Saturday, 23 January 2021

Your letters...

Threat to old woodlands

Some parts of the county of Oxfordshire are fortunate enough to have sizeable areas of ancient woodland still in existence.

Predominantly made up of oak and beech trees, they are part of the fabric of the villages they partially enclose.

Criss-crossed with deer paths, they are a haven for many of our more reclusive native animals.

Sadly, today there is a new threat facing some of our woodlands.

Stoke Row has three sides of the village protected by ancient woodland. If you have ever been through these woods they are a joyful place to be.

However, a significant area of this woodland is under a new threat.

Misleading marketing of the plots of land along Stoke Row Road has shown computer-generated images of executive houses and neat gardens.

Parcels of land have been sold off to buyers with the implication they could be developed for camping or housing. One purchaser has even marketed the “overage” on any future planning.

However, swift action by the tree protection officers at South Oxfordshire District Council, district councillor Jo Robb and Stoke Row Parish Council itself, meant tree protection orders were put in place across a significant swathe of the trees apparently marked for felling.

This has not stopped the widespread marketing of the land with dubious information but restricts the purchasers in terms of what they can do.

Effectively, the land has to be maintained as woodland with limited interference from the owner and trees should not be cut down.

Henley MP John Howell responded to a parish councillor, explaining that a number of people were buying woodland because of the tax advantages and HMRC had been looking closely into this. He assured the councillor that he was following up on this.

We were also told the Government was keen to take action because if trading standards regulations were tightened up and false assertions made about planning potential were outlawed, this speculative market would then dry up.

Unfortunately, this has not stopped the continued sale of the plots of woodland.

Some of the new owners have fenced in their plots, which they are permitted to do, but it damages the feel and sense of history that these woodlands have held on to for hundreds of years.

Folowing a recent conversation with one of the new owners, it has become clear that they are still not being given details of the tree protection orders and believe they can use the land for planting out a garden, camping and even housing in the future.

It is at times like this that the input of the local community is needed most, yet if the proposals to remove the say of local people from detailed planning decisions are made law, as indicated in the White Paper, Planning for the Future, will our ancient woodland disappear? — Yours faithfully,

Ina Chantry

Parish clerk, Stoke Row

Rhetoric, not democracy

Sir, — I wonder if Councillor Anne-Marie Simpson really does believe the rhetoric that she espouses (Standard, November 13).

Her comments about how South Oxfordshire District Council is dealing with the Thames Farm drainage debacle are quite ludicrous and try to paint a picture of fair play and democracy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The facts are that Taylor Wimpey used a particular process to get their reserved matters approved.

This process was their choice and is a process where normally public consultation cannot occur.

This was the wrong process since it was actually such a massive variation to the original proposals.

The council was forced to resile from making a determination that was due to happen on October 23 solely because of the 150 letters of objection that were sent in by residents.

Residents were not consulted at all. They found out what was going on and stopped this ridiculously undemocratic process when approval was about to be given.

In fact, the developer had not even submitted a flood risk assessment with their application and the council was still on the verge of approving it.

This is not democracy nor the system working as it should. This is covert use of technicalities to maintain a very low profile and circumvent consultation and scrutiny.

As a public company which says they will treat neighbours as they themselves would wish to be treated, Taylor Wimpey should be ashamed of themselves and remove these statements from their corporate social responsibility policies.

What’s more, the council knew perfectly well that sink holes had been found on site and the ground was poor and yet this was kept very quiet.

Officers approved a variation to the planning permission that allowed works to commence even though the drainage solution had not been approved and it was well known that a new quite radical solution to the drainage was going to be presented.

Both the variation of the consent allowing the roadworks to happen early and the drainage changes are very significant and major.

The variation should never have been approved, particularly when no external parties were even made aware of the application.

Furthermore, the current drainage proposals should be the subject of a proper application to vary the scheme.

It is debatable whether this site would have ever received consent had the true circumstances of the land been known but now that we do know, the whole matter should be fully and properly scrutinised.

As an alternative, apart from their financial loss, there is nothing preventing Taylor Wimpey from reducing the size and density of their development to one that would not cause such major harm to the environment and potentially exacerbate flooding in a remote location away from their site.

Normally a developer would be expected to contain their storm water on their own site and discharge it at greenfield rates rather than it pumping miles away to another catchment area. — Yours faithfully,

Peter Boros

Reading Road, Lower Shiplake

How to solve traffic issue

Sir, — I would like to draw attention to a rapid transit one-way scheme to manage traffic better for the centre of Henley, which I proposed to the town council in June 2019.

This would involve making the following changes:

• Reading Road to be one-way travelling northwards from the junction of Station Road to the Greys Road/Duke Street/Friday Street junction.

• No right turn from Greys Road into Reading Road.

• Friday Street to have two-way traffic (but no left turn into Thames Side or into Reading Road at the other end).

• Traffic using Station Road going towards the bridge only allowed as far as the Meadow Road junction.

• Pedestrianising one half of Hart Street and making it one-way travelling towards the bridge.

The object of this proposal is to speed the flow of traffic through the town centre by the complete removal of all traffic lights and crossroad junctions with joining traffic merging into the one-way flow.

