A STUDENT from Goring cycled the distance between ... [more]
Thursday, 13 May 2021
Let’s truly get things done
Editor, — Actions speak louder than words.
Today we have a town hall with a clock which hasn’t worked for months. We have no council-run tennis courts and too many potholed roads throughout the town.
We have the Oxfordshire County Council elections on Thursday, but many people forget or don’t bother to vote at local council elections in a non-general election year.
However, all of our votes matter, especially when Henley’s elected representative on Oxfordshire County Council will help decide on significant spending from education and highways to transport, social care and strategic planning to make Henley a sustainable town in every sense in the future.
So a vote on Thursday does matter.
I really feel it’s time for a change from Henley Residents Group whose incumbent representative has been putting empty motions to Oxfordshire County Council at the end of his current term as an election gimmick.
He should have been getting things done way before now to revitalise Henley with vision and energy that our great town needs in the 21st century.
My vote is with Henley Conservatives’ Paul Harrison who I know will get things done. — Yours faithfully,
Think local, vote Henley
Sir, — “Well, it’s in the rules.” Are your readers as sick as I am of hearing this bleated every day?
Surely we’ve reached a point when we can permit common sense and the spirit of the law to rule our lives.
Just look at the forthcoming elections for Oxfordshire County Council. It’s an occasion to elect someone to represent the community.
And what do we have? A bunch of out-of-towners. Well intentioned, no doubt, but what is it about living in Sonning Common that makes Paul Harrison think he’s the best person to represent Henley? Is it because, before covid, he used to drive through Henley every day on his way to work in Marlow?
The Labour candidate, bless him, wants to get elected from Goring. It’s a lovely place Goring (not so nice as Hambleden, though), but he’s not going to know what dangers children face when crossing roads on their way to school in Henley.
Then there’s the “no-rules-at-all” candidate for the self-styled Freedom Alliance. No lockdowns. No curfews. She doesn’t reveal the place she lives but just wants Henley residents to have the freedom to die from covid, I guess.
It’s bad enough Henley having a lacklustre MP with contact details in Watlington.
Henley needs someone who actually lives in the town, knows most of the 9,000 residents, understands the town’s needs, and doesn’t get snarled up in national politics.
And, lo and behold, there’s Stefan Gawrysiak. who taught half the young adults in Henley and in the last four years has done more for Henley at county level than 20 years of continuous Conservative back-slapping.
Think local. Vote Henley. Vote Gawrysiak. — Yours faithfully,
Mill End, Hambleden
Profligate Tory sleaze
Sir — I have been shocked, saddened but not surprised by the sleaze and incompetence that encompasses our Conservative government.
The former Tory attorney-general, Dominic Grieve, has described Boris Johnson as a “vacuum of integrity”, a description which must fit David Cameron as well.
Their exclusive Eton education seems to have given them a sense of entitlement rather than responsibility.
The integrity and competence of the Tory brand seems to have been in deep decline for some time.
At a local level, Oxfordshire County Council has wasted £1.6million on a bungled parking enforcement contract.
It also spent £35,000 last year on a consultant’s report on how to abolish itself, which was immediately rubbished by the leaders of local councils.
The Government spent £28million on planning the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway and then scrapped it.
Our Prime Minister spent £53million on his failed Garden Bridge project and £37billion on the ineffective test and trace system and he continues to be mired in accusations of sleaze.
I think that is unacceptable. We deserve better. We need reform. We need it now.
I have been encouraged by the support I have received from our proposals to protect the environment, provide safer and more sustainable transport, support and care for the young and those who need it and to listen and deliver value for the money we have.
Supporting and promoting women through our education, polices and behaviour is also part of the inclusion and diversity agenda.
The apathy we have had in the past for voting (30 per cent turnout last time) needs to change.
Most of us want leaders who serve the public, tell the truth, protect the environment and build constructive relationships to meet the challenges we face.
We can make that happen under the leadership of Keir Starmer.
It starts with a Labour vote on Thursday. — Yours faithfully,
Labour candidate, Sonning Common division, Oxfordshire County Council, Goring
Councillors not to blame
Sir, — While it might be fun for opposition parties to jump on the electioneering bandwagon (Standard, April 23), a review of the Oxfordshire County Council officers’ report into the procurement and contract management review of the parking contract evidences unacceptably poor performance of council staff in many areas, resulting in the waste of £1.6 million of our money. A weak tender process, poor management, inadequate record keeping and a failure to keep the chief executive and cabinet members, of which Councillor David Bartholomew is one, informed are just a few of the documented failings.
