Monday, 28 September 2020

Your letters...

Damaging vehicles

Sir, — I am writing to highlight the damage being caused to the houses and road surface in New Street, Henley, by the large numbers of heavy goods vehicles thundering along it (Standard, July 24).

My house is more than 200 years old and is a relatively youthful property compared with some more than twice its age in the street.

None was designed to endure the dangerous shaking received every day from vehicles which are completely inappropriate for the road.

The lorry drivers have enormous difficulty negotiating the corner to enter New Street before building up speed on the uneven surface of the road, worsened by each heavy load that passes along the road, before applying the brakes for the right-angled turn at the riverside.

Finally, they occupy both lanes at the turn on to the bridge in order to negotiate the left turn.

Inside the house we are able to feel each large lorry going past the front door. Ornaments shake and a painting has fallen off the wall in the past.

I have noticed that several companies’ vehicles have a regular run and use New Street at specific times of day.

Manor Mix Concrete lorries pass at around 7.15am, shaking the building, and after crossing the bridge, lumber up White Hill at a snail’s pace due to their heavy load.

They seem to be on their way to the M4 roadworks but it would possible for the lorries to travel from Peppard Common to the M4 via Reading on much more appropriate roads.

If, as seems inevitable, the structure of the road surface in New Street collapses into the sewers and the stream beneath the road, these lorries would find a way to get to their destinations without coming through Henley.

Would it not be more sensible to try to prevent the collapse of the infrastructure of the whole town by banning heavy lorries from the delicate old streets and bridge of our beautiful town before such a major event paralyses the whole place? — Yours faithfully,

Jeremy Wheeler

New Street, Henley

I’d welcome lorry limit

Editor, — Being a resident of a period cottage in Henley, I would like to add my voice in support of introducing a weight limit for HGV traffic entering the town.

There is so much noise each day that filters through my walls and double-glazed windows, which directly impacts our lives and quite often my building shakes.

I implore the town, district and county councils to give the necessary consideration required to an HGV weight limit. — Yours faithfully,

Hilary Evans

New Street, Henley

Residents ignored

Sir, — I was very interested to read your article about heavy goods vehicles in Henley (Standard, July 17).

The HGV traffic has increased greatly over the last few years but residents’ complaints are regularly ignored.

Thankfully, Amanda Chumas has decided to take a more proactive line with Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority.

Her suggestion of a 7.5-tonne weight limit is a good one and honesty over the cost of imposing such a restriction is to be commended.

Personally, I think the benefit of less pollution in the town centre far outweighs the initial cost. — Yours faithfully,

Dorothy Simmons

Northfield End, Henley

This time we need action

Sir, — The issue of rat-running by UK and European heavy goods vehicle drivers is well known not only to those Henley residents who live along the main roads in and out of the town but also to our MP John Howell, to Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, and to Henley Town Council.

In fact, 13 years ago, when Boris Johnson was our MP, my wife and I had a meeting with him, following which he contacted the town council and he wrote to Peter Ronald, the then area traffic engineer and David Nimmo-Smith, then a town councillor.

I’m looking at his letter as I write and can see that back then, in 2007, we were fobbed off by Mr Ronald with the excuses that New Street is an A road, that speed restrictions would not work and re-routing and time-of-day restrictions were not options.

The comfort that he provided was laughable, saying that the county and town councils had “made contact with haulage contractors to try to direct traffic”.

Present experience demonstrates the ineffectiveness of that solution.

Things have to change. Henley is a small historic market town whose atmosphere and safety is being blighted daily from 4am or 5am by the extreme noise and vibration caused by rat-running HGVs.

Apparently, there’s a monetary cost to implementing the measures required to curtail rat-running — do we really have to wait until there’s a serious accident before action is taken?

It’s time for Henley Town Council to rally round and raise the finance required in order to support the curtailment of rat-running HGVs above 7.5 tonnes that have no business in the town. — Yours faithfully,

G R Goodwin

New Street, Henley

We’re shaken day and night

We live in Hart Street, Henley, and encounter the same daily problems with heavy goods vehicles as those Bell Street residents — noise, pollution, foundation shaking, vibration and speed.

Having just completed an exterior decoration of my house, during which considerable surface cracking needed to be fixed, I can now look at white walls — such an improvement over the grime which had settled over the past couple of years.

In Hart Street, much of the pollution comes from stationary HGVs waiting for the traffic lights to change. The effect on pedestrians and those willing to sit outside Berries Café with their coffee cannot be healthy.

Much of the noise problem is caused by HGVs accelerating to catch a green light and violently braking if the light turns red. If the trailer on the lorry is not loaded, the wheels lock and it bounces along the road surface.

