Monday, 14 June 2021

Your letters...

Discount for ‘green’ cars

Sir, — I have recently been driving a fully electric Volkswagen Golf (totally brilliant, by the way), which has caused me to ponder the car parking regime in Henley.

After hunting round the King’s Road (Waitrose) car park for 10 minutes, I eventually found the two charging points, hidden round the side of the toilet block.

There is no signage for them, which is lamentable. They were both in use at the time, I’m pleased to say.

It puzzles me that when parking a chargeable electric car (i.e. a fully electric car or a plug-in hybrid) one has to pay the normal parking charges. Is this not a missed opportunity to actually do something about the air pollution in the town?

Scarcely a week goes by without somebody complaining about the subject in your pages.

Would it not be better to allow drivers of chargeable electric cars to park free, which might possibly tempt some of the many drivers of huge gas-guzzling 4x4s to go electric to save money?

That would improve the air quality considerably.

While I’m on the topic of car parking charges, what is the logic of giving disabled drivers free parking in the King’s Road and Greys Road car parks and elsewhere?

I appreciate the need to give disabled drivers an appropriate number of allocated spaces, preferably near the shops, but why are they free?

Isn’t that a trifle insulting to many disabled drivers? They may have a disability but that does not mean they cannot afford the usual parking charges, does it?

So how about imposing normal charges on disabled drivers, installing more electric charging bays and removing charges for those actually using them.

The solution to the pollution problem starts here. — Yours faithfully,

Nick Blandy

Quarry Lane, Shiplake

Why ban us walkers?

Sir, — It is a depressing fact that those seeking planning permission of any kind will offer the sun, moon and stars to their neighbours or local community in order to get what they want and then, once satisfied, withdraw from any concessions granted.

So is the case at Greys Green Farm/golf course where we dog walkers were welcomed with open arms during the foot and mouth outbreak years ago, when other footpaths were closed.

We were then asked to sign a petition in support of the change of use to the golf course, which I was very happy to do since it had become a very pleasant facility for walkers.

Woodland was planted, nest boxes hung and permissive paths created in addition to the bridleways and public footpaths already there. Groups of “health” walkers were encouraged to use the paths, golfers played their golf and everybody was happy.

Now, apparently, the permissive paths are no longer permitted and we are banned. The fear is we might be hit by a golf ball.

There are endless comments one could make about this possibility but I have no wish to cast aspersions on the golfing community at Greys Green, who struggle in the face of adversity in the form of heavy lorries dumping spoil/soil.

It can’t be easy to hit a straight ball on the new fairways but it’s cheap and cheerful stuff and now there are no dog walkers to get in the way.

I shall greatly miss my walks there, not least because it is flat, and I shall be writing to the planners to enquire into any conditions in the original planning applications.

Probably a waste of time but one can but try. — Yours faithfully,

Brenda Armati

Springwood Lane, Peppard

Our young need homes

Sir, — Your article regarding the old Chilterns End care home (Standard, July 27) made my blood boil.

Yet again there is talk of selling the care home and building “regular” housing in its place.

As this land belongs to Oxfordshire County Council, why is it not keeping the land and building council houses there for the youngsters of Henley?

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak will be pushing for the usual 40 per cent affordable housing quota.

When will the councils take their heads (and backsides) out of the sand and realise that “affordable” is not affordable to youngsters on a low wage even with the Help to Buy scheme?

Flats and small houses for rent by the council is the only way to go for these youngsters.

When will the council start acknowledging the desperate need for these youngsters to live in Henley and help them? — Yours faithfully,

Mrs J Hadley

Leaver Road, Henley

Welcome decision

Sir, — The dismissal by the inspector of Gallagher Estates’ appeal (Standard, July 27), which would have seriously overridden Sonning Common’s neighbourhood plan had it been allowed, is very welcome.

The inspector’s report made a number of very positive references to our plan and it clearly had a crucial role in the decision.

Furthermore, the result is good news for all neighbourhood plans in South Oxfordshire and across the country. These plans are to be taken seriously.

I think that we should be very grateful to our MP John Howell for all his work in Parliament in support of neighbourhood planning.

I am sure, and I believe it is a view widely shared, that the pressure he has brought has been a key factor in helping to encourage “the system” to recognise the importance of these local initiatives. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Douglas Kedge

Sonning Common Parish Council, Lea Road, Sonning Common

Important issues here

Sir, — I agree completely with Bill Jackson (Standard, July 20).

