Friday, 25 June 2021

Your letters...

Parking is old problem

Sir, — While I don’t always agree with Deputy Mayor Ken Arlett, he is totally on the point with the need for a significant increase in parking in Henley (Standard, June 22).

I worked as deputy chairman of planning for Henley and on the initial neighbourhood plan for six years and thoroughly support this view.

Extra parking was needed 30 years ago when I moved to Henley.

I would counsel against a survey as proposed by Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak — South Oxfordshire District Council carried out a parking survey in August 2009 which concluded that the car parks “were insufficient during weekdays”. That was without the weekend parking crush or the increasingly gridlocked Christmas period.

The survey was shelved by the council and the project kicked into the long grass. Finding more long grass is not the solution.

We also need to be aware of numbers. During my last days on the council prior to having to resign over ill-health, it was becoming increasingly clear that our neighbourhood plan numbers were being downplayed.

The “500 new homes” did not include:

• Backyard developments (reliably running at around 200 homes per planning period for the past 20 or so years)

• Developments where planning permission had been granted but building work had not started

• Challenges by developers, which the district council could not afford to legally defend

• David Cameron’s “uplift”.

After some “direct” discussions with the district council, the realistic total would be around 1,200 to 1,500 new homes over the period.

To this must be added planned numbers for outlying villages and towns from where residents drive into Henley to shop.

The figure is then starting to approach 2,000 new homes, so the projected numbers would statistically support at least two new levels on the King’s Road car park.

Cllr Arlett is quite right that people will not come into town to shop if they can’t find a parking space. They will go to other centres, such as Reading, Marlow and High Wycombe.

There comes a point where, with an increasing number of shops closing, people will not be drawn to Henley and the footfall starts to sharply decrease — that is the danger tipping point.

The town manager may be upbeat on future shop prospects, as many of her predecessors have been, but with increasing business rates and rents the ability to maintain a working shopping centre with current footfall numbers becomes marginal.

I have had conversations along these lines for a number of years with well-known names in Henley that have shut.

I would urge Cllr Arlett to ensure the Henley voice is heard through his strong links at district and county level as a matter of some urgency.

Lastly, I would add that residents pay a significant premium to enjoy the lifestyle and significant image of our town that is based on its thriving centre. We cannot afford to lose it. — Yours faithfully,

Martin Akehurst

Two Tree Hill, Henley

My thoughts on car park

Sir, — 1. Why cannot The Henley College car park (an area created when the two gasometers were removed some years ago) be used for town parking, certainly during the summer vacation and possibly at Easter and Christmas too?

2. Several years ago either South Oxfordshire District Council or Oxfordshire County Council sold some 40 parking places in King’s Road car park to a developer (i.e. land as far as the old wall which still remains behind WH Smith) when it was well known that parking in Henley was extremely difficult with frequent queues and “musical chairs” in that car park. Why was this transaction allowed to happen?

3. The developer has permission for homes but no parking is provided as they are next to a car park!

4. Shops are to be put up when there have been many empty shops in the town for some time.

5. The businesses complain of lack of footfall — small wonder. One comment in your paper some time ago talked of greedy landlords. Individual shops close and leave the town because of rent increases. Surely it would be better to have an occupied shop than an empty one producing no rental income at all?

6. I gather that now a scheme for a second deck at King’s Road car park where the GDS building was, for which a plan was submitted when Waitrose was redeveloped, is now being reconsidered. It was thought to be a good idea by the town and district councils at the time but turned down by the county council.

7. How much better it would have been to have kept the land sold to the developer (a flat area with little residential property overlooking it) for parking and even an eventual second deck.

8. The queue on Remenham Hill, supposedly to keep emissions out of the town, should be much better regulated so that there is a good flow up Hart Street and onwards. It does not compare at all well with the traffic flow from Shiplake and Duke Street still has standing traffic in a narrow street whereas Hart Street is wider and upwards air flow would disperse better. This would also avoid the “rat run” around Remenham Lane. — Yours faithfully,

Mary Romanes

Market Place, Henley

Introduce incentives

Sir, — I read with dismay your article headlined “We need bigger car park to lure people, says Deputy Mayor” (Standard, June 22).

Does the town really need additional parking?

As reported in the Henley Standard, the free parking on Tuesday in the run-up to Christmas did not increase spending in the town. The rugby club, station and River & Rowing Museum car parks are regularly under-utilised.

