Friday, 22 February 2019

Your letters...

Far too much development

Sir, — It is disappointing that Reading Golf Club is moving away from Emmer Green, where it has been based for 109 years.

It is seeking to develop the whole of the current golf course land, in Reading and South Oxfordshire, for housing and the developer has suggested that 700 houses, and perhaps more, could be accommodated there.

The club will be using the money from the sale of the first tranche of land (approximately 3.7 hectares) fronting on to Kidmore End Road, where the clubhouse is at present, to fund its relocation to Caversham Heath.

However, it has said that it will share out the proceeds from the sale of the remainder of the land to its members. It estimates this will be a six-figure sum, so that is a minimum of £100,000 to each member of the club!

Keep Emmer Green’s concern is that a development of 700-plus homes will mean up to 2,000 or more cars on our roads, which will put intolerable strains on the local infrastructure and services, including GP practices (the Emmer Green GP practice was recently closed for new patients) and schools.

Access to this development would be from Kidmore End Road, which is effectively a one-way road by the playing field. The only other way of accessing the site would be via Courteney Drive.

Most of the traffic from any new development would head for the two bridges in Reading, or Sonning Bridge, to cross the Thames.

Currently, traffic jams in Caversham can be horrendous at the bottom of Peppard Road and at the junction of Bridge Street and Church Road.

Just consider what it will be like when you add another 1,000 to 2,000 new car journeys a day!

Present car pollution/nitrogen dioxide levels in Caversham are higher than the EU limit, so adding all these extra car journeys going towards Reading will inevitably affect our health and our children’s health, which is very worrying indeed.

The impact on the environment is another huge concern. The golf course has been in Emmer Green for more than 100 years and now the plan is for this green space to be concreted over.

The interim proposal from the club of offering family friendly golf facilities on the remainder of the existing golf course land is surely a ruse to overcome initial objections to planning permission being granted for housing development.

Keep Emmer Green’s concern is not just the impact of the development but the effect of this combined with all the other proposed developments in and around Emmer Green and along the border with South Oxfordshire.

Another developer, Gladman, is appealing to the Secretary of State for permission to develop 245 homes on the Emmer Green/Dunsden border just off the Peppard Road despite the fact that South Oxfordshire District Council and a government planning inspector both rejected the company’s proposals. The district council has also reassessed possible developments at Palmer Riding Stables, land to the north of Caversham Park Road adjacent to Playhatch and Reading Golf Club, which are on the border with Emmer Green.

It decided not to include any of these sites in its draft local plan.

However, there is still uncertainty as to what is happening with the BBC site in Caversham and also the site of Caversham Tennis Club in Caversham Heights, which, like the golf club, wants to sell its land and move to Caversham Heath.

In recent years Reading Borough Council and South Oxfordshire District Council have combined to prevent significant housing developments north of the Thames, at least until adequate road infrastructure, including a third Thames Bridge and possibly a bypass around Caversham and Emmer Green, have been put in place.

It is worrying that developers with deep pockets could overturn the will of the local population which is firmly against these major developments.

Residents have not forgotten the Bugs Bottom saga where promises of a health centre, more school places and recreational facilities all failed to materialise.

Now we have promises of pay and play golf as a temporary facility until houses are built on the golf club land. The same cannot be allowed to happen a second time!

Keep Emmer Green is a residents’ group objecting to unsustainable development in Emmer Green, Caversham and nearby areas.

For more information, visit www.keepemmergreen.com — Your faithfully,

Julian Ansell

Keep Emmer Green


Planning for more homes

Sir, — Here we go again! When the Sonning Common neighbourhood plan was approved in late 2016 it was thought that this would provide a secure guideline for the development of the village for the foreseeable future.

The document included provision for a further 195 homes to be built before 2027 and various sites were allocated for this purpose.

This total was considerably higher than the allocation of 138 by South Oxfordshire District Council.

Some sites (Lea Meadow, off Peppard Road, and Sonning Grove, off Reades Lane) are already well developed or making good progress.

As a significant part of the plan, land opposite Chiltern Edge School has also been acquired by the parish council for development as a new recreational area.

