Monday, 17 January 2022

Your letters...

Squirming politicians

Sir, — I wonder if your readers would agree that we have entered the most exciting time in politics in the UK since the Brexit debacle.

What we have today is so much more exciting than the political wastelands we have been through since the last general election.

Recently all we’ve had is the uncharismatic Labour leader trying his best to highlight the inadequacies of the nation’s favourite blond bombshell and this hasn’t been much of a success.

But now I have heard some people say that we all need to be most grateful to Boris Johnson for providing this wonderful pre-Christmas landscape in which we can see tested before our very eyes the perspicuity of our politicians.

So how is this happening? It works like this. If you ask a politician, “Do you think there was a party at No 10 Downing Street on December 18?”, he or she will have to disclose his or her hopes and fears and expectations for the future like no other question which could possibly be asked.

If the answer is, “I don’t know. I wasn’t there” followed quickly by, “Make sure you get your booster”, you will know immediately that that politician expects the Prime Minister to survive the current scandals and therefore he or she dare not face the actual question.

It’s no good asking the question again or seeking clarification. This politician believes that he or she has something to lose by giving an answer.

If the answer is, “The inquiry set up by Downing Street will answer that question”, then the politician is hedging his or her bets.

It is always risky to speculate on the outcome of an inquiry and on this occasion any comments entail more risks than usual.

If the answer is, “Of course there was a party or gathering, or whatever you want to call it, and the law-breakers should be punished”, then you know that politician is hopeful of a future without the current incumbent in No 10 Downing Street.

Note that this question does not seek to find the truth. It is simply to test the politicians. I wonder if someone shouldn’t test our own parliamentary representative John Howell.

I met Boris Johnson at a school fete when he was Henley’s MP. On being introduced to him, I commented that I found him an interesting politician.

He was smart enough to perceive that the word “interesting” did not necessarily indicate approval and this was apparent by the look on his face.

Today I no longer find him interesting. What is much more interesting or even exciting is to watch the people around him struggling to cope with the difficult situations he has caused.

Thank you, Mr Johnson, for laying on this exciting entertainment. — Yours faithfully,

Dan Remenyi

Kidmore End

So sad for bereaved

Editor, — I feel so sad that our Prime Minister allegedly broke the lock-down covid rules that he asked us all to respect.

It has been so hard for many of us during the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year, my husband was taken into hospital by ambulance after he suddenly collapsed at home in pain (he was fit and healthy for his age).

We weren’t allowed to go with him, or to visit him because of the covid rules.

Sadly, he passed away the next day, leaving us heartbroken and devastated that we were denied the right to hold him and tell him we loved him.

Last Christmas, my daughter and I spent Christmas on our own; we missed Peter so much.

It was the same for his funeral, not being able to have my family around us to give us comfort.

Our thoughts are with those who have lost their own loved ones. — Yours faithfully,

Name and address supplied

Please obey mask rules

Sir, — I travelled from Twyford to Henley by train on Wednesday morning and was concerned to see that most passengers, who were largely teenagers, were not wearing a face mask.

The necessity for wearing a mask on public transport has been well publicised and is required both by Great Western Railway and the Government.

There are exemptions for children under 11, people with breathing difficulties, or those whose disabilities make it difficult for them to wear one.

When I asked GWR staff about this, they pointed out that they did not have authority to enforce the wearing of masks and that this was the responsibility of the British Transport Police.

Given that we are now in the midst of a very serious wave of covid-19 infections, it is important for schools and parents to impress upon the young the necessity of mask-wearing to protect themselves and, particularly, people who are at risk of serious illness or worse if infected.

The consequences of ignoring such rules are yet more pressure on the NHS to cope with helping both covid and non-covid patients alike. — Yours faithfully

Professor Chris Mathew

Laureate Gardens, Henley

Broadcast our bridge

I wish to state that I support the lighting of Henley Bridge (Standard, December 3) for the simple reason that, from an unbiased perspective, I want to raise the bar for Henley.

I bet that most Standard readers know about the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, which is illuminated all year round and is one of the most photographed landmarks in the city and indeed in Italy.

If we keep the Henley stone bridge a secret for our residents only, it will not help to attract the level of international interest that this town is in dire need of — to uplift the business climate and provide the energy year-round so that the local economy can thrive other than during the few summer months of regatta and festivals.

So whatever our community could do to help this cause will be appreciated by the organisers of this worthwhile project that might have a long-lasting and positive impact on the town of Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Grace Leo

Co-owner, The Relais Henley, Hart Street, Henley

I commend campaign

I hope that the campaign to have lights on Henley Bridge is successful this time.

Clive Hemsley’s passion to campaign to improve his town should be commended, among the others leading the way. We have all seen the photographs showing the bridge had lights attached many years ago like so many city/town bridges around the world. — Yours faithfully,

Charles Bailey

Let’s make town shine

I would like to register my support for the Make Henley Shine project to adorn Henley’s stunning ham stone bridge with celebratory LED lights. I am not alone in hoping that South Oxfordshire District Council will approve the project and listen to the 2,500 people (almost a quarter of the town’s population) who signed the petition to allow the bridge to be temporarily lit up.

