Monday, 18 February 2019

Your letters...

Mr Howell is protecting us

Sir, — Your correspodent Mark Hall wants John Howell to stand down as our MP or be deselected in order that “we may have someone with a strong proactive voice both in parliament and the constituency” (Standard, December 7).

Mr Hall is obviously unaware of Mr Howell’s crucially important work in parliament and elsewhere in fostering the creation of neighbourhood development plans and getting them the respect, authority and clout they deserve.

We are all potential victims when we are threatened with housing and other developments that are clearly out of keeping with local areas.

For many years an enthusiastic advocate for neighbourhood planning, Mr Howell has been appointed neighbourhood planning champion by the Department for Community and Local Government with the job of encouraging communities to develop and update neighbourhood plans.

He is currently the leading sponsor of the Planning (Appeals) Bill that will move to a second reading in the Commons on January 25.

This Bill aims to limit the grounds for appeal by developers if the refusal of planning permission is consistent with an existing neighbourhood plan.

Major developers with their expert legal departments and almost unlimited funds are too often happy to launch speculative appeals in the hope that the planning authority and other affected bodies such as parish councils do not have the resources to defend their corner effectively.

The Bill, if it becomes law, means that planning authorities and others will not be forced to spend time, effort and money to defend decisions where the developer is trying to undermine the accepted content of a neighbourhood plan.

Mr Howell has done, and is doing, a great deal to protect us from developments that would be seriously prejudicial to reasonable, local lifestyle expectations. This needs to be realised and acknowledged.

Certainly, for all his superficially dazzling persona, I do not recall Boris Johnson doing anything nearly so important for this constituency. — Yours faithfully,

Douglas Kedge

Lea Road, Sonning Common

Pick ‘n’ mix planning

Sir, — Henley Town Council’s planning committee continues to have a contradictory, pick ‘n’ mix approach to the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

Two weeks ago, you reported that the committee was supporting the proposal to build 40 houses on the former Wyevale garden centre site at Shiplake, despite the land being designated for employment use in the neighbourhood plan.

Last week, you quoted the committee chairman Ken Arlett as saying that the Newtown industrial estate should be protected from being redeveloped into housing as loss of employment sites beyond what was agreed in the neighbourhood plan would be detrimental.

What can one make of that? Cynics might say the committee is aiming to deflect its housing pressures to the villages, despite the impact on the rural environment and the ever-increasing level of traffic struggling to get into Henley on the already choked Reading Road. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor David Bartholomew

Sonning Common division, Oxfordshire County Council

Don’t fall for housing ploy

Sir, — Your front page lead story last week was accompanied by an illustration of two banal blocks of flats which a developer wishes to build on the Newtown industrial estate to replace an existing office building.

Your report stated that the developer doesn’t propose to provide any social housing in return for change of use — contrary to the planning authority’s stated policy — on the grounds that this would render the development unviable.

This is a classic ploy used by developers and it is not the responsibility of the local authority to subsidise their schemes when a developer has over-paid for the site or insists on a “20 per cent” profit.

If South Oxfordshire District Council is minded to grant consent, it should insist upon a full social housing commitment and also encourage the developer to use a decent architect. — Your faithfully

Andrew Hamilton MVO, FRICS


Nonsensical traffic plans

Sir, — With reference to the possible trial of a traffic-free Saturday in Henley (Standard, December 7), what kind of arrogant, self-important and ignorant fool could have dreamt up this madness?

As someone who grew up in the area in the early Fifties and passed my driving test in Henley in the early Seventies, I would like to make the following points:

1. Henley Bridge is a major river crossing and the whole traffic system has been tinkered with over the years to the town’s detriment.

2. Has the additional traffic due to come from the Highlands Farm and Lucy’s Farm developments been taken into account? How many towns have a main road running through a car park with speed bumps which damage cars?

3. Reading Road was always the worst approach; Now Greys Road will surely become gridlocked too.

4. Over the last 40 years the parking in the town has become more restrictive. Only last week some elderly, bad-mannered oaf verbally abused an elderly lady who had parked her car in the King’s Road car park, accusing her of stealing his parking slot. She retuned to her car to find that it had been keyed.

