Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Your letters...

Your letters...

Why we need ban on HGVs

I refer to Peter Symons’ letter (Standard, October 2) in which he stated that Henley should not pursue a weight limit of 7.5 tonnes to ban HGVs from using our town as a short cut across the river.

I am informed that Mr Symons has spent a good number of years working within the HGV industry and is an advocate for it. I believe, in the interests of fairness and balance, that he should have disclosed this fact.

Mr Symons bases his argument on the fact that there is no logical reason why HGVs would want to use our town as a short cut.

However, he does not live on the A4130, so I can only assume that he does not observe the HGVs that use it on a regular basis.

It is self-evident from witnessing the number that go straight through the town from White Hill, across the bridge, along Hart Street, through Bell Street, Northfield End and up the Fair Mile (or vice-versa) that these HGVs are only using our town as a means to cross the Thames.

Furthermore, those HGVs with foreign signage and/or number plates from far flung places are unlikely to be coming to town to service local businesses or those within a reasonable vicinity of Henley.

Indeed, on August 28, when the Camfaud crane lorry broke down at 8am, I personally photographed and spoke to several of the drivers of the HGVs that were brought to a standstill by the ensuing gridlock.

They confirmed that they were using our town to cross the river on their way to distant destinations.

Mr Symons also stated that in a meeting with Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak that Stefan had suggested “the powers that be realise Henley isn’t being used as a short cut for trucks”.

I have since spoken to Stefan, who agreed that he met with Mr Symons but that he did not say that.

I do agree with Mr Symons that all those who drive lorries, stack shelves and keep the vital wheels of our logistics system going — despite the adversities of the pandemic — are indeed heroes.

All I am asking is that HGVs, other than those coming here to service our town or immediate vicinity, should stay on the strategic road network (M4, A 404, M40, A34), which was built and designed to take these huge heavy vehicles.

They should not use Henley as a short cut to cross the Thames and in their wake endanger us by mounting pavements in order to negotiate our ancient narrow streets, causing vibration and damage to our homes and other listed buildings, disturbing our sleep and disgorging their air pollution within feet of pedestrians.

Mr Symons also said that because of the advent of Euro VI HGVs, that pollution should no longer be a concern. Unfortunately, the majority of HGVs that I see here are of the older and disproportionately polluting type.

I do agree with him that the problem of vibration and noise could be reduced by improving the road surface of the A4130 as it passes through Henley.

The present surface is in a shocking state. It is a patchwork of potholes that have been repaired or which are cracking open again. This factor undoubtedly contributes to the vibration and noise.

However, part of the reason for the poor state of the road surface is the fact that the sewer and water mains (and I believe other services) run down the centre of these roads and consequently they are dug up on a regular basis to fix problems or extend services.

This is then compounded by the excessively heavy (40-tonne) HGVs and fully loaded aggregates lorries that trundle over our roads day in day out, which in turn create potholes.

In other words it is a vicious circle and a one-off resurfacing will not offer a permanent solution.

In conclusion, I hope that Mr Symons will take comfort from the fact that the proposed 7.5-tonne weight limit would still allow HGVs access for the purpose of servicing the town or the immediate vicinity. It would prohibit those HGVs that are using our town as a means of crossing the Thames and nothing more.

It is important that we make a strong case to Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, under S1(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 for our need for a 7.5-tonne weight limit.

So, please, I would urge your readers to show their support for the campaign by either signing the petition that will be available in town from this weekend or the online version at www.change.org/p/oxfordshire-county-council-traffic-regulation-order-to-ban-hgvs-in-henley — Yours faithfully,

Amanda Chumas

Bell Street, Henley

Goodbye Henley

Sir, — I am alarmed by the amount of development either currently in progress, or planned, in the Henley area.

This will completely change the character and charm of the town forever.

Potential beneficiaries include landowners, who benefit not only from an uplift in the value of their land, from say £20,000 an acre to around £2million, but also have the opportunity to delay payment of capital gains tax.

Fine if you own the land, not so good if you don’t.

Which would you choose?