The pursuit of a green light also causes excess speed — is there any enforcement of the new 20mph speed limit?

Driving west on Hart Street, drivers catch sight of the Bell Street lights from a considerable distance and, on seeing green, speed up.

An inexpensive move would be to offset the lights with a simple grille so that they become visible only when drivers reach Barclays Bank — it works elsewhere.

For us, the major concern is the effect of HGVs on our building. We are shaken day and night.

Pictures fall from walls and never remain level. Doors cease to fit into doorframes. Napkin rings roll down the slope of our dining table.

According to the Grade II listing description, our house was built when the biggest problem was the arrival of the stagecoach at the Old White Hart next door.

As former residents of San Francisco, including during the earthquake of 1989, we are subliminally tuned to earth movements and our first thoughts on being awakened at 5am by an HGV storming through town is to get under a door frame and search for our survival kit!

It would be interesting to know if St Mary’s Church suffers from this. Damage to this iconic building would certainly focus the minds of the appropriate local government authorities.

Please can we have some joined-up local government action on this? — Yours faithfully,

John Louth

Hart Street, Henley

Where’s the thinking?

With a possible local HGV ban, it looks like politicians and opinion formers are joined together in an unholy alliance for an Independent Republic of Henley-on-Thames. When will they ever learn that when it comes to traffic, one community’s gain is another community’s pain?

Amateur traffic pundits will endlessly postulate which routes these diverted HGVs will use to get to their final destination but there is little doubt that Henley’s neighbouring parishes will suffer as a result.

Village roads, which were never designed for and are ill-suited to heavy traffic demands, will see lorries thundering threateningly and scarily along, having a real impact on the long-term viability of village life.

What this whole episode shows is how little joined up thinking and lack of partnership working there is between Henley Town Council and local parish councils.

Our man with three local government hats, Stefan Gawyrsiak, should be trying to establish a working relationship but I am afraid that each of his hats has only a “Make Henley great again” message.

Is it an example of that old mantra, “You can take the councillor out of Henley, but you can’t take Henley out of the councillor”?

Where then is the pragmatism to solve the Henley HGV problem? Everybody can agree the problem — unsuitable trunk roads established in a tight medieval town, poor air quality, which is traffic-based and a threat to human life, and the damage through vibration to historic buildings leading to the long-term loss of property value.

I would suggest reconstituting the old transport strategy group which has not met for over a year.

It should be led by Henley Town Council with a strong parish presence and with representatives of Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, South Oxfordshire District Council and other useful agencies such as the police.

Such a group ought to be able to develop a joint way forward and then talk to HGV contractors to produce a voluntary and consensual agreement for action, avoiding Henley if it is not their destination.

If this plan had been followed perhaps it would not have been necessary to produce a Henley transport survey, at a cost of £100,000, which so far has produced nothing in the public domain and without any input from neighbouring South Oxfordshire parishes.

In conclusion, “beer and sandwich meetings” at Henley town hall will achieve more than “Trump-like” executive bans taken by narrow town interest groups aided by vote-seeking politicians and costing six-figure sums which taxpayers cannot afford. — Yours faithfully,

Barry Wood

Stoke Row Road, Peppard

Expensive roadworks

A total of £100,000 is to be spent on improvements to Gillotts Lane, Henley, to stop it being used as a “rat run” from Highlands Park.

This is a complete waste of taxpayers’ money.

I believe they should make it a one-way system up from the village and spend £3,000 on clear road signs.

This would leave much-needed funds to be spent on the urgent repairs to potholes located all around Henley, to the benefit of all residents. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Ian Clark

Henley Town Council, Cromwell Road, Henley

Ask us what we think

I have read about all these development sites in Henley and Shiplake and think we should hold a public consultation with the residents of Henley.

Why have we not had a consultation over the sale of council land at Jubilee Park and pieces of land off Fair Mile?

The town council, which is run by Henley Residents Group, does not listen to what the people of Henley want and do not want.

All they are interested in is the money spread. — Yours faithfully,

J Fraser

Henley

Johnson has lost his way...

Editor, — I would like to suggest that Henley Town Council erects a world-beating statue of Boris Johnson to celebrate his first year in charge of the Conservative, Disunity and Division Party. Henley, after all, was the setting for Johnson’s most worthwhile achievements as a politician — remember he used to start the bonfire at the rugby club as a local MP?

It is possible that we could get direct funding for the statue under the recently announced national infrastructure and construction procurement pipeline.

We may just need to place the contract with a company owned by a Tory donor. Failing that, I am sure any local investment would be recouped many times over in the next few years through favourable grants to a town displaying such loyalty.

