Sunday, 21 April 2019

Your letters...

Unconvinced by hotel idea

Sir, — As a former president of the now defunct Henley Chamber of Trade & Commerce in the early Nineties as well as being a retired travel agent with more than 40 years’ experience (I was joint managing director and owner of Travelwright in Friday Street, Henley, until 1992), I’d like to make the following observations:

What type of hotel could be built in a station car park? May I suggest a budget hotel of possibly one or two stars?

Who would this attract given that unless the hotel was adequately sound-proofed it could be very noisy at any time day or night?

What amenities are envisaged — a spa, an indoor swimming pool or a quality restaurant?

What will a 100-bed hotel cost to operate? If the rooms are all doubles that means a 50-room hotel, presumably all en suite, which will need staff to keep them clean, do the laundry etc.

Has anyone done the maths as to what happens if this hotel is only ever 25 per cent occupied?

Obviously, with the right management who have done their costings, it could be a huge success, particularly if it could include amenities for the people of Henley which at the moment are only available to private club clients.

During my tenure as president of the chamber of trade, I invited and hosted representatives from American Express and a tourist agency called Evans & Evans, which may still be in existence today.

They made two recommendations — that Henley needed a hotel with at least 40 beds (this was prior to the Hotel du Vin) plus we should make more use of the river.

Neither idea was taken up by the town council and completely ignored by the tourist office.

A hotel is for tourists who hopefully will bring with them spending money to spend in Henley shops.

I am not convinced that a 100-bed hotel is going to attract sufficient tourists who will want to stay in a station car park as part of their holiday break while shopping in Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Gloria Wright

Henley

Have I missed something?

Sir, — I’m puzzled — we are busting a gut to remove a quarter of the Henley station car park spaces.

This is so we can build a hotel little more than 100 yards from one that has been refurbished but unused for 15 years.

We are saying it’s okay because we’ll have the spaces at Twyford station so we are discouraging use of the Henley branch line and encouraging people to drive to Twyford when the extra houses from the neighbourhood plan are bought by commuters.

We are making it difficult for people coming to see the royal regatta, for which Henley is known around the world.

We are discouraging commuting, discouraging use of the branch line and discouraging attendance at the regatta. Have I missed something here? — Yours faithfully,

Martin Akehurst

Two Tree Hill, Henley


Fill empty hotels first

Sir, — Network Rail wants to build a 100-bed hotel on the car park opposite Henley station.

We already have two empty hotels in central Henley, the Imperial in Station Road and Milsoms above the former Loch Fyne in Market Place.

Both should be refurbished and filled with guests before we decide we need to start building more.

We don’t have enough short-term parking spaces or development sites for houses to satisfy the neighbourhood plan.

Who comes up with these ideas? No one who is thinking of actual local needs, obviously. — Yours faithfully,

Richard Milner

Market Place, Henley


Does council really care?

Sir, — How wonderful to see the lights back on Henley Bridge.

How many of us have commented how sad and dull it had been to drive through Henley at night and see the bridge in darkness again?

So, whoever is responsible, thank you for lighting up our journey again!

What a pity that Henley’s councillors seem to be so uncommercial and have no understanding of the need to help the town survive by making it welcoming and vibrant. They seem to be too busy playing party politics.

There are councils that ban political parties. Why can Henley not do this? Surely one becomes a councillor because one cares about the local area, not because one wants to bang a political drum?

I know I don’t live in Henley but I am rather fond of the town and sickened by the way it is being allowed to deteriorate.

What is the council doing to make Henley as interesting and as vibrant as Marlow? What could it do? A great deal.

So many people tell me that they have given up trying to get improvements made because “the council can’t be bothered”.

Why not make good public use of the beautiful riverfront? No, let’s fill it with cars!

Provide a public slipway? Well, there is one but we obstructed it.

Park and ride? Okay for other towns, not for us.

Have coffee bars open in the square in the evening so youngsters have somewhere to gather? No way!

Allow the River & Rowing Museum to take advantage of the river? No, insist they plant trees in front of it so soon the view of the river will be completely obscured.

Allow the local theatre to advertise itself in traditional fashion? Not a chance!

When Henley is finally dead where will the council find its income?

