Friday, 22 February 2019

Your letters...

Unappealing town centre

Sir, — I have lived in Station Road, Henley, for the last 28 years.

My husband and I walk into town every day after a long walk along the river.

We are therefore privy to noticing the deterioration in cleanliness/care in the town centre over the last few years.

To say the centre is dirty is an understatement. I list below the main offending areas:

•The pavements are covered in chewing gum stains and liquid stains near the rubbish bins, particularly outside Starbucks and Sainsbury’s. They should be cleaned regularly (as promised after the deep clean which took place after the royal regatta). They rubbish bins also need painting as they are dirty and rusty.

•There is an area between Boots and Sainsbury’s where smokers stand every day and pollute the whole space with their cigarette ends on the floor and on the pavement. There should at least be a bin for cigarette disposal which would tidy it up somewhat but it looks like a “doss house” all the time.

• Waste is not collected early in the morning by Grundon, as was promised by a previous mayor some years ago. The bags on the pavements give a terrible impression of a so-called prosperous town.

• Why is the weekly rubbish collection along Reading Road (town centre end) left until late morning each Wednesday which, again, looks so bad and blocks some pavements?

We have written to Biffa (South Oxfordshire District Council’s contractor) who said they would look at the route so that this could be achieved but to date nothing has happened. This part of the town is used by visitors as they walk from the station into the centre.

• Finally, the lights in the town centre for Christmas decorations are a joke. Light bulbs strung across the streets! Surely we could have something a little more adventurous and appealing than this shoddy effort? — Yours faithfuly,

Maureen Dougall

Station Road, Henley

Henley town clerk Janet Wheeler responds: “Henley Town Council has a budget of £11,0000 to deep clean the pavements about three times a year.

“We do not have the budget to do more and it is the responsibility of South Oxfordshire District Council to sweep the streets daily and empty bins.

“Grundon’s rubbish collections are between 5am and 6am for business waste and again at 9.30am for retailers’ waste — and we thank them for providing this service free of charge to Henley.

“Biffa collects domestic waste (on behalf of the district council) on a Wednesday but this is for the whole of Henley and not just the town centre.

“With your permission, I will be happy to forward your comments to the district council.

“We will look at options for putting in a bin with cigarette disposal between Boots and Sainsbury’s.

“The Christmas lights are a matter of opinion but the town council wholly funds the festoon lights — unlike other towns that have significantly more funding from third parties.”

Trees are below par

Sir, — WindowFlowers, the company that supplied and installed the small Christmas trees in Henley in previous years, did credit to the town.

You reported that the contract has been awarded by the town council to another supplier [Little Angels] this year as they came in a bit cheaper (Standard, October 26).

I do not think that the meddling of councillors in this case has paid off. They are obviously too thick to have looked into it beforehand to see what they were getting.

The trees that have gone up on the Higgs Group/Henley Standard building and the shops opposite are totally disappointing.

The standard of these trees is, to put it mildly, disgusting and an insult to the people of Henley. Well done! — Yours faithfully,

Bernd Altenburg

Hamilton Avenue, Henley

Helen Barnett, Henley town and community manager, responds: “Trees grow naturally and will therefore vary slightly in size.

“Henley Town Council has indeed reduced costs as we streamlined the process from three contractors to one. We are very pleased with the efficiency of our new contractor.

“We feel confident that the town is just as glorious as it has been in previous years.”

Madness or what part 2?

Sir, — Your front page article on the inadequacies of the NHS system for us common folk who live at the frontiers of the county (Standard, November 30) brilliantly encapsulated the conclusions in my letter published in August under the headline “Madness or what?”, namely:

• How poorly the new policy has been communicated within Oxfordshire and at the Royal Berskhire Hospital in Reading.

• There is likely to be an adverse effect induced by being treated in a multitude of NHS venues.

• The NHS is inherently a force for the good of the British people but administrative processes and administrators are getting in the way of dispensing efficient and well-understood services.

I have now found out that there is now another level of complication at our beloved GP surgeries.

The Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group has salami-sliced the patient offering further by cutting back on about 12 procedures.

It simply will no longer pay our health centres for such routines as ear syringing, small body cyst removal and a number of cosmetic procedures.

Hence, if you need these procedures you will need to go private and pay.

For example, a friend of mine has just paid £70 at some shopping mall establishment in Reading for an ear syringe. Is this the way forward?

