Tuesday, 02 June 2020

Your letters...

Change for the better

Sir, — I refer to the letter from Paul Farmer, of the company Limestone, who clearly is an historic bridge expert (Standard, March 13).

I am amazed that you keep publishing these negative letters when only last month all the local councils, including South Oxfordshire District Council, Wokingham Borough Council and Oxfordshire County Coucil, plus all the heritage agencies and, more importantly, the public were invited to a public meeting at Henley town hall when I fully explained how the proposed LED lights would be attached and demonstrated accordingly.

More importantly, the chief engineer at Oxfordshire County Council, who is responsible for bridge maintenance, was standing next to me and fully approved of the solution proposed — attaching LED rubber compound strips.

I gave him a sample of the silicon substance to test independently.

I understand he is fully behind the solution, along with the county council, which owns the bridge.

I would like to point out, before I gather up my easel and canvas to capture the bridge in all its glory (as recommended by Mr Farmer), perhaps he should note the images, which have been published several times over the last two years, clearly showing the damage to the underside of the arches.

Mr Farmer should be more concerned about the bridge collapsing rather then accusing me of defacing it.

I assure him that I am not doing another presentation so why are these people now popping out of the woodwork rather than coming to a public meeting and facing a panel of experts on something they feel very passionate about?

One of the committee members from London’s Illuminated River Project was at the meeting to answer all the technical questions, especially about limestone, that I couldn’t answer.

He, too, endorsed the fixing method. He also was very impressed with our simple attachment solution.

Is Mr Farmer aware that there are now 30 approved applications for all the London bridges (all of which are either Grade I and II listed), many limestone ham-stone and historic red brick constructions?

Four bridges are already completely finished and illuminated. Eleven are scheduled for this autumn and the balance next year. (All, I might add, are being financed by the Rothschild Foundation).

Mr Farmer should also be aware that there are now 2,745 people, mainly locals, who have signed the petition to keep the temporary lights.

Is he not aware that there are already floodlights at each of the four bases with old electrics and ironwork rusting away and taking big chunks off the limestone?

I presume when these were fitted in the Eighties or Nineties people were more ignorant of today’s historic needs.

Thankfully, today’s silicone substance is very effective, harmless and fully tested.

Mr Farmer should also be aware of the lights fitted 100 years ago (again, the image of this has been printed several times).

So this is not a unique concept and idea by some local dog portrait artist (frankly, when you print that I’m an artist it’s an insult to the real local artists like Bill Mundy and the Henley Art School).

So, Mr Farmer, don’t tell me to gather up my easel and canvas to capture the elegance of the bridge in all its glory... that will be done by thousands of visitors and locals who have and will use the internet to broadcast what a magnificent bridge we have when lit up.

Why don’t you come and visit Henley with all its festivals, restaurants, pubs and clubs and see the bridge lit up in all its glory because we are all so proud of our historic structure and want to show it to the world.

Finally, I have always said that in order to stay the same you have to change — you clearly don’t want to. We town folk need to adapt/change and be more innovative to get back the support and business for all the locals, especially in the current crisis.

It took two years for Henley Town Council to approve the concept. I hope it reacts more quickly to more important town issues in the future. — Yours faithfully,

Clive Hemsley

Hart Street, Henley

Store should set limits

Sir, — I have to say that I am stunned by Waitrose’s apparent lack of responsibility and accountability in the current maelstrom that we are all trying to manage.

Having been away for two weeks, I have spent the last two weeks popping in and out of the Henley store to try to pick up some toilet rolls.

Frustrated, I asked two assistants on Saturday whether or not “rationing” was being imposed only to be told “no”.

We live in a flat and cannot afford the luxury of stockpiling but why would we when the most any of us are likely to be incarcerated for is two weeks?

Surely most of us have sufficient to see us through this period?

I thought I would try to order online; how stupid! On Sunday the first slot available was Friday, March 27.

On Monday, I went in to get some basic everyday provisions to find no tinned vegetables of any description (including tomatoes) apart from one small tin of flageolet beans and one tin of butter beans.

Neither was there any ginger, nor much in the way of fresh vegetables. I didn’t bother checking out the pasta.

Bearing in mind the broad range of provisions no longer available, I can only imagine that all these greedy and selfish shoppers are preparing for their appearance on MasterChef.