The role of councillors is largely one of oversight and while the Greens and others might have it otherwise, councillors are not responsible for the day-to-day running of the council.
If there is one aspect of this debacle that provides encouragement, it is that the oversight function worked and, were it not for the cabinet member for finance’s diligence, this matter may never have come to light.
The Greens and Henley Residents Group are being disingenuous in attempting to shoot the messenger.
To be clear, council officers botched the procurement process, concealed it from councillors and agreed a settlement without the knowledge of cabinet members.
It was only due to Cllr Bartholomew (and possibly others) that this unsatisfactory fiasco was unearthed and placed firmly in the public domain. Come the local elections on Thursday, I will be voting for proactive, diligent candidates rather than opportunist snipers sitting in the trees. — Yours faithfully,
Blandy Road, Henley
Standing up for right
Sir, — A sense of fairness compels me to respond to the Henley Residents Group and Green councillors’ letters about the Oxfordshire County Council parking contract controversy.
It is sad to see these councillors blaming a councillor from a rival party for shortcomings in the council’s procurement process when responsibility rests with the officers, as described in the independent investigation.
Councillor David Bartholomew has taken the matter seriously by unearthing the figures, demanding an independent report and pressing for changes.
Candidates who stand up for what is right, as David Bartholomew has done, deserve our vote. — Yours faithfully,
K J Hydon
No failure of leadership
Sir, — I can forgive Jo Robb’s naivety as she has no senior council experience, but “London Robb” (as she refers to herself on her election leaflet email address) is a former journalist, so it is disappointing that she failed to check the facts in her electioneering letter (Standard, April 23).
Councillors are barred from direct involvement in contract tenders, which are run by officers.
The very day I became aware of the failed parking contract tender to which she referred in her letter, I contacted the Oxfordshire Country Council chief executive and demanded an independent inquiry.
The chief executive apologised and acknowledged the matter was a “fundamental service failure”. It was not a failure of political leadership. These facts are readily obtainable from the report on the council’s website.
In addition to demanding the inquiry, I pressed for urgent reform of the contract tender process and instigated steps towards constitution reform to prevent officers making large settlements without reference to elected members.
Protecting council taxpayers’ funds is high on my agenda.
As a local councillor who cares passionately about the area I have lived in for more than 30 years, I spend many hours each week serving the local community and I am not afraid to stick my neck out and expose failings in the machinery of government. — Yours faithfully,
Councillor David Bartholomew
Conservative candidate (and incumbent), Sonning Common division, Oxfordshire County Council
Support the climate bill
The Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill is a ground-breaking piece of legislation drafted by scientists, lawyers and academics and sets a viable pathway for the UK to tackle the emergency.
The Bill is the only legislative plan before MPs that aims to address the climate-nature crisis at the speed and scale the science demands.
Greener Henley is asking the Henley division candidates who are standing in the Oxfordshire County Council elections on Thursday to sign this pledge to publicly support the Bill and work to make it law if they win the seat.
Greener Henley welcomes a short statement from each candidate, with reasons for giving their support, or why they are not prepared to support it. We will be publicising responses. - Yours faithfully,
Support for HGVs ban
Sir, — In the last few weeks South Oxfordshire district and Oxfordshire county councils have both passed my motions for a ban on heavy goods vehicles travelling through Henley town centre.
The 7.5-tonne weight limit will improve air quality and reduce noise and damage to roads and buildings.
The margin of 40 votes to 3 by the county council and 31 to 0 by the district council shows there is cross-party support and is a sign that the long argument to improve the environment in the centre of Henley is being won.
The cross-community support has also been important with more than 2,500 petition signatures gathered by me and fellow campaigner Amanda Chumas with whom I have been working for more than a year.
My thanks to her and everyone else who has supported this campaign.
After the election I will make sure that it is implemented. — Yours faithfully,
Henley Residents Group candidate (and incumbent), Henley division, Oxfordshire County Council
Work together on solution
Editor, — We read with interest the article regarding a proposed ban on heavy goods vehicles passing through Henley (Standard, April 16).