Now I know why I have never met John Howell in Henley — our previous MP was often seen walking through the town centre, talking to people.

Perhaps the roads are better in Israel and Nigeria, so he has a smoother ride abroad than he does at home!

Come on, Mr Howell, get your act together and do some work for your constituents. Try to sort out the roads and help fill the empty shops — it’s local issues that require your attention. — Yours faithfully,

Tony Wright

Greys Road, Henley

Disingenuous Remainers

Sir, — Those who are calling for a second EU referendum are disingenuous.

The disastrous state of the UK’s exit negotiations stems not from the result of the first referendum but from the fact that MPs as a whole are not prepared to respect the result of that referendum nor, in many cases, the wishes of a majority of their constituents.

A second referendum only solves this issue if it is won by Remain.

If we again vote to leave, then we are faced with the same problem. A second referendum therefore amounts to “Heads I win, tails you lose”.

The only way to break the impasse is for us to have another general election, so that citizens can pick an MP who will represent their views on this most important of issues. — Yours faithfully,

Tim Beechey-Newman

Gravel Hill, Caversham

Too little and too late

Sir, — Although the recent pledge to get more young people into NHS mental health treatment is good news, it is only a pledge to increase the proportion by 10 per cent by 2020/21 — currently only 25 per cent are receiving treatment, according to NHS England figures.

So much for parity of esteem. Would we accept it if the NHS only intervened in one in four cases of ill health, such as coronary heart disease? No!

Yet we accept this level of intervention for young people with major mental health illnesses even when the greatest cause of death among under 16-year-olds is suicide as a result of mental health problems.

This scandalous lack of parity should have been made history decades ago.

This latest pledge, however welcome, is still far too little, too late and continues to shame us all. — Yours faithfully,

Paul Farmer

Wensley Road, Reading

Time for a health tax

Sir, — There was so much to enjoy reading in your edition of July 20 — Bill Mundy’s Spitfire experience, Kingwood Common ramblings, Henley Festival’s classical evening — and long may they continue at future festivals.

But I particularly want to thank Dr Will Hearsey, of the Hart Surgery in Henley, for his excellent exposé of the structure and workings of the NHS and, if I may, add what some of your readers will consider an outlandish adjunct to his professional entry.

I suggest that the following heading might have the desired effect... “Tax it”.

Thank you, Dr Hearsey, for your excellent exposé. We may have known most of it but being so legibly presented should help us to use this excellent and essential service with more consideration.

My apologies for using your professional account, doctor, as a “vehicle” for my amateur opinion, but I trust it may promote some interesting responses in these columns.

Even if we all act on your wise advice on how to reduce the pressure on this vast service/business, there will never be enough cash to meet its increased usefulness. Aneurin, stir yourself and finish the job!

Surely, despite the determination of the Tories to be the party of low taxation, if they were to introduce a “health tax”, levied according to one’s income and means, who could complain?

We all need the NHS, throughout our lives, and providing the proceeds were protected from filching by other departments, such as the Ministry of Defence, it would all go towards a healthier population and reduce the cost of this essential service, benefiting us all.

Constructive comment would be much appreciated. — Yours faithfully,

David Gobbett

Elizabeth Close, Henley

Missing the point

Sir, — Thank you for publishing my letter concerning Henley’s sole public slipway (Standard, July 20).

The response from the town clerk was what one would expect from bureaucracy with such an issue. (I guess they are specially trained in avoidance!)

At least there was an admittance of awareness regarding the slipway situation a few years ago.

The slipway can be easily repaired at very low cost without the need to excavate or carry out any other major works.

The crumbling step has nothing to do with the low water level and the troublesome step is still there regardless and can easily and cheaply be fixed. (A structural engineer and other experts have looked at the slipway and agree.)

We all know this is only for lighter weight boats and trailers.

We all are aware about parking/trailer parking as owners have their own solutions for this and that is not the issue at all.

The installation some years ago of the electric supply box at the slipway entrance gives the impression it was put there to deter slipway users.

The positioning of this box was nonsensical and poorly thought out (other than to keep the ice-cream van operator happy).

When you are pulling a trailer from the slipway, the electric box obstructs and forces the tow car to turn at an acute angle.

If the box was repositioned a few feet nearer the town then the boater’s situation and traffic disruption would be greatly improved.

I have received many letters of support from other Henley slipway users and residents (who also suffered boat/trailer damage). We are now in the process of forming an action group.

