Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Your letters...

Sorry for the seats upset

Sir, — I write to address the concerns raised regarding the benches at Fairmile Cemetery following your articles and the letters (Standard, August 28 and September 4).

Henley Town Council is responsible for the cemetery. This includes selling burial plots, arranging burials, approving memorials and maintaining the grounds and chapels.

We have a duty to make sure it is well looked after and is a pleasant and peaceful place for friends and families to remember those who’ve passed.

We have been aware that over the years commemorative benches have appeared in the cemetery.

While they were no doubt put there with the best intentions, many of them have been placed without consulting with the council.

This is important as we need to ensure the benches are of a good quality, well-maintained, insured against theft, damage and injury and are securely installed in a suitable location.

Over the past 20 years, almost 30 benches have appeared in the cemetery. Of those, six have been put on plots owned by other families, three are, sadly, broken and seven will likely need repairing in the near future.

Of the remainder, many have not been maintained since they were put in. Most of the benches have also not been fixed to the ground and earlier this year a bench was stolen.

Memorial benches should be an enduring, fitting tribute to the person’s memory and it is sad to see benches fall into disrepair, become unsafe or be stolen.

It can also be distressing for both families when a bench needs to be moved because it had been put on someone else’s grave.

It is clear that something needs to be done to ensure the benches that are there are safe to use, in a suitable place and that in future families work with the council to make sure any benches put in will be a lasting memorial that can be safely enjoyed by all visitors to the cemetery.

A new memorial bench and tree policy was adopted by the council earlier this year, ensuring we don’t have these issues arise in future.

However, the issue of the current benches remained.

Given the varying conditions of the benches, we felt it fairest that all families be treated equally.

As the majority of benches had been put in place without the council consent, we did not have contact details for the owners and so a notice was placed on each bench, giving three months’ notice to owners to remove it or to contact the council if they wished to discuss it.

While our intention was to keep the message clear and simple, in hindsight, the wording of the notice should have been better. We realise that it has caused distress to families, for which I am sorry.

Where families have called the town council, I’m pleased to say that our cemetery manager has dealt with each issue sensitively and sympathetically.

She has made it clear that we will review each bench on a case-by-case basis and where the bench is in a good condition we will work with them to try to keep it in the cemetery in an appropriate place.

Where the cemetery manager, parks manager and town clerk believe that a bench needs to be moved or removed, we will bring these recommendations to the recreation and amenities committee for the oversight and approval of councillors.

Where a bench is in a poor condition, families will be offered the opportunity to buy a replacement bench and the details of this are set out in our new memorial bench and tree policy.

Families may have a variety of options depending on their budget and what would be in keeping with the area and they only pay for the cost and installation of the bench plus a small amount to cover the council’s costs for maintaining and insuring the bench.

Memorial benches and trees are provided at cost and the council does not make any profit.

The council also does not make any profit from Fairmile Cemetery but rather is currently investing a large amount to improve it, with a project to renovate the two chapels and create a new columbarium for the benefit of the local community.

Throughout the project, our intentions have been to try to prevent sensitive and distressing issues from arising in the future.

However, we realise that in the process, it has caused worry and upset to the families. I am very sorry for this and hope that the families now have peace of mind, knowing that we will work with them to protect and respect the memories of their loved ones with lasting and fitting memorials. — Yours faithfully,

Sheridan Jacklin-Edward

Town clerk, Henley

Give us say on parking

Sir, — Has anyone at South Oxfordshire District Council asked why they’re not very popular in Henley?

They obviously enjoy the income they generate from our two car parks but what are they doing to address our parking challenge?

When I first came to Henley in the Seventies all residents benefited from free parking on weekdays up to 10am and after 4pm, which was acceptable and appreciated.

Why not revert back to free parking after 4pm?

Our shops are desperate for business and this extra time would enable residents to spend more time to shop, browse and have a coffee or tea etc.

As Nicola Robinson pointed out (Standard, August 28), the introduction of Sunday parking charges is definitely not wanted by visitors or residents.

