Monday, 16 May 2022

Your letters...

Turn down those lights

Sir, — I know I should just go and talk to my neighbours about this. The trouble is I also know it would be an awkward conversation and sour our good relationship.

I admit I’m taking the coward’s way by writing incognito but I’m sure I’m not the only one with this problem.

Let’s hope all those flashers out there read this and see the light.

Here’s the issue. Three or four times a night, I am woken up by security lights flashing on and bathing my house in brightness.

Even my heavy curtains with blackout liners are nothing against this dazzle that bursts though every chink. Think football stadium and you’ll get the idea.

I understand the need for a light to come on automatically when you arrive home in the dark or pop out to the dustbin. I also appreciate the peace of mind a security light may give in the dead of night.

But do these lights really have to be so big and bright and so sensitive that they’re triggered by a falling leaf or passing hedgehog?

My suggestion to any reader with a security light is to go outside one evening and take a good look around. Is the light spreading beyond the boundary of your property, or falling across people’s bedroom windows or too bright to look at directly? Then you are without doubt annoying your neighbours.

Here are my top tips for flashers who want to reform:

1. Angle your security light downwards so it only covers the area you need.

2. Switch to a lower brightness bulb.

3. Use a guard or reflector to reduce light spill and glare.

4. Check the motion sensor settings.

Let’s make our town and the surrounding villages a flasher-free zone. — Yours faithfully,

Name and address supplied

Cut village speed limit

Sir, — Driving at 40mph kills. The Highway Code confirms it. Statistics prove it.

The Department for Transport and local authorities agree the default speed limit through villages should be 30mph.

Here in Crays Pond, unlike our sister villages, we have a 40mph limit and are disadvantaged further by having very few pavements and limited-use verges, which are uneven, muddy or too narrow, and no street lighting.

If you walk the only option is to keep hopping on and off the road, which is dangerous at 30mph and potentially fatal at 40mph.

The census tells us our population is older than the national average and many children have to follow these routes and people have to get about.

We are a mile from Woodcote with its strictly enforced 30mph limit but on leaving it you are invited to increase to 40mph going through Crays Pond. This is a true reverse speed limit — 30mph is good for one village with pavements but not its sister with its 40mph limit and almost no proper walkways.

It’s clearly sanctioned by Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, which views our increased risk as acceptable against some unknown advantage elsewhere.

In our centre there is a staggered junction with poor sightlines, the cause of numerous minor accidents, which have not been reported by the prudent insurance policy holders.

Live close by and hear the frequent angry horn blowing and you know the road management is at fault.

The perversity does not end there. Close by is the Oratory Preparatory School that has a sign reading “School, slow down” with a 50mph on the same post. How can that possibly be explained?

The latest Department for Transport guidance says that speed limits should treat all road users equally and not give preference to cars and that the highways authority should pay particular attention to safety, noise, pollution and wellbeing.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s latest advice says the same but puts the emphasis on encouraging walking, cycling and exercise.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents reminds us that your risk of injury at 40mph rather than 30mph increases 4.5 times with an 80 per cent chance of being killed at 40mph and an 80 per cent chance of surviving at 30mph.

The authorities decide these matters so may I entreaty them, on behalf of all the residents of Crays Pond and all drivers who travel through it, to be guided by the advice from the DfT.

Listen to the other wise safety bodies and, most of all, the residents who have been asking for at least 10 years, with dozens of letters, drawings, statistics and the like, and give us a 30mph limit like all our sister villages. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Fred Rutherford

Goring Heath Parish Council, Crays Pond

Profusion of potholes

Sir, — I was astonished to read that Oxfordshire roads have only 0.04 potholes per km of road (Standard, January 11).

That figure equates to one pothole every 1.56 miles. I suspect that any driver in this part of Oxfordshire would be delighted if potholes were actually so infrequent.

As an example, potholes in Church Lane, Peppard, have recently been outlined in white. This may or may not mean that, in the fullness of time, they will be filled in.

In driving along Church Lane, a length of well under one kilometre, I counted nine potholes marked in this way. — Yours faithfully,

K B Atkinson

Red House Drive, Sonning Common

Switch off your engine

Sir, — As an ambassador for Clean Air for Henley, myself and others often politely ask drivers to switch off their engines, particularly while offenders are parked in local car parks, outside schools and in loading bays.

Time and time again, we are told they will only be there a minute.

This is almost never the case as we usually wait three minutes before asking people to switch off their engine.

Did you know that idling a vehicle emits 20 times more pollution than one travelling at 32mph?

I am asking the people of Henley to use the car only to drive. So many people get in their vehicle, switch on the engine and then check their phone, send and read messages or make phone calls while stationary.