Please don’t be surprised if a mysterious fix manifests itself one day soon! — Yours faithfully,

Lyndon Yorke

Booker Common

Slipway must be repaired

Sir, — I am writing following Lyndon Yorke’s plea to repair the public slipway in New Street, Henley, as a matter of urgency and to consider the town’s slipway provision generally.

As he pointed out, there were previously three slipways but we are now left with a single offering that has not been kept in a usable state.

In correspondence with Henley Town Council during 2015 and 2016, I received assurances that the remaining slipway would be assessed for repair and an agreement that the council would consider building a more suitably sited public slipway on the Henley reach.

Any new slipway would ideally be located away from the town centre where there is parking and, if it is to be on council-owned land such as Mill Meadows, the council will need to apply for planning permission through the usual route. It appears nothing has happened.

With the many glorious water-based events that Henley hosts, we surely should be getting this right and enabling people to use our beautiful river.

This is a simple amenity which has been provided by the council for decades, if not centuries, but which it is now failing to keep in a usable condition. — Yours faithfully,

Fiona Jennings

St Mark’s Road, Henley

Move makes no sense

Sir, — The proposed move of the ballshoot from Freemans Meadow to Makins recreation ground (Standard, July 27) seems like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

It will deprive residents around Freemans of a facility that is used by small children and teenagers alike.

At Makins it would provide one family and their friends with something that is completely unlike a netball post in size and structure.

I am sure moving it would cost more than the £100 for a dedicated netball post. — Yours faithfully,

Ian Tiffin

Northfield End, Henley

Water wasted in woods

Sir, — We went for a walk in the woods between Catslip and Bix on July 15 and found a burst water main, gushing out a considerable amount of water.

This was duly reported to Thames Water who said it was not their responsibility and to report it to South Oxfordshire District Council, which we did straight away.

On our next walk into the woods on July 19, the burst main had a barrier around it with a notice from “Thames Water” saying work was expected to finish on July 20 and a job reference number of 31117859. There was still a considerable amount of water coming from the burst main.

On our third walk on Friday last week we expected the work to have been completed, especially during a drought when Thames Water is urging us to save as much water as possible.

What a surprise to still see a stream coming from the main and going into the woods.

Maybe Thames Water could explain the delay and try to persuade me why I should be saving water when it seems intent on wasting it? — Yours faithfully,

Jane Rigby


I review honestly

Sir, — I can only speak for myself but I would like to reassure Nick Blandy (Standard, July 27) that I regard reviewing as an important aspect of the journalism craft I have practised for 40 years in newspapers, radio and TV.

That means it is my first duty to get it as right as I possibly can in the time available.

Those were the values by which our craft lived and I still hold to them.

So when I review a concert or play I strive to be honest and if it’s not working I must be prepared to say so.

I am writing this because I do not want to be swept into the term “universally adoring” which Nick used to describe this paper’s coverage of the Henley Festival.

I wasn’t at any of the performances so am not able to judge.

I can say, though, that the last time I reviewed anything at the festival was Alexander Armstrong’s late-night singing some years ago and my opinion was anything but adoring.

Incidentally, I was invited by the Henley Standard to review Burt Bacharach at the festival a few years ago but declined on the grounds that I regard him as musical Mogadon.

I’m not sure that Nick has read any of my reviews but if he has he will know that if I think something has failed — acting, singing, direction, writing — then I say so.

If something is not my cup of tea but has obviously been well done — recent reviews this year of Mamma Mia! and Thoroughly Modern Millie, for example — then I lay aside my prejudice and report the excellence.

I believe it’s the duty and obligation of the reviewer to provide a service for the reader. We must ask and answer the question: is this worth paying good money for?

My personal view is that it is not our job to act as a free PR service for dud shows.

And then there is the thorny issue of amateur shows. I am an enthusiastic am-drammer myself — I act, write and direct, have served on three local society committees and am about to go on to another one.

I love am-dram and believe that sometimes we can border on professional levels — the key word there is “sometimes”. Most of the time, while we still give a good night out, we don’t reach those heights.

That means that the amateur show has a different place to the professional in our lives.

It is rooted in the community and should be treated as such, i.e., as one old acting colleague once said, the review should be full of nothing less than glowing praise with every cast member mentioned as if they were taking a bow at the National.

Of course, all these shows and their headlines appear on the same well-produced pages every week and it may be easy to confuse the productions. Perhaps a reverse block to indicate the nature of the show might help us all differentiate?