Perhaps responsbility for these car parks should be transferred to Henley Town Council then we in our town could be involved in the planning for our own future parking needs and any spare money could be spent for the full benefit of the town.

Do we actually need to continue with three-tier government? We are probably over-governed.

Give Henley Town Council back more control of our future, I say. — Yours faithfully,

Bruce Brown

War Memorial Place, Henley

Please join XR protest

Sir, — Without drastic action, the earth’s temperature is currently on track to rise by 3C by the end of the century.

This might not sound like much but it would lead to catastrophic outcomes.

It would cause extreme weather events across the globe, forcing millions of people to leave their homes, generate more conflicts and even make more pandemics more likely. We are beginning to get a glimpse of what this might look like already: Bangladesh is underwater, the Arctic is burning and California’s devastating wildfires continue to spread.

The long-term health and economic consequences of the crisis will dwarf those of the coronavirus pandemic.

But the Government is ignoring the warnings of its own official committee on climate change.

This is why Extinction Rebellion has been protesting around the UK since September 1.

This is why we are also throwing our support behind the new Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, which calls for the climate crisis to be enshrined in law to accelerate the speed at which the UK has to act.

The committee on climate change says that the Government’s 2050 net zero target gives us just a “greater than 50 per cent” chance of limiting global heating to 1.5C if replicated across the world.

According to the UN, we will need to make “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” to keep below that threshold. The Bill presents a roadmap to achieve it.

We invite everyone in Henley and surrounds to join us tomorrow (Saturday) in Market Place, Henley, from 11am to noon for some peaceful protesting and then from 12.30pm to 2pm at the bandstand in Mill Meadows to listen to some short, informative talks about the crisis.

This will be a non-disruptive, educational event. Bring your friends, family and children.

Henley Town Council has already declared a climate emergency.

This is a great first step but we must ensure that on a local and national level we take action that meets the scale of the emergency we’re facing.

Together is the only way we’ll be strong enough to create the change that’s needed. — Yours faithfully,

Kate Oldridge

Extinction Rebellion, Henley

Wrong to kill badgers

The Government’s decision to begin killing badgers in Oxfordshire is unscientific, criminal and morally wrong.

Once the badgers have been trapped in cages they could be vaccinated against TB rather than shot.

Mark Hatt’s comment that “Farmers can sort out badgers quietly themselves, as they always used to,” (Standard, September 4) is unhelpful at the very least.

Working with environmentalists, scientists and progressive farmers must be the future for our natural environment.

Let’s consign sorting out wildlife with guns, snares, poison and traps to the history books and find a better way to live alongside the natural world. — Yours faithfully,

Angelina Jones

Greys Road, Henley

What’s EU on about?

Sir, — In a rare reminiscing moment, my Daddy told me he left Europe without an agreement via a beach in 1940.

He went back to Europe in 1944 via another beach, again without an agreement, and was welcomed with open arms.

What is the EU on about? — Yours faithfully,

Dirk Jones

Kennylands Road, Sonning Common

No need for HS2 at all

Sir, — I heard our Prime Minister trying to make a “green” case for going ahead with HS2 but unfortunately he has apparently not been appraised of the greenest case of all... simply not to build it.

Ask any half-competent engineer (Brunel would have done admirably, no offence intended) and he/she can tell him that an obvious future way to provide effective trunk route handling for most types of vehicular traffic is to have:

a)Robot-controlled vehicles using

b) “Green” power trains, which

c) Optimise the distance from all nearby vehicles.

They could all travel safely “together” at a relatively unvarying speed “en convoy” along suitably equipped motorways, thereby reaching their actual final destinations earlier than via almost any possible HS2-based (or other) alternative currently being considered.

The foregoing “more intelligent” solution type will almost certainly start to come to pass anyway within the next five years (prototypes are already under test) by which time the proposed HS2 mega-spend will seem like total lunacy and be a project decision looking for a scapegoat. I leave suggestions to your readers’ imaginations!

Put bluntly, today’s “smart motorways” will need to become a whole lot smarter and are extremely likely to do so.

