Saturday, 25 May 2019

Your letters...

Don’t vote for EU ‘deal’

Sir, — John Howell’s comments on the EU withdrawal deal (Standard, November 23) were hardly a ringing endorsement for Theresa May’s Brexit proposals.

His lack of enthusiasm would seem to be shared by a growing number of MPs for whom this document pretty much manages to create the worst of all worlds for the future of the country.

So here’s the big question: what will Mr Howell do now for a constituency which voted decisively for Remain in the referendum?

Although he claims to have no sympathy for the European Research Group ultras in his party, he has carefully toed the party line for the last two years, leaving his colleagues to challenge the Brexiteer extremists.

But the time for sitting on the fence will come to an end in the next two weeks and he will now need to decide between loyalty to his party and loyalty to his constituents.

The Government’s own analysis of the proposed bill predicts that the country will be economically poorer, the people less free and the departments of government so engaged with the minutiae of separating from the EU that very few of the important issues we face will be dealt with for at least the next five years.

All those people wishing Brexit would “just sort itself out” are in for a shock. Neither John Howell, nor the prime minister, nor any of their colleagues have even attempted to answer the question “How does this make life better?”

Almost certainly because they understand there is no benefit.

This is an exercise entirely lacking in purpose. Instead, they are obsessed with delivering the “will of the people” as it existed for a very brief period two-and-a-half years ago after a campaign of deceit, falsehood and fantasies.

Mr Howell rightly insists that he is a representative of his constituents, not their delegate. He was elected to serve the best interests of the people of South and West Oxfordshire.

This bill might be the best we can get but it totally fails to move the country forward into a bright new future. For all our sakes, John Howell should not support it. — Yours faithfully,

William Stevens

Oaks Road, Lower Shiplake

Not the deal we voted for

Sir, — While John Howell was busy reading the EU withdrawal agreement, I was reading in The Times that both the EU and our Prime Minister have said that this deal is final and there will be no further negotiations, so I rather doubt that it will be necessary for him to contribute to any fruitless parliamentary debate.

It is simply no good crowing that you have actually read the document, John. That is what we elect and pay for MPs like you to do.

We then ask you to make informed, non-partisan judgements but it seems that is too much to ask because you and your colleagues on all sides simply cannot be objective and rise above mere party politics and personal ambition.

The complacency, posturing and humbug are simply unbelievable.

As it stands, I should have thought that this agreement has no chance at all of securing a majority in Parliament, regardless of Mr Howell’s eloquence, because it annoys everyone in equal measure: the Northern Irish, the Scots, Remainers and supporters of a meaningful Brexit.

Indeed, the Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster has said that her party will not support Mrs May’s so-called “deal”.

The clear case against this “deal” is that:

• We would hand over £39billion of our money with nothing guaranteed in return.

• There is no exit from a “backstop” Customs Union without EU agreement. This so-called backstop is a complete red herring anyway and should have been dismissed out of hand long ago.

• We would still be subject to the EU Common Fisheries Policy, which Mr Howell does not mention, preferring to tell us the more palatable news that we would leave the Common Agricultural Policy.

• Northern Ireland would be treated differently from the rest of the UK, one of the PM’s red lines, flexible apparently.

• Worst of all, the European Court of Justice would remain in control of the agreement and large areas of EU law directly effective in the UK with no end in sight. We would be a permanent “rule taker”.

My understanding is that this is in any case only the withdrawal agreement and must be signed before any discussions about a trade agreement. Ludicrous. What sensible negotiator would agree to that? We have been comprehensively outmanoeuvred.

This is not the Brexit that a clear majority voted for. Under this agreement we would become a vassal state: “half in and half out”.

Mrs May has always been a closet Remainer and her cunning ploy is to present this pathetic mess as the best deal available, which it has already been suggested might turn out to be worse than staying in the EU (even if that were now possible), which was her intention all along.

After months of silence, she has the temerity at this late hour to recommend this half-baked “deal”, relying on voter boredom, Brexit fatigue, peerages, strong-arm tactics, horse-trading and fudge to get the agreement through. The price would be paid by every citizen for decades to come.

To those who want a second referendum I would say “be careful what you wish for”. If the result was again a majority for Brexit, what would they want then — a third referendum?

One way ahead would be to terminate these pointless talks and leave on World Trade Organisation terms, which is currently the subject of a shrill last-ditch fear campaign, spearheaded by Tony Blair and the governor of the Bank of England. Or could that be worse than staying in the EU? — Yours faithfully,

Michael Emmett

Peppard Common

What are you afraid of?

