Thursday, 13 August 2020

Your letters...

Homes must be affordable

In a recent survey conducted by Henley Residents Group, the issue of providing “affordable” housing was a high priority.

But this is a challenge — the “affordable” housing being built on sites earmarked for development in the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan are “affordable” in name only.

Furthermore, market rents across South Oxfordshire are high compared with England. The median market rent in England (in the year to March 31, 2018) was £6,752 per annum (£562 per month) compared with Henley’s average of £1,350 per month, Cholsey’s £1,024 and Thame’s £975.

But the “affordable” houses/flats are too expensive to purchase, even with the shared ownership scheme that is meant to get people on to the housing ladder.

A 20 per cent discount on a £480,000 two-bedroom flat requires a £200,000 mortgage on a 50 per cent shared ownership — outside the reach of many.

How can this be resolved? Henley Residents Group is working tirelessly to form a community land trust which could be set up by the town council or local residents.

Once established, the trust would purchase land at a reasonable price, build at cost and then rent lower than the present “affordable” rents. All properties built would remain rental in perpetuity.

We need to build social housing that ordinary people can afford to buy or rent in order to help address the shortage of housing which is forcing young people away from Henley.

HRG’s strategy to promote this includes making sure that the supporting infrastructure is put in place at the same time.

The Government has announced a £3 billion loan fund open to community land trusts. This is the way forward for Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Paula Isaac

Prospective Henley Residents Group candidate for Henley Town Council, Gainsborough Road, Henley

County deal is bad for us

Sir, — On January 25 you reported the resignation of South Oxfordshire district councillor Rob Simister, who backed the previous leader, John Cotton, rather than his successor, Jane Murphy.

We would like to alert your readers to these disagreements in the council because we believe they reflect the difficulty it has in coming to terms with the requirements of the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal.

This deal will have consequences that we believe few of your readers would willingly accept.

In short, the Government is asking the district council to fit more houses into a rural area without providing the roads and other infrastructure that might make it practical, if still not desirable.

The council has agreed in order to get a share of the £215million offered to Oxfordshire as a whole, a paltry sum in the circumstances and nothing like enough to provide for the 100,000 houses that the county has to build to get it.

This figure assumes, indeed seeks, an increase in the county’s population that would transform its character to an extent that is shown to be unnecessary by the Government’s own figures and would destroy a lot of green belt in the process with a vista of more destruction to come next time round.

We urge the council to withdraw from the growth plan and stick to the council’s acknowledged need for 12,788 more dwellings rather than the unnecessarily inflated figure of 22,775 it has put into its local plan.

The councillors might then find it easier to agree among themselves. — Yours faithfully,

Kester George,
chairman, Harpsden Parish Council, Patrick Fleming, treasurer, Henley in Transition,

David Whitehead,
chairman, Henley Society’ s planning committee,

and Rebecca Chandler-Wilder, Henley

Delay and distraction

Our very own George Orwell would be proud and happy that his political book, Animal Farm, was alive and well at Henley Town Council last week when the town’s inadequate car parking facilities were discussed.

All the characters of the book were present.

“Napoleon” Gawrysiak stated we should ask South Oxfordshire District Council to conduct a feasibility study on a car parking extension plan. Reasonable but this was passed in the neighbourhood plan two years ago! Vision or inaction?

“Snowball” Hamilton, suggested car parking should be underground. Vision or distraction?

A contra view was expressed by “Boxer” Dickie who thought we should all adjourn somewhere out of town, while “Benjamin” Fleming thought we should extend the already underused long stay car parks on the edge of town, thereby partly agreeing with Boxer. Vision or confusion?

“Moses” McEwen astutely observed that a five per cent reduction in traffic would make a difference but this was not pursued as it looks as if, true to his political purity, he is in search of a mystical Holy Grail. Vision or pie in the sky?

An unknown chicken queried where the building spoil would be put but was quickly assured it would be absorbed by the farm’s waste site. Vision or tangent?

A seemingly inconclusive meeting looks to have been brought to an end by a conclusive “let’s meet again next month”.

Therefore progress has not been made on a key issue or any of the other non-housing aspects in the neighbourhood plan. Why?

Because the ruling party, Henley Residents Group, failed to set up an implementation group immediately after the referendum and instead has decided to rewrite the agreed plan.