Moreover, the upcoming changeover to electric and/or hydrogen-powered vehicles can then be taken proper advantage of. — Yours faithfully,

Jim Munro BSc (Elect Eng)

Blandy Road, Henley

Hurrah for businesses

I have to confess to making the most of the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

A pizza and a diet Coke on a Monday evening with my better half is a great way to start the week and it has helped Henley’s pubs and restaurants thrive.

As a former pub worker, I know only too well how hard independent venues have to work to stay afloat.

Regrettably, I note that a Henley Residents Group councillor took to the internet to attack this support for our local businesses.

I hope they may reconsider this approach as the town council does have a role to play in our town’s economic prosperity.

I, for one, applaud our local businesses and will do everything I can to help them. We are lucky to have such great places to eat and drink on our doorstep. Long may that continue. — Yours faithfully,

William Hall

West Street, Henley

Pub wasn’t shut all day

Sir, — I refer to your report about the Crown in Playhatch being closed after a customer tested positive for covid-19 (Standard, September 4).

The article stated that “The pub was closed throughout Thursday...”

This is factually incorrect; the pub was not closed throughout Thursday.

I know this to be the case because I have a friend who, in the company of several others, most definitely had lunch there on that Thursday. — Yours faithfully,

Neil Scott

Kennylands Road, Sonning Common

The editor responds: “Thank you for the correction. You are quite right, the pub was in fact closed only in the afternoon for a deep clean, not the whole day. My apologies to readers for the error.”

Early finish for school

Sir, — I was quite surprised to see that after so much time off school, Gillotts School in Henley is still finishing early on a Friday. Apparently this is for staff development. I would have thought that with the covid problem still being with us, the finishing time would be later.

I expect they will still be having half-term and inset days as well.

Funny old world, isn’t it? — Yours faithfully,

Mrs J Hadley

Leaver Road, Henley

What about awful film?

I found it very amusing that Ann Ducker wasted so many words in her criticism of the Regal Picturehouse cinema (Standard, September 4) while not actually using a single word to critique the film, Tenet, which was almost unwatchable.

I did, however, feel safe with the precautions the staff had in place. — Yours faithfully,

Richard Pinches

Marlow Road, Henley

Put policy into action

Sir, — The Regal's response to my letter setting out its covid policy made interesting reading.

However, it’s one thing to have an excellent policy and quite another to see it fully implemented. As yet, I have received no reply to my personal letter to the manager of the cinema. — Yours faithfully,

Ann Ducker

Gallowstree Common

Right royal knees-up

Sir, — On August 1, 1740 a masque was performed in the grounds of Cliveden against the backdrop of the River Thames.

This was the summer residence of the Prince of Wales, Frederick, and his beautiful young wife Princess Augusta.

The subject of the masque was Alfred, the king considered to be the first native to build a significant war fleet.

A political statement was being made and no expense was spared — professional actors, musicians and dancers. It lasted six hours.

The famed tenor Thomas Salway sang the closing number, Rule Britannia, which had been specifically composed and written for the occasion.

The event was such a success that it was repeated the next day, but this time it was interrupted by a terrific thunderstorm. Undeterred, everyone went inside the house and enthusiastically joined in the chorus when the last song was sung.

Sadly, that golden couple were never crowned as Frederick died before his father (George II) and it was their young son Prince George, who acceded to the throne as George III. — Yours faithfully,

Enid Light

Wargrave Road, Henley

Thanks for being there

Editor, — I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for including extra quiz pages and those lovely photographs from the public as well as a full page of Vincent Ruane’s Nature Notes and Rosemary Henderson’s photographs.

I know some of their walks so they really helped people like myself during the covid-19 lockdown, when we missed all the gardens, shows and wandering around garden centres as well as meeting our friends for a cup of tea and a chat.

Thank you. — Yours faithfully,

Sheila Walker

Kennylands Road, Sonning Common

Excellent newspaper

Sir, — During these difficult times. not once have we seen a mention of thanks for your excellent newspaper in keeping the community informed on what is relevant to us locally.

Our thanks to you and your staff for all the effort you take in our wellbeing. — Yours faithfully,

John Grout

Upton Close, Henley

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