The future could be cut- price ear syringing on offer at a dingy, back street pop-up shop. There are some big issues raised by all this evidence. How do we, the people:

• Find out about these cuts to services?

• How do we influence the decision-makers?

• If all else fails, how do we protest?

The commissioning group has never found the best way to communicate with Oxfordshire people on health issues.

I had hoped that such bodies as the Townlands Steering Group and the Townlands Stakeholder Reference Group would help but the former is neutralized and without energy and the latter has been speedily terminated before achieving anything significant.

Perhaps we need our very own Oxfordshire “gilets jaunes” to shake up these NHS travesties.

So what do we do? All I can hope is that the ubiquitous, mysterious and anonymous spokeswoman for the commissioning group responds and pours more soothing balm on troubled waters.

As with everything in life these days, I want our leaders to lull me into a false sense of security that all is well and will be evermore. Amen. — Yours faithfully,

Barry Wood

Stoke Row Road, Peppard

Structural failures

Sir, — Your front page story about Chrissie Godfrey, who was refused NHS treatment because she does not live in Berkshire, is a long overdue public airing of a situation that has prevailed in the NHS for a long time.

In 2012 I had bowel cancer surgery at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading. My wound developed a problem and I needed a particular pump dressing in order to close the wound so I could start chemotherapy within the recommended timeframe.

The Oxfordshire PCT (now the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group) refused to fund the pump.

Consequently, I spent a week occupying a surgical bed at £600 a day as opposed to being at home wearing a pump dressing at £200 day.

In order to get the dressing and get out of hospital, I spent hours on the telephone arguing with various people in the PCT, including the tissue viability nurse, who refused to visit and inspect the wound but was insistent that a pump dressing was not necessary.

After many telephone calls and arguments, I was finally sent home with the dressing.

Once home, the problem took another turn. It transpired that Oxfordshire uses a different pump dressing to that used in Berkshire and the Oxfordshire District nurse team was not appropriately trained.

The wound eventually closed and I was able to start chemotherapy one day before the end of the timeframe from surgery.

Residents of South Oxfordshire have no say over how their health services are provided, that is the function of the commissioning group.

Given the proximity of Henley to Reading, it makes sense to commission services from the Royal Berks rather than transport people to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

However, if patients are to receive holistic end-to-end care, the commissioning group should procure services from suppliers that can properly support the patient and complement the treatment they received at the treating hospital.

Where someone lives should not prevent them from receiving the follow-up care and treatment they need to recover and/or maintain their quality of life.

Neither should differences in equipment used between counties be an impediment to caring for and curing patients — both can endanger life.

Mrs Godfrey’s experience and mine demonstrate clearly that the NHS is not provided fairly and consistently. It is high time that politicians acknowledge the failures of the structure and make the NHS national again. — Yours faithfully,

J W Evans

Orchard Close, Shiplake

Imaginary treatment

Sir, — Further to your article headlined “Don’t be ill in wrong place”, I was most interested in the response from the spokeswoman at for the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group.

I now understand that if I wish to receive stroke remedial treatment I must visit Abingdon or Banbury hospitals and “a variety of specialist therapists will work together with therapy treatment from day one”.

Apparently physiotherapy treatment is also on offer at both Wallingford Community Hospital and Townlands Memorial Hospital in Henley.

If this is the case — and I emphasise the “if” — perhaps the same spokeswoman would care to explain why this treatment was not offered to me when I had my stroke five months ago?

I reiterate that at no time has physiotherapy or post-stroke care treatment been offered to me unless I have been treated as a favour or funded it myself — Yours faithfully,

Chrissie Godfrey

Birch Close, Sonning Common

Only Putin is smiling

Sir, — Just before the EU referendum, I wrote to this newspaper, saying that in my opinion, if we voted to leave the European Union, two world leaders, one of whom was Vladimir Putin, would be delighted.

Any weakening of the EU would help him in his own territorial pursuits.

Following the annexation of the Crimea four years ago, did you notice what happened in the Black Sea last week? A very serious incident, subsumed in the reporting of the current Brexit drama.

Putin must be the only one smiling at the moment! — Yours faithfully,

Enid Light

Wargrave Road, Henley

Likeable but misguided

Sir, — Mrs May is a lovely lady, tremendously likeable and is quick and excellent with her words.