Other potential beneficiaries could include developers, architects, builders, estate agents and solicitors.

The Government is encouraging this.

Henley will be changed irrevocably. The four approach roads to the main junction will become even more congested, with large developments planned at Emmer Green, Shiplake, Greys Road and Fair Mile.

Another factor is the current ban on public meetings, which virtually silences any opposition.

It would be good if an overall image could be seen of how Henley would look in a few years’ time if all these developments come into being.

It is difficult to visualise the developments in their entirety rather than having the weekly drip, drip, drip of yet another planning application, as highlighted in the Henley Standard.

This, of course, cannot happen under current covid restrictions.

Maybe there could be a graphic representation of a 10-mile radius, showing the location, numbers and impact of the developments, with an invitation to any interested parties to write to the Henley Standard with their comments. — Yours faithfully,

William Fitzhugh

Caversham

Far too much development

Sir, — Your correspondent Dom Bertelli was quite right (Standard, October 9).

We have over-built everywhere — Highlands Park 163 homes, Fair Mile 72, Thames Farm 95 and Gillotts 85 — just to name a few. Roads? Schools? Parking? No, but at least we have coffees shops for everyone.

On a more micro level, take a look at what is happening in Greys Road near the One Stop shop.

A single house has been demolished to squeeze in three, each about two wheelie-bin widths apart and not at all in keeping with the neighbourhood. Pure greed.

The front page of last week’s Henley Standard infuriated me — Noble gesture, indeed. Okay, it was a pun on the owner’s name and she is thinking of affordable housing.

But it amounted to the same thing as the Gillotts issue — 60 more houses on a green space and stretching our town further out towards Harpsden and Shiplake.

The problem is, we may complain but we are ignored.

First, we were forced to agree to development in a referendum in which the choice was 500 houses or a worse plan.

Second, our councils can do very little. Henley Town Council might as well not exist, having had most of its power stripped away or limited.

South Oxfordshire District Council is not much better. It has blindly followed government guidelines and gets overruled even when it disagrees with a development plan (viz Thames Farm).

Our views do not count for anything. The aforementioned Greys Road development was opposed for having too many houses by neighbours, the Henley Society and the Henley Town Council.

Result: gavel of approval from the district council. (This is partly because councils have been ordered by Westminster to follow an if-in-doubt-approve-it policy.)

Time to kick up a fuss. — Yours faithfully,

Jeremy Gaunt

Greys Road, Henley

Please stop this sprawl

Sir, — I would like to endorse the sentiments expressed by Domenic Bertelli.

What is happening to our erstwhile Henley? The powers that be seem to see fit to ride roughshod over the wishes of the people who actually live here, regardless of bylaws and covenants.

We are fast becoming in an urban sprawl with beautiful areas like Drawback Hill a thing of the past.

Please stop before it is too late. — Yours faithfully,

Christine Wright

Fair Mile, Henley

School could start appeal

Sir, — I followed part of the recent town council meeting that discussed the housing plans for Henley.

I was horrified to hear David Gorsuch, chairman of governors at Gillotts School, mention the plan for 50 to 100 homes to be built on a playing field.

Henley residents rejected this land for inclusion in the neighbourhood plan.

I can see the dilemma that Gillotts has but so far I have not seen any evidence of the school trying to raise money for improvements. Have they been sitting on their hands for five years?

They could set up an appeal, asking former and present pupils and their parents to contribute. It would probably not raise sufficient capital but might be a small step in the right direction.

Maybe the school could check what other schools have done to raise money? — Yours faithfully,

Anne Johnson

Blandy Road, Henley

Church wall will be awful

Sir, — I am returning to the debacle of the hedge at St Botolph’s Church in Swyncombe, which I intend to do until this is resolved in the only way that will benefit this historic setting and out of respect for our loved ones interred there.

At the weekend, I saw — to my dismay — that the construction of the hideous replacement wall is continuing.

This awful edifice is described as a brick and flint wall, when in fact it is of flintwork (of lamentable quality) on the outer face in a show of ostentation to the visiting and passing public and of very unpleasant brickwork only on the graveyard side, which to my mind shows contempt for those who really matter: those who enjoy silent repose here and for us when we are visiting them.