5. Cycle paths. This is a non-starter as the roads are too narrow — try cycling down Greys Road. There’s too much traffic, too many potholes and too many drivers in a rush.

6. Park and ride. Another non-starter, especially for people having to lug their weekly shopping.

7. How many councillors, especially those who support this hare-brained scheme, have lived in the area for 40 years?

This proposed scheme shows a total lack of respect for retailers and businesses who rely on local footfall. There must be many already struggling. The tourist trade would take a bashing too.

It would seem to ignore Henley Royal Regatta, Henley Festival and the many other festivals which happen during the year.

Is there a way of limiting the size and weight of lorries using Henley Bridge? It’s quite scary to see them swinging out into the middle of the road by the Angel on the Bridge.

To conclude, maybe it would be worth opening up all the roads which have been closed over the last 30 years as well as removing some of the traffic lights.

This would get the traffic flowing and do less damage to the environment. There should be additional car parks and a new river crossing should be built.

As for wanting more people to walk or cycle, nonsense! The elderly or young families with small children will not want this.

There are many more houses/flats under construction for the elderly.

The lunatic fringe who dreamt up or supports this folly ought to seriously consider resigning with immediate effect. — Yours faithfully.

Guy Corrie


Some facts about trucks

Sir, — What on earth makes our councillors think that “heavy lorries” use Henley as a short cut (Standard, December 7)?

From where to where? From more tghan 40 years of truck driving experience, I can assure you there is nothing to be gained by coming off major roads to negotiate busy town centres in the hope of a “short cut”. Narrower roads, stop-start traffic, pedestrians — forget it.

And forget the dated idea of “taking the scenic route” too — most trucks are routed every step of the way these days to maximise efficiency and minimise fuel usage.

Owners monitor them by satellite to ensure they go where they’re meant to — and with driving hours limited by law and monitored by tachograph, why would any driver want to risk delays?

As to weight limits, what is a “big lorry” anyway? Twelve tonnes or 18 or 44? Or anything over 3.5 tonnes?

They’re all very different and do different types of work, on different types of routes, delivering to different types of places.

Thank goodness for the informed comments of people like Robert Palmer, especially when it comes to pollution.

After all, in many towns and cities, the exhaust coming out of today’s Euro VI trucks is cleaner than the air going into the engine in the first place — and that’s a fact.

Isn’t it time Councillors Gawrysiak and Hamilton found out the facts about “heavy lorries” (by the way, we call them “trucks” today) and the pivotal role they play in society before making these pronouncements?

I’d be delighted to help them. — Yours faithfuly,

Peter Symons

Bell Street, Henley

Electric: so what’s new?

Sir, — You had an article a few weeks ago regarding the new charging points for electric cars in the King’s Road car park in Henley.

This jogged my memory of a book I read a long time ago, A Guide to Henley-on-Thames by Emily J Climenson, published by Sydney H Higgins in 1896, 122 years ago.

Pages 61, 62 and 63 list all the electrical charging stations for launches on the Thames — Chelsea, Twickenham, Hampton, Chertsey, Windsor, Maidenhead, Hurley, Henley, Pangbourne, Shillingford and Oxford.

The Henley charging station was at the Upper Thames Electric Launch Company premises, Rod Eyot, near Marsh Lock.

I doubt that all these destinations are served by an electric car charging point today. Nothing’s new. — Yours faithfully,

David D Law

Remenham Lane, Henley

Taxi drivers not vetted

Sir, — I read with interest Caren Donnelly’s letter concerning Henley taxi drivers (Standard, December 7).

I believe the UK taxi licence system needs a major update to vet drivers and give the public at large assurance that the vehicle and driver are safe to travel with.

Just before Christmas last year one of my employees was attacked at a Henley taxi rank and, among other injuries, suffered bites to his head. Unbelievably, the attackers were so-called taxi drivers.

At the time I complained to a South Oxfordshire District Council’s taxi licensing officer who responded via email, saying: “We do not license Henley taxis — they are not required to be. We will consider taking action should a licensed driver be involved.”

The police were equally unhelpful.

What I did find disturbing was the fact that what we believe are licensed taxis with vetted drivers operating in our area are not in the majority of cases.

It appears we have many different types of cab/taxi/hackney/private hire vehicles operating in our area.