It may also succeed in putting Henley on the Russian tourist trail — after all, Henley is conveniently between London and Salisbury.

The statue could also be accompanied by a smaller, insignificant statue of our current MP, John Howell. Maybe he could be shown kneeling at the feet of Johnson?

May I go further and suggest that Red Lion Lawn would be a great site for the statue? It would be close to a bridge and the statue could be positioned to appear to leer at the mermaid.

At some time in the future — possibly when the Conservative Party regains its ethical and moral compass — we might be rid of Johnson and his alt-right cabal.

When that happy day dawns we wouldn’t have too far to drag the statue to its final resting place in the river. — Yours faithfully,

Ralph Hickman

Elizabeth Road, Henley

...and is out of control

Sir, — At last the Russian report comes out, albeit dwelling on interference around covid-19 when we know it’s to do with interference in the 2016 EU referendum and the 2019 general election results.

It has been suggested that a blind eye was being turned regarding interference and that senior figures in the Government had been receiving donations.

Before John Howell replies that Labour could also be blamed, that is not the point — any Government should be accountable.

The very serious incident in Salisbury shows how easily the UK can be targeted and this could so easily have happened in Henley, Thame or Oxford.

It’s disgusting that any party would sink so low to acquire donations to win an election before thinking of the safety of this country. Can Mr Howell confirm that he had no knowledge of this?

On the subject of the NHS, why did Mr Howell vote against the amendments to the Trade Bill?

MPs had the opportunity to back two key amendments that would have helped keep our NHS safe. This would have protected the NHS and publicly funded health and care services from any form of control from outside the UK.

Why did he vote against giving MPs and peers a say on any new agreement signed by the Government? Now we all have no say on future deals.

A no deal Brexit is now on the cards. How does Mr Howell feel about this? He wanted to remain in the EU, so how can he possibly go along with this madness?

I want Boris Johnson to resign as Prime Minister. It is plain to see he is not in control of this country. — Yours faithfully,

Ailsa Reynolds

Crays Pond

Too much consumption

Sir, — I would like to thank M Reid of Shiplake for his recent correspondence in the Henley Standard. It certainly has given me a lot to think about and generated conversations in our household.

I have watched Michael Moore’s film The Planet of the Humans. It is a very powerful film.

I would agree with M Reid that some very wealthy and powerful people are backing renewable energy but equally powerful and wealthy people are backing fossil fuels and sometimes they are the same people.

The human condition is such that there will always be people led by greed for riches and power but, fortunately, there are many others working for the good of mankind, not led by the need for extreme wealth and power.

I would recommend that M Reid takes a look at the Post Carbon Institute’s online course called Think Resilience.

It is a series of very short lectures by Richard Heinberg (the journalist in The Planet of the Humans described as “one of the good guys”.) This course is one of the best things I have done during lockdown.

I don’t believe it is Extinction Rebellion’s intention to scare children but it is their intention to make people sit up, take notice and do something.

Understandably, not everyone is comfortable with publicly demonstrating for change. However, if people really care about our world and all that live on it, they will want change and there are plenty of things we can all do to bring that about.

And this is the point — and the crucial point I took from Moore’s film.

It is man’s over-consumption that is crippling our planet. We cannot expect to continue to live in the way we have been doing, consuming the world’s finite resources, destroying our natural environment and creating huge problems with our waste.

This craziness can’t continue where half the world lives in luxury, buying over-packaged things that we don’t value and readily discard for new things, and the other half is living in extreme poverty without access to basic human needs, clean water, food, medical care and good housing.

What we need is to live the best life we can where everyone is treated fairly and all living things are respected. — Yours faithfully,

Diana Barnett

St Katherine’s Road, Henley

So who are the experts?

Sir, — Jim Neale’s argument that I cannot criticise celebrities who pontificate about climate change but at the same time express my own views in the Henley Standard (Standard, July 10) is disingenuous.

I object to them using their celebrity status to widely influence people, quoting science that they clearly know little about.

However, it doesn’t take a climate scientist to know what the scientific method is or how to read a graph or that if, decade after decade, predictions made by computer models are false, then the theory must be wrong.

Unfortunately, these predictions are already influencing government policy, leading to the bankrupting of the country and despoiling the environment.

I do understand the physics of the interaction between the trace gas CO2 and infrared radiation from the sun. CO2 only absorbs radiation of specific wavelengths.

There is now sufficient CO2 in the atmosphere to absorb almost all of those wavelengths. Even doubling that amount will make little difference to the temperature of the earth; the sun won’t be sending more radiation just because we have more CO2.