My understanding is the moment you switch on your car engine you are in charge of it.

If you are doing the above you are breaking the law and unnecessarily polluting our atmosphere.

Please do the right thing., which is get in the car, put on your safety belt, switch on the engine and then drive to your destination safely. — Yours faithfully,

Ramsay F Adams

Ravenscroft Road, Henley

Scythe would be better

Sir, — In your article about the activities of the Chiltern Society volunteers (Standard, January 4), it was heartwarming to read of so many people giving up their time to keep public footpaths open for our enjoyment.

However, the photograph showed the use of a petrol lawnmower and two brush-cutters.

I can assure the volunteers that they could actually enjoy the task more, with no noise, fumes, need for heavy protective clothing, or wrestling with heavy machinery.

The lightweight and ergonomic Austrian scythe would, with some training, perform this task with very little effort and the volunteers could participate in a more social activity, able to talk to each other while working and hear the birdsong around them.

There would also be no risk of injury to small creatures in the long grass. Once again, many thanks to all involved. — Yours faithfully,

Clive Leeke

Marchwood Avenue, Emmer Green

Councillors before party

Sir, — I quote from Planning Resource magazine of January 8: “Six South Oxfordshire Conservative councillors who voted against their council leadership’s proposed local plan have been suspended by the local party.

“In December, a full council meeting at Tory-led South Oxfordshire District Council voted to publish a new version of its local plan, which proposes 28,459 homes in the period to the year 2034, for consultation.

“The revised plan, which has just gone out to consultation, included three major green belt housing sites totalling 4,600 homes that were not in the earlier version.

“However, six councillors, including former council leader John Cotton, broke the party whip to vote against the plan. The six have now been suspended by the local party, pending an investigation.”

It does seem that our local Conservatives are more interested in party loyalty than keeping hard-working local councillors on board. As we know in Henley, this is not the first instance.

We need councillors who put local people first, not party politics. This should be a commitment made by councillors before the May town elections.

Even with the extra houses needed in the local plan, Shiplake Parish Council wants the Government to call in and refuse permission for houses on the old garden centre site off the Reading road.

This site is an eyesore and is part of the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan. It is not in Shiplake parish but Harpsden, so please let our democratically elected neighbourhood plan get on with its work.

I trust John Howell will not be assisting Shiplake with its appeal to the Government as he is a great champion for the strength of neighbourhood plans.

Finally, I think we should congratulate Ken Arlett, the neighbourhood planning team and the district council for coming to the right conclusion and keeping those houses on Thames Farm and the old garden centre site within the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

That means those houses are allocated to us and not to Shiplake, even though their parish website has stated otherwise for the last few months. It’s the right decision and reduces our need to find more new sites. — Yours faithfully,

Dieter Hinke

Elizabeth Road, Henley

Chairman badly treated

Sir, — I refer to your front page article headlined “‘Punished’ for my mayor vote” (Standard, December 28) and subsequent responses in your letters pages.

Once again I feel Councillor Lorraine Hillier has been badly treated by her Tory colleagues following the recent selection meeting for South Oxfordshire District Council candidates after which she said in this newspaper that she had faced undignifed behaviour from certain party members.

It is not that long ago that you published an article in which Councillor Julian Brookes, the leader of the Conservatives on the town council, accused the then branch chairman Frank Browne of being a bully.

So how do the local Conservatives treat one of their best councillors who has served not only Henley Town Council but also the district council for some 18 years? Simply by trying to humiliate her rather than supporting an excellent public servant for our town.

One of your recent correspondents, Geoff Walsh, who himself was interviewed, also wrote a letter last year condemning the leadership of the local Conservatives, suggesting they should all resign. Well, obviously they did not.

Councillor Donna Crook recently complained about how women are treated in the Conservative Party and resigned her membership.

The majority of Lorraine’s colleagues at the district council have stood by her over the past two years and in doing so elected her the chairman of the council, a position that she has proved she is more than capable of doing. All we hear at Henley Town Council are glowing reports of her year in office.

Theresa May once talked about the “bitterness and bile” in the Conservative Party. Well, we have it in abundance in Henley but hopefully not among all the membership.

You can make your own mind up as to who is the real villain because it certainly is not Lorraine Hillier. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Ken Arlett (Henley Residents Group)

Henley Town Council, Elizabeth Road, Henley

MP’s not up for debate

Sir, — Your readers may have noticed that our MP John Howell stopped having public meetings some time ago, saying he prefers to use email and social media.

However, his Facebook page is unusual in that he doesn’t allow any debate, he simply deletes comments that he doesn’t like.

This is a shame since many of the items he posts are interesting and worthy of discussion.

For example, who would have thought that he is now happy to see modest increases in government support for local authorities and the police, when he has consistently voted to cut their funding?