This is costing the town in excess of £100,000 and has not yet seen the light of day. Since the start of 2014 the cost of the neighbourhood plan to us “farm animals” exceeds £200,000 — now that is a lot of fodder.

Perhaps the “Farmer’s” answer would be to go cap in hand to Donald Trump and ask him to build an extended car park or, at the very least, a wall around Henley to block off all that bad traffic and finally kill off the town, which seems to be what some of the animals want. — Yours faithfully,

Barry Wood

Stoke Row Road, Peppard

Better, not more please

Sir, (I shall continue to start my letters this way) — your columns are awash with calls for “more”: more parking, more hotel rooms, more people at Rewind, more houses. What’s the point of having more of everything? Surely we should be aiming for “better” rather than “more”?

“More” often means “worse”. My grandfather could have talked to someone who had fought at Waterloo, when Britain’s population was about 12 million.

In just a handful of generations that figure has exploded to… well, no one really knows, but certainly over 60 million.

Today we are stuffing record numbers of humans into our already overcrowded islands — hardly a recipe for “better”.

Henley is especially vulnerable, being constrained by its geography of the river and hills. Traffic is already gridlocked at peak times and air quality is the subject of heated debate, yet everyone is shouting “more, more”. That’s guaranteed to make things worse.

We should not even contemplate adding to our existing woes until there is a bypass to remove through-traffic and existing infrastructure, like Greys Road and Gillotts Lane, are updated to take the increased flow.

That will not happen in my lifetime and probably not during that of my children or grandchildren.

Until then we should say “stop” to more of anything. If we don’t, things are bound to get worse. — Yours faithfully,

Rolf Richardson

Wootton Road, Henley

My ideas for improvement

I support the Conservative Party nationally but would like to see more things happen in Henley, such as:

1. A lower speed limit on all main roads, Reading Road, Hart Street etc.

2. Automatic speed cameras on these roads. They would pay for themselves in no time.

3. There has been lot of talk about trees being planted. Where are they?

4. Make Hart Street a one-way street going towards the river as the traffic would flow better and have more trees to create a place for a few real “pavement cafés”.

Just a few ideas that could be done in less than a year. — Yours faithfully,

Deon Melck

Hart Street, Henley

Let’s have park and ride

Save the cost of a two-tier car park and have park and ride car parking north and south of Henley with a free shuttle bus service (electric). — Yours faithfully,

Richard Taylor

King’s Road, Henley

Keep bridge lights off

Sir, — One more comment on lights on Henley Bridge, albeit a very short one.

I so enjoyed seeing our beautiful bridge in darkness (as it should be) over the last few weeks. I didn’t hear anyone say how dull and sad it was.

I’d rather that than a sad imitation of Blackpool beach. — Yours faithfully,

Patricia Knights

Fair Mile, Henley

Carnival of social issues

As the Notting Hill Carnival is so self-indulgent, cannot Henley do a carnival of social issues of which one us the rise in slavery since 2000? One of the floats lampooning this might work.

Is anyone interested? — Yours faithfully,

Neil Parsley

Mount View Court, Henley

MP won’t respond

Sir, — How many Remainers have experienced the complete lack of response from John Howell that I have? That is despite us being in the majority round here.

You send him a series of emails containing some facts about Brexit from, say, the Financial Times, maybe about Ford threatening to leave Britain as a result of Brexit, the collapse in business investment, the looming Brexit-induced recession, the Bank of America pull-out, the fury of the Japanese about their betrayal by the UK, Nissan’s decision to stop investment, or the utter lack of preparation to leave, and do you get a reply? No, you don’t.

Why? Because he can’t even begin to engage with anyone who has any business experience. He just follows the Tory line. — Yours faithfully,

Adrian Hill

Badgemore, Henley

Beautifully old-fashioned

Sir, — I would like to comment on the letter from Liz Hatch (Standard, February 15).

Has this lady got nothing better to do than complain about using the title “Sir”?

I think it’s beautifully old- fashioned and should not be removed. People are losing the whole concept of letter writing, which is such a shame. — Yours faithfully,

Lyn Patey

Reading Road, Henley

Sexist? What nonsense

Sir, — Having just read the letter from your correspondent Liz Hatch and checked my diary to ensure that this was not an April Fools’ Day joke, I felt compelled to reply.

What utter tosh! How does writing a correctly addressed formal letter constitute sexism?