The drivers we see parked on the rank in Hart Street should be Hackney licence holders and can come from anywhere in the UK to operate on a self-employed basis.

I would urge anyone using a taxi cab, especially when alone, to take a photo of the vehicle licence plate and driver and sendit to a relative or friend before getting into a vehicle as a safeguard.

I know for a fact that Henley has some excellent cab drivers, although it appears the licensing and control of some taxi cabs are not being correctly monitored and licensed by the authorities.

Have a safe Merry Christmas — Yours faithfully,

John Goldsmith

Director, 360 Commercial Environments, Sonning Common

Businesses not bothered

Sir, — There have been some comments recently on the quality of the Christmas trees in Henley but the major point seems to have been missed.

Marlow borrowed this idea and if you drive down their high street you will see they have done a much better job with a mass of trees lining the street.

If you drive down Duke Street or Bell Street in Henley they are more noticeable by their absence; the private residences in the town do a better job.

Given we are continually being exhorted to “buy local”, it is outrageous that what seems to be the majority of businesses cannot be bothered to invest a few pounds in brightening up the town.

What say we all agree to boycott those shops that have adopted a Scrooge-like attitude?

Unfortunately, it would not leave a lot of choice but then there’s always Marlow. — Yours faithfully,

R Emerson

Remenham Lane, Henley

Trees need watering!

Sir, — It is not surprising that most of the trees planted at Townlands Memorial Hospital in Henley have now died (Standard, December 7) if no-one took responsibility for watering them.

When the Henley Society organised the tree planting along Fair Mile in 1977 to mark the Queen’s silver jubilee there was provision made for watering the lime trees regularly so that they would survive their early years.

That needs to happen if the replacement trees at Townlands don’t end up dead too. — Yours faithfully,

Valerie Alasia

Makins Road, Henley

Stay in EU for the young

Sir, — How on earth did we get to this shambolic stage?

Having spent 40 years building on Churchill’s vision of a relationship with our friends and neighbours and avoiding the devastating conflict of the previous two world wars, we are now about to throw it all away.

The short answer is that we were led by the nose by Right-wing politics.

UKIP, led by Nigel Farage, together with the National Front and the like, spread xenophobic propaganda and in doing so gained popularity in parts of the community. This was aimed at immigrants coming from the EU.

David Cameron’s government took fright and called a general election and promised a referendum on whether to leave or remain in the EU but it was against a background of gross misinformation and lies by Boris Johnson.

I acknowledge there is a minority community that share this extreme view on immigration but that was not the main reason for the surprise leave result.

Some regions of the UK felt that they were neglected and disenfranchised by the Conservative Government and took the opportunity to protest by voting to leave the EU in the belief that immigration was the main cause of their plight.

In some cases, in the north, this was justified due to failure of immigration control.

The fact is, however, immigration has been a success by contributing tax to the exchequer and has provided skilled staff to the NHS and the necessary unskilled labour to agriculture and welfare services.

Theresa May, in her previous job as home secretary, created a hostile attitude towards immigrants and ruined the lives of many who had the right to be here.

The leave vote was hailed as a vote for democracy. What democracy? She tried to deny a vote in parliament on the final EU deal but lost her case in the High Court.

The only democratic process is to allow the public the final say now that the facts are coming to light.

I don’t know what the outcome of a second vote would be but after two years the public should be given the opportunity to change its mind.

A study by the Government, the Bank of England, the IMF and most of industry, commerce and even the Chancellor has revealed that whatever the circumstances, the UK will be worse off financially. Project fear? Certainly but from credible sources and up-to-date data.

Every day, more issues are revealed that point to problems after leaving the EU, yet they persist in persuing their hopeless plan.

Leaving the EU will cost us £39 billion (money better spent on the ailing NHS) and leave us a minor authority in world politics. We are no longer the independent dominating power we once were.

What about EU laws? The UK has been central in constructive law-making in the EU and has a veto to block any law deemed to be unsuitable.

What about trade deals? We already trade successfully in pounds sterling with countries outside the EU. Free trade deals are stronger when negotiated inside the EU. We are about to miss out on a deal with China.

The decision on whether to leave or remain is too important to be left to playing party politics. It requires logical reasoning and judgement based on the best evidence available.

