Sunday, 21 April 2019

Letters to the Editor...

Allocation not agreed

Sir, — Dieter Hinke wrote to you in the belief that South Oxfordshire District Council had allocated the 95 houses to be built on Thames Farm to Shiplake, even though the land is in Harpsden parish and therefore in the area previously approved by the district council for the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan (Standard, October 26).

Fortunately, we have the council’s word for it that this is not so: Shiplake has indeed lodged a claim but the council has yet to consider it and, as Dieter suggests, there are very good reasons why we hope and expect them to turn it down:

1. The claim is based on the assumption that Thames Farm will affect Shiplake more than Harpsden or Henley because it is closer to Lower Shiplake and therefore to its station, corner shop and butcher.

But proximity alone is not a sensible criterion: what matters is proximity to the services and facilities we all need, such as banks, shops, supermarkets, schools, doctors, dentists, hospitals etc, and here it is obvious that Henley will bear the brunt, all the more so since access to Thames Farm is via the Henley/Reading road which will carry residents straight into the heart of central Henley.

2. To allocate credit for houses built at Thames Farm to Shiplake after insisting that the whole of Harpsden must be included in the neighbourhood plan would, as Dieter observes, be an extraordinary administrative act.

To suggest that contradicting themselves in this way could be justified by regarding the decision to build there as a “windfall” comes up against the fact that the site — and hence the houses — remain in the neigbourhood plan.

Such a decision would undermine many neighbourhood plans elsewhere, compound the council’s failure to maintain a given supply of land for housing at the time of the relevant appeal hearing and point up the fiendish provision in planning law whereby planning authorities like the district council can be penalised for not doing something they can’t control. — Yours faithfully,

Kester George

Chairman, Harpsden Parish Council

Site’s still in this parish

Sir, — With reference to Dieter Hinke’s letter, Shiplake Parish Council repeatedly objected to plans for development at Thames Farm in the parish of Harpsden.

The endless applications were finally decided by a government planning inspector on the basis that government allocations of housing by South Oxfordshire District Council had not been fulfilled.

The site is still in Harpsden parish, so why would the quota of housing and the possible levy revenue if the houses are built be suddenly given to Shiplake parish when no boundaries have changed?

Then Shiplake council would not have to build further housing as its quota would be fulfilled, leaving its supportive neighbour Harpsden with the possibility of further housing in the amended neighbourhood plan.

How could this be and how would Harpsden survive? I would be interested in comments on this matter. — Yours faithfully,

Odette Moss


Council has got a cheek

Sir, — With some incredulity, I read Dieter Hinke saying that the homes to be built on Thames Farm and probably the former Wyevale garden centre site are to be allocated to Shiplake despite them being in Harpsden parish.

Shiplake Parish Council fought tooth and nail against both of these planning applications, spending taxpayers’ money in the process, and yet as soon as they are granted permission, it is trying to persuade South Oxfordshire District Council to allocate them to its own parish! — Yours faithfully

Garry Forster

Goring Heath

Choking on bus fumes

Sir, — Two Fridays ago, I saw an Arriva 800 bus stationary outside Boots in Bell Street, Henley, with its engine running for around 12 minutes, choking up the air with its toxic diesel particles and smelly fumes.

I asked the driver to turn the engine off as it wasn’t necessary and was causing a lot of smells and fumes.

His suspect reply was, “I can’t turn it off or else it won’t start again — we’re waiting for a spare part.”

I said if that was the case then the bus shouldn’t be on the road.

This 800 bus does exactly the same thing in Friar Street in Reading where it waits for 20 minutes and the drivers give complainers the same old bull and some turn very nasty.

With all the knowledge we now have about early deaths attributed to diesel particles, I find it sad that these drivers are so unthinking and unconcerned about the poison they’re pumping out.

Surely it’s time for councils to invoke the Clean Air Act and fine drivers who keep their engines running when idling.

As for Arriva, I find it so difficult to get a reply from them.

I left them a message about the bus driver on their message box on that Friday but, as expected, received no reply.

They just don’t seem to care and certainly don’t want to be bothered by any member of the public.

Their message box required me to fill in every detail of myself except my inside leg measurement before the text would be accepted.

The time is long overdue for councils to act on behalf of the people they represent for the sake of all our lungs. — Yours faithfully,

Danny Darcy

Piggotts Road, Caversham

Simon Finnie, area managing director, Arriva Midlands North, responds: “At Arriva, we have a comprehensive training programme designed to help drivers better understand eco-driving techniques which we believe is significant for delivering a reduction in emissions.

“Training in this area is refreshed every 12 months to ensure all our drivers maintain high standards when behind the wheel.

“With that in mind, we do appreciate the diligence of our passengers in reporting any issues with regards to driving or customer service standards, so that we are able to respond swiftly and identify any additional training needs.

“We believe we have a wider role in reducing the overall impact transport can have on the environment. By offering quality services, we can encourage more people out of their cars and position public transport as a more attractive journey choice.

“Part of this is investing in maintenance and ensuring that we undertake routine checks on all our vehicles in accordance with current industry guidelines to make sure that they adhere to strict environmental and operational standards and provide our customers with more comfortable and safer journeys.”