The way forward may be electric signs on entering the town to show how full all car parks are in advance, with pricing and a flexible length of stay designed to encourage use of the alternative car parks.

The Deputy Mayor suggests people are too lazy to walk the five minutes from the rugby club into town. I dispute this derogatory generalisation. More likely are the above factors and that there are so few safe crossing opportunities (especially between the rugby club and Waitrose).

I also dispute the assertion that “drivers keep driving round looking for a space”. This happens only at exceptionally busy times and to take advantage of the free parking on a Saturday afternoon. Again, this could be alleviated with the above suggestions.

The high levels of pollution in Henley and its corresponding health impact are a regular feature in your paper and yet the environmental impact of the proposed car park and its construction (and, presumably, destruction of mature trees) is not addressed.

It also seems counter-intuitive to propose paying for the structure with an increase in parking prices.

Surely the optimum situation is affordable, flexible, well-advertised parking alternatives to encourage shoppers to visit different parts of the town and patronise the independent shops that are struggling.

In order to “lure” people into Henley, the town needs to capitalise on its unique selling point — it should be a historic, beautiful, unspoilt market town with a range of high-end shops and restaurants to attract visitors. This would be undermined by a multi-storey car park.

The Deputy Mayor is making a lazy suggestion, as opposed to ensuring that the district council manages the existing parking in a systematic, co-ordinated way to benefit residents and visitors alike. — Yours faithfully,

C Spencer

King’s Road, Henley

Sleepy cousin of Marlow

Sir, — Almost two years ago, I had a letter published in the Henley Standard about the dangers of Henley becoming the “Eastbourne of the Chilterns”.

That letter was based on the age demographic of the town being already too heavily weighted at the older end of the spectrum, which I expected would be further affected by the addition of more proposed care homes for the elderly and age-restricted apartments (two large developments are already being built).

I also asked in that letter for our MP John Howell to address these concerns.

By contrast, our neighbouring town of Marlow has attracted new, exciting mixed price and age retail and dining outlets.

These have created a palpable “buzz” about the town while we have attracted more coffee shops, charity shops and our latest addition, Superdrug.

Our economic good health depends on the forward planning of the Conservative-controlled South Oxfordshire District Council but we hear nothing regarding its plans for our future.

Henley is becoming a sleepy cousin of our neighbouring market towns and it’s about time that the district council came here and explained its plans for our rejuvenation.

For example, how will we achieve a better housing mix to balance the age demographic? Unless that is done as a prioirty we will attract mainly businesses that appeal to our current older age profile.

While people love to live in Henley, they need to shop and socialise in the town too. We cannot flourish on the backs of the regatta and a few summer events.

I urge the town council to treat this matter with urgency and avoid the “spin” from some council officials regarding retail occupancy and insist that the district council addresses our real problems.

Time is pressing as at least two more substantial older age developments could come forward. — Yours faithfully,

Dieter Hinke

Elizabeth Road, Henley

P.S. I am definitely part of the older age demographic!

Irrelevant carbuncle

Sir, — Thames Bridge House has been demolished, thank goodness, to reveal a magnificent view of the Henley Royal Regatta headquarters and Leander Club, proclaiming that this is the world famous home of rowing competition and the most successful academy of rowing now celebrating 200 years of history and outstanding Olympic achievements.

How many regatta followers and rowers from elite clubs worldwide crowding in to compete in the 2018 regatta realise that developers have moved in and have been given permission to build an irrelevant carbuncle to obliterate the centre of this view?

How could this grotesque blunder have happened? Remenham takes seriously its responsibility to protect this part of rural Wokingham borough through a consultative and active parish council with expert members experienced in the arcane mysteries of the planning process.

We are all guilty of inattention and should also have realised that the scheme would be an intrusion in the wrong place that will snarl up the traffic and pollute the air.

But this brutal plan of the developers and their tame architects to build three or four high-rise urban apartments has been nodded through.

So what should we and the world of rowing do to stop this iniquity?

Sir John Betjeman would have known what to do. Come back, Sir John, we need you. — Yours faithfully,

Jim Bland

Matson Drive, Remenham

Houses will pay for road

Sir, — I write in response to the letter from Chris Stanley, of Preston Crowmarsh, about Benson’s neighbourhood plan and all its extra houses (Standard, June 22).

As I said at the South Oxfordshire District Council planning committee meeting, had I been presented with the application for 240 houses on the north-east side of the village seven years ago when I left the council, I would have been absolutely horrified.