The principle tenet of South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning policy is that all development must conserve and enhance the character of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in which St Botolph’s sits.

The council’s design guide, and supplementary guidance such as the Chilterns Conservation Board’s design guide, put very strong emphasis on the use of local materials to ensure local distinctiveness.

I know this because I contributed towards compiling the latter.

Alas, the chosen brick is very grotty and bland (not locally sourced) and exhibits none of the colour variation that defines all traditional Chilterns architecture.

The sooner the church community realises its awful mistake, the less expensive will be the resolution, i.e. the removal of all of these horrid construction materials — with their very high embodied energy cost — and the reinstatement of a hedge.

If the lovely beech hedge was considered offensive, then what could be more appropriate than yew? — Yours faithfully,

Paul Sargeantson

Britwell Salome

Hedge was important

Sir, — I was appalled to read about the destruction of the hedge at Swyncombe church (Standard, October 9).

We have only a few years to prevent catastrophic climate change, so our trees and hedges are vital to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

We are also going through a period of mass extinction of species, so again, hedges have a vital role to play in providing not only habitat, but also wildlife corridors for all kinds of creatures, from insects to small mammals.

I very much hope that the parochial church council will reconsider and replace the hedge, not with a wall, but replant with a mix of native species, to support local biodiversity and capture CO2. — Yours faithfully,

Nicola Schafer

Watlington

Growth not sustainable

M Reid describes fundamental system change (in the context of the climate emergency) as “sinister” and indicated that Extinction Rebellion is a “Marxist” organisation (Standard, October 9).

I would like to correct this misinformation.

Governments across the globe signed the Paris agreement in 2016 to limit global temperature rises to between 1.5C and 2C. Global temperatures have already increased by 1C from pre-industrial levels and we are currently on track for between 3C to 4C if we continue business as usual.

However, we may have a chance to limit global warming to 1.5C if we adopt swift, ambitious action.

It is therefore imperative that we dramatically reduce our carbon emissions.

It is impossible for individuals to make this reduction on their own. Society needs to change its laws, taxation, infrastructure and so on to facilitate low carbon living and make it the new norm.

We cannot continue with the same model of infinite growth which is simply unsustainable for a planet with finite resources.

As Kate Raworth, an economist working with the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, has said, we cannot expect to continue with economic models relevant to the last century in the face of where we find ourselves today: we must redefine our economic and social models.

XR’s role, however, is to sound the alarm bell, not to propose solutions.

Instead, we ask that a government-backed UK citizens assembly is convened to deliberate on finding solutions to the climate emergency.

Its purpose would be to employ a cross-section of the public (members are randomly selected, as with a jury) to study the options available on the question of solutions to the climate emergency and to propose answers to these questions through rational and reasoned discussion and the use of various methods of inquiry such as directly questioning experts.

This process has been used around the world very successfully.

Citizens’ assemblies are not sinister — they are democracy at its best and a crucial part of the fundamental system change that is required. — Yours faithfully,

Kate Oldridge

Spokesperson, XR Henley

Healthy debate only

Editor — I felt compelled to write after M Reid’s contribution to the climate debate (Standard, October 9).

It’s disappointing to see such an important issue, which should be debated, descend into a series of personal attacks on individuals on the other side of the debate to them.

I should declare my own views. I am no fan of Extinction Rebellion either.

I think often the focus is on their sometimes misguided national protests rather than the environmental issues they campaign on.

I do, however, assume good intent by a majority of its members and especially Kate Oldridge, one of their local representatives.

We can agree to disagree on their methods but I share a common belief in the obvious negative impact the human race is having on the planet and we need to change our ways to more sustainable living.

We should be capable of having a healthy debate in this forum.

I challenge M Reid and others on both sides of the debate to help educate this community based on your understanding of the issues.