Caversham residents will be very sympathetic to the problems of poor air quality, disturbance and other hazards caused by large lorries. The difficulty is always where else these heavy vehicles should travel. Your article indicates that they would follow the strategic highway network, including the road between Oxford and Reading.
However, the A4074 is not part of the strategic highway network (see www.gov.uk/government/publications/roads-managed-by-highways-england).
We are all anxious to see better air quality and fewer hazards in our towns and villages but it should be recognised that this proposal would merely shift traffic through the narrow historic streets in Caversham centre.
What is needed is for neighbouring authorities to work closely together to seek a proper solution. Sadly, this has been lacking so far. — Yours faithfully,
Chair, Caversham and District Residents’ Association
Businesses are thriving
Sir, — It was great to see that the new Bremont offices have now opened in Henley (Standard, April 9).
Back in 2019, as cabinet member for economic development and regeneration on South Oxfordshire District Council, I instigated the first South and Vale Business Awards to recognise those businesses which contribute so much to our society, both in supplying goods and services and in providing high-quality employment opportunities.
That year Bremont won the large business award. They were worthy winners who are going from strength to strength and represent our town so well.
We are blessed to have such a vibrant business community in our town and I expect to see many more winners in the future. — Yours faithfully,
Conservative candidate, Henley division, Oxfordshire County Council
Man makes difference
Sir, — I am delighted that Stefan Gawrysiak is again standing to be Henley’s county councillor as he has done more for Henley in the four years he has been our councillor than any of his predecessors have done in the last 30.
As Stefan lives in Henley, he experiences first hand problems that need to be addressed and he does his best to resolve issues other residents take to him.
I think my name will forever be associated with the bollards by the river walk in Thames Side. I raised the issue of pedestrian safety with Stefan when some wooden posts were removed.
He regularly updated me on the progress of replacement bollards but in addition arranged for the whole path to be resurfaced and all the bollards to be repainted. A job well done.
I’m sure parents who crossed Greys Road to take their children to school will tell you how many years a pedestrian crossing was discussed and numbers counted but nothing was progressed until Stefan became our county councillor. Now we have a well-used crossing for the safety of all our residents.
Stefan’s most recent success is gaining cross-party support for the introduction of a 7.5-tonne weight limit on Henley Bridge to stop lorries using the town as a short cut.
This initiative was started by Henley resident Amanda Chumas who collected more than 3,000 signatures from residents and asked for Stefan’s help and support. Another job well done.
Please read Stefan’s election leaflet to understand how many improvements he has made to the quality of our everyday lives in Henley as everyone has benefited from many things, including better road surfaces.
Stefan, thank you for giving up so much of your time and standing again as Henley’s county councillor. — Yours faithfully,
St Mark’s Road, Henley
Sir, — Nick Helweg-Larsen’s detail-less Labour candidature is puzzling, or am I the only one wondering why his space was virtually blank in last week’s paper?
Who is he and how can we vote for him without knowing what he stands for?
One can excuse his reticence, perhaps, if he were a mullet-toting, heavy metal acolyte who is unable to tie his shoe laces or a necktie, but in the absence of such empty speculation, can we please know our candidate? I, for one, would welcome the opportunity for change and new blood, but with no photo and nothing for description, I’m left short.
I hope he’s not actually a Tory dupe, strategically placed to undermine Keir Starmer’s good work.
It seems anything is possible in these days of leaks, “briefings” and fake news. — Yours faithfully,
Desmond E R Grundy
Policing our communities
Sir, — I have spent recent years working hard to make Thames Valley, and Henley, an even safer place to live.
When I hear about crime going on in the town it even further motivates me to deliver on my clear plan to get tough on crime for safer communities.
We must deliver strong local policing with more police officers and neighbourhood policing as well as cracking down on the threat from “county lines” drugs gangs to protect children from abuse and exploitation.
As part of my plan, I will agree a new local policing strategy with Thames Valley Police, looking at everything from where officers are based and the resources available to neighbourhood teams to how local officers work to tackle long-term issues and prevent crime rather than just responding when things go wrong.
In Henley, I will continue to work closely with local representatives to ensure that we have the right policies in place to keep the area safe.