I do know one or two councillors who care. They can do nothing against the majority who seem to have a different agenda. — Yours faithfully,

The Hon Lady McAlpine

Fawley Hill


Don’t lift ban on barbecues

Sir, — In reply to Nicholas Edwards (Standard, February 8), I can only assume that he did not witness the appalling mess made by the so-named British Asians on Mill Meadows.

I live locally and have observed for myself, on at least two weekends, indescribable scenes resonant of a council rubbish collection truck having dumped its whole contents on the site.

I therefore believe it is absolutely necessary to ban all barbecuing and such activity on Marsh and Mill Meadows so that the general public can enjoy this attractive facility as intended. — Yours faithfully,

J Mitchell

Henley


Challenge we must face

Sir, — On behalf of Henley Residents Group, I just wanted to say how very pleased I was that Henley in Transition took the initiative to raise the issue of the “climate emergency” (Standard, February 8).

At this stage, it is relevant to review what has been achieved on environmental matters by HRG since it took control of the town council in May 2017, not long ago. It introduced the new gas-powered town bus service, reducing emissions.

Through Stefan Gawrysiak, our representative on Oxfordshire County Council, we pushed for a 20mph speed limit in the town, which will also reduce emissions when introduced.

Similarly, Stefan has gained support and funding from South Oxfordshire District Council for monitoring air pollution, which again will help reduce emissions. All good stuff.

That’s not to mention my small role of jointly founding the Henley Refill campaign in Henley, which will also have positive emissions effects through the move to reusables and away from plastics.

So far, so good, but where next? We think it is absolutely right for the town council to take into account climate in the development of its future policies.

Although HRG will continue to be proactive in its approach, it is a challenge as the responsibilities for the town are spread across the county and district councils.

Therefore the town council needs to be persuasive with these bodies in order to tackle the “climate emergency” facing Henley.

Taking the decision to be zero carbon by 2030 is challenging and it needs a considered and practical plan.

Such a plan will almost certainly require new properties to include emission- friendly installations.

However, we also have a lot of older properties in Henley and we need to consider what can be done for them as well as considering how to reduce vehicle emissions further.

A zero-carbon town is something everyone should aspire to, not least for our children and grandchildren. HRG is happy to work with Henley in Transition and any other groups in developing appropriate plans to help achieve this.

We always believe in working across political groups to improve Henley and this is especially important for climate change — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Sarah Miller

Deputy chair, Henley Residents Group, Henley Town Council

Making a difference

Sir, — If you are worried about the outcome of Brexit any concerns that you have should pale into insignificance when faced with the real emergency which is looming over us — the end of life on this planet (Standard, February 8).

No doubt the climate deniers will respond this week with claims of fake news and flawed science.

Of course they may be right. Equally, they may be wrong and by the time we find out it could be too late. Are you prepared to take that chance?

If you have young children who will be alive while all this plays out, what are you prepared to do to ensure that they grow up in a safe and sustainable world?

If your children are old enough to understand the issues why not ask them what they want you to do to ensure a safe future?

You could do nothing and hope for the best. Alternatively, come along to Henley town hall at 7.30pm on Wednesday and find out how to make a difference. — Yours faithfully,

Don Barraclough

Blandy Road, Henley

Yes, action is needed...

Sir, — Many thanks for the article by Dave McEwen and Patrick Fleming making us aware that the settled science of climate change tells us that we have been extinct five times already.

My first thought was “So what are we doing here then?” I would have thought one extinction was enough?

Luckily, Dave and Patrick explain this implicitly as it must be down to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change telling us that we only have 12 years left to live.

The panel has told us this every 12 years for decades so that must be what accounts for the other four extinctions.

The article clearly proved the danger of climate change by referencing the heatwave in Australia that killed 23,000 bats! It must have been the same heatwave that last week saw temperatures in Henley soar to -8C.

I appreciate the eagerness of Henley in Transition but if they really want to make a difference much more drastic means are needed.

In primary school we were taught that plants produce oxygen which humans and animals inhale and thereafter exhale carbon dioxide. That practice has clearly got to be stopped if we want to avoid further extinctions.

In order to maintain a healthy level of insanity, I therefore propose that the town council will support me in my new Henley Stop Breathing campaign, which will launch at midnight on February 30 at the town hall. The idea is simple: if we breathe less we cut CO2 and save the world.

Now, as we cannot expect animals to hold their breath, we simply have to kill them all for the greater good of mother earth.