Mr Howell can be relied upon to follow the Conservative party line, hence he often disregards the views of the people he is supposed to represent.

He even supports Mrs May’s botched Brexit deal, although Mr Howell acknowledged that a majority of his constituents voted to remain.

Such is the luxury of an MP sitting in a safe seat under our ridiculous first-past-the-post electoral system.

As a public service, I will set up a Facebook page called “The Member for Henley” on which I will paste a selection of the items he publishes and allow some public debate. Your readers may wish to look out for it. — Yours faithfully,

Paul Jenkins

South Stoke

John Howell MP responds: “This is typical of the inaccurate posts that Mr Jenkins makes.

“I hold open meetings to discuss a number of issues right across the constituency and will continue to do so.

“I continue to have very interesting and informative exchanges with people, including on Facebook, some of whom may agree and some who may disagree with me.

“Sadly, some replies are less than gracious. Some comments on Facebook are just that and do not lend themselves to reply.

“Inevitably, the open, impersonal access makes it easy for hostile posts. I cannot see any merit in keeping or responding to such.

“By the way, if the Labour Party had not left such an economic mess of the country we would not be having this conversation.”

We deserve much better

Sir, — Having passed an Act of Parliament to confirm that we leave the European Union on March 29, now is the time for the public to look more closely at the deal, worthy only of Mr Trump or Arthur Daley, that Mrs May and her cronies in and out of Parliament are trying to foist on us in contravention of that Act and in a complete negation of the 2016 referendum result.

Mrs May wants the UK to hand over £39billion to partially remain in a cartel that most of our citizens want to leave without any strings or any ransom.

Try taking a look at her proposition as though we were actually being asked to join the EU as some sort of novice member that has to prove its obedience before gaining full rights.

Look first at the state of this apparent paradise on earth. The economies of all the southern members are in deep doo-doo and are only just kept going by German funding via the European Central Bank.

While those states are trapped in the Euro they can do nothing to help their economies to become competitive and so they just have to struggle on.

They also all have levels of youth unemployment (15 to 30 per cent) that would have riots in the streets here whereas we, of course, have labour shortages across the board and a strong economy.

Then comes the Euro — the vice that dare not speak its name — the vanity project that has already crucified the economies and ruined citizens of Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy and is now threatening France.

We can be sure that as part of our punishment beating for disturbing the complacency of the Brussels apparatchiks, we would not be allowed to rejoin the EU unless we first joined the Euro to share their pain and pay mightily for it.

Then, arising from all this, is the rise of Right-wing extremist parties in the majority of EU member states.

In Germany and Italy extremist parties are already in their Parliaments and more are cantering up on the rails in France, Spain, Belgium, Holland and Poland to name just a few.

These groups make the noisy “moblets” that so upset Anna Soubry MP and others look like a WI meeting on a quiet Thursday.

So here is Mrs May’s proposition: “Shackle the UK to an economically and socially semi-moribund corpse and pay mightily for the privilege or suffer a plague of frogs, boils and pestilence for doing what we voted for”.

She has said on many occasions that it is her deal or no deal. No deal now looks really attractive, especially for the 80 per cent of UK businesses that do not trade with the EU.

What saddens me the most is that our second female premier has proved to be such a dud.

In comparison with Margaret Thatcher she is Grace Poole against Boudicca and that is being really generous to Grace Poole. The UK deserves better than a mad woman in its attic. — Yours faithfully,

Philip M M Collings

Peppard Common

In answer to a Leaver

Sir, — I see Edward G Hallett didn’t read Douglas Kedge’s admonition about long letters.

“We need the co-operation of the EU for our security.” Has he not heard of NATO? That’s co-operation without ceding sovereignty.

The previous head of MI6 and the erstwhile chief of defence staff have just warned that absorption into the EU will adversely affect our security by cutting us out of the Five Eyes Alliance (USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom).

Countries such as Germany are so dependent on the Russian gas pipelines that they are hardly likely to let the EU have a security policy that risked these essential supplies being cut off.

“The only way to... keep the Union as one nation.” Does he really mean the converse, that leaving the EU would constitute a threat to the territorial integrity of the UK?

Having failed in trying to use the political shenanigans of the EU negotiations as a lever to resume pressure for a united Ireland, I’m sure the Republic wouldn’t invade the north.

On the apparent general premise that we cannot survive as an independent nation on the fringes of a mighty EU, I wonder how Canada manages with the mighty USA on its doorstep?

There is a world of difference between deep friendship and co-operation as a sovereign nation with neighbours (including trade, defence, freedom of movement etc.) and isolationism.