Now the district council has put its latest local plan, which will apply until the year 2034, out to public consultation (until February 18 — not far away!)

This document includes a further allocation of 108 homes to Sonning Common in addition to the 195 agreed in the neighbourhood plan.

As a result, the parish council needs to update the neighbhoudhood plan and more land has to be found for the additional housing. Accordingly, the parish council invited landowners to submit possible sites for consideration and these will now have to be assessed for sustainable development.

A new and expanded neighbourhood plan working party has been formed to start the assessment process.

One of the initial tasks is to inform the local community of the potential development sites and other relevant matters.

An open meeting will be held at the village hall on February 2 for this purpose.

All Sonning Common residents are invited to attend, learn the current position and, hopefully, volunteer to help with site assessments.

It is clearly hoped that the eventual outcome will provide Sonning Commonwith more “affordable” homes as well as contributions towards improving community facilities. — Yours faithfully,

Alastair Morris

Kennylands Road, Sonning Common


New vision for transport

Sir, — Watlington Parish Council is examining the town’s neighbourhood plan and now considering the use of the community “pot” of developer contributions for when more homes arrive.

Its particular responsibility will be the direction of hundreds of thousands available, over the next decade, from the Community Infrastructure Levy, a charge on each new home built.

A quarter of this money comes to the parish council and the rest will go to the major authorities, South Oxfordshire District Council and Oxfordshire County Council. So far the parish council has identified several needs — traffic planning, youth facilities, footpaths and town centre improvement — but I do wonder if radical new initiatives on transport should not join the list.

Since 1987 and the closure of House’s bus garage, our services have all but vanished. We lost all contact with Henley and Reading years ago.

The parish council had a good record years ago of gaining some county council bus subsidies.

All that support has gone. Watlington has never been more car-dependent. The voluntary car schemes and old-fashioned neighbourly help meet the needs of many but cannot satisfy a town that will have an extra 1,000 residents in a decade.

All is not, in my view, hopeless. Transport legislation allows for much greater flexibility in the running of services.

Up and down the country there are taxi/bus schemes that have some timetabling but also meet on-demand needs in timing and routeing.

When the commuter-run scheme to junction 6 of the M40 was working a few years ago, dangers eventually emerged — under-capitalisation and a lack of management.

But the county council is now seeking £1,000 for every new house. In December it sought £183,000 for transport when the Archstone and Bloor estate is built in Watlington.

These levels of support could really make a difference. If a good portion of the eventual £400,000 were provided to a local, not-for-profit company we could see some real changes in travel prospects locally.

I have in mind here access to and from the now all-important M40 on a taxi basis.

The boon to retail would be considerable as more people living around Watlington could find relief from carrying goods home. Other link services for school students would again be practical.

I fear that unless Watlington does not grab this issue somehow all this opportunity funding will be sunk into the rather traditional bus service — the T1.

Mostly this would help expanding Chalgrove and beyond, not Watlington residents in large numbers. Its use and impact would not be well-monitored.

The parish council’s role might be to start some planning work using advice from schemes working well elsewhere and the county council that will hold the dedicated funds.

We must imagine some paid staff — drivers of course but administrative and promotional staff too.

In this century we need to support the travel needs of all generations, reduce car dependency and make it local.

A town of 4,000 needs the kind of vision of the House Brothers a century ago — but a reinterpretation of how to cater in very new circumstances. — Yours faithfully,

Tim Horton

The Goggs, Watlington


Bad example to children

Sir, — In September I started to take my children to the bus stop in Nettlebed to catch their school buses.

Each evening as I wait for them to arrive I am amazed at how many parents wait for their children with their vehicle engines running.

Neither bus is particularly punctual and it is normal for parents to find themselves waiting for 15 to 20 minutes each evening.

On one evening last week 11 out of 13 cars were committing this act of wilful wastefulness.

Initially, I was inclined to think it a product of ignorance or thoughtlessness, but increasingly I am tempted to opine that it springs from a kind of moral degeneracy.

