neutrality, is likely to further encourage inappropriate sexual behaviour in schools. — Yours faithfully,

Frances Williams

Gainsborough Crescent, Henley

Please take rubbish home

Sir, — I was interested to read the article about the piles of rubbish left in Marsh Meadows in Henley in April (Standard, June 8).

I couldn’t fail to notice that the rubbish shown in the accompanying photographs was all placed around litter bins.

May I suggest that the litter bins in the meadows should be removed and replaced with a polite notice saying, “Please take your litter home”? — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Hawkins

Berkshire Road, Henley

Best stick to the numbers

Sir, — Dieter Hinke castigated our MP (Standard, June 1) for trying to protect town and parish councils from what seems to me the absurd rule that, if planning authorities like South Oxfordshire District Council haven’t got a five-year supply of land for housing, neighbourhood plans made by town and parish councils in their area are largely invalidated.

What makes this provision even more unreasonable is, first, that land supply is not judged on the number of houses that planning authorities have approved but on the number that developers have completed and, secondly, that producing the correct figures for completions isn’t as easy as Dieter supposes. Indeed, at present it seems more of an art than a science.

If Dieter wants to strengthen the rights of the people, shouldn’t he be arguing for land supply to be calculated on the number of houses that our elected representatives have approved rather than the number that developers deem it in their interest to have completed? — Yours faithfully,

Kester George

Chairman, Harpsden Parish Council

Familiar storyline

Sir — I have been re-reading Toni Morrison’s novel Sula about a black community in rural America.

A paragraph set in 1941 struck a note: “Lord, how time flies. She hardly recognised anybody in town any more. Now there was another old people’s home. Look like this town just kept on building homes for old people. Every time they built a road they built a old folks home. You’d think folks was living longer, but the fact of it was, they was just being put out faster.”

Sound familiar? At least there they were building new roads! — Yours faithfully,

Charles Whittaker

Henley

Intimidated by horses

Sir, — A couple of recent less-than-pleasant experiences on the Chiltern Way footpath near Crowsley have left us wondering whether landowners are aware of rights of way and responsibilities regarding “animal obstacles”.

Sheep tend to keep to themselves, likewise cattle.

Horses usually do too but only last week we were on this public footpath when we had to physically push back aggressive horses (not an easy task and really unnerving) while others in our party retreated to gates.

We would have been in serious trouble if we’d had small children. This was unacceptable and the issue needs addressing.

We assume that if you let the fields you have some duty of care to make sure that the horse owners you’re leasing them to have animals that you’d be happy having your children around (or anyone else come to that). Failing that, you need to keep them fenced in.

There are plenty of good examples on paths out from Crowsley Park and towards Henley, where walkers and animals can enjoy each other’s company safely.

There is also plenty of time to get this sorted out before the school holidays so everyone can enjoy the countryside around here. — Yours faithfully,

Name and address supplied

Community asset saved

Sir, — I am sure everyone in Henley will be relieved that the threat to 19-21 Market Place, better known as Lovibonds Brewery, has been lifted with the refusal this week by South Oxfordshire District Council to grant planning permission. I would just like to express my gratitude to the huge number of people who took the time to register their views on the planning application and to the planning department at the council which took the time to consider the application so carefully.

With the current push for more and more housing, ever more densely packed and under huge pressure from the Government, landowners and developers, it is refreshing that it is still possible to safeguard the businesses and facilities that are the lifeblood of our town.

Readers unfamiliar with Lovibonds may not be aware that it is one of our top tourist destinations on TripAdvisor, regularly attracting visitors from outside the town with its beer schools and numerous events unrelated to beer.

It is home to the annual PIP Mountain Bike Challenge and hosts regular open mic nights and band nights, including the Henley Youth Festival Gig Night.

It has participated in the Henley Literary Festival, the Henley Fringe destival and the Living Advent Calendar.

The tasting room is used by several other local traders to sell their own products.

In a little over a decade, this slice of Henley’s history has been resurrected and transformed into a vital community hub and tourist attraction.

It is important we continue to protect Henley’s amenities and, by acting and speaking as a community with a clear voice, we have saved this distinctive and valuable town centre asset.

I am so grateful that the planning office recognised its importance this week. Thank you. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Glen Lambert

Mayor of Henley, Greys Road, Henley

Please give to fireworks

Sir, — Our thanks to the Henley Standard for the article regarding funding for this year’s fireworks display on the Saturday of the royal regatta (Standard, June 8).

Unfortunately, the appeal for more donations from the citizens of the town and local businesses failed to attract a single one.

There is still time to save this much-loved event, which has been staged for well over 100 years — but time is running out.

All the plans are in place. The fireworks company is prepared and the launch site has been confirmed.