In a sense of decency and concern for others, can you, Waitrose, limit people’s purchases, and you, the people creating this situation, step back and think about what you are doing? — Yours faithfully,

Veronica Carlton

Station Road, Henley

Shameful panic buying

Editor, — I have just been to Waitrose in Henley to buy the things I actually need only to witness a couple with a ridiculous quantity of shopping — very clearly panic buying. When I challenged them to ask if they needed all of the two full trolleys, she claimed it was her normal weekly shop.

I am angered and horrified that these people think this sort of hoarding is acceptable. They are depriving others who are in need and should be ashamed of themselves. — Yours faithfully,

Liz Hatch

Blandy Road, Henley

Not zombie apocalypse

Sir, — Having gone to buy some potatoes and bread, I have been greeted with empty shelves.

Would people please stop panic buying — this is not the zombie apocalypse! — Yours faithfully,

Mrs J Hadley

Leaver Road, Henley

Don’t panic, keep working

In China, where the coronavirus outbreak started, but now appears to be subsiding, the total death toll from covid-19 has been a little under 4,000 — this in a population of 1.5 billion.

There have been about the same number of deaths (4,000-ish) in the rest of the world combined (population seven billion).

France has instituted lockdown on the strength of 140 deaths, Boris’s measures are on the strength of 50-odd deaths. By contrast, the 2017 flu epidemic in England alone is reckoned to have caused 50,000 extra deaths.

To call this an epidemic is right but the above figures show it’s not a medical one.

This is turning into a catastrophic economic epidemic caused entirely by the over-reaction and incompetence of governments — first in China, then the rest of the world.

A letter from a retired doctor, quoted in the Daily Mail’s Richard Littlejohn column, says that in his day covid-19 would not even have been recognised, nothing would have been done and the tiny blip of extra deaths barely noted. World economies would have sailed on unaffected.

Boris should take with a pinch of salt the forecasts paraded by his two snake oil salesmen at those press conferences; experts in whatever field are notoriously fallible.

Instead, he should look at the figures I’ve just quoted and use his common sense.

Ignore as much as possible the panic east of Dover and keep Britain working. Everywhere. — Yours faithfully,

Rolf Richardson

Wootton Road, Henley,

Horror film for real....

Greetings from Amityville.

There’s something out there indiscriminately killing people...

The police chief says, “Everyone out of the water and close the beaches, now.”

The Mayor (for it is Boris) says, “take it easy, don’t create panic, think of the economy and the reputation of the place.”

He’s going to need a bigger vote. — Yours faithfully,

Peter R Burness-Smith

Elizabeth Road, Henley

Our heroes in a crisis

Sir, — Standing in the shower the other day, I did something I haven’t done before.

I wondered at how the water ran away with absolutely no effort from me. It always does it; it has done year after year.

Then I thought, wait a minute, what about the electricity and the gas and the fresh water that comes from the tap? On and on they go and I do nothing. But somebody somewhere is doing something in the background reliably, tirelessly.

And now many of us are self-isolating, locked down against the virus and yet out there men and women are running the system for us, millions of people pressing on in business and industry running the infrastructure and services we all need in these difficult times.

British people are resourceful and clever and although there will be hardships and, for some tragedy, we will get through this.

So, chin up and spare a thought for, and be grateful to, these everyday heroes. — Yours faithfully,

Phil Perry

Elizabeth Road, Henley

We’re here to help

Sir, — According to expert reports, most people who contract covid-19 will suffer nothing more serious than mild ‘flu-like symptoms — and children may not even notice that they are unwell. But in the case of the elderly or infirm, it can be more serious.

Therefore, in order to avoid passing on the infection, many of us may need to self-isolate.

Self-isolation can pose difficulties for supplies of fresh food and other services. It becomes especially problematic for medical help.

We ask all our parishioners in Remenham to keep a look out for neighbours who might be vulnerable, especially if they are elderly or infirm.

Should anyone require assistance, Remenham Parish Council and volunteers have offered to help.

Their contact details are on the parish website, www.remenhamparish.org.uk or please email hello@remenhamparish.org.uk or clerk4Rempc@gmail.com (make sure that you leave your name and address), or contact me.

For more information about covid-19, visit https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19

Remember to follow the advice given by official NHS channels — and stay well. — Yours faithfully,

John Halsall

Chairman, Remenham Parish Council

We’re all in this together

Sir, — I am grateful to Ann Ducker, who pointed out the serious factual errors in the letter from Philip Collings regarding Henley Town Council’s declaration of a climate emergency (Standard, March 13).