But in the intervening years, before the neighbourhood plan existed, the district council has allowed so many extra houses to be built without making proper provision for the extra traffic and additional facilities needed, so now the neighbourhood plan is having to play catch-up.

Benson Parish Council, and indeed the residents of Benson who voted 93 per cent in favour last week, strongly support the plan, which makes provision for a relief road for the B4009 that currently winds through the built-up area of the village. Those district councillors who voted (local members do not vote) in favour of the latest application all agreed that there is a great need for this relief road.

How would Mr Stanley finance such a road? Perhaps he should have put his ideas to the neighbourhood plan committee during its numerous consultation exercises? — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Sue Cooper

Benson and Crowmarsh ward, South Oxfordshire District Council, Benson Road, Ewelme

MP should have voted

Sir, — I am sitting in the comfort of my back garden on a beautiful summer’s evening, drinking a glass of wine and watching the planes passing overhead every couple of minutes, while reading last week’s Henley Standard.

Having witnessed the pathetic avoidance of responsibility from Boris Johnson, our past Member of Parliament, in voting against Heathrow’s third runway, I was totally bemused by John Howell’s howler of a response as to why he wasn’t representing his constituents on an issue that will affect our community for decades to come. He was at a European Council meeting.

Remarkably, as reported in the same edition, he managed to make it to a Shiplake College shindig.

What a totally useless MP! We should be allowed a vote of no confidence in him and get someone who will prioritise those whom he represents.

Reading East MP Matt Rodda did his duty.

Please don’t give Mr Howell space in the Standard in future. — Yours faithfully,

Chris Wermann

Deanfield Avenue, Henley

Blighted by aircraft

Sir, — For the last three weeks the peaceful town of Henley has been subject to the most appalling noise from aircraft flying very low over us on their way to land at Heathrow Airport.

We have lived in this town for 28 years and have never experienced such a thing.

We are told that it is due to the easterly winds and that as soon as the weather changes so will the planes.

Currently they are flying directly over my house and the town every minute or so, starting at 5am and going on until 10pm.

The noise is unbearable and the trail of pollution is visible to the naked eye.

Is this really only going to happen when the winds come from the east or is this an experiment for it to continue into the future?

With talk of a third runway at Heathrow, what will really happen to Henley? Are we on the flight path with all the horrific noise and pollution that it brings?

If this affects you in any way, I urge readers to make their thoughts known to our MP.

You can also call the community relations desk at Heathrow Airport Noise on 0800 344 844 and express your views.

With Henley Royal Regatta starting this week, to be followed by the Henley Festival, thousands of people will descend in our town.

Let’s hope that the aircraft noise and pollution will stop so that these amazing events can be fully enjoyed. — Yours faithfully,

M Clark

Greys Road, Henley

Animal-free circuses only

Sir, — I was saddened to read the review of Gifford’s Circus (Standard, June 22), which endorsed the use of performing animals in its acts.

Circuses are a wonderful form of entertainment for adults and children alike provided that they do not include animals in them.

Those that do are always demeaning to the animals involved, in this case dogs dancing on their back legs, or tigers jumping through burning hoops and elephants balancing on a small podium.

Aside from it being unethical and archaic for the animals to be used in this way, evidence of animal abuse in circuses is well-documented and widespread.

As a result, British councils have long since banned circuses from taking place on public land that use wild animals in their shows.

By boycotting animal circuses we will be able to consign these unacceptable forms of so-called entertainment to the history books where they belong.

There is no place for animals circuses in the 21st century. — Yours faithfully,

Angelina Jones

Greys Road, Henley

Once upon a time...

Sir, — As there is no money for pothole repairs, I have turned to mythology for comfort.

All the raw ingredients are there — special training, special outfits, super-user powers, even a fire breathing dragon.

Seen this way, our pothole saga becomes a bedtime story handed down through the generations.

Circles are marked on the ground so the flying dragon, high above the town can see the urgent (red) and not quite so urgent (white) potholes and then decide on which to swoop down on to repair.

Called Skanska, the airborne beast must be a close relative of the legendary, but long-slain Smaug.

I ask readers to abandon their faith in 21st century online portal trickery like Fix My Street and look to the sky instead. Listen out for the beating of mighty wings.

Oh Skanska, the Magnificent One, we await your fiery tumult — especially if you can descend on my street first. — Yours faithfully,

Damien D’Souza

Queen Street, Henley

Village going downhill

Sir, — The village of Whitchurch Hill is going downhill.