Sir, — Following the People’s Vote march on October 20, which I attended together with an estimated 700,000 other people, I sent a postcard to our MP John Howell. My son sent another.

Both of us wrote on the postcard a series of different points outlining why we felt that the People’s Vote was a fair and reasonable campaign and why Brexit was such a mistake.

John Howell replied using an identical cut and paste precedent.

As such, many would think that his failure to reply and address the individual points we raised renders him a complete hypocrite when he then tries to score cheap political points, dismissing those who have not read the 500-page Brexit deal (Standard, November 23).

And then, despite the repeated warnings from the EU that the deal could not be renegotiated, Mr Howell suggests that areas of concern that he has “will need some more work…”

Reflecting, of course, that the Government strongly resisted any attempt for a meaningful vote in Parliament two years ago, the People’s Vote faces similar opposition.

But what are the politicians who object afraid of? Voters are entitled to change their mind, or not, every five years, so why not on an issue of such monumental importance? — Yours faithfully,

Robert Jones

Manor Road, Goring

EU wants to punish us

Sir, — And another thing... Did anyone notice the demand the EU made to our government on Friday? The demand to stop paying compensation to power companies in the north of England not to overproduce power. A compensation paid for loss of income so as not to overload the power grid.

The EU claimed it was unfair government support to private sector companies and was illegal under EU rules and should stop.

The EU wishes to stifle fledgling UK green energy companies because they will curtail the profitability of any number of European power companies.

It wishes to stifle the growing threat of competition, power self-sufficiency and trade in energy. It wants to turn our lights out so it can claim it as a result of leaving the EU.

What should be demanded is that Renault, Citroen, Peugeot and Fiat — all companies propped up by their relevant countries — should be immediately shut down for breach of those same EU regulations.

What we should demand is grants for upgrading and future proofing our services and utilities infrastructure, as France regularly does, instead of pressuring privatised companies to maintain systems they never created.

Green energy is a young, developing industry seeking to both supply all our energy needs and save the environment and planet.

Barely a few decades old from inception, it’s still ironing out the kinks — unlike established power companies that are polluting and using up dwindling resources.

Don’t doubt for one minute that this is a strategically timed shot across our bows.

Make no mistake, the EU wants to punish us by threatening to put our lights out. — Yours faithfully,

Edward Sierpowski

Crisp Road, Henley

It’s not the inquisition

Sir, — Could I request that the BBC steps back from its Kremlin interrogatory style while ordinary mortals are trying to hear, then understand sufficient aspects of the Brexit debate to form meaningful opinions at this critical time? — Yours faithfully,

Jim Munro

Blandy Road, Henley

Bad year for Tory ‘values’

Sir, — It was not that long ago that the Henley Conservatives entertained us by hanging out their dirty washing for all to see.

The relatively new chairman was sacked (for alleged intolerance and an aggressive manner) and four or five members voluntarily left with him.

Another chairman was appointed and he promised unity and focus in preparing for the town council elections in May next year.

However, the local Conservatives seem keen to emulate their colleagues in Parliament and a new row has seen another local member leave.

Donna Crook, a recently elected town councillor, has resigned from the party.

Serious differences with some senior members of the group seem to be the reason. The shame is that Donna, who has worked hard for our community, wasn’t really given much of a chance.

I think that Daniel Bausor, the new chairman of the Henley Conservatives, needs to get a strong grip on some senior members of his party who seem to put personal control and dogma over the good of the membership and councillors.

Those “Conservative values” much vaunted by the local party recently have not had a very good year. It doesn’t inspire confidence. — Yours faithfully,

Dieter Hinke

Elizabeth Road, Henley

Councillors’ wake-up call

Sir, — I write in response to the reference to myself in your front page report regarding Henley town councillor Donna Crook (Standard, November 23).

The report stated that I had changed my affiliation. If I may correct this, I have not changed my affiliation.

I am still a member of the Conservative party and a member of the Henley Conservatives branch, so I remain “affiliated” to the Conservatives.

Despite the fact that my name has been purposefully excluded on the Henley Conservatives’ website, I am hopeful that our new branch chairman Daniel Bausor, who has refreshingly spoken of “inclusiveness”, will address this.

I chose to be Independent of the Conservative group on the council for how I was treated by certain members and now Donna, a hard- working councillor, has experienced the same and is the latest to leave the group.

I hope this will be a wake-up call and that in future the focus will be on the town and the electorate we represent rather than personal attacks. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Lorraine Hillier

Independent Conservative, Henley Town Council

Please ban barbecues

Sir, — I would like to support the suggestion that barbecues are permanently banned from Marsh Meadows in Henley.