These people appear completely unable to deny themselves any form of comfort or luxury. So pampered and over-indulged are they that the very notion of abstinence is anathema.

During the summer they run their engines to keep the air-conditioning on, in winter to keep their heating on and during more temperate conditions, to listen to music or watch built-in devices and thus bypass the manufacturer’s auto switch-off.

As a species, we face probably insurmountable difficulties, such are the quantity and character of the challenges which face us.

I despair for the future and the kind of world we are leaving for our children when so few people are prepared to take even the first tentative steps towards limiting their consumption and exploitation of the earth’s resources.

They have children. Presumably they care about their future otherwise why bother sending them to schools further afield? What lessons are they teaching them? — Yours faithfully,

Eric Butcher

Checkendon


Not so many potholes...

Sir, — I refer to the letter from K B Atkinson headlined “Profusion of potholes” (Standard, January 18).

0.04 potholes per km means there is one pothole every 25km. Using 1km = 5/8 mile, that converts to one pothole every 15.64 miles, not 1.56 miles as stated in the letter. To be that it would need to be 0.40 potholes per km.

Looks like the 0 and 4 got transposed along the line. — Yours faithfully,

Nigel Ash

Stoke Row


Delay Brexit decision

Sir, — If the Prime Minister had brought a detailed legal agreement on our future relationship with the EU back to Parliament, then it may well have been voted through.

In fact, it says hardly anything concrete about the future and is not really a deal at all.

It’s a huge scandal that, with two months to go, businesses have no idea what to expect.

The deal (or no deal) should be known at least 12 months ahead of the implementation date to give time to prepare.

The deal is important because if we crash out with no deal, then on both sides of the border there should be many more checks.

If these happen without the right resources in place, there will be bottlenecks both ways.

Logistically, long-term delays in either direction could cause us shortages of essential items because the delivery lorries are tied up in queues.

The UK only supplies 50 per cent of its own food while 30 per cent comes from the EU.

In the medium term, the number of firms upping sticks from the UK will increase with no deal. In just the last fortnight, Brexit has been a big factor in announcements that a big insurer will move to Ireland, that a major Japanese bank will move to Amsterdam, that the Colmans factory will close and that a big retailer may not risk paying an annual staff bonus if we crash out.

The car manufacturers have many problems right now, so when they need to close factories, where will they choose? Modern manufacturers need frictionless borders.

It is essential that Article 50 is now extended by at least a year. The extra time should then be used to bring the full deal on our future relationship back for agreement with Parliament.

This deal should also be put back to the people against no deal and staying in the EU in a two-stage vote.

Right now we are leaving the EU against the will of the people. Two recent polls have shown 56 per cent support for remain. — Yours faithfully,

Robert Thompson

Henley


So what now, Mr Howell?

Sir — John Howell, MP for Henley, voted in “favour” of Theresa May’s Brexit deal in the so-called “meaningful vote” in the Commons last week.

Before the referendum in June 2016, he supported the Remain campaign for the UK to stay in the European Union.

Would it be wrong therefore to conclude that Mr Howell will continue to support the Prime Minister in achieving her March 29 deadline for leaving the EU, or does our MP favour invoking Article 50 and acquiescing to Donald Tusk’s proposal after last week’s vote to delay Brexit until at least July 2019? — Yours faithfully,

Peter Ward

King James Way, Henley


The remain question

Sir, — Should there be a second EU referendum, a remain question should be whether we wanted to remain in the EU as it is at present or whether we wanted to be part of what is going to be an United States of Europe inevitably dominated by Germany. — Yours faithfully,

Yvonne Kedge

Lea Road, Sonning Common

Uncharitable comment

Sir, —I fear my esteemed friend Philip Collings, the best clerk any parish council could hope to have, was ill-advised to end his latest diatribe about the joys of Brexit by likening Theresa May to the mad woman in the attic.

There may be those who, having studied Philip’s almost comically optimistic vision of the paradise awaiting this country after a no deal Brexit, will conclude uncharitably that if anyone is slightly unhinged on this subject, it is not Mrs May. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Tom Fort

Sonning Common Parish Council, Wood Lane, Sonning Common


Air brakes... I’ll explain

Sir, — The article headlined “Winners and losers in flights shake-up (Standard, January 18)) contained a fundamental misunderstanding regarding “air brakes”.