If Liz Hatch (please note the absence of the use of a title in order to avoid further offence) really believes that the use of a gender-specific title constitutes sexism, then she should perhaps invest in a dictionary, or take the time to research the meaning of the word a little more thoroughly.

I am offended by this nonsense and further offended that you should even consider giving the concept credibility. I wonder if quality national newspapers, which still have suitably high standards, can expect similar letters?

For the sake of the sanity of all level-headed people, please consign this ridiculous artifice to the bin, where it rightfully belongs.

I notice, incidentally, and somewhat ironically, that this correspondent refers to herself as “Liz”, which is a gender-specific name. Surely if she wishes to practice what she preaches she should choose an androgynous form of address, such as her National Insurance number. — Yours faithfully,

Patricia Edwards

Howe Hill, Watlington

Please keep being ‘Sir’

Sir, — Unlike your correspondent Liz Hatch, I am a feminist and I am quite baffled how addressing a person of the male sex (not gender) as “Sir” is in any way sexist.

If the editor was female she would be addressed as “Madam”.

As a journalist, I am saddened that the Henley Standard would amend its editorial policy because one reader was “offended”.

One of the cornerstones of a free, democratic society is freedom of belief and thought.

We live in a very diverse society, as reflected by your letters page. I don’t always agree with the opinions of others, and at times I do find them personally offensive, but I will always defend their democratic right not to agree with me. — Yours faithfully,

A M Scanlon


All have right to opinion

Sir, — While I respect the right of all Henley Standard readers to have and air their point of view on the letters page, I do take issue with the request, if that is the correct term to use, that we all now must desist using the word “Sir” as the formal address in our letters.

However, as we live in a democratic society, I trust that Ms Hatch will accept we all have our right of opinion.

It is therefore my right to use, in her words, “a ridiculous and offensive tradition” form of address.

Sorry, editor, I am too long in the tooth to change my old-fashioned and outdated ways. — Yours faithfully,

Terry Allsop


Just a matter of courtesy

Sir, — I write with reference to the salutation “Sir” in letters to the editor.

The use of “Dear Sir” and “Dear Sirs” has rightly been replaced with gender-neutral alternatives in business correspondence where the recipient is unknown.

However, readers of a newspaper will know, or can easily find out, the identity of the editor.

Addressing a male editor as “Sir” or a female editor as “Madam” is not sexist but simply a matter of courtesy; a commodity currently in short supply in public discourse. — Yours faithfully,

Michael Cooper

Elm Road, Tokers Green

The correct convention

Sir — Please do not allow your conventional good manners to be traduced by modern sexist bigotry!

Of course anyone with manners begins a letter with the appropriate form of address according to how well they know the intended recipient.

If one is going to the trouble of writing to the editor of a publication, it is only courteous to establish the name and sex of the person to whom one is about to address one’s letter. Not knowing you personally, the majority will naturally begin their missive with “Dear Sir”. Were the editor female, they would use “Dear Madam”, assuming that a degree of maturity is inevitable if she has become the editor of a significant publication.

How does Liz Hatch expect letters to be addressed to her? I would use “Dear Madam” as I don’t know her and have no idea of her age and marital status.

One thing that makes me giggle is that, regardless of how I sign off a letter to you, you always add “Yours faithfully”, a perfectly correct “impersonal” conventional ending of a letter. Beware those who don’t believe in “faith”!

You cannot alter convention for the sake of one misguided reader. If you do this, you are opening the floodgates to allow all manner of “sexist” nonsense. — Yours faithfully.

The Hon Lady McAlpine (Female, feminine and with no interest whatsoever in being regarded as “unisex” — whatever that is)

Fawley Hill

Trivialising real issues

Sir, — With all due respect, I’m not sure Liz Hatch’s view is the general consensus of that held by the public.

However, that said, what a sad reflection on society if it is perceived as sexist, offensive, ridiculous and archaic to address a letter “Sir”, “Madam” or any other preferred title of the person in question.

If nothing else, it’s simply considered good letter-writing practice to start by addressing the title of the reader.

Acknowledging who we are is not discriminatory and nor is being proud of who we are. Sexist? Where does it all end?

Without wishing to cause offence and at the risk of being considered “ridiculous and archaic”, I hope you would consider reinstating “Sir” on the letters page as it reflects the formal and polite tone consistent with the rest of the paper.