This will have two clear advantages: Firstly, Henley will become more diverse and inclusive by making all the vegans happy. Secondly, we can stop the suffering of all the poor dogs who are tormented by fireworks.

I then propose we work towards holding our breath six seconds every minute, thereby reducing our carbon footprint by 10 per cent. This is known as our HYG target or Hold Your Gob.

And here is where Dave and Patrick can make a real difference. If those two gentlemen would increase your HYG target to 100 per cent their carbon footprint would be zero and they could make the world a better place for generations to come. — Yours faithfully,

Soren Nielsen

Belle Vue Road, Henley


Degraded democracy

Sir, — Tom Fort claims (Standard, February 8) that EU membership has made us more humane, ignoring the fact that we were a founder member of the Council of Europe in 1949 (not to be confused with the subsequent European Council of the EU).

The Council of Europe formulated the European Convention on Human Rights in 1953 (not to be confused with the subsequent Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union) and in 1959 established the European Court of Human Rights (not to be confused with the subsequent European Court of Justice of the EU. Confusing, innit?)

“Humanity” was not invented when we joined the Common Market.

More aware? Monied folk have long been aware of the glories of mainland Europe. Many of the less affluent became starkly aware during the Second World War and a lot of us less affluent teenagers were enjoying youth hostelling on the Continent.

Around the time we joined the Common Market, budget airlines began to open up affordable travel to the masses. I suggest that this initiated more awareness of mainland Europe than did joining the Common Market.

I chuckled at “there are many aspects of the EU... that are odious but the principle behind it... is a noble one”. This is a bit like saying one has an odious spouse but the principle of marriage is a noble one.

If odious aspects remain after all these years, how can we be optimistic that these would be corrected in future?

The founding principles of the EU were respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law.

We had those before membership. We degraded democracy during membership. Is anyone seriously suggesting that we would discard those principles after ceasing membership?

Love Europe, hate the EU. — Yours faithfully,

Ken Stevens

Red House Drive, Sonning Common


No peaceful enjoyment

Sir, — Simon Barnett’s letter on the Rewind Festival (Standard, February 8) was a helpful commentary on the ongoing damage caused by expanding events in Remenham.

However, his correction of the mathematics is flawed, though understandable since the article was not complete.

Under the existing licence for Rewind, it operates full live stage performances on two days with 20,000 people attending on Saturday and Sunday, i.e. 40,000 (there is some minimal activity on Friday evening).

The new application moves this to three full days of live stage performances with an increased capacity of 30,000 for each day i.e. 90,000. That’s a 225 per cent increase.

This has wider implications of which additional car parking space, spread through the village with the related disruptions, is only one.

And of course it is not simply three days: it takes more than a week to set up the event and a similar time to take it down — as with many of the events staged here.

Henley Royal Regatta and its related activities is by no means five days. The chaos often caused by large articulated lorries attempting to negotiate single track country lanes and driven by people unfamiliar with the geography has sometimes meant sitting for an hour in your car while this chaos is resolved.

Mr Barnett is correct when he says the Rewind expansion is driven by corporate greed. There is no other reason for this.

They simply want both to recover their investment and leverage the fixed costs they incur each year in erecting the facilities.

People will have seen from the photographs in the Standard that this event is already vast.

The problem for local residents is that it comes at the end of a long summer of events which deny residents their legal rights to the “peaceful enjoyment” of their homes.

This may be the legal position for all homeowners, but it also means simple access to our homes is often compromised through these disruptions.

Some years ago, Henley residents were in uproar over the staging of a major cycling event in the town that required the closure of some local roads. The event then left the town. We have this effect every year, though often unplanned, which makes it worse.

The fact is that from June to late August we are denied the normal use of our homes. There is the royal regatta, women’s regatta, masters’ regatta, Henley Festival, Henley Swim and so on.

As only one example of the problem, the traffic jam on the first day of the festival last year ran from the festival field the whole length of Remenham Lane, past the church and up Remenham Church Lane — more than a mile.

Enough is enough. It is simply unacceptable that this combination of events should continue to expand unchecked.

