Monday, 20 May 2019

Your letters...

Your letters...

My vision for future Henley

Sir, — Following the local council elections, I thought I’d drop you a line as a Henley bloke who simply wants to see and experience profound change.

I met Conservative town councillor Laurence Plant when he came to my door canvassing and here are the sentiments I shared with him off the cuff before he was
re-elected.

I went to school, have lived and worked in Henley for much of my life but significantly — in terms of having a more global perspective — I’ve also lived in London and have travelled a great deal in my working life, which is all about brand development, interacting with people to reinforce or change attitudes, opinions and habits and simply motivating them to do something.

Henley has problems, just like any community, and I applaud those who have devoted their energies to try to make positive change in one way or another according to perceived priorities (which may not always be the right ones).

I believe that the most profound problems Henley has — probably stereotypical of a small, wealthy, inherently conservative society — is catalysed by the age of the local population.

Entrenched attitudes and opinions, resistance to change, fear of the unknown and increasing isolation are, to a greater or lesser part, endemic with age.

That’s at odds with the dynamic of younger people and, profoundly, with visitors to Henley who are to be welcomed with open arms in the interest of the town’s future.

If older community members are also policy makers and are themselves resistant to profound change, the roadblock created can stifle any progress.

Tinkering with local infrastructure issues is not to be dismissed but to change Henley’s dynamic, in the interests of the community at large, local businesses and visitors, needs a much more global vision with local policy makers who embrace fresh opportunities and are cross-party united in order for ideas to be implemented.

We can’t make any profound change to Henley’s population age. Property prices prohibit a major influx of younger residents and those who were bought up here move away as they cannot afford to buy.

The scourge of short-term employment contracts and zero hours working only fuels the problem.

Similarly, with relatively few new residential properties being created in Henley’s small and well-developed landscape, attracting a good measure of fresh blood to live here is not feasible.

What can be changed are attitudes. How? With fresh thinking, appropriate, well-crafted new initiatives that show that Henley has an exciting vision, is progressive and, like any good brand, is admired by its community, each and every member of which becomes a proud ambassador for the town and its future growth.

There’s an old adage that says that we all have two ears and one mouth and should use them in that proportion, so listening and learning from relevant communities elsewhere will always be beneficial.

In my work life, I am a committed evangelist to
co-operative and collaborative marketing, to developing synergistic relationships that have mutual benefit and to the power of word of mouth.

The same principles apply to the development of social communities by substituting bigotry, self-interest and inertia with entirely the opposite.

I have never been a fan of international town “twinning”. It’s all too narrow, perhaps fun for those attending the occasional private wine tasting but of little or no relevance to the majority of residents of either twinned town, purely because it’s not a dynamic, progressive relationship.

But supposing Henley was to explore why thriving towns such as Frome in Somerset are beacons of growth, attract substantial tourism, encourage the young to get involved and have a youthful outlook.

Frome has created a monthly not-for-profit town centre market that is heaving with local business stalls, music and pop-ups to entertain residents and visitors in their thousands.

Now here’s a town to twin with (https://thefromeindependent.org.uk/visit)

Significantly, thefrome-independent Instagram account has 13,100 followers with another 9,600 on Facebook and 5,800 on Twitter. How does Henley compare?

Why don’t we do the same in the under-utilised Falaise Square, supporting local business monthly with a heavily subsidised space rate but also inviting younger creatives from the area to come and occupy a stall and sell?

We could have local bands performing free on the steps of the town hall, line-dancing demos, face-painting for children etc.

It’s all about creating a youthful community and marketing it aggressively to residents and all the more so to visitors.

The beauty of Henley is undeniable but how about capitalising on it and allowing more to see and experience it and increasing visitor and family footfall by installing a giant ferris wheel in Falaise Square in the lead-up to Christmas, or the royal regatta, or both?

There’s one I know and the commercial model to hire it works. We could encourage local businesses to sponsor the “pods”.