Discrimination is a battle well worth fighting but, as a friend rightly pointed out, challenging convention in this way only serves to detract from, or trivialise, the genuine issues of discrimination facing society. — Your faithfully,

Nick Hughes


I’ll drink to you, Sir

Sir, — It is a truth universally acknowledged that showing a little respect to one’s fellow being (whether editor, animal, female, male or neither) never did anyone any harm.

Please allow at least some of your correspondents to keep the formal greeting at the beginning of their letters. It may be old-fashioned, but so is 1.5oz of Bourbon or rye whiskey, two dashes of Angostura bitters, one sugar cube and a few dashes of plain water.

How could one live without either... — Yours faithfully,

Dick Fletcher


Choice for your writers

Sir, — It seems that these days people take offence at the beating of a butterfly’s wing and hence with one complaint, you immediately roll over and drop the convention of addressing letters with “Sir”.

If people are offended by this, I say fine, but so what? In the words of a well-known comedian, “Be offended. Get a life. You are not going to wake up in the morning with an infectious disease.”

Surely the correct response would be to say that writers can address their letter as they choose? I, for one, will continue with the convention.

The next complaint will be that writers should not conclude their letters with “yours faithfully” on the basis that they profess no faith. — Yours faithfully,

Garry Forster

Goring Heath

Depressed by silliness

Sir, — Ms Hatch’s objection to the use of “Sir” in letters to you made me hold my head in despair.

Where is such sexist silliness going to stop? I address you as “Sir” because I have taken the trouble, out of politeness, to get the gender right. If the editor were a woman I would happily address her as “Madam”.

My depression deepened when I read that you have agreed to discontinue printing “Sir” in the interests of “causing as little offence as possible”.

You should be aware, Sir, that your abject capitulation to Ms Hatch’s totally unreasonable viewpoint has offended me and probably a significant number of other readers. I very much hope that you will reconsider.

Surely, the sensible answer would be to leave it to your correspondents.

If they include the salutation “Sir” in their letters it should be so published. If they omit it, the omission stands.

In the meantime, I should be grateful if you would include the traditional salutation at the top of this letter if you decide to publish it. — Yours faithfully,

Douglas Kedge

Lea Road, Sonning Common

Matter of choice, mate

Hello mate, — Knowing that you are a gentleman and also the editor of my very respected local newspaper, I am saddened that I may no longer show my personal respect for you by addressing you as “Sir”.

Choosing a manner of respectful address, appropriate to the gender concerned, is surely a very personal choice and indeed a right in a free society? — With respect, cheers mate.

Dirk Jones

Kennylands Road, Sonning Common

The editor responds: “Thank you, all, for your intelligent and witty contributions. At the risk of reoffending Liz Hatch, I have now decided to heed the advice and leave it up to correspondents to decide whether to address me as ‘Sir’ or not and will publish their letters accordingly.

“I will also be happy to allow the debate to continue.”

More value than cuppa

Sir, — Your comparison of the price of a cup of coffee with that of the Henley Standard (Standard, February 15) prompts me to suggest that the coffee will take far less time to consume than it takes to read the paper, especially the letters page!

’Twas not always so. I remember that many Henley residents called it “the two minutes’ silence,” when it seldom managed to extend much beyond eight pages. But perhaps the coffee was less drinkable in the Fifties.

One of the proportionate increases in price occurred on January 4, 1957, when, about nine months after news was placed on the front page for the first time, the cover price went from two old pence to three old pence, a staggering 50 per cent hike!

It had remained at twopence since 1920 when it had gone up from three ha’pence. — Yours faithfully,

John Luker

Station Road, Shiplake

My heartfelt thank-you

Sir, — I would like to thank the wonderful gentleman who not only found my purse (with a substantial amount of money in it) but then handed it into the customer service desk at Waitrose in Henley on Friday afternoon.

Unfortunately, no details were left so I’m unable to thank him properly and I do thank him from the bottom of my heart.

If anybody knows this person I would be most grateful if they could let me know via the Henley Standard. — Yours faithfully,

Tracey Lambourne


Wonderful production

Sir, — I’d like to say what a wonderful day out when we went to see Guys & Dolls at the Mill at Sonning theatre.

The music was so lovely — it kept our toes tapping all through the show — and the lovely cast performed so well.

What a delight! It cheered us all up on a cold winter’s day. — Yours faithfully,

Mrs Hilda Austin


Keeping to (short) point

Sir, — I’ll keep this brief. — Yours faithfully,

Simon Brickhill

Goring Heath

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