We had a lovely flower meadow courtesy of Castrol/BP but the person who cuts it every year cut it too early this year.

They cut it so early in June that the flowers did not get a chance to flower properly or set seed.

As a result, we have lost all the lovely butterflies and birds that used to be attracted to the flower meadow. A farmer may cut hay now but it’s not right for a flower meadow.

Another part of our village which is a mess is the churchyard at St John’s Church.

The grass is now as tall as some of the gravestones. How are relatives of those buried there supposed to visit the graves of their loved ones?

The elderly are really finding it difficult, especially if they are unstable on their feet. St Mary’s Church in Whitchurch is always regularly mowed.

Another issue that causes annoyance is those people who light bonfires during the day, especially on summer days when windows are open or washing is out. Why not think of others and light them in the evening?

When you look at the recreation ground the children’s play area has not been upgraded like in other local villages. The equipment is in a sorry state.

If you try to take your children to the recreation ground to play or run around they find it difficult due to the grass clippings left, especially if they have an allergy to grass or hay fever.

The area around Tinepit Pond is no longer kept beautifully mowed nor are the grass verges. I used to walk my children to Crays Pond when they were small. I could not do it now because only a single track is mowed on the edge of the verge.

Even I would feel vulnerable walking there because the passing traffic comes so close to you.

There are two footpaths that are barely passable. There is one at the bottom of Bec Tithe and the other is the bridle path between Goring Heath Road and Path Hill.

It is a pity members of the parish council do not check around the village and see these things for themselves — after all, we are paying the precept.

I know they reduced it this year but why, when it could have been spent improving things? — Yours faithfully,

BT

Whitchurch Hill

Peter Dragonetti, chairman, Goring Heath Parish Council, says: “Unfortunately, many of the issues raised by your correspondent are not the responsibility of the parish council.

“It is a matter of opinion, in respect of those matters that are the parish council’s responsibility, as to whether things are satisfactory or not. The parish council always welcomes the views of residents and there are many opportunities to contribute to the life of the community in the parish.”

Hoping for happy ending

Sir, — I am writing to praise all those responsible for the (relatively) new Homelessness Reduction Act as without it I would (probably) be yet another homeless/rough sleeper.

The Act requires all councils and private and third (voluntary) sector services to work together to actively prevent homelessness for folk at risk (and for the first time gives single folk like me the same priority as those with a family). I have (briefly) been a rough sleeper in the dim and distant past (due to a mental health problem) and would not wish to relive the experience.

I walked out of my job (after more than 11 years of unbroken service) in April due to years of subtle, emotional bullying — “gaslighting” folk have called this — and having no breaks during seven-hour shifts and being expected to work at least six hours every week unpaid.

I have spent the last two-plus months trying to get hold of my P45.

Being unable to supply this means my application for universal credit remains on hold and I have therefore had no income since April. At the time of writing I have still not received my P45.

I now find myself back on anti-depressents but, as a council tenant, have fortunately been able to suspend payments of rent and council tax until this situation is finally resolved — what a different letter this would have been if I were a private landlord’s tenant.

In the past I have attended several talks by homelessness charities, including Launchpad in Reading, where speakers have said that anyone could find themselves at serious risk of being homeless, especially if they did not receive any income for two months and I never expected to be in that very position myself.

So, yes, I find myself very grateful for the Homelessness Reduction Act (and what it has ensured), for the help and support given by homelessness charities and, perhaps more unexpectedly and comforting, for the financial and emotional help given to me by my local community.

Like in the 1944 film Gaslight, I am convinced there will be a happy ending to this sad/sorry tale but only time will tell. — Yours faithfully,

Paul Farmer

Wensley Road, Reading

ENO lacks wide appeal

Sir, — While I feel sorry about the lack of ticket sales for the Sunday night at the Henley Festival and particularly the charities it supports, I can’t help thinking the organisers missed the point from us long-standing festival-goers (Standard, June 29).

While the English National Opera sounds and probably is wonderful, it perhaps doesn’t appeal to many people.

By their own admission, people remember the Bryn Terfel evenings etc.

I remember lovely evenings listening to the likes of Il Divo, Hayley Westenra, Vanessa Mae and my dream performer Katherine Jenkins.

Most of these acts were also not on the Sunday night which to my mind is the least popular.

Now I like a good rowdy band or a pop diva just like the next man (Madness was my ultimate gig but my wife maintains that was a male evening) but we also need the tranquillity of a good tenor or soprano to split the mood of the week.