Or how about alternating with an ice rink in Falaise Square, again with business sponsorship?

Encourage all famous residents to be ambassadors of Henley and give a bit back to the community, linked in with a strong social media push.

Talk to Clive Hemsley constructively to harness his ideas and enthusiasm. Like me, he’s a communicator with experience and a bohemian attitude that’s an asset, not a threat. Finally, at the risk of being accused of defacing Henley’s assets, I’ve attached my vision of Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Michael Hodges

Queen Street, Henley

Please don’t sell hospice

Editor, — I wish to add my support to the letters from Enid Light and Mrs S Pegg concerning the future of the Sue Ryder hospice in Nettlebed (Standard, April 26 and May 3)

I, too, was fortunate to have the support of a loving family to care for my husband in our home. Sadly, there came a time when he required more specialist care and it was no longer possible for him to stay at home even with the extra assistance of Macmillan nurses.

We were so lucky that my beloved husband was able to go to Joyce Grove to be looked after by the palliative care team.

In his final days we were able to be with him night and day until the peaceful end. I know this would not have been possible if he had been transferred to a hospital ward or even a care home.

It has been suggested by the Sue Ryder management that transport links are difficult but this is not so — I was able to make use of frequent direct buses there and back to visit my husband.

In August your paper reported that Nettlebed Parish Council would like to see a smaller hospice built in the adequate grounds.

This seems eminently sensible and I am so disappointed that at the moment it seems that there are no plans to do this.

I’m so sad that the gentle care that my husband benefited from will not be available to others unless there is a change of heart.

There will always be a need for end-of-life care so it is essential that we retain our very special hospice together with the staff and volunteers at Sue Ryder to whom my family and I will be forever thankful. — Yours faithfully,

Renee Smith

Hop Gardens, Henley

‘Orchard’ was rubbish

Sir, — I would like to give some balance to the rather inflammatory article regarding the “obliteration of a cherry tree orchard” on the site of the former Henley youth centre (Standard, April 26).

The Thamesfield Youth Association and The Henley College sold the site in 2015 to B & M Care.

As far as I recall, at that time there was no cherry tree orchard on the site.

Far from the bucolic recollections that some town councillors seem to have, the land to the rear of the building was actually filled with overgrown weeds, broken bottles, rubbish and bits of old concrete, more in keeping with a scene from Blade Runner than The Darling Buds of May.

Having said that, I do recall on occasion seeing a few insects and birds and once found a lost dog who answered to the name of Brian.

I would also like to clarify something mentioned in the article about the youth centre site and the Henley neighbourhood plan.

The youth centre was arbitrarily included in the plan in spite of the trustees writing to inform everyone the site had been sold before the plan was published. Why it is still mentioned as being “earmarked for 23 houses” four years later is beyond me. — Yours faithfully,

Clive Wilkinson

Chairman, Thamesfield Youth Association, Henley

Where are benches?

Sir, — The two good wooden benches outside the “top shops” in Greys Road, Henley, are no longer there.

I hope the town council was on the ball and has now got them. If so, where are they? — Yours faithfully,

Neil Parsley

Mount View Court, Henley

Undeserving developer

I have to say I expect better from my local paper than the headline “Developer lets rip at ‘snobbish’ residents for housing criticism” (Standard, May 3).

You’re essentially giving the developer a free parting shot at residents.

This was a very clear case of residents and all town councillors agreeing that a developer is trying to take the p*** out of the neighbourhood plan and build blocks of flats where he likes to make as much profit as he possibly can.

Councillors actually described his development as deceitful.

I think it’s fair to include quotes from the developer and his side but giving him the exposure you have as the focus of the article was unfair. You’re giving him more of a voice than residents.

The developer is putting profits before his own principles so he doesn’t lose money after a poor investment — that should have been your headline. — Yours faithfully,

Dan Sharp

Greys Road, Henley

Profiting at my expense

Sir, — Having read Carol Brown’s letter about the planning decision that turned her semi-detached home into a terrace (Standard, April 26), I thought I would write to express my exasperation with South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning department, which has approved another daft application for a two-storey extension 24 inches away from my detached property.