However, it should be noted that extra CO2 makes a great difference to our ability to grow food and to reduce the amount of water we need to grow it.

I became interested in alleged anthropogenic global warming (AGW) — i.e. manmade global warming — 12 years ago and have studied it ever since, evaluating the data and quality of both sides of the argument.

I spent my working life in research laboratories, working with scientists and engineers, many from NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory, and later with high energy physicists.

A few years ago, 30 Apollo astronauts and scientists sent an open letter to the head of NASA in protest at what climate alarmism had turned NASA into.

Furthermore, there are now 30,000 American scientists and engineers who signed a petition repudiating the AGW scam.

As for the oft-quoted 97 per cent of scientists supporting AGW, that was based on a thoroughly rebutted paper, where if you look at the data (no scientific training required), you will see the real figure for scientists who explicitly support AGW is 0.54 per cent. But if a lie is said often enough it gets repeated round the world.

However, that does not matter as, despite what Extinction Rebellion says, science is never settled, nor is it democratic.

As Richard Feynman, one of the greatest scientists and the greatest science communicator of the last century said: “If you thought that science was certain — well, that is just an error on your part.”

Unfortunately, computer models suffer from GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out). They are programmed by human beings with their own preconceived idea of the sort of answer they want.

It is mainly the disputed theory of positive feedback. Models work fine at designing aeroplanes but are then tested in real life.

Peer review is not what it was (and is now often referred to as pal review), particularly in the climate science community.

Papers supporting AGW, invariably based on computer models, are often leaked to the press before publication with startling banner headlines. Even if they then fail peer review and are withdrawn, the damage has been done.

However, academics publishing papers that are critical of climate alarmism can find their papers rejected, or worse, if published, end up being fired from their job.

Regarding Michael Moore’s documentary, using Mr Neale’s argument, no film would ever be made unless the producer was an expert on the film’s subject. I proffered it as something to watch, not as a citation. — Yours faithfully,

M Reid

Shiplake

Tolerance has to be earned

I would like to take issue with Charles Calderbank regarding his support for travellers (Standard, July 17).

I, too, believe these people have a right to roam and that not enough sites are provided for their lifestyle.

However, I think it is sometimes the appalling behaviour of some travellers which makes them unwelcome and disliked.

It was reported that during the recent stopovers, a private swimming pool was invaded and human excreta was found on the sites they had used.

But the biggest problem is the discarded rubbish left on every site they inhabit which has to be cleared away at great expense to taxpayers.

We, as a nation, have proved during the recent pandemic that we are kind and generous towards people who need help.

I believe that if the travelling community behaved decently we would treat them with more sympathy and tolerance. — Yours faithfully,

JM

Henley

Driver was intolerant

Sir, — Is it my imagination or are some people more impatient, for want of a better word, since the easing of the lockdown?

I have encountered several instances where people could have handled situations better. The latest was a driver who overtook me on a country road before stopping in front of my car, getting out of his car and shouting, using the compulsory “F” word, because I was driving near the centre of the road to avoid potholes along the sides.

On getting back in his car, he put two fingers up before speeding off, allowing two cars coming the other way, who had been made to stop, to drive off.

Surely things are difficult enough just now and we should all make an effort to be kind and considerate to one another. — Yours faithfully,

Diana Jackson

Ipsden

Can’t punish all cyclists

Sir, — As a result of one obnoxious cyclist assaulting a pedestrian, a generation of Henley children is now deprived of the safety and pleasure of cycling through Mill Meadows.

At a time when parents must be finding it difficult to cope with lively youngsters, it seems particularly unreasonable of the town council to respond to one incident by banning all from enjoying this amenity. — Yours faithfully,

Sue Jenkins

Mill Road, Lower Shiplake

Cycle path not possible

Sir, — Mike Cawthra writes optimistically about using the space next to the railway line to create a cycle path from Henley to Shiplake and possibly even further (Standard, July 24).

This option, together with alternatives, has been explored at length many times in recent years and, sadly, has proved to be unworkable.

The reasons are too lengthy to explain here but full details can be found in the draft Shiplake neighbourhood plan, available on the village website. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor David Bartholomew

Oxfordshire County Council (Sonning Common division)

Can’t stop noise, Geoff

Sir, — Geoff Weir objects to light aircraft stunt-flying over the area and his immediate and intolerant reaction is to call for them be banned (Standard, July 24).

Talk about a first world problem!

Personally, I rather enjoy watching them and often get the binoculars out for a better look.

Does Mr Weir also object to noisy children, whining hover mowers, petrol-driven lawnmowers, strimmers, and hedge-cutters as they can affect many people in surrounding gardens and often for longer than an aircraft stunt flying overhead?