As the daughter of Hubert Brasier, a vicar with some strange connections, she has been brought up to accept having her intelligence insulted and as such is naturally confused as to why we refuse to have our intelligence insulted too.

If she really believes in the existence of a deity, we are all in trouble as our society has evolved to proceed as if there isn’t one.

We want to think differently. We want to think for ourselves whereas the Prime Minister’s upbringing has made her vulnerable to persuasive conditioning by Brussels.

I bumped into her recently as she emerged from the dry cleaners with her three bodyguards.

If the lady had discovered that her laundry had been spoilt in any way she would have gone straight back to complain.

Similarly, she should return to Brussels to complain about the French devil in the Brexit detail.

Mrs May should have been looking guilty as many millions of us didn’t vote for permission from Brussels to leave the EU — we victims just voted to leave.

If the south of the country is to be turned into a lorry park then this is our own fault — a fitting punishment for allowing Europe to let freeloading cheap labour and low-skilled economic migrants to be channelled here.

This cheap labour was foisted on us either as diversity or multiculturalism and it triggered Brexit.

In the past Henley has supported the violent Civil War when it took the side of Parliament.

We now need a peaceful civil war to softly softly catchee monkey. We should be looking at politicians who welcome a no deal Brexit to lead us into the future.

As I still like Mrs May, I’d advise her against spending her Christmas fishing in Brixham — there would be no room in the inn. — Yours faithfully,

Sam Brown

Western Road, Henley

Benefits of our language

Sir, — I recently attended a briefing session involving a senior government minister at which a question from the audience concerned the relative lack of language courses in British schools, German having apparently fallen away significantly.

Many years ago I had the good fortune to have to learn enough of that language to be able to order my supper while on a consultancy contract in northern Bavaria.

On a slightly less frivolous note, however, might I point out that the de facto establishment of the English language in EU-related sessions must surely make our erstwhile European friends feel that Britain is already receiving the benefit of that key advantage in commerce, research, national security and indeed in any other shared activity in which efficient communications are key?

This must already be worth several percentage points of GDP to us and could be a particular reason why the EU will not want to make many further concessions. — Yours faithfully,

Jim Munro

Blandy Road, Henley

Time to change MP

Sir, — I read the long letters from Messers Stephens, Emmett and Jones regarding Brexit (Standard, December 30).

One thing that is quite clear, apart from the complete shambles that Mrs May and her team have “negotiated” with the EU, is the ineptitude of our MP John Howell.

Readers will remember when we last had an important vote in Westminster to seriously affect this constituency regarding a new runway at Heathrow, Mr Howell was on a trip to Europe so he didn’t vote one way or the other.

It really is time he stood down or is deselected, so that we may have someone with a strong proactive voice in both parliament and the constituency.

I am sure there are suitable candidates available to take up the mantle on our behalf to represent us. — Yours faithfully,

Mark Hatt

South Stoke Road, Woodcote

What was the point?

Sir, — I found the second referendum march in London really odd.

In the EU, voters are so far removed from the decision-makers that there is no point in protest marches.

Hence the people marching in London were marching to have no point in ever marching again. — Yours faithfully,

Yvonne Kedge

Lea Road, Sonning Common

Cost doesn’t equal price

Sir, — I agree with your correspondent Peter Ward (Standard, November 30).

Were I still lecturing on marketing, I would use the Esso filling station in Reading Road, Henley, as an example of the rule that cost and price are unrelated.

I would only use the filling station in Reading Road if desperate and then only to buy a few litres, enough to take me to another place that wants my custom more seriously.

Those who do buy petrol there may have company cards that entitle them to very much lower prices.

Meanwhile, why is diesel fuel becoming so much more expensive than petrol, up to 12p per litre more?

Can I drive my diesel car on petrol if I add two-stroke oil to it and, if so, at what rate? — Yours faithfully,

Tom Geake

Red House Drive, Sonning Common

Sustainable future...

Sir, — Robin Edwards, South-East regional drector of the CLA, highlighted an issue that has contributed, both locally and nationally, to the loss of thousands of new homes for decades (Standard, November 30).

The enlightening CLA report gets to the nub of the problem — we have a local authority which does not advocate settlement boundaries but relies on a settlement hierarchy.

That hierarchy itself is based on a settlement assessment paper which, in the lowest tiers, places more emphasis on a pub than the fast broadband service that we and future generations need.