It was such a joy this summer to be able to walk around the meadows, particularly at weekends, without the smell and rubbish associated with barbecues, quite apart from the reduction in damage to the grass.

I do not agree with Councillor Laurence Plant that allowing barbecues “attracts visitors” (Standard, November 16).

I believe that very few, if any, of those driving to the meadows for a barbecue go anywhere near the town centre, never mind spend any money there (and they don’t even pay to park!)

It may be a shame that “everybody” would be penalised “for some people’s actions”, as Councillor David Eggleton said, but that is what happens in all sorts of situations and I believe that the majority of Henley residents (whose council tax pays for the maintenance) would support a ban.

Lastly, a designated barbecue area might be a possible alternative to a total ban but this certainly would not need to be in Marsh Meadows and would be costly to build, quite apart from the ongoing cost of maintaining and clearing it. — Yours faithfully,

Ann Shankland

Paradise Road, Henley

Why are we paying more?

Sir, — The Esso petrol station in Reading Road, Henley, has a monopoly locally as it is the only petrol station currently operating in our town.

It is, therefore, in an exclusive position to control the retail supply and the sale price of petrol in Henley.

On Friday afternoon the retail price of unleaded petrol at the petrol station was 131.9p per litre and that morning it had been £133.9p.

On the previous night, on my return from Reading via Caversham, I passed two petrol stations.

The retail price of unleaded petrol was 124.9p per litre at one garage and 123.9p per litre at the other.

That’s up to 10p per litre less for unleaded petrol in Caversham than in Henley.

The franchisee of the Esso garage in Henley obviously has every right to set its retail unleaded petrol price at whatever level it wishes.

However, Caversham is only nine miles from Henley.

Could there be an acceptable reason for this substantial difference in the forecourt prices or are drivers in Henley simply being ripped off? — Yours faithfully,

Peter Ward

King James Way, Henley

Path views protected

Sir, — The Open Spaces Society is delighted that the massive development proposed by Gladman Developments on open land north of Caversham has been turned down following a public inquiry.

The planning inspector Nick Palmer rejected the company’s appeal against South Oxfordshire District Council’s refusal of planning consent for 245 residential dwellings and other works on land off Peppard Road, Emmer Green.

The society joined Eye and Dunsden Parish Council, the Chiltern Society and others in fighting the plan, in particular because of the adverse effect on public paths and people’s enjoyment of this beautiful countryside.

The society’s principal concern was the threat to the public footpath which runs across the southern part of the development site, between Bryant’s Farm and the housing estate to the east.

It forms part of a longer network via Row Lane, Dunsden Green and Littlestead Green.

The footpath commands wide, open views, with the wooded ridge of the Chilterns visible as a long arc, from the north-west round to the north-east.

The inspector walked the paths and agreed with the objectors, stating that “having walked the routes, it is clear to me that the development would have very significant effects from a number of public viewpoints”.

We wholeheartedly agree with the inspector. This path would have been surrounded by buildings and converted into an urban route.

We are relieved that the network will be retained, open and unspoiled on the edge of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The paths are particularly important because they are close to Reading and provide green lungs for those living in the town. — Yours faithfully,

Kate Ashbrook

General secretary, Open Spaces Society, Bell Street, Henley

Villages not sustainable

Sir, — The CLA’s new report, Sustainable Villages — Making Rural Communities Fit for the Future, explores how rural settlements are overlooked by local authorities when planning where to place housing.

Housing is strategically allocated to larger towns and no sites are allocated in smaller settlements, typically villages in the countryside.

The Local Plan sets out the vision for development in a local authority areas.

In the plan, the authority states how many homes it needs to build over the duration of the plan and allocates them to certain types of settlement, for example, a city or market town.

In some cases, it can be individual settlements but the approach changes from one local authority to another.

This process of allocating housing is informed by a rather outdated settlement hierarchy which ranks settlements on the availability of services and amenities as well as some economic indicators like businesses or employment.

Settlements receive a score based on these criteria and are ranked to form the hierarchy. The higher the score, the more housing is allocated.

Our report highlights that the services used to score settlements have not kept up to date with modern life.

The best indicator of this is that only 18 per cent of the local authorities the CLA surveyed include broadband speed as one of the amenities they rank in their own criteria.

This is particularly damaging to rural areas as they have lost services like post offices and could benefit from a digital connection.