No one has all the answers. However, it is my opinion that leaving the EU is by far the greatest risk to our security considering the dangerous rise of extreme Right-wing politics in Europe, particularly in Hungary and Austria, together with factions in Germany, France, Sweden and Italy, plus the threat of cyber interference from Russia.

Bearing in mind that the EU would very much wish us to remain partners, the best option is to negotiate reforms within the EU.

We are not the only country in the EU that feels that reform is necessary, particularly in relation to better control of borders.

Remaining part of the EU overcomes all the stumbling blocks that the Brexit policy has revealed. Mrs May’s agreed deal with the EU is dead in the water.

Northern Ireland voted to remain yet despite her attempts to bribe the DUP to prop her up, even they withrew their support.

Both major parties are split and without a coherent plan. Boris Johnson’s views are purely for self-interest and ambition.

Cancelling Article 50 and remaining in the EU is the only sensible action.

Perhaps the most compelling reason for remaining part of the EU is that the younger generation have a more international and less insular outlook.

Is it right for us to deny them their future? — Yours faithfully,

Edward G Hallett

Longfield Road, Twyford

Gas gives Putin power

Sir, — Your Remainer correspondent Enid Light makes the observation, which I have seen only once before during this whole sorry Referendum saga and which is the sole argument which has caused this Brexiteer to pause for thought, although briefly, that our departure from the EU would delight Vladimir Putin (Standard, December 7).

The EU is hell-bent on pressing ahead with its “European army”, a fantastically expensive and, I suggest, ultimately ineffective project which is seen as a political (and, of course, taxpayer-funded) necessity: every nation state worth its salt has armed forces, so the thinking goes.

A very much cheaper and more cost-effective option would be an adequately-funded NATO but that is a subject for another day.

Has Enid ever heard of the Nord Stream gas pipeline? This undersea pipeline (and others) supplies energy from the extensive Russian natural gas fields to Europe, principally to Germany, which is by far the major economic power in the EU, is it not?

Indeed I believe the chairman of the pipeline company’s shareholders’ committee is none other than Gerhard Schroeder, a former Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.

So on the one hand the EU wishes, for political reasons, to establish an “EU army” while on the other it is apparently willing to put itself at the mercy of Russia for its energy.

Who is the potential “enemy”, if it is not the autocracy to the east?

One only has to look at what happens almost every winter in the Ukraine, which also relies on Russian natural gas, to see what leverage the Russians have, should they care to use it. I suggest that energy security is a huge and neglected issue. There is evidently not so much need for fighting these days.

The scenario above applies whether or not the UK is a member of the EU. I suggest that Mr Putin’s delight is therefore not dependant on our EU membership, he is surely laughing already! — Yours faithfully,

Michael Emmett

Peppard Common

EU provoked Russia

Sir, — I write further to Enid Light’s letter in which she asserted that the recent Russian activity in the Black Sea was due to a perceived “weakened” EU.

She may not be aware, or has possibly forgotten, that many observers consider that the primary reason for Russia’s annexation of the Crimea in the first place was directly attributable to the overtures made by the EU to the Ukraine for it to have closer ties with the EU and to sign a trade deal.

Putin’s Russia fears increasing western influence on its former satellite countries, especially on this particular border with its strategic importance for the Black Sea, and reacted with the annexation, which could be considered as a result of a perceived enlarged EU and not a weakened one. — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Ball


People need another vote

Sir, — I watched with interest the Channel 4’s Real Brexit Debate on Sunday evening. On it, we had three politicians proposing different versions of Brexit.

Each one said, effectively, “Those other versions of Brexit are bad for the UK. We must follow my version of Brexit.”

We elect our politicians to study the detail, to debate and to take decisions on our behalf.

We know that sometimes they get things wrong, even when there is a majority for a particular course of action.

In this instance, it’s clear that Parliament is hopelessly divided, but I think each of the three MPs on Sunday night was correct in saying that the other two types of Brexit would be bad for the UK.

Theresa May believes that her version of Brexit is the best that can be delivered and that it is what the people wanted when they voted in the 2016 referendum.

Three of the four MPs debating Brexit on TV thought that Mrs May’s Brexit would be bad for the UK and not what people voted for.