I chose Henley to be the headquarters location for my global business, European Consumer Claims, because of the town’s beauty, history and the great quality of local people. Come on, give the people what they want. — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Cooper

Chief executive, European Consumer Claims, Newtown Road, Henley

I want lights on bridge

I absolutely support lights on Henley Bridge. Well done, Clive Hemsley. — Yours faithfully,

Judy Dinsdale

Northfield End, Henley

Misguided proposal

Sir, — I fear the obsession with lighting up every structure with garish and unnatural light is ruining the aesthetic of our urban environment.

Henley Bridge is beautifully crafted from wonderful stone and provides a fitting monument to the engineers who provided a much- needed practical solution to crossing our river hundreds of years ago when it replaced the existing wooden structure.

This vanity project for Clive Hemsley may well appeal to some but it will undoubtedly cheapen the historic outlook from all directions and is bound to impact on the natural behaviour of wildlife, such as bats, which live around the bridge.

Please urge your readers to oppose the dumbing down of Henley in order to satisfy the whim of a few mis-guided entrepreneurs.

It is the thin end of a very damaging wedge. — Yours faithfully,

Tom Flood


Beautiful or theme park?

Sir, — Is it better to keep the beauty of the night sky and the river or to have an ancient bridge turned into an ordinary theme park? — Yours faithfully,

Y Kedge

Lea Road, Sonning Common

Is it really significant?

Sir, — The team seeking to install lighting on Henley Bridge have now sought charitable status for their project.

It would be interesting to know what are their grounds for seeking that status, which might be thought more obviously aimed at bodies concerned with the relief of poverty, or of sickness, or the encouragement of the arts — things on which the health of a community truly depends.

Does this scheme (I have no personal view on its merits but merely observe that it has far from unanimous support in the community) truly deserve to be treated in the same way as, say, the air ambulance service, Shelter, Cancer Research, or Crisis at Christmas, to name just four bodies on whose work lives depend, and the objects of which encapsulate the best in charity?

Charity is something without which the interests of the community would be devalued.

Whether one likes the scheme or not, is it truly of such significance? — Yours faithfully,

Christopher McCall QC

Ferry Lane, Moulsford

Ignoring our luminaries

Sir, — The events at the final Formula 1 grand prix of the season in Abu Dhabi on Sunday have brought references in the press to the sport being run like The Truman Show.

Peter Weir’s excellent and extraordinary movie distils the message of what is to be found in the pages of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.

Huxley, notably, taught Orwell, then the boy Eric Blair, at Eton College. None better than the Establishment to understand how to manipulate reality and create dystopia.

Orwell may by rights be the world champion of 20th century fiction, based on international sales and reputation alone.

Yet our town continues to fail to recognise his proper place in our own history. Henley is his home town.

A similar observation can be made about Henley’s collective attitude to another of its Georges, (George) Harrison.

When it comes to celebrating the lives of George Orwell and George Harrison, is our own Henley town Establishment really saying good afternoon, good evening and good night? — Yours faithfully,

Peter Burness-Smith

Elizabeth Road, Henley

Abnegating responsibility

We read that South Oxfordshire District Council has finally thrown in the towel (Standard, December 10).

Over the last few years we have seen its granting consent on planning applications that should have fallen at the first fence.

It has done so by ignoring Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty guidelines, playing fast and loose with the definition of infill and inventing reasons to find applications acceptable.

To a degree, this is understandable because it would appear that, faced with the deep pockets of larger developers and their agents, when applications have been refused, the developers have gone straight to the Planning Inspectorate, which has not hesitated to reverse decisions, granting costs to the applicant and against the council, even in cases where the applicant has carried out works without consent.

The costs charged to an already cash-strapped council are not inconsiderable and it is therefore not difficult to appreciate its reluctance to refuse consent.

At a recent meeting, the chairman of planning even stated that as there was little to no chance of the council being supported on appeal if it turned down the application, so it had better pass it.

Developers are obviously aware of this, applying for consent in situations that would otherwise have been unthinkable.

But at least the council could set down conditions designed to ensure that works were carried out in a right and proper manner and within the strictures laid out within the application consent.

However, it would appear that the council has now decided it is no longer going to deal with cases of infringement unless there are serious violations.

This is on a points system, only targeting those cases that “have the potential to cause planning harm”, whatever that might mean, giving a green light to developers and their agents wishing to ignore detailed planning restraints, conditions attached to the consent, variations in footprint or roof height, or any other change the developer might suddenly dream up.

This decision has apparently been taken by the council on the basis that oversight takes up too much time, so in essence it has unilaterally decided to abnegate its responsibilities and no longer carry out the work that councillors were elected to undertake. — Yours faithfully,

Roger Murray-Leach

Binfield Heath

Giving up on enforcement

Sir, — No private sector organisation would compromise on its obligations to its customers (i.e. residents), as illustrated by the abject abandonment of planning enforcement by the new South Oxfordshire District Council.

I couldn’t agree