Anyway, back to Nick’s points in his letter: Grace Jones was quite favourably reviewed in The Times and the 45-minute wait was mentioned in that, Nile Rodgers’s guitar style is based upon multi-layering which he can’t, on his own admission, reproduce on his own.

As for the excellence of the English National Opera, it’s hardly surprising.

My visits to the Coliseum have never been less than rewarding and they are an example of how discipline, hard work, application and an even temperament don’t necessarily stifle flair.

My next review will be of the Mill At Sonning’s Ten Times Tables by Alan Ayckbourn, a playwright they are very skilled at interpreting.

I anticipate that it will be very good indeed but I can promise Nick and anyone else that my review will not be universally adoring. — Yours faithfully,

Mike Rowbottom

Stoke Row

Great time for theatre

Sir, — I felt both very grown up to be called “Mr Ryan” in your article about the Kenton Theatre (Standard, July 27) and dramatic to be described as “not available for comment”.

In fact, I was at the fantastic Reading Fringe family day at the Oracle (put together by my brilliant programming predecessor at the Kenton, Zsuzsi Lindsay) with my nieces and nephew.

It has been a real privilege to have been a part of the theatre’s busiest year yet, with record visitor numbers and ticket sales, but sadly too time-consuming for what was planned as a one- day-a-week role.

I will still be involved as a box office volunteer and am excited that the Kenton is in its healthiest state for years both with its team headed up by Paula Price-Davies and with the audience, who have been wonderful with their feedback. — Yours faithfully,

Tom Ryan


Thanks for great ‘Trad’

Sir, — May I, once again, take advantage of this page to thank all those who were involved in making the 40th Thames Traditional Boat Festival such an outstanding success?

As the only large event of its kind to actually be held in Henley (as opposed to “near Henley”), we are very proud of its ability to provide a weekend’s entertainment for all ages and tastes.

It will be remembered for Blue Bird K3’s historic run but there was so much more.

This couldn’t have been achieved without the support of local sponsors, the local council and an army of volunteers.

Thanks, too, to those who came to enjoy the event, to eat drink, dance, shop and just have good old-fashioned fun.

Incidentally, Blue Bird did not create a terrific wash, as you reported. In fact, the Marines following were travelling far faster than they should have been and did create a heavy wash which caused some damage.

The Environment Agency was trying to prove that Blue Bird was exceeding its speed limit and trying to stop us running her on Sunday.

If you look at the YouTube films of Blue Bird running you will see that she is up on the plane and there is virtually no wash.

A few seconds later, the Marines’ rib comes through and throws all the slipper launches about on their moorings.

I keep saying I’m not doing the Trad again but until someone offers to take over, I look forward to seeing you all again next year. Volunteers and sponsors always welcome! — Yours faithfully,

Lady McAlpine

Fawley Hill

Mystery of Millie solved

Sir, — I read the letter from your correspondent Debbie Caesar in Australia (Standard, July 20) and have done a bit of research.

It very much looks like she has confused “Henley” with Hanley in Stoke-on- Trent, Staffordshire.

There is no record of a Millie/Amelia Nagington in Henley or the surrounds in any of the censuses.

Nagington is a very unusual name, as you will appreciate. However, there is an Amelia Anne Nagington who was born in the Stoke-on-Trent registration district in the April to June quarter of 1901.

In 1911 the family were living at 5 Parliament Row, Hanley, Stoke-on Trent and her father is listed as Henry Nagington, a butcher. Her mother was Eliza and she had four younger sisters.

Your correspondent would appear to be correct that Amelia Anne died in the January quarter 1939 in the Stoke-on-Trent district, aged 37, indicating that she is the lady noted above.

There is only one other Amelia Nagington who appears in the UK records but she was born in 1882 and had a father Matthew.

She also lived in Hanley with her family at 42 Brook Street. Maybe they were cousins? There are no “Millies” listed.

Looking at the photograph and taking into account Amelia’s age, it could have been taken after the First World War and then sent to your correspondent’s family as Amelia would only have been 18 at the end of the war and possibly too young to have “graduated” from music school at that point. Maybe the families kept in touch for a while and the photo was sent as a keepsake?

I hope you are able to pass on this information to Debbie Caesar as it looks like Stoke-on-Trent might be where her relative was based during the war, rather than Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire. — Yours faithfully,

Jackie Phillips

Luker Avenue, Henley

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