On Thursday, we have crucial local government elections but residents also have a say in the future of our policing here in South Oxfordshire.
I hope that my plan will secure your support so we can get on with tackling crime in our communities. — Yours faithfully,
Deputy police and crime commissioner for Thames Valley and Conservative candidate for Thames Valley Police and crime commissioner, West Hanney
Make your vote count
Editor — With the Oxfordshire County Council election coming up on Thursday, you may think you don’t need to vote but I urge you (whatever your political persuasion) to use it.
With the polarisation of views seen here in the UK, Europe and, more recently, in America, you should be in no doubt we use or lose our votes at our peril.
So why does the county council election matter?
Your elected representative will decide on significant spending, from strategic planning and where Henley fits into that, through to highways, education and social care.
All of these areas deserve your attention to revitalise Henley now and in the future. Paul Harrison is the Conservative candidate for Henley and I know he will fight for the town’s best interests.
More importantly, he has vision and business experience to make a difference.
He has had many years’ experience as a councillor and was cabinet member for economic development and regeneration at South Oxfordshire District Council.
During this period, he approved the Market Place Mews/Gardiner Place development and established the South and Vale Business Awards to help promote businesses within the two district councils.
Paul was one of Henley’s district councillors in 1999 so knows our community well.
He is also a member of Henley Bridge Rotary Club, where he is a past president and currently treasurer.
Paul represented Sonning Common on the district council from 2005 to 2019 and during that period was chairman of the council and then a cabinet member.
He also has business experience in both the private and public sectors.
Currently, he works for a European software company locally. He started as an officer in the county treasurer’s department where he was recruited into the IT department.
Please vote on Thursday as your vote counts to revitalise Henley and ensure it is a sustainable town now and in the future. — Yours faithfully,
Chairman, Henley Conservatives
Let’s remain vigilant
Sir, — Your front page report that the Lucy’s Farm site is not needed for 100 homes and will not be included in the latest draft of the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan (Standard, April 23) is welcome.
The fact that the proposal was rejected by the consultation on the initial plan and by the town council’s own consultants strengthens the case against it.
However, everyone who wants to see the setting of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty protected should not completely relax as our planners have a history of ignoring local democracy, as evidenced by the Thames Farm issue.
Let’s all keep vigilant and support our local councillors. — Yours faithfully,
Greys Road, Henley
Thank you for support
Sir, — The Save Henley’s Green Spaces campaign is grateful for the opportunity to thank the many people who have worked so hard at every stage.
Without your help, the campaign would not have been possible.
Thank you also to the Henley Standard for your excellent reportage of our campaign.
Finally, we are concerned that the Mayor Ken Arlett has misunderstood our campaign leaflet.
It does not say that planning permission had been “undemocratically granted” for the Gillotts and Lucy’s Farm sites.
It is asking people to sign in order to prevent this happening in Henley and elsewhere in the future.
To view our petition, please visit www.change.org/SaveHenleysGreenSpaces — Yours faithfully,
Domenic Bertelli, Christine Wright, Justine Hutchinson
Save Henley’s Green Spaces
Time to look after children
Sir, — I am concerned that in the River & Rowing Museum’s planning application for change of use from an education centre to commercial offices, it states that the learning facility is “surplus to requirements” (Standard, April 23).
I think this would be a huge loss to the community.
To my knowledge, this is a thriving and hugely successful resource for thousands of schoolchildren and I, as a local teacher, have organised countless trips there and all my own children and grandchildren have enjoyed and benefited from the exceptional teaching centre.
Emerging as we are from the covid restrictions, isn’t this just the time to support our children and young people and our community?
The toll on the public’s mental health and wellbeing is yet to be fully assessed and surely the education centre is needed now more than ever.
Article 31 of the UN convention on human rights states that children have the right to experience a wide range of cultural and artistic activities.
I am old enough to remember when planning was granted to build the museum and educational charity on council land.
I am curious as to what is behind the agenda of the unnamed “local architects practice” that wants to rent the space. What kind of bird is coming to this nest? — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — We live in Mill Lane, Henley. Our daily walks take us over the railway bridge to Marsh Lock.
Well done, Geoff Luckett. The bridge is a disgraceful eyesore (Standard, April 23). The telephone number displayed by British Rail for help is useless.