Revising the list to reflect modern life would not only give a fairer portrait of the sustainability of these places but hopefully encourage greater investment in what makes places sustainable in the 21st century.

The remaining smaller villages towards the bottom of the hierarchy not allocated housing are what we refer to in the report as “unsustainable”.

Classified as unsuitable for growth, they are left with restricted options for development — rural exception sites (RES), infill sites, conversion, neighbourhood plans and the new entry level exception site (ELES) policy.

Of the options above, only the RES, ELES or neighbourhood plan, which takes two years to adopt, are going to actually deliver a decent number of homes.

All these options require the village to be proactive in addressing its own needs, or very engaged local authorities.

Some of the villages on our list have made use of one or more of these policies but many haven’t. Barriers that stop villages using these polices must be removed if these rural communities are to survive for future generations.

The biggest initial barrier to getting a RES or ELES off the ground is the lack of evidence for “housing need” in the village.

That is why we are calling for local authorities to produce a mandatory housing needs survey in any settlement not allocated in the Local Plan.

This need then unlocks the housing options above, so either a site is allocated in the village or up-to-date information is available on what the need is so that these communities have a chance of escaping the sustainability trap. — Yours faithfully,

Robin Edwards

South-East regional director, CLA

Well, we’ve been busy

Sir, — If anyone ever tells you “nothing ever happens in the villages” it is not true, certainly not in Rotherfield Peppard.

We are fortunate to have a social committee in the village — The Revels — who organise celebratory events and this year there were two celebrations.

First was the royal wedding, which was celebrated on the Top Common in conjunction with Peppard Primary School. There was a wedding-themed fete on the day attended by many families and residents.

Then from November 9 to 11 there was a remembrance weekend to celebrate the centenary of the end of the First World War and remember the men and women from the village who lost their lives during either world war and their bereaved families.

About a month prior, a very neat programme of events was put through every door in the parish listing all the events which would be on offer and inviting each resident to attend all or any.

The first event was a film evening with food — a very tasty pasty wrapped in a cloth napkin and a piece of cake served with wine or soft drink which was partaken in a marquee erected next to the War Memorial Hall with a door through to the hall.

The night was very wet and windy, causing the chandeliers in the marquee to swing wildly but actually helping to create an atmosphere which caused most people to remark: “If this is bad just think of those poor men in the trenches.”

After our meal we trouped through to the hall, where every seat was taken, to watch the film Testament of Youth, which was set in rural Britain and in France and Belgium.

It was very tense and atmospheric and at the end the audience left very quietly and soberly.

Saturday evening was spent back in the posh marquee restaurant and bar with a dance in the hall.

A fund-raising game of heads and tails was held and a clever magician moved from table to table (always good fun).

This was followed by really delicious food supplied by the Happy Ghurkas — three different curries served with perfect rice and all the trimmings followed by a selection of wonderful puddings.

There was a really wonderful atmosphere in the marquee so that people were reluctant to leave but the dance called and we made our way through to the hall where we were entertained by HipCats who played swing and jazz, which made easy listening and dancing — a really good fun event.

The main event was, of course, held on the Sunday morning with a remembrance service.

The day was bright but the atmosphere sombre as the village gathered at All Saints’ Church, where there was standing room only by 10.45am. At 9.50am we were led out of the church by Lt Col Nick Launders, who is our local expert on all things military and who had organised the formal proceedings.

He was accompanied by the standard bearer Joseph Eastick, who is an adult helper at the Army Cadet Force, and Ian Page, a 94-year-old Burma veteran.

We stood together with more people from the village around the war memorial with members of the Royal British Legion.

Rev James Stickings, the rector for Rotherfield Peppard, Kidmore End and Sonning Common, led the ceremony with a greeting and opening prayer.

Mr Page read out very clearly the names on the roll of honour, the Exhortation and the Kohima Epitaph. with the response from all gathered there: “We will remember them.”

Just before 11am the Last Post was sounded by trumpeter Joshua Wetten and two minutes of absolute silence ensued at the end of which Reveille was sounded.

Then prayers for peace and the Lord’s Prayer were said, wreaths were laid — one each from the Legion and from Peppard Parish Council — and then all present either remained by the memorial or moved back into the church to hear Rev Stickings read a most apt poem, Sonnet for Remembrance by Malcolm Guite.

He then gave a very moving sermon, which was followed by hymns (led by the choir who, as always, sounded sublime), Bible readings and prayers — all very appropriate to the occasion.

The service ended with a blessing and hearty rendition of the National Anthem.

That afternoon an exhibition about the two wars was held in the hall, which was also celebrating its centenary. There were many visitors.