You’re not hearing us

Sir, — I write to endorse the comments made by Mike Turnill concerning the problems encountered by people who are hard-of-hearing in listening to talks at the Henley Literary Festival (Standard, October 26).

I attended several events in the years up to 2017 and was a Friend of the festival despite coming across many problems in being able to properly appreciate the speakers.

In October 2017 I wrote a letter setting out my experiences and highlighting problems at the town hall and Phyllis Court Club. The Kenton Theatre has always been a problem for me.

I received the following reply: “Thank you for your feedback and I am very sorry there were problems this year.

“We are in discussion with our tech team about this to see if there is anything they can do.

“We are also looking into the costs that we have been sent to get a proper loop fitted at each of the venues. I will update you in due course.”

On July 13 this year I received an email asking why I had not renewed my festival Friends membership.

I responded to the effect that I was still waiting for an update to their email from October 2017.

I did receive a reply: “I am very sorry about this. We have arranged a meeting between our AV company and a volunteer at Hearing Link to try to resolve the problem for this year.

“I will keep you updated on the matter but at present, we do not have any news.”

That is as far as it has got. To me it looks like lots of words but no action; perhaps some of the profits could be used to “get a proper loop fitted at each of the venues” and also ensure they work.

This year I did not attend any events.

In the absence of a better response than that from Sue Ryan in replying to Mike Turnill’s comments, I would support a referral to the Equality Advisory and Support Service.

I do not believe the fact the loop system may be installed by the venue absolves the Henley Literary Festival of all responsibility. — Yours faithfully,

Peter C Stone

Blandy Road, Henley

Leave EU at our peril

Sir, — The claim made by Edward Sierpowski that the EU is the enemy of democracy (Standard, October 26) could be challenged by the fact that any Brexit deal has to be ratified by 27 countries.

The threat of fascism is very real but I think we must look across the Atlantic for one of the greatest threats to democracy.

The EU is not a perfect institution but it is a rules-based system which has managed to largely keep the peace in Europe since the Second World War.

The UK has benefited considerably by membership and we turn our back on our biggest market at our peril.

Mr Sierpowski might wish to investigate some of the backers of the Leave campaign in his quest to defeat fascism. — Yours faithfully,

D Cole


We need a second vote

Sir, — I am so concerned about the implications for this country of leaving the European Union.

It really must be realised that people from the EU are quite happy to undertake work that British people are just not willing to do.

This covers working in the NHS, agriculture, industry, hotels, medical services and no doubt many other fields as well.

It should also be pointed out that nearly all the motor cars constructed in this country are made by foreign manufacturers. This, I am afraid, includes even Minis, Land Rovers and Jaguars.

The key market for all these manufacturers is Europe because it is so close.

Should the opportunity arise, I really do feel that another referendum should be held by the Government.

All the facts have now been made public and a decision would be much easier for everyone to make. — Yours faithfully,

Martin Cresswell

Paradise Road, Henley

For the love of trees

Sir, — I would like to thank Victoria Heriot for bringing my attention to Professor Richard Fortey’s book on Lambridge wood, The Wood for the Trees (Standard, October 26).

I am just about to read it and gather that he owns four acres of this lovely woodland.

Some close friends of mine know him and I would love to meet him as we have so much in common.

By the way, I recently read Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees by the late and lamented Roger Deakin. I would recommend this book to anyone with a love of trees. — Yours faithfully,

Vincent Ruane

Emmer Green

Considerate cinema-goers

Sir, — We want to thank a wonderful couple who helped my husband at the Regal cinema in Henley on Friday evening. Unfortunately, as we stepped out of the car, the unexpected cold air had a detrimental effect on his breathing and he needed support to go into the cinema, which this couple gave.

They also gave a huge amount of help after the film and made sure that he could get back to the car safely.

So although we do not know your names, we do thank you very much for the care and thoughtfulness that you showed.

The staff at the cinema were also very considerate and helpful so a big thank-you to all of you who also helped us. — Yours faithfully,

Name and address supplied

Campaign is bang on

Sir, — I have read with interest the articles on your Ban the Bangs campaign and applaud you.

I will continue to follow the campaign with interest as I am trying to drum up support in my area for the very same thing but, sadly, my local council and MP are not that supportive at the moment.

All the very best in your campaign and I will keep my fingers crossed that the powers-that-be will listen and start toughening up on fireworks restrictions. — Yours faithfully,

Debbie Green


Thank you for kindness

Sir, — Seeing a letter of appreciation for a kind person who had handed in a lost phone found in Henley made me wish I had also written a similar letter to the very good person who took my wallet, which I had dropped outside Café Rouge in Hart Street, into the restaurant.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciated their action. — Yours faithfully.

Alan Smethurst


Odd codes for shoppers

Sir, — As well as perhaps being mischievous, at least one of our local supermarkets employs codes.

If one wants toilet rolls or paper towels one has to find the aisle labelled “pets”.

Similarly, if one needs cereals, it is quite simple: one looks for tea, coffee.

There may be other code words yet to be discovered. — Yours faithfully,

Ian Tiffin

Northfield End, Henley

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