Does he want to ban them as well?

And what about traffic noise? Now the lockdown is all but over, I am sure the peace and quiet of Whitchurch high street is spoilt by resumed traffic noise so would he also like to ban the traffic?

Perhaps he should invest in a pair of noise cancelling headphones as they work very well these days. — Yours faithfully,

Garry Forster

Goring Heath

We still need more money

Editor, — A few months ago, we were forced to launch an emergency fundraising appeal in order to ensure that the Sue Ryder palliative care hub South Oxfordshire could continue to provide the expert and compassionate palliative care we are so proud of.

The coronavirus pandemic is having a huge impact on us.

All our shops closed overnight and our fundraising activities had to stop immediately.

This resulted in a deeply concerning drop in income and for the very first time our future was in doubt.

We received the most wonderful response to our emergency appeal from the people of South Oxfordshire who have so far raised more than £107,000 for us.

I would like to take this opportunity to say a heartfelt thank you to you and your readers from all of us at Sue Ryder.

We are so very grateful for the support you have all shown us.

Unfortunately, our struggle is not yet over. Our fundraising events remain cancelled for the rest of this year and we have no clear indication of how long it will take for our shops to return to normal trading levels.

We also continue to incur the additional cost of purchasing personal protective equipment for our doctors and nurses.

As the Prime Minister recently announced, £3 billion is being made available in order to support health services in the UK but this will not include hospices.

This means that, even if we are able to avoid a second wave of this dreadful virus, by winter the Sue Ryder palliative care hub South Oxfordshire will be struggling again financially.

We are anticipating a funding gap of £1.6milion for the rest of this financial year alone, which is why we still so desperately need the support of our local community.

Your readers can donate via our website at www.sueryder.org/donate 

We know that times are tough for everybody at the moment, so please be reassured that every bit of money really does help. — Yours faithfully,

Maria Turnbull

Director, Sue Ryder palliative care hub South Oxfordshire, Nettlebed

Memories of theatre

Sir, — I would like to give a mention to the Kenton Theatre.

I worked there in the Forties and while so many years have gone by and the theatre is so different now, it is still part of Henley.

I loved working there and met some nice people. Let’s hope it will always be part of Henley. — yours faithfully,

Mrs Austin

Hambleden

Granddad’s mementos

Editor, — It was with great interest that I read the article on the roof repairs at Stonor Park (Standard, July 10).

My mother’s family came from Stonor and she still receives a copy of the Standard regularly.

My grandfather George Shirfield was an estate worker on the Stonor estate for many years and would have been involved in any work on the roof while he was employed there.

The article bought back some good memories of our time visiting him. I think I can also shed some light of the relics.

Not only did he regularly smoke Woodbine cigarettes but he also had a stomach problem. He was always known to have a bottle of Milk of Magnesia on hand.

Linking these doesn’t make it too hard to guess a highly likely source of what was left hidden up in the roof space.

Happy memories. — Yours faithully,

Anne Garnett

North Meadow Road, Cricklade, Wiltshire

How’s this for service?

Sir, — It does pay to buy locally.

We have always been very pleased to buy books from the Bell Bookshop in Henley and were amazed at the speed with which they obtained a birthday present for us last week.

The book we needed was a professional publication for architects, not available easily, if at all, online.

We had left it very late ordering it and needed it for a birthday present for one of our sons-in-law on Saturday July, 18.

The Bell Bookshop staff told us on the phone that the book we wanted was not available in the usual book trade warehousing system but that they would contact the publishers direct.

Ten minutes later they had ordered it and reported that it would arrive the following Tuesday or Wednesday .

Much to our pleasure it arrived on Saturday, July 18 and we took delivery at the shop door with no delays or complications.

Well done everyone at the bookshop. You are terrific. — Yours faithfully,

Anne and Edward Sandars

Church Street, Henley

Tennis fun in the rain

Sir, — On Monday morning, the sky was littered with dark rain clouds.

Undeterred, several members of Wargrave Tennis Club decided to ignore them and attempt to play some tennis at the club, as some coronavirus restrictions had already been lifted.

Players were suitably dressed for the inclement weather and one put a smile on our faces with her rainbow hat.

The moment the players got on court, so did the rain.

Happily, it was just a heavy shower that didn’t last long and soon everyone was enjoying hitting the tennis ball, sometimes all over the place as it was quite windy too.

Light rain came and went quite frequently but the players ignored it and the result was happy people, who enjoyed a couple of sets playing their favourite sport. — Yours faithfully,

Selina Avent

Crazies Hill 

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