I do agree with Philip on the need for common sense and not allowing a deluded minority to control public policy. Where I differ with him is regarding the facts of the case.

The overwhelming majority of scientists agree that quick and drastic reduction in CO2 emissions is the only hope we have to avoid the severe consequences of global warming and the consequent economic and social collapse that Philip rightly fears.

A key message from the council, together with the actions that will flow from declaring the emergency, is how we are all in this emergency together.

Yes, the council, Henley residents and even the UK as whole can only play a part in addressing this global emergency. We each have to take responsibility in the global response.

The covid-19 crisis is already showing how well Henley people are coming together to support each other.

I have every hope that this will be shown yet more in the years ahead as we come together to address the longer term crisis of climate change. — Yours faithfully,

Ed Atkinson

Queen Street, Henley

Concluding conundrum

Sir, — I have to presume that last week you published the two most trenchant responses to my last missive.

They left me feeling, to quote Denis Healey, that I had been “savaged by a dead sheep”.

Ann Ducker is, of course, correct in spotting my error in the CO2 percentage but even at 0.04 per cent it remains a trace gas whose influence on temperature has been well known for 125 years so its rise is hardly an emergency.

Tim Dickson once again imputes to me views that I do not hold — the climate has always changed and will continue to do so forever with a huge bias towards giving the earth regular ice ages.

Now that we have a genuine emergency to deal with, I think I can sign off on the climate topic by posing the following conundrum to your readers:

It is that if I buy logs to burn in my fireplace I am clearly guilty of emitting CO2 into the atmosphere.

But if, encouraged by the climate change committee, I become the management of the Drax power station or of a “biomass fuel supplier”, I then get huge taxpayer subsidies to help me to pay companies in America and Canada to clear thousands of acres of old growth woods and transport that timber, by lorry, to a fossil fuel powered factory where it is ground up, dried and compressed into pellets.

Those pellets are then taken to and loaded into ships powered by filthy heavy fuel oil, to be shipped to a UK port and then transported by rail to furnaces where, by a miracle worthy of the alchemists of old, the huge amount of CO2 released by burning them is not real CO2 and therefore doesn’t count towards the UK’s CO2 emissions.

That CO2 is somehow “renewable” because it is assumed that all the trees that were cleared to make the pellets burnt today have instantly and miraculously regrown to absorb that CO2, thereby creating new forests in which pigs can happily flit from tree to tree.

This biomass fraud is a sleight of hand that is costing us all billions of pounds. Who can explain why it is allowed? — Yours faithfully,

Philip Collings

Peppard Common

Same name but different

Sir, — As one of the trustees of the John Hodges Trust (charity No 304313), which featured in your March 6 issue and prompted a letter last week from Odette Moss, of Harpsden, I would like to clarify that there are two quite separate charities.

There is our own, which works in Henley, and the John Hodges’ Trust for Harpsden Hall (Charity No 304312). The confusion is understandable but while we share the same philanthropic founder, we have nothing else in common, neither assets, activities nor sphere of operation.

It will no doubt respond for themselves but my understanding is that our sister charity continues to flourish and benefit the Harpsden community as it has done for many years. — Yours faithfully,

Richard Fletcher

Wargrave Road, Henley

Trust active and thriving

Sir, — I write in response to Odette Moss’s letter headlined “Where has trust gone?” (Standard, March 13th) about the John Hodges’ Trust.

I would like to clarify any confusion caused by the fact that there are two local trusts often referred to as the “John Hodges Trust”: the John Hodges Charitable Trust in Henley and the John Hodges’ Trust for Harpsden Hall.

The former gives grants to people in need who live in the parish of St Mary the Virgin, Henley, and the surrounding area, while the latter provides and maintains Harpsden village hall, three cottages, the football and cricket grounds in Harpsden and also makes donations to people in need who live in Harpsden parish and its surrounding neighbourhood.

I am chairman of the latter and am pleased to report that it is as active as it has been for many decades and indeed is thriving.

Harpsden village hall plays a pivotal role at the heart of the local community in Harpsden. It is used for charity functions, including the Harpsden village fete, and for a wide range of activities such as, among others, Harpsden Pre-School, the 1st and 3rd Henley brownie packs, Little Kickers, the Berkshire and Henley School of Dance, Harpsden WI, the Henley Players and the snooker club.