So please don’t eliminate the idea of a classical evening. That way you’ll entice people, including me, to visit at least two out of the five nights. — Yours faithfully,

Chris Irvin

Goring Road, Woodcote

Wrong night for classical

Sir, — This year, in order to satisfy past attendees who have previously enjoyed a more classical theme to the Henley Festival programme and having criticised the recent drift towards an “upmarket pop concert,” the organisers decided to include a performance by the English National Opera to see if that criticism was justified by monitoring ticket sales.

While any of the previous evenings would undoubtedly have been a sell-out, to schedule it on Sunday, the least popular evening, is clearly a ploy by the festival organisers to try to prove their contention that there is a much-reduced demand for this genre of music at the event.

For several years a group of us attended the festival on various evenings but never on a Sunday and, by putting this in the “Sunday slot” I am not the least bit surprised that the response has been somewhat disappointing. — Yours faithfully,

Monty Taylor

Shepherds Green

A treat from choral society

Sir, — What a treat the Henley Choral Society’s A Garland of Song concert proved to be.

The eclectic programme of British and American music for a summer’s evening was thoroughly entertaining and the quality of the singing beautiful. Christ Church in Henley was a splendid venue.

Quite fortuitously, my seat allowed me a perfect view of the wonderful pianist David Smith.

Watching his hands dance over the keyboard in his solo piece, In Dahomey, was a personal highlight of the evening.

As a former pupil of Dunfermline High School, I feel obliged to correct an error in the lyrics of the Scottish ballad, Sir Patrick Spens. He and the Scots lords met their demise off the shores of Aberdour, not Aberdeen as the choir sang.

Here is the final stanza:

Haf owre, haf owre to Aberdour,
Tis fifty fathoms deep,
And there lies guid Sir Patrick Spens,
Wi’ the Scots lords at his feet.

Aberdour is a scenic and historic village, nine miles from Dunfermline, on the magnificent Fife coast. A most delightful evening. Thank you, Henley Choral Society. — Yours faithfully,

Linda Glithro

Emmer Green

Great school and staff

Sir, — This month the last of our four children left Gillotts School in Henley after 11 great years.

Each one said it was one of the happiest times of their lives and many of the friendships they forged there have endured well beyond the school gates.

Having four children means that there will be different challenges and needs, but we have been delighted with the pastoral care, the academic results the teachers have helped our children achieve and the inspiration that they have given in various subjects and activities.

A special thank-you must go to headteacher Catharine Darnton and her team, who have achieved admirable academic results despite the increasing financial challenges of funding.

Despite these pressures, she also finds time for the personal touch with students and continues to take a genuine interest long after they have left the school.

It is this sort of approach to teaching and community that makes the school such a truly special place and has been instrumental in making our children the fine young people they have become.

So a huge thank-you to all the management team and the teaching and support staff for all you have done for our children and continue to do for all those in your care. We wish you and the school a successful and happy future.

We would wholeheartedly recommend Gillotts to any parents as a special place to educate your children during these key formative years. — Yours faithfully,

John and Fiona Print

St Mark’s Road, Henley

Thanks for generosity

Sir, — On behalf of the South Oxfordshire Mencap Society, may I say a very big thank-you to all the wonderful people of Henley for supporting our Learning Disability Week singalong event and charity collection in the town centre on Saturday, June 23?

We raised the magnificent sum of £723.53, which will be used to help us provide mainstream activities for our members in the local community.

We arrange discos and outings for our members and support for our Meteor club, which meets on a weekly basis.

Our aim is to provide social activities for our members and respite care for their families and carers.

We are a local charity based in Henley and are always looking for volunteers to help with and fund our activities. Please would you be kind enough to pass on our thanks to all of the contributors and our many helpers? Many thanks. — Yours faithfully,

Brian Connolly

Honorary treasurer,
Mencap South Oxfordshire, Henley

Boiling on a Sunday

Sir, — At 2.30pm on Sunday it hit 100F in the full sun. — Yours faithfully,

Lewis Every

Swiss Farm, Henley

Modesty of war heroes

Sir, — After reading your Turning Back the Pages items, I discovered that my late uncle Cpl R Lowe was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry in the First World War.

It was the first I had heard about it, although that’s not surprising as, like many who served in that war, including my late father James Douglas, from Henley, the men never spoke about it. — Yours faithfully,

R Douglas

Emmer Green

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