On what basis does Mr Hallett imply that Leavers are by definition in the latter category? We look outwards to the world as a whole, including but not confined to, the EU. — Yours faithfully,

Ken Stevens

Red House Drive, Sonning Common

Challenging recovery

Sir, — Further to my letter about my hospital experiences (Standard, January 11), on Tuesday last week the neurological physiotherapists at the Royal Berkshire Hospital were surprised at my mobility when I was checked by them for my condition.

On Friday, I met the doctor at Sonning Common, who was surprised that I can now walk short distances without a stick. I’m also okay to drive once more.

Meanwhile, I decided to see if I could ride the electric bike and managed to cycle from Binfield Heath to the Bottle & Glass pub on Sunday lunchtime.

I can finally get in and out of a bath unaided and I will probably manage to get in and out of a kayak once more in a couple of weeks.

I intend to try swimming again. Lots of simple new challenges. — Yours faithfully,

Name and address supplied

Don’t forget mental health

Sir, — The Government’s most recent pledge to increase the number of under-16s receiving NHS child and adolescent mental health services from 20 to 30 per cent by next year seems even more inadequate when you take into account the official figures showing that by 2030 depression alone will be the primary cause of illness through the nation.

The NHS is good at looking after our physical health but still appears to neglect our mental health since 80 per cent of under-16s seeking, but unable to acess, CAMH services know only too well. — Yours faithfully,

Paul Farmer

Wensley Road, Reading

End of free TV licence?

Sir, — I wonder how many South Oxfordshire pensioners are even aware of the three-month consultation on the television licence fee concession for the over-70s, which started before Christmas and will end on February 12.

I also wonder how many of those feel able to go online (or anywhere else) to obtain the details and contribute their opinions?

I will not be surprised if the “turnout” by the potentially most affected age group will prove desperately low unless the BBC quickly ramps up public awareness… even via some broadcasting! — Yours faithfully,

Jim Munro

Blandy Road, Henley

Santa-stic support

Sir, — I would like to thank the residents of Henley and Shiplake for digging deep into their pockets and helping the Santa Sleigh outings in December to collect an amazing £4288.12p.

I would also like to thank Henley Lions Club for agreeing to add the sleigh to their very busy Christmas schedule and the 49 people who gave up their evenings to ensure the sleigh tradition continued.

In particular I would like to thank Robin Swift, the Lions’ treasurer, who spent hours counting his way through hundreds of coins and delivering the total amount within a couple of hours.

This year we attracted two new drivers and 10 new collectors to join Santa’s happy band of helpers.

Our journey was not without incident as we had to cancel two evenings due to heavy rain.

We managed to visit most roads on our schedule but I apologise to those residents who weren’t visited this year. Perhaps Santa could ensure dry weather for 2019.

It was truly a community event and many local charities will benefit including Bishopswood Special School, the Chiltern Centre for disabled children, Henley Youth Festival, the Henley Mencap group and Riding for the Disabled. I am certain that everyone involved would agree that their efforts were rewarded when they saw the smiling faces of the children (both young and old) waving to Santa. Thank you again. — Yours faithfully,

Pam Phillips

St Mark’s Road, Henley

Looking for old friend

Sir, — I am trying to re-establish contact with a person who used to live in Henley.

Her name was Rowena Emmett and she lived in Greys Hill but for some reason I cannot find out if she moved or passed away.

It would be so nice to see if she is still around but I have no phone number and don’t have a clue if there are relatives still in the area.

If you can help me, please contact me via the Henley Standard. — Yours faithfully,

David Hodder

Pepperell, Massachusetts

Aunt holds age record

Sir — Your article on the late Jean Webster, which stated she was “by far” the longest-lived person ever born in Northern Ireland (Standard, November 10 2017) was inaccurate.

My aunt Henrietta Irwin, née Picton, who was born on May 27, 1906 in Damascus Street, Belfast, is still alive and living in Ontario, Canada.

’Ettie who is now closer to 113 than 112 and outlived Jean, who was 111 years and 197 days when she passed in Henley on October 31, 2017.

Her documentation has been fully checked out and declared accurate by the Gerontology Research Group. — Yours faithfully,

David Irwin

Stranmillis Road, Belfast

Hawks for half price

Sir, — I would like to thank Matt Murton for his kind words (Standard, January 11).

I am delighted that he enjoyed himself so much while attending the Henley Hawks versus Rams match on Jannuary 5.

We have seven home matches left this season and are fighting hard to keep up with the promotion-chasing pack.

We would be delighted to welcome him back to Dry Leas and are offering all supporters half-price membership from now until the end of the season.

All the details can be found on our website,

Hopefully we’ll see more exciting games like the Rams one, albeit with a different outcome! — Yours faithfully,

Chris Nixon

Chairman, Henley Rugby Club

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