This would provide the following benefits:

• Faster journey times through the town.

• Removal of long, standing traffic queues, so less air pollution.

• More pedestrian-only areas in the town centre

• No ongoing traffic light maintenance costs.

A further option would be for traffic heading via Badgemore to be routed via Greys Road and Deanfield Avenue, thus making Market Place traffic-free.

Urgent action is needed to remove the ever-lengthening, polluting traffic queues, improve journey times through the town and provide more traffic-free space in the town centre.

I trust that the town council will give serious consideration to my proposals. — Yours faithfully,

Michael Welfare

Binfield Heath

Time to cut some pay

Sir. — While millions of people across the country are suffering significant economic hardship as a result of lockdown, there is only superficial recognition of the major implications for the national economy and, in particular, for the reduction in income for the whole country.

This basically means a substantial hit to our national standard of living but at present the burden of this is heavily concentrated on those employees and businesses shut down by the Government — not because of any failure on their part, but in the interests of us all.

Those affected are receiving some financial protection from the state but at a huge cost to our public finances, which will fall on future generations of taxpayers.

Surely it is time to think of spreading the current financial impact more widely across the population, particularly where public expenditure is involved.

Those who are paid and/or employed by the state are not subject to the anxieties over regular income or job security that have been imposed on others and I believe it would be fair to recognise this.

For example, as a recipient of state pension, I think that it is unacceptable in the current circumstances that I can look forward to a pension increase of 2.5 per cent in April as a consequence of the pensions “triple lock”.

I believe that the triple lock should be suspended for next year.

Also, many of us do not need the £200 winter heating allowance payment from the pension service.

Many pensioners do need this help but a simple mechanism for voluntarily refusing this payment would, I believe, be welcomed by many pensioners.

I would equally welcome a temporary reduction in public sector pay as a gesture towards sharing the burden.

There might be exemptions for those paid below the furlough limit of £2,500 per month, and possibly for NHS staff, but it would certainly be good to see MPs leading the way in this.

It would not only benefit the public finances but would be good politics in terms of all being “in it together” and in the “leveling up” agenda.

Perhaps our local MP might summon up some energy to promote this? — Yours faithfully,

Alan Simmons

Northfield End, Henley

Consider others too

Sir, — As a retired nurse of more than 30 years’ experience, I am sick to death of the blasé attitude of many people regarding the pandemic.

This virus is not a mild disease any more than normal seasonal flu, which kills up to 11,000 people each year.

These diseases are airborne, spread by droplets that cannot be seen from person to person.

The only way this virus can be stopped at the moment is for people to have as little contact with others as possible until a viable vaccine is produced.

Although this may impede people’s lives, this is the only way at the present time. People need to have consideration for others, especially the elderly and disabled.

They may shout that their civil liberties have been taken away from them, but I can assure them that in my experience as a nurse that suffering and dying from a respiratory disease is far from pleasant. I hope that they don’t get to find out. — Yours faithfully,

Ms M A Butler

Stoke Row Road, Peppard

Safety first... up to a point

I have been vociferous in the past about the poor state of cleanliness at the swimming pool and changing rooms at Henley leisure centre.

I would now like to redress the balance and compliment the staff on their hard work and dedication when the pool was briefly re-opened for the gym and aqua aerobics classes.

The staff are relentless in keeping the chairs, surfaces and equipment spotless.

Sixteen of us were permitted, socially distanced, to do our exercises in the pool.

We are all of a certain age, obeying the rules and grateful that twice a week we could get some exercise.

So it is all the more distressing that the centre is now closed.

I understand that there has not been one recorded case of the dreaded virus in any swimming pool or gym in the UK.

Incidentally, I can’t play golf but I could walk with my husband round the golf course each carrying a golf club.

We all have to be careful. We all have to be mindful of others but some of the restrictions just do not make sense and are positively harmful to our health and wellbeing. — Yours faithfully,

Chrissie Godfrey

Birch Close, Sonning Common

Poor way to treat young

Sir, — I had decided to write to our MP John Howell to ask him why his Government appears to be dishing out such harsh treatment to our young people.

Barricading students in unfamiliar universities far from home, forbidding children from playing games and sports outside school and even recently blaming them for spreading the virus, while professional sports are encouraged, even close contact ones.

Then the penny dropped. Money! Club owners, shareholders, sponsors and advertisers are making “loadsamoney” while more and more people are facing destitution.

Though even these “sportsmen” took their noses out of the trough long enough to realise that charging their fans £15 to watch a football game on TV was going too far and might rebound to their financial disadvantage.

I also remembered that writing to our MP was completely pointless as he has never failed to justify his Government’s policy, through thick and thin.

However, these last few months he must have been tripping over his toes and tying his feet in knots trying to keep in step with all the U-turns littering his path. — Yours faithfully,

Kaye McArthur

Ancastle Green, Henley

But not as smart, PM

Sir, — I suspect that most butchers’ dogs are in fact smarter... — Yours faithfully,

Jim Munro

Blandy Road, Henley

The key to survival

In support of the letter from Gary Butler on the subject of climate change (Standard, November 13), two quotes from W Edwards Deming, the renowned engineer and management consultant, seem appropriate.