The whole issue of aircraft noise cannot be understood unless one grasps the function of air brakes, which your reporter evidently does not.

I would be happy to give him a correct explanation. — Yours faithfully,

Michael Emmett

Peppard Common


Airborne spectator

Sir, — Many years ago, when I was flying for a well-known national airline, the air traffic controller took me a long way out to the west before turning me in for an easterly landing at Heathrow Airport.

The flight path just passed over the outskirts of Reading. As a subtle hint as to how far out he had taken us, I commented to him, “I see Reading are playing at home today”. The very quick response came, “yes, Swindon were earlier”. — Yours faithfully,

David Gealy

Baskerville Lane, Shiplake


Anyone lost their drone?

Sir, — I have spent the last three weeks trying to find the person whose small drone landed in my garden off Elizabeth Road, Henley, around Christmas time.

I have called door to door, put notices on lamp posts and the Freegle group kindly put a notice online but all to no avail. I am hoping that your wider coverage might find the person who probably lost a desirable Christmas present.

Coincidentally, my search turned up a person who had lost a model yellow helicopter at the west end of Makins Road which has still to be found.

If you can help me, please call (01491) 575289. — Yours faithfully,

David Booth

Henley


History of our house

Sir, — I am writing about your Hidden Henley item about Ye Nest in Victoria Road, Wargrave, (Standard, January 11).

Ye Nest was bought by my grandparents in the early Twenties and they lived there with their three sons, Harold, Norman and Gerald.

The property next door was purchased by the family and Norman moved into the house with his wife and started Gleneagles Garage.

Many years later it was sold and later still sold to the person who started the limousine repair garage.

My father Harold lived at Ye Nest with my mother and I was born there. My grandmother also lived with us after my grandfather was killed.

My father ran the local taxi service (his name wasn’t over it) until he retired.

The house was then sold to the owner of the garage and eventually sold to the developer Millgate.

The development was named Bird Gardens after our family. — Yours faithfully,

Penny Bolton (née Bird)

Cheriton Place, Sonning Common


Generous gift to community

Sir, — Due to the generosity of the Butler family, a new defibrillator has been installed at the War Memorial Hall in Gallowstree Road, Peppard.

Ru Butler, the first patron of the hall, and his brother Nick, who are the directors of Peppard Building Supplies, wanted to donate the device to the hall to maintain the family’s historic partnership with the building.

Their great grandfather Arthur Butler built the hall in 1921, three years after the land was acquired, a great idea at the time.

Our thanks also to the Chiltern Edge Community Association for contributing towards the cost of the secure box for the defibrillator.

The hall trustees will be organising learning courses for all the leaders of the groups that use the hall as well as interested local residents. — Yours faithfully,

Clive Mills

Chairman of trustees, Peppard War Memorial Hall


Warming gestures

Sir, — Henley Lions would like to thank the generous donors who responded to the current winter fuel project.

Since November 2018 we have helped 22 Henley residents, including 11 children, keep their homes warm and cooking appliances working by contributing directly into their utility accounts at a time when life has presented difficulties.

A total of £2,100 of support has been awarded this winter. In these uncertain times, and especially with the arrival of colder weather, we know our fund will be put to good use many more times.

All recipients of help have approached Citizens Advice Henley first and received the support and guidance of an advisor.

If you would like to support this project by donating some or all of your winter fuel payment, please visit www.henleylions.org.uk and click on “Donate”, then identify your donation as “Winter Fuel Project”. Complete “Gift Aid” if you can.

Donations can also be made by cheque or bank transfer. For information, call 0845 833 7387 or email donate@henleylions.org.uk

All monies raised will be held in the Henley Lions’ charity trust account and ring-fenced for the winter fuel project.

Thank you once again on behalf of the people we support for helping them in times of need. — Yours faithfully,

Ian Tritton

Community service chairman, Henley Lions Club

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