All that is needed now is for the good folk and organisations of Henley to put their hands in their pockets to ensure that the sky over the town will be lit up with a wonderful display on that Saturday.

It is a display that could be seen from the town, on the bridge or from just about every house window in Henley and the surrounding area.

So, it is over to you. We have attracted support from a number of individuals and businesses but we are still short of the £12,000 target. There is little more that we can do.

Please help. Lloyds Bank account name: Henley Fireworks Fund. Sort code: 30 80 54. Account number: 18827960.

Or call us on 07913 670249. — Yours faithfully,

Richard Reed and Councillor Will Hamilton

Organisers, Henley Summer Fireworks

Stop saying unacceptable

Sir, — Dear God, if I hear the word “unacceptable” again I shall scream!

I think it was David Cameron who introduced it into widespread use. Nothing wrong with that, it’s a perfectly reasonable word.

But it has now got to the stage where it’s being used to describe every level of misfortune, from dropping a bit of ice cream down your front to outright savagery.

Do let’s try to find another word — and preferably not “inappropriate”. — Yours faithfully,

Paul Willson

Pound Lane, Sonning

When I hid from thunder

Sir, — Your front page pictures of the lightning storm over Henley (Standard, June 1) reminded me of when I lived in Albert Road, Henley, in the Forties and Fifties.

When there was a thunderstorm I would freeze, so my mum would send me under the stairs in the dark or in the shed and would let me know when to come out.

Down here in Hampshire, I waited for the event to come but gave up and went to bed. Thanks to Paul Atkinson for his pictures and to your reporter David White for the extra information. — Yours faithfully,

Peter M Adams

Ramshill, Petersfield, Hants

Just reliving childhood

Sir, — Many thanks for publishing on your front page that great photograph (taken by John Bateman) of Flying Scotsman roaring through the English countryside (Standard, June 8).

I loved your caption describing the two youngsters waving the Scottish flag. If only that were true — we were two recycled teenagers reliving our childhoods.

I was brought up in South Stoke as a child so lived steam every day.

My partner-in-crime was Lin Woolridge, who has lived in the village for more 40 years and raised a family. As for the flag, that was “nicked” — for want of a better word — from the church, where we are both ringers, for the afternoon.

We had two friends travelling on the train so thought the flag would stand out well and, of course, what a welcome for the engine itself. She acknowledged our presence by a whistle.

A fitting tribute to five minutes of fame. — Yours faithfully,

Robert Small

Goring

Thank you to fire crews

Sir, — I wish to convey our thanks to the fire crews which arrived at our house in Crazies Hill on the morning of Wednesday, May 31.

They were confronted by massive flames engulfing our garage and tool room.

Both my husband Roger and I were not at home, so it was quite a shock to receive a phone call from an alert neighbour, telling us he had dialled 999 as our garage was ablaze.

Access to the road was blocked by the three fire engines, inluding one from Henley.

Thanks to the firemen and woman, the flames were extinguished, leaving a smouldering heap of burnt and twisted metal.

Luckily, the building was not close to our home. However, we do live opposite the only thatched cottage in the village, so relief all round that the fire was contained. — Yours faithfully,

Roger and Selina Avent

Crazies Hill

Wrong name for flag

Sir, — On the front page of last week’s issue there was a large photograph of Flying Scotsman with flag-waving children in the foreground.

The caption below it read “Two youngsters wave a St Andrew’s Cross flag…”

If the flag had been the Union Jack would the caption have read “...youngsters wave St George, St Andrew and St Patrick Crosses flag...”?

No? Then why did the caption not read “...youngsters wave the Saltire”? — Yours faithfully,

W Murdoch

Middle Assendon

The editor responds: “The answer to your questions is obviously no because the Union flag is called just that whereas the flag of Scotland can be either the St Andrew’s Cross or the Saltire.

“I chose the former only because ‘saltire’ means a diagonal cross so is not exclusive to Scotland.”

Bus service is so vital

Sir, — I would like to thank Henley Town Council for securing our local bus service.

It is a lifeline for us pensioners, so I urge more people to use it.

As we have now lost our Saturday service, it would be good if Reading buses could supply this service as well.

Finally, I would like to thank Gary for being a helpful, caring driver.

He tries hard to give us a good bus service even though the buses he’s given to drive are old.

I do hope the town council will show him their appreciation. — Yours faithfully,

Name and address supplied

• A letter published in last week’s Henley Standard may have implied that former Conservative mayor of Henley Martin Akehurst had been “pushed out” from Henley Town Council due to non-attendance at meetings.

Mr Akehurst has asked us to point out that this was not the case. He took the decision to resign in March 2017 on the advice of his doctor as he was receiving treatment for cancer.

We are happy to set the record straight and apologise to Mr Akehurst and his family for any embarrassment or distress caused.

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