Mill Lane is the access to a much-loved beauty spot. Something needs to be done to improve this bit of our environment. Do we have a wealthy, kind citizen? — Yours faithfully,
Tyranny of lawnmowers
Sir, — Your letters pages are full of correspondence from people blaming everything from red kites to woodpeckers for the disappearance of small birds and al fresco suppers.
Oh, and the tragic creation of pigeon widows apparently caused by cats. Something “must be done” to control nature!
I would urge your correspondents to consider, seriously, what they might do.
To start with lawns are just killing fields. They require vast quantities of chemicals, i.e. fertilisers, insecticides and herbicides to look the part, along with the exhaust fumes from mowers and vast quantities of water.
They provide no cover for small creatures attempting to escape predators and no nourishment for insects which are a vital source of food for small birds.
We have a large garden in Caversham. For the last 34 years it has been inhabited by cats and for the last 10 years by red kites fed every day by a close neighbour.
It is not uncommon to see 20-plus red kites circling overhead.
Of course, we have no small birds — wrong! We have blue, great, long-tailed, coal and marsh tits, greenfinches and goldfinches, blackcaps, goldcrests, song and mistle thrushes, robins, starlings, blackbirds, dunnocks, wood pigeons, collared doves, great spotted and green woodpeckers, magpies and a large quantity of itinerant jackdaws.
There are also carrion crows, the occasional raven and sundry raucous gulls overhead.
Recently some house sparrows have moved back in. There are also various seasonal migrants.
Although we have predators, we also have sufficient cover in the shape of trees, bushes and ground plants to ensure that any reasonably fit creature can escape predation.
Since it is difficult for red kites to fly down, al fresco suppers are, for the most part, also reasonably safe.
Our garden has a large amount of native plants, forget-me-nots, feverfew, dog violets, garlic mustard, hellebores, red campion, wood sorrel, yellow archangel, dog’s mercury etc, and there are no weeds.
This attracts any number of insects which feed the birds. Various bumblebees and butterflies are plentiful all year round as we have a 12-month food supply for them. We do not use pesticides of any sort so there is no collateral damage.
Without the tyranny of maintaining a lawn and flowerbeds, we are free to enjoy and observe wildlife. — Yours faithfully,
Henley Road, Caversham
Stop feeding red kites
I was sitting in the garden of my new house last week when suddenly a claw grabbed at my tasty sausage sandwich.
An enormous red kite had swooped down, reached out and grabbed my lunch. While doing so its claws scratched my hand, drawing blood.
The kite continued to circle my garden, leaving me running for the shelter of my kitchen.
It continues to prowl about on a daily basis waiting for more of my cooking delights.
A plea to your readers... please stop feeding the red kites. — Yours faithfully,
Thank you to doctors
Editor — With reference to Stefan Gawrysiak’s letter quite rightly praising the staff and volunteers of the Bell and Hart surgeries for all their hard work carrying out the covid vaccinations (Standard, April 23), I feel it only right to point out that, although they have taken some of the Nettlebed patients, Nettlebed Surgery has not been sitting idly doing nothing.
Dr Lisa Silver and Dr Julie Barton and their staff and their lovely volunteers have also been working very hard, giving up their Sundays to ensure patients receive their coronavirus innoculations.
I personally (and I know I speak for many others) would like to express my grateful thanks to all of them. — Yours faithfully,
Abrahams Road, Henley
Thank you for cuppas
Can I thank the lovely lady living at 23 York Road, Henley, on behalf of the surgery “car parkers” who has supplied welcome cups of tea to some of us. Very welcome cuppa and very kind. — Yours faithfully,
Greys Road, Henley
Health walks are back
Sir, — I would like to inform your readers that Sonning Common Health Walks have now restarted some of their group walks.
Currently these are Monday — First Steps at 10am, Tuesday, Wednesday Thursday at 10am, Friday and Saturday at 9.30am.
For starting points and distances, please visit www.sonningcommonhealthwalks.co.uk
We look forward to seeing existing walkers returning. New walkers will be very welcome to join these free walks in the South Oxfordshire countryside.