Just the footings alone will impact on mine and could cause my home to need underpinning. It does not need underpinning, which often leads to cracking. It will also devalue my property.

I have to ask why my neighbours should be able to increase the value of their property at the expense of mine?

Unfair planning decisions seem to take place all over the country. — Yours
faithfully,

Susan Summerland

Binfield Heath

Our oven’s gone funny

Sir, — The large-scale power failure in Henley last week seems to have left our house with an unwelcome legacy.

Before going to bed, we had a perfectly functioning, combined microwave and oven.

On awakening during that very dark night, I discovered a strange message in German and an error code on the display.

When I checked with the makers (Neff) in the morning, they said it was a very unusual code and not likely to show in normal usage.

The oven is out of warranty and likely to be very expensive to repair.

Circumstantially at least, it would appear to be linked to the power failure and I wonder if anyone else who was affected by the blackout suffered in any similar way.

Not surprisingly, my electricity supplier is denying any possibility of liability.

I have an engineer coming this week to examine and/or repair the appliance. — Yours faithfully,

Patrick Mulcahy

Milton Close, Henley

Disruptive, destructive

Sir, — A few weeks ago, I wrote that the Brexit ship was on the verge of sinking and heading for the rocks.

Well, the news is worse. The waters are infested with sharks. I refer, of course, to the re-emergence of Nigel Farage and the newly formed Brexit Party.

It is one thing to wish to leave the EU, and it is acceptable to campaign for that end, but to send Mr Farage and his mates as our representative politicians in the EU parliament is not acceptable.

What is the point of being a member of an organisation in order to cause disruption and destruction? Imagine how unpopular we would be with the other 27 countries in the EU and indeed the rest of the world.

Why would anyone want to do a good trade deal with us when we show such disrespect to our friends and neighbours? Mr Farage has misrepresented us for years and done immense damage with his xenophobic, Right-ing rhetoric.

The Brexit process is in disarray enough without this intervention.

There is no better way forward than to remain in the EU for the foreseeable future. You may not like what the EU has to offer, but it would be a grave mistake to interfere in its efforts to construct a united Europe of prosperity and peaceful existence.

The UK should be there helping to reform its shortcomings and forging the best trade deals.

Does anyone know of an effective shark repellent? — Yours faithfully,

Edward G Hallett

Longfield Road, Twyford

Now rethink Local Plan

Sir, — The outcome of the council elections in South Oxfordshire (and the Vale of the White Horse) is surely rather less to do with Brexit and more to do with the dissatisfaction of the residents of these two districts with the performance of their councillors.

For several years, South Oxfordshire District Council has worked with the other Oxfordshire councils to deliver the 100,000 new homes in the county required by the Oxfordshire Growth Board’s plans.

In so doing, the council has ignored the objections of residents and produced a new Local Plan that requires more than 25,000 new homes in South Oxfordshire, an area characterised by the nationally significant and protected landscapes of the Chilterns and North Wessex Downs Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The new Local Plan for South Oxfordshire is currently with the examiner.

It is several years late in reaching this stage following the last-minute realisation by the council (and despite the advice of local people at the scrutiny committee and cabinet) that the original plan was deeply flawed and unlikely to survive examination.

At a time when local authorities are under financial pressure, it is a pity that the council had to spend money on redoing the work.

But, perhaps, the new council will pay more attention to its council taxpayers who have so emphatically demonstrated their lack of support for past policies.

The delay will also give the council and its planning policy team the opportunity to withdraw the current plan and produce one that both protects the Oxfordshire countryside and environment and is more in tune with the wishes of the residents of Oxfordshire. Third time lucky perhaps? — Yours faithfully,

Dr Geoffrey Botting

Behoes Lane, Woodcote

Our little bit of heaven

Sir, — I am so proud of the people of Henley.