Let’s put an end to the tittle tattle and, Henley Standard, please uphold some standards. — Yours faithfully,

Steve Tassell

Shiplake

Inconvenient climate facts

In response to M Reid’s letter headlined “Obsessed with climate” about global warming, and what seemed like a personal onslaught on Kate Oldridge, here are some facts that might cause him to rethink his stance and the Henley Standard to rethink its policy in publishing such letters.

Ninety-seven per cent of scientists around the globe believe that global warming over the past century is “extremely likely due to human activities”. That is a convincing consensus. (climate.NASA.gov/scientific-consensus)

Facts may be inconvenient but here is just one: 28 trillion tonnes of ice have melted from the surface of the earth in the past 20 years. The implications of just this one fact are enormous.

Add all the other facts relating to global warming and climate breakdown and the reality M Reid is refusing to see will soon be on his own doorstep. In a weather sense, it already is.

In his address to the United Nations in 2017, Secretary-General António Guterres spoke of the imminent danger of “runaway climate change” and the “existential threat” it posed if radical action was not immediately implemented. “Existential threat” means a threat to most of life on Earth, including that of humans. He gave us a maximum of 12 years to avoid the tipping point. He is well-informed on the issue.

In September 2018, the BBC briefed its editorial staff to cease providing airtime to climate change deniers in the interests of “balance”. Our national broadcaster acknowledged that the facts of impending climate catastrophe are now incontrovertible.

The Henley Standard might like to adopt a similar policy. Conflating personal prejudice with fact is an individual’s choice. Publicising such uninformed rhetoric is neither in the service of our community, nor in the wider service of homo sapiens.

Uncomfortable and alarming as it indeed is, global warming is a reality. Those who are calling upon us to open our eyes will no doubt remain unpopular.

We would do well to listen to what they are saying before the full consequences are thrust upon us.

Being “obsessed with climate” begins to look like a sensible option. — Yours faithfully,

Jennifer Leach

Emmer Green

I am not the gloom monger

Sir, — I was absolutely staggered at Diana Barnett’s letter accusing my letter of being bleak (Standard, October 9).

My letter was full of the hope that life can carry on and thrive even after “extinction events”, whereas her letters are full of the doom and gloom that the rest of us would more correctly define as bleak.

Ms Barnett suggested I look up “doughnut economics”, an idea put forward by Kate Raworth, as to how the global economy can be revised to better suit the environment.

I am familiar with Ms Raworth’s work and what she offers is not a workable model that could be implemented but more a collection of potential goals that do not take into account such matters as markets or human behaviour.

It is only workable with all industry in all countries being under a central administration and all consumers being forced into accepting rationing of everything across the board in order to ensure a “fair” distribution.

It’s just another Marxist philosophy, not an actual workable model, and is only possible if all of society is forced into obeying. That is totalitarianism.

There was also mention of the decreasing biodiversity on Earth. I’m not entirely sure that is true. There have been more than 300 new species described in the last two years alone. Evolution is an ongoing process and new life comes along all the time.

Species come and go — we have seen the evidence of this from the fossil recorded to modern DNA techniques. It’s how the world works and has done so for the last half billion years. It is very well practised.

I would welcome some advice from Ms Barnett: Any information on how I can buy clothes that weren’t made in a sweat shop or have travelled thousands of miles to get to me would be appreciated.

Also, where can I get a battery for a modern mobile device that doesn’t contain elements mined by children in appalling conditions?

Finally, I’d like to say: hydrogen fuel cells. People, we need to encourage the powers that be to invest in a hydrogen infrastructure.

We can have electric vehicles that produce no emissions beyond water, don’t require nasty dangerous batteries (and their shocking human cost) and can be refuelled as quickly as fossil-fuelled vehicles.

The hydrogen could also be used as energy “batteries” by producing the hydrogen when power demand is minimal to use when demand peaks. It is the way forward but infrastructure needs to be put in place. — Yours faithfully,

Simon Brickhill

Goring Heath

What’s best for animals

Sir, — I see that John Howell voted with the Government to reject an amendment that would have protected the UK’s food and animal welfare standards.

Why? — Yours faithfully,

Helen Watson

Laureate Gardens, Henley

John Howell MP responds: “Our high standards are already in law and the Government has committed to them.