1. Without data, you are just another person with an opinion.

2. It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.

If we wish to survive, we need to address the problem as a matter of urgency and make decisions based on facts and data rather than opinions. — Yours faithfully,

Doug Balfour

Fair Mile, Henley

Happy to be alarmist

Most of us have not trained as climate scientists and yet anthropogenic (human caused) global warming is believed by the majority of global institutions.

I am glad to hear one correspondent note the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

This is the United Nations body for assessing the science relating to climate change. It was created by the UN Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organisation in 1988.

Thousands of people from around the world contribute to the work assessing thousands of scientific papers published each year.

In the scientific community and media its reports are broadly viewed as the most comprehensive and reliable assessments of climate change. In 2007 the IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

A total of 194 countries signed the Paris climate agreement in 2016 to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change to limit the rise in global temperatures.

This respected organisation is in no doubt that global warming is happening at an alarming rate and that we must maintain the global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees versus higher levels.

If we can achieve that there will be less negative impact on the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, on resources, ecosystems, biodiversity, food security, cities, tourism and carbon removal. At present, we are on course for a 3 to 4 degree increase.

I am delighted to be called a climate alarmist as the information is alarming indeed.

IPCC reports are very detailed and difficult to digest as a starting point. I would be happy to suggest a very simple book about the climate by Dorling Kindersley which offers us attractive diagrams and simple explanations to non-scientists like myself. It is What’s Really Happening to Our Planet by Tony Jupiter with a nice foreward by the Prince of Wales.

Any of David Attenborough’s films on the subject are beautifully illustrative especially his latest, A Life on our Planet and its excellent accompanying book.

As for the sceptics and deniers, I feel sad that they are trying to slow down our actions to protect the future of life for our families worldwide and most living species, plant and animal.

Every resource of this type that I have checked has been linked to fossil fuel investment and, as most people understand it, the burning of fossil fuel is the greatest cause of global warming. — Yours faithfully,

J Lacey


Revealing my sources

Sir, — Regarding Gary Butler’s letter (Standard, November 13), yes, I totally agree that ideally there should be references to some of the statements in letters.

However, the letters pages are not a scientific paper as such and are also subject to editorial change and one needs to be as succinct as possible.

But here are some reference links regarding recent letters anyway:

Regarding flooding, see Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change document summary quotes in chapter 3.5.2, Page 178 

“In summary, there is limited to medium evidence available to assess climate-driven observed changes in the magnitude and frequency of floods.”

“Overall low confidence at the global scale regarding even the sign of these changes.”

“There is low confidence (due to limited evidence) that anthropogenic climate change has affected the magnitude or frequency of floods.”


Regarding my comments on the BBC censoring debate on global warming,

Regarding the “97% of scientists” fallacy, see — Yours faithfully,

M Reid


Welcome to new reality

There is a new kind of reality in the world right now.

It’s not based on truth or fact but based on visual signals — the blinkered view of the world you get through a 6in screen.

The vision, created, digitised, sent down a wire and projected at you. Piped into your ears. A view created by someone else, with enough money and power, who wants you to see only what he wants you to see.

Everything else is deemed irrelevant or bad or criminal or racist. I’ve always said: “It’s not what you see, but what you think you see.” And right now what do you think you are seeing? What spoon-fed, twisted version of reality are you glued to?

Remember when your parents told you (or were told by their parents): “Don’t sit so close to the TV you’ll go blind or get square eyes” or “constantly playing (they termed it) ‘your’ music so loud or through headphones will make you deaf.”

What happened to those decades’ worth of advice? Social media, mobile phones and ear buds.

So now previous advice is out of the window. More people than ever are addicted to the technological pap being pumped out at them, flooding their consciousness every second of every minute of every hour of every single day.

George Orwell and Aldous Huxley now totally ignored.

Go out and watch them. Modern day zombies; less the Walking Dead, more the Shambling Dumb.

Stay safe and well, take care of each other. — Yours faithfully,

Edward Sierpowski


Only half of a good deal

Sir, — You reported that South Oxfordshire District Council is proposing to offer half-price car parking for electric vehicles (Standard, November 6).

However, I believe that this idea only relates to the possibility of half-price permits for regular parking and offers no concession on hourly charges.

I strongly believe we should have both. — Yours faithfully,

Peter C Stone

Blandy Road, Henley

Atheists are honest too

Sir, — In his Thought for the Week (Standard, November 13), Barry Wood spends much space illustrating the different varieties of lying — “spectrum lying”, “porkies”, “social lying”, “the bigger criminal lie”.

Astonishingly, he goes on to argue from this that those of us who do not share his religious beliefs are guilty of another sort of lie, “spinning self-delusion”, i.e. the truth is apparent but we refuse to acknowledge it. We are lying to ourselves.

It is difficult to enter the mind of someone who resolutely believes all this but fortunately Mr Wood’s convictions are espoused by only a small minority of Christians today.

His insulting belief in the lack of personal honesty in the huge majority of fellow human beings can only be put down to something from the darker side of religion. — Yours faithfully,

Douglas Kedge

Sonning Common

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