Thank you to all who voted for the Henley Residents Group on Thursday last week.

You trusted our candidates, all local and with a great track record of working for the good of the town.

Despite disillusionment with the national political chaos, you saw the value in voting for local independent candidates.

I am proud, too, of our HRG team. Each member contributed their talent, energy and commitment, producing an excellent campaign that I was so proud to be a part of. And it was great fun!

Over the next four years we aim to work with all groups for the benefit of Henley’s residents, economy and environment.

While our MPs squabble nationally, at least locally we can build our own little bit of heaven here in Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Gill Dodds

Leader, Henley Residents Group, Greys Road, Henley

Let’s work together

I congratulate all the new Henley councillors on their election, including Sarah Miller and Ian Reissmann who reached out to me in September when I was elected as chairman of Henley Conservatives to work together for the good of our town.

There is an opportunity for change with the new councillors from all sides to work together in an open, collaborative and safe environment.

I congratulate Conservatives Laurence Plant, Will Hamilton and Ian Clark on their election and applaud our great group of local candidates from diverse backgrounds who volunteered to stand. I know they will make great councillors in the future.

I’d also like to thank our loyal team of volunteers and members. Our membership has doubled in the last eight months, which is really encouraging. — Yours faithfully,

Daniel Bausor

Chairman, Henley Conservatives

Thanks for your votes

Sir, — I would like to thank all those in Henley and the parishes in the Woodcote and Rotherfield ward of South Oxfordshire District Council who voted for me in the local elections on May 2.

I am absolutely delighted to have been re-elected to both Henley Town Council and the district council.

Thank you for putting your faith in me and I look forward to serving you and working alongside my colleagues on both councils. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Lorraine Hillier

Henley Town Council and South Oxfordshire District Council, Park Corner, Nettlebed

Honoured to serve you

I would like to take this opportunity to express my thanks to the residents who voted for me at the local elections.

In the Sonning and Warren area, we have many issues to tackle and I look forward to taking these up on your behalf with Wokingham Borough Council.

I’ll start with more traffic speed measurement and will keep the changing traffic patterns under constant review.

It is an honour and privilege to represent the residents of Sonning and Warren ward with meetings starting as early as next week.

Whatever happens, I will always strive to do my best to represent you all. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Michael Firmager

Sonning and Warren ward, Wokingham Borough Council

Run closer to home

Sir, — Henley Rotary Club and the Rotary Club of Henley Bridge would like to congratulate all the residents in the Henley area who took part in the London Marathon.

Clearly from the coverage in the Henley Standard, local people raised a great deal of money for a variety of charities, both local, national and international. The hard work and training these runners undertook with the support of friends and family allowed many participants to achieve personal bests with brilliant times.

We would encourage all those who took part in the marathon and any aspiring runners to enter the Henley half marathon or the Henley Standard 10km, which will both take place on Sunday, October 13, starting at 9.30am from Henley Rugby Club in Marlow Road.

They raise a lot of money for local charities, so we would encourage as many runners as possible to take part.

For more information, visit www.henleyhalfmarathon.org — Yours faithfully,

Annie Lathaen

On behalf of the Rotary clubs of Henley

Thank you for support

Sir, — The Henley Stroke Club wants to express its gratitude to the organisers of the Henley May Fayre for the wonderful support they gave us at this year’s event.

Sarah Miller and her team were so helpful. Without them and the generous donation of bottles for the tombola and the many books people gave us for our stall, the club would not have had such a successful day.

Thank you to everyone. — Yours faithfully,

Henley Stroke Club

Hurrah for new clinic

Sir, —I would like to say a big thank-you to whoever successfully initiated the establishment of a local PICC clinic at Townlands Memorial Hospital.

For those of us undergoing treatment it will mean no more trips to Wallingford-and on a good day I can walk! — Yours faithfully.

Sandy Hale

Deanacre, Henley

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