“The unnecessary House of Lords amendment would have jeopardised existing trade and would therefore done harm to the world’s poorest countries.”

Intolerable restriction

Sir, — “Wear a mask, everyone”, says Nicola Robinson (Standard, October 9).

As covid-19 is merely the latest of the respiratory viruses that have always visited us and there’s no vaccine in sight, this would mean mandatory masks more or less forever. Would we tolerate this?

An alternative view is that the really dangerous virus is that of government- sponsored fear, which is terrorising us into believing masks are necessary. But are they? Let’s look at the evidence.

With very few exceptions, covid-19 only kills those in dodgy health, mostly the elderly.

Raw death figures may look scary but are tiny in relation to the total population and almost entirely limited to people at the end of their lives.

The median age of covid victims in the UK is 82. Of all the things you may die from, this is one of the least likely.

Mandatory masks only came into effect in late July, when covid deaths had already dropped to near zero, so it is clearly yet another repressive measure of very doubtful value.

With most people having nothing to fear and those at risk able to be shielded, the current draconian measures are absurd. Sweden didn’t go down this path and still posts better mortality rates than us.

Government and media have consistently deluged us with their partial view but this is at last being seriously questioned.

I urge everyone to surf the net for wider opinions — the Great Barrington Declaration would be a good start. If you agree with this, sign it.

As someone who grew up during the war, when things really were dangerous, I’ve been dismayed by everyone’s supine acceptance of what is effectively a police state.

What would Battle of Britain pilots think if they could see us now? Stiff upper lip long gone, feeble, pathetic, cowering. For what? A little bug only able to knock a couple of years off pensioners already past their die-by date.

Come on, everyone. Tell our lords and masters that it’s high time to stop this madness. Protect those that need it but for everyone else scrap masks, social distancing, everything. Go back to normal.

That’s what should happen but, of course, it won’t. — Yours faithfully,

Rolf Richardson

Wootton Road, Henley

Well done to health centre

Given the current situation my advancing years, I was finally cajoled into going to Woodcote health centre for a flu jab on Saturday. Having been warned that they were doing these in the car park, I feared we’d be queuing and frozen before being seen.

In fact, despite arriving a little early, the happy helpers told us to follow the one-way system round the surgery, where we were seen, checked and jabbed immediately. Faultless.

If (and hopefully when) the covid vaccine arrives, I can see them being able to vaccinate hundreds in a day, so making for a little light at the end of this tunnel.

Well done everyone at Woodcote health centre. — Yours faithfully,

Jon Hatt

Goring Heath

P.S. I had “mini flu” over the weekend, so I hope the flu jab will do its job.

Bus service suggestions

Good to see the new Henley bus route brochure, which I’m sure will be much appreciated.

On a similar theme, the private buses used for college student transportation have to park on double yellow lines in Deanfield Avenue while waiting to pick up and this causes sometimes severe disruption to traffic.

Would it not be possible and sensible for the college to come to an agreement with BT/Openreach to use the car park behind the telephone exchange for their pick-up as this seems to be a very little used facility?

One other thought. When waiting for the public bus service to Wallingford, Marlow and beyond, the narrow pavement stretching from Starbucks to Boots is crammed with students who have nowhere else to wait.

The bus pull-in parking area is much longer than actually generally necessary. It must be possible for the forward part of the space to be marked out as a queuing area, helping to keep at least part of the pavement clear for pedestrians.

Perhaps the powers that be could consider my suggestions, which are made with the best of intentions. — Yours faithfully,

John Moore

Henley

I’m paying for repeats

With reference to the TV licence fee for us oldies, it would be fairer if it was halved for us. Let’s face it, most of us are asleep most of the time.

The other thing is all the repeats. I feel as if we’ve paid for most of them already.

The news is up to date but is there nothing else going on in the world other than covid, covid, covid? - Yours faithfully,

Dorothy Tyler

Beech Lane, Woodcote

More News:

Latest video from

VIDEO: Tributes paid after rugby player's death
 

POLL: Have your say