In my view, there is only one way to determine whether it’s what people want — and that’s to ask them. Please support a People’s Vote. — Yours faithfully,

Roy Motteram

Cheshire Road, Thame

Scandalous lack of cash

Sir, — With an estimated 75 per cent of children unable to access NHS mental health services, surely they would benefit if the counsellors came to them in school.

In recent years, schools have been expected to improve “early intervention” by providing mental health first aid while not receiving the appropriate funding from the Government.

Scandalous? I will leave it to the Standard’s discerning readers to decide. — Yours faithfully,

Paul Farmer

Wensley Road, Reading

Significant acquisition

Sir — I am delighted that a new information board at Singers Park in Thames Side tells the story of Henley Bridge and some history of the town.

We can learn much of the detail from Jan Siberecht’s vivid 1698 painting of Henley from the Wargrave Road, which is reproduced on the board.

However, your report (Standard, November 30) wrongly noted that the painting belongs to Henley Town Council.

In fact, it was acquired in 2001 for the River & Rowing Museum with grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and National Art Collections Fund (now the Art Fund) and has been on public display almost continuously since.

This is the jewel in the museum’s crown and we’re grateful to the many people locally who championed the purchase and helped make this significant acquisition possible. — Yours faithfully,

Dr Sarah Posey

Director, River & Rowing Museum, Henley

Different view welcome

Sir, — It was refreshing to see one of my reviews challenged by a reader (Standard, December 7).

Mrs G John, from Sonning Common, took a very different view from my own to Blood Brothers at the New Theatre in Oxford. You might find it surprising for me to admit that I actually welcomed her response because even as I wrote the piece I knew it would not necessarily be a popular view — it was, however, very much my view.

For the record, Mrs John, the opening sentence of my review mentioned a near-unanimous standing ovation and five encores.

Later in the piece, I praised the performances.

I mention this because you seemed to think that I didn’t.

What I did not do was like the show. I thought it was dated, naive and unremarkable and I suspect it’s that which you take issue with rather than my reportage of the production, which I believe satisfied your complaints.

You also issue the command: “Give a good review where it’s due!”

If there is such a thing as a regular reader of my reviews, they will know what my ratio of good reviews to bad is. I would say it’s probably about two to one but I haven’t analysed it.

That very same edition of the paper inlcuded a glowing review by me of Guys and Dolls at The Mill at Sonning.

Last week I was equally warm about the Oxford Playhouse pantomime, Dick Whittington And His Cat.

Sometimes I see a show and realise that it’s not for me but clock the enthusiasm around me and write accordingly.

But if a show really grates, as Blood Brothers did, then I feel I must be honest.

The really good thing here is that your very opposite — and unquestionably valid — view is able to surface through these pages.

I am glad you made it known and I hope that others will feel able to do the same in future if they disagree with me. — Yours faithfully,

Mike Rowbottom

Stoke Row

Real assets of community

Sir, — I would like to thank the staff at Citizens Advice in Henley for tirelessly helping me through an ongoing difficult period in my life and for referring me to Henley Lions Club, which very kindly provided me with a financial contribution to cover two months’ worth of gas bills.

Prior to this, I had been going for two or three days at a time without gas or electricity so it has made an enormous difference.

I would also like to thank the public for supporting the Lions at the events they organise throughout the year as it is their donations which make it possible for the club to help others.

People need to know that the Lions and Citizens Advice are genuine assets to the community. I am overwhelmed by the help I have received. — Yours faithfully,

Name and address supplied

Successful Poppy Appeal

Sir, — I would like to thank everyone who so generously donated towards this year’s Poppy Appeal.

The amount banked so far from the villages of Shiplake, Binfield Heath, Dunsden and Playhatch is £6,110.68.

Many thanks also to the door-to-door collectors who do such a wonderful job each year. — Yours faithfully,

Rosemary Jones

Honorary secretary, Shiplake and Dunsden branch, Royal British Legion

Thank you for kindness

Sir, — I would to thank everyone who joined my family and I to celebrate my husband Reg’s 86 years of life.

The support for me from neighbours and friends has been amazing, as has the support of my family.

Thank you for the flowers and cards and for the tributes placed on Henley Past and Present (Facebook), which I haven’t seen. — Yours faithfully,

Margaret Grant


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