Tea, coffee and cakes, including a “trench” cake, a fruit cake which did not contain nuts, eggs or butter and therefore was ideal to be sent to the men at the front, (all made by members of the Revels committee) were graciously served by members of Peppard WI.

The finale to the weekend in a village devoid of street lighting (so you can see every star in the night sky) was the lighting of the beacon for which residents, including lots of children, gathered on the Top Common.

The beacon was lit by Paul Davies one of the tallest men in the village, the sudden brightness bringing a great cheer from all assembled as we watched one of the oldest forms of communication passing from village to village as the Nettlebed beacon was then lit.

Delicious hot soup donated by the Unicorn pub was consumed, accompanied by beer and soft drinks and the party continued for quite a while.

On the Monday, residents must have thought what a wonderful weekend we experienced, who would want to live anywhere else?

Thank you, Revels, for bringing the village together by providing so much entertainment to celebrate this great centenary.

Our thanks go to the Revels team, which comprised Linda Collison (chair and chief organiser) with Terry Ryan acting as her deputy and feet on the ground when she couldn’t be there, ably supported by Pam Gross who handled publicity and liaising with the school.

Other members of the team were Philip Collings, Simon Taylor, Maria Wilkins, Fred Nickson, Clive Mills, Nick Launders, Mary Crouch, Diana and Alex Greenfield and many, many local volunteers. Everyone had specific responsibilities but many other tasks were shared out.

Thanks must also go to the Laithwaites who, as ever, were generous in helping and supporting our events.

The Revels donated money to the Peppard War Memorial Hall and also made a smaller donation to the Poppy Appeal. — Yours faithfully,

Jeni Wood

Chair, Peppard Parish Council

So many thank-yous

Sir, — Having read your article about my time as a dental surgeon in Henley (Standard, November 23), it appears that one paragraph of text was not entirely explained fully.

I have treated well over 8,000 patients during my 33 years, which when added up totals nearly 127,000 individual patient treatments and not, as the article said, “127,000 patients”.

Mind you, that would explain the grey hair and paunch!

I will, however, add a huge thank-you to all those patents who have offered kind words, cards and gifts to myself and staff.

It has been a wonderful career and the Henley people have made it fun as a majority of them have been with me since the start.

It seems they have become an extended family, exchanging family and life- changing information every six months.

Some who were babies now bring in their own offspring and I’ll be sad to say farewell to them all but I know they will be well looked after in my absence.

Thanks also goes to those companies that have injected copious amounts of sugar into food and drink to aid my pension fund.

I hope they will knowingly start to reduce the sugar levels to help prevent future cases of diabetes and dental decay.

Not to be left out, a big thank-you to the humble French bread stick, pork crackling and most types of granola breakfast cereal for they can remove parts of teeth with the greatest of ease and have provided me with hours of work during my career.

Finally, and most importantly, the biggest thank-you is to my three staff members, Denise, Jenna and Janet, who have given me a total of 45 years’ service between them and we’ve been a cohesive team for the last 12 years.

Without their dedication to the practice, the work I do would not have been possible, nor as rewarding. Having such a team of ladies has created a friendly and calming atmosphere within which many nervous patients have been helped to remove their anxiety and had treatments that they never imagined possible.

This practice has worked tirelessly to dispel tired, old, and outdated myths about dental treatment and we have worked to educate everyone into brushing correctly and to be proud of their smile.

As I have always said, “Be a brusher, not a scrubber”.

Again, many, many thanks to everyone I’ve treated — and keep those teeth clean. — Yours faithfully,

Dr Chris Hurst

Dental surgeon (retired), Montreal Terrace Dental Practice, Reading Road, Henley

Auction lots aren’t mine

Sir, — I was shocked by the large headline and article suggesting that I was holding an auction at Fawley Hill (Standard, November 23). I am not, Gary Wallis is.

He is a respected antique dealer and does occasionally hold auctions. I said he could use our museum and that I might have a few pieces I might sell as I had been unpacking stuff I brought with me 15 years ago and they don’t fit this house. I am selling nothing that belongs to the house or the estate.

I have not yet been granted probate so even if I thought there were items to sell, I could not do so.

Your article has caused me considerable distress and shocked old friends who read it as me clearing out my late husband’s effects.

I am not and am extremely unlikely to ever do so. My husband believed in refining his collections and selling to allow others to collect and I may continue this but the “attic sale” will take place when I have gone to join him. — Yours faithfully,

Lady McAlpine

Fawley Hill

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