This area, covered by National Trust covenants “to protect the rural nature of the land”, which were put in place to preserve the area for the benefit of the general public to enjoy in peace and quiet, is now being further compromised for reasons of personal profit. It’s simply unacceptable. — Yours faithfully,

Ron and Angie Emerson

Remenham Lane, Remenham


My maths is all right

Sir, — With reference to the letter from Simon Barnett about my maths (Standard, February 1), part of my original quote was lost.

It should have said “it’s more than doubling the size of the event because it goes from 20,000 to 30,000 and from two days to three.” (Just to check the maths, 40,000 to 90,000 is, I am sure you will agree, 2 ¼ times).

The quote missed out the important last six words.

So we can assume that educational standards are still safe. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor John Halsall

Chairman, Remenham Parish Council


Old power company

Sir, — I was interested to see your Hidden Henley about the Wessex LT Joint marker in York Road, Henley, (Standard, February 8).

I believe that it refers to a low tension (LT) (low voltage LV) underground electricity cable joint belonging to Wessex Electricity, a pre-nationalised electricity company before it became the Southern Electricity Board. — Yours faithfully,

Tim Webb


No mystery to marker

Sir, — Your Diarist Thomas Octavius asked what “Wessex LT Joint” means.

Before the electricity industry was nationalised in 1947 by the Labour government, this area was served by the Wessex Electricity Company (becoming part of the Southern Electricity Board area from that time).

“LT” refers to low tension, i.e. not the very high voltages used for distributing energy across the country but the lower voltage used for local connections.

Joint refers to a cable joint.

In other words, this was a marker for company staff as to where they would find the underground joint (in a similar way to present day fire hydrant signs etc). — Yours faithfully,

Peter Delaney

Wargrave

Mum worked at old office

Sir, — I suggest that the sign reading Wessex refers to the Wessex Electricity Company, which operated in Henley prior to the nationalisation of the industry in 1948.

I believe that the firm’s offices were where the post office is now situated. My mother, Edwina Mills, worked at the firm before the war for Mr Baigent, the manager.

In our family we believe that Berkshire Road, where she lived, was given priority to have electricity installed because my mother worked there.

It’s hard to imagine that this firm introduced electricity to Henley as recently as the Thirties.

I wonder if those people who brought electricity to our town had any idea how it has transformed our lives. — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Hawkins

Berkshire Road, Henley


Whirlwind was fastest

Sir, — A last footnote in the RAF’s centenary year.

Apart from the fact that Abingdon’s Thames Bridge was “in the frame for attention” had the German invasion arrived, the fog of war is well illustrated by information I recently received from Royal Canadian Air Force veteran and Whirlwind pilot W/Cdr John McClure DFC, now aged 97.

Their escorting Spitfires were slower even than his bombed-up Whirlwind until the Spitfire MkVB arrived.

Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft 1943-44 carries a very misleading advertisement by Vickers-Armstrongs claiming that the Spitfire was the “fastest single-seat fighter from 1939”. That is simply untrue — it was the Westland Whirlwind!

Given that W/Cdr McClure was subsequently aide de camp to the governor-general of Canada, he can be taken as a very authoritative source.

I have no desire to take any credit away from our Spitfire (or Hurricane) pilots but credit where credit’s due, namely to Teddy Petter’s amazing Whirlwind cannon fighter and to its pilots, many of whom came as volunteers from beyond our shores. We should be most grateful to them. — Yours faithfully,

Jim Munro

Blandy Road, Henley


Less of the ‘Sir’ please

Sir, — Why do you continue with the outdated and archaic tradition of prefacing all letters to the editor with “Sir”.

While I am by no means a feminist, I can’t believe it is necessary to maintain such a practice when other papers have eradicated this sexist attitude.

I very much doubt whether readers of the Henley Standard are even aware of the gender of the editor and why is it even relevant anyway?

Please bring your paper into the modern era and join the ranks of other papers which have removed such a ridiculous and offensive tradition. — Yours faithfully,

Liz Hatch

Henley

The editor responds: “Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I had not appreciated that it was causing offence. We have merely stuck with convention, as have the Telegraph and Private Eye, among others.

“Letter writing is such a traditional practice that our use of ‘Dear Sir’ has always seemed appropriate, especially as I am male!

“Plus this is a local paper so many of our readers are known to us and many regular contributors know who they are addressing.

“However, in the interests of causing as little offence as possible, from next week we will drop ‘Sir’ and I would ask others readers to please note this.”

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