The hall is a popular choice of venue for wedding receptions, christenings, anniversary parties and birthday parties for adults and children alike.

The mobile library used to visit the hall on a fortnightly basis but, due to budget cuts and a lack of local support, sadly this facility ceased about three years ago.

Plans by Harpsden Parish Council are underway, however, to convert the phone box in the hall car park into a book exchange, as other parishes have done.

The three playing fields remain actively used by local inhabitants, Harpsden Cricket Club, AFC Henley and Henley Golf Club. The football field, the cricket field and the field beside the hall are all excellent facilities and are enabling the kind of activities we believe John Hodges would have wanted — he was a big supporter of both organised team sports and general recreation.

The relief of financial hardship remains a focus of activity with donations to the local community and the trust always welcomes applications from other good causes in the parish and its surrounds.

Donations have been made to a wide range of causes, ranging from the support of a parish nurse through to mindfulness courses at Gillotts School.

For such applications, please, in the first instance contact the clerk to the trustees by email at trust@harpsdenhall.org.uk

The trust publishes an annual report, holds an annual meeting and keeps the local community up to date through notices and, in particular, its website.

For more information about the John Hodges’ Trust for Harpsden Hall do please visit our website, www.harpsdenhall.org.uk — Yours faithfully,

Richard Wilson

Chairman, John Hodges’ Trust for Harpsden Hall

Disgraceful state of roads

Sir, — Is it just me or are the roads and pavements in and around Henley (and, to be frank, throughout South Oxfordshire) an absolute disgrace?

They seem to be falling into ever greater disrepair and are a danger waiting for serious injury (or worse) to happen.

To list just a few (but not exhaustive) in Henley: Reading Road, Elizabeth Road, Valley Road, St Andrew’s Road, King’s Road, Greys Road and the town centre (Hart Street, New Street and Riverside).

Driving has become a daily game of dodge the pothole, surface subsidence, and, surprise, surprise, yet another substandard and shoddy repair.

Even the newly resurfaced Gravel Hill is already showing signs of surface disintegration, subsidence and dangerous, sunken or misaligned ironworks.

Pavements are just as bad with constant trip hazards, holes, ridges and collapsing kerbs. They are literally falling apart. The horrendous and dangerous state of repair of our roads and pavements is a national disgrace and national/local government needs to do something before people are seriously injured. — Yours faithfully,

Ian Pearson

Deanfield Road, Henley

Better way to spend money

I read with interest that South Oxfordshire District Council wants to merge with Vale of White Horse District Council (Standard, March 6).

That’s a great idea. When the council’s offices were burned down it cost £20 million damage so instead of building news offices that look like a prison they should build a new care home for the elderly and a new hospice for the terminally ill as Sue Ryder Nettlebed is closing at the end of this month.

Also build staff accommodation, a doctors’ surgery, dental surgery, shop with a post office and a chemist plus free parking for visitors.

It would be a 30-minute drive for visitors to see their family.

The district council should run the homes, not a private company.

They should also have units so the monthly sales in aid of the hospice can continue. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Ian Clark

Henley Town Council, Cromwell Road, Henley

Please give us proof

Sir, — Geraldine Radley encourages us to talk to God about our problems and asserts “He will do more than we can... even think” (Standard, March 13).

However, she does not wish to consider letters that disagree with her as she has “already proven the case”.

This is a revelation. As an atheist, I should be delighted to have my lack of belief corrected if it is demonstrably wrong.

Mrs Radley certainly has the moral if not the spiritual duty to spell out the details of her proof for the benefit of us all.

I look forward to her letter. — Yours faithfully,

Douglas Kedge

Lea Road, Sonning Common

Watch out for adders

Sir, — You carried a front page article on a dog apparently poisoned during a recent visit to Gillotts Corner Field, which is in Harpsden parish (Standard, March 3).

Few people seem to be aware that adders may be present in the parish and perhaps in the wider locality too.

Two years ago, at this time of year, we lost a ewe (75kg) to a strongly suspected snake bite in a field where adders had been seen previously.

I have no information that supports their presence in Gillott’s Field but I have heard that the numbers of this snake have increased in recent years.

The site where we have evidence of them is some 850m from Gillotts field.

As this field is much used by dog walkers and others, some caution is needed, especially in springtime when the snakes are freshly out of hibernation and relatively slow moving. — Yours faithfully,

A R Austin

Harpsden Bottom

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