We are not yet able to offer the full timetable of walks but plan to add additional walks as and when possible. — Yours faithfully,
Sonning Common Health Walks
We’re afraid to celebrate
Sir, — Wasn’t it lovely to see Henley decorated for St George’s Day — sorry, my mistake, it wasn’t, was it?
Why are we so afraid to celebrate? Ireland in particular really pushes the boat out for its patron saint. — Yours faithfully,
Leaver Road, Henley
Women like football too
Sir, — Are the reporters from the Henley Standard sexist?
You may think that’s not possible but look at your Take Five item which asked “What do you think of the European Super League idea?” (Standard, April 23).
All the people asked were men, so I would like to point out that women also watch, play and enjoy football.
So why were no women asked their opinion on the super league? Maybe there were no women in Henley that day?
Next time please remember women have opinions too. — Yours faithfully,
Essex Way, Sonning Common
Everybody’s time comes...
Sir, — In reply to the pertinent questions raised in Douglas Kedge’s letter (Standard, April 16), what of those who do not believe and trust in Jesus Christ to ensure their entry to heaven?
I can’t speak for the author of the Thought for the Week which prompted his letter, but I would first want to say that none of us can, or should, pass judgment on where another person stands in relation to God; regular churchgoing is no more a guarantee of entry any more than apparent indifference guarantees exclusion.
None of us will know for absolute certain until the time comes…
It has always seemed to me a little like climbing Mount Snowdon (three times now and still no view from the top but that’s another letter). There are several paths, some more direct than others, some more or less difficult, some dead ends, some linking with others, fewer, as you near the summit.
But there is only one doorway into the café at the top and that is where Christians believe we finally meet the doorkeeper, Jesus Christ, and see him as he truly is: not simply our inadequate or even misleading portrayals of him but utterly unique. Only then will we either recognise him as the one who makes sense of it all — and respond with joy, “Thy will be done”, or we will not want to know him and, as C S Lewis said, as we turn away will hear him say to us, sadly, “Thy will be done”…
God’s love is for all his creation: the offer of salvation — of wholeness — to everyone, no exclusions. What will we make of it? Just who is this Jesus? — Yours faithfully,
Associate priest, Rotherfield Peppard, Kidmore End and Sonning Common
In praise of the scouts
Sir, — Thank you for printing the old photo of scout leaders Jimmy Collins and John Bowles being introduced to Princess Margaret when she planted the first of a line of turkey oak trees in Fair Mile, Henley, to mark the coronation of the Queen (Standard, April 23).
I have been in touch with Tony Taylor who was there with his school. He was scout leader for some years after Mr Bowles.
Dick Hobbs (father of Tony and grandfather to Jonathan and Melanie) was mayor at the time. I wonder if anyone else remembers being there?
The 1st Henley Scout group was formed in January 1908 and is one of the oldest in the world.
It is thanks to its leaders, including the present team, for giving up their time to train the boys and now some girls in the basic rules of life.
I was a cub, scout, senior scout and later one of the leaders and I remember many good times, especially the annual summer camps, many at Eastbourne. — Yours faithfully,
Why singing had to stop
We would like to make it quite clear that the decision to curtail Nottakwire (Standard, April 23) was taken as a direct result of the restrictions imposed by the Government in March last year, which impacted upon the group in a number of (obvious) ways.
To the best of our knowledge, the restriction on (choral) singing as an activity has not yet been lifted — after 11 months.
During the remaining months of 2020, there was no indication if/when singing would be able to take place again and, as the group was a large one, consisting mainly of elderly members, we saw no realistic prospect of being able to reconvene, given the prevailing circumstances.
The village hall, our usual venue for 10 years, was closed for use and we had no idea when it would be open again without restrictions.
Therefore we felt forced to reach a decision in order to relieve the pressure of not knowing what was happening for our members and for ourselves.
Before the restrictions were introduced, our intention had always been to continue “business as usual” at least into 2021 and possibly beyond. — Yours faithfully,
Margaret Moola and Elaine Williams
Co-founders, Nottakwire, Sonning Common
Thanks for helping me
Editor, — I would like to thank all those kind people who helped me after I fell in King’s Road, Henley, on Wednesday last week.
Special thanks to the lady outside whose house I fell and the lady who then drove me to Townlands Memorial Hospital. — Yours faithfully,
Name and address supplied
03 May 2021
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