Government planning guidance clearly does not encourage restrictive policies that prevent small places from growing — just as they did for many years until restrictive planning policy came into force, which has partly resulted in the housing delivery deficit we have accrued.

South Oxfordshire District Council’s emerging Local Plan has the opportunity to put this right and use the value of neighbourhood planning to add the much-needed extra input as to what local people want and deserve in respect of all sections of the community.

That includes upsizers, downsizers, starters and self and custom builders and the vital affordable housing that has been missing for so long. — Yours faithfully,

Peter Richardson

Howe Hill, Watlington

Restore your reputation

Sir, — Your property section carried a puff on behalf of Bewley Homes and its new operations director, Peter Carpinelli (Standard, November 30).

Among Mr Carpinelli’s reponsibilities is customer care and it is be hoped that, in that capacity, he will pay some attention to the Bewley Homes development at Lea Meadow, Sonning Common.

This is now almost complete and residents in the vicinity, who have had a great deal to endure in terms of noise and disruption during the construction, have been appalled by the apparent unwillingness of the developer to fulfill its commitments on landscaping.

Trees were planted in the hot summer and left to die, hardcore and waste were dumped in unsightly heaps and no proper screening has been provided along the footpath out on to Kennylands Road.

Approaches by Sonning Common Parish Council to Bewley to get something done have been ignored.

The reputation of Bewley in Sonning Common has been badly tarnished by this episode. Perhaps Mr Carpinelli would like to do something to restore it? — Yours faithfully,

Tom Fort

Wood Lane, Sonning
Common

Long show but worth it

Sir, — I write in response to Mike Rowbottom’s review of Blood Brothers at the New Theatre, Oxford, (Standard, November 30).

He’s completely unfair to the production. I saw it in the West End years ago and fell asleep (I am getting old now) but this current production is mesmerising and to be applauded.

Yes, it was three hours long but it was thoroughly enjoyed by a packed theatre and I didn’t fall asleep even though I’m now several years older! Give a good review where it’s due. The actors put so much energy into their singing and fast movements.

They had five well-deserved curtain calls which they took collectively and nobody took a solo bow (you missed that out, Mr Rowbottam). A nice touch I thought. And, yes, we did give them a well-earned standing ovation. — Yours faithfully,

Mrs G John

Grove Road, Sonning
Common

Festival was magical

Sir, — On behalf of myself and my staff, Josh and Bobbi, I would like to thank all our customers who made Friday evening’s Henley Christmas Festival one of the best ever.

Our mulled wine, courtesy of Waitrose, and our Christmas cakes and mince pies, courtesy of Virginia Cottage Cakes, helped us raise £425 for the Chiltern Centre for disabled children.

I would also like to thank Ian Gamic, our local magician, who entertained everyone so brilliantly. It was great to see so many people enjoying the festivities and attractions — just another reason why Henley is such a great place to be. Merry Christmas. — Yours faithfully,

Laurence Morris

Laurence Menswear, Duke Street, Henley

Good to come together

Sir, — What a great Henley Christmas Festival. All those involved are to be congratulated. It’s good to see the community come together and have a good time.

It’s also excellent that members of the town hall staff and councillors helped by acting as stewards and cleaners. Some of our councillors really support our community and it’s good to see. — Yours faithfully,

Dieter Hinke

Elizabeth Road, Henley

Wonderful supporters

Sir, — I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those who took part in either the Henley half marathon or the Henley 10km race this year.

We’ve raised more than £10,000 for our charities within Henley which will be distributed over the next few months. Without the support from many organisations we could not run this event.

I’d like to thank Aida Hersham for continued support and the use of the Fawley Court grounds, the Borlase family for the use of their field and the Culden Faw Estate and Henley Royal Regatta for the use of their grounds.

I’d also like to thank the following groups for their support and assistance: Athlete Service; Henley Rugby Club; the RNLI; Henley police; Henley Air Cadets; Henley Army Cadets; Henley Sea Cadets; Henley Rotary Club, Marlow Rotary Club; Henley Lions Club; the Eyot Boat Club; Raynet; RAF Benson.

I’d also want to thank our sponsors Invesco and the Henley Standard for their continued support. It takes more than 100 people to organise the event successfully on the day, so thank you everyone who took part! — Yours faithfully,

Paul Harrison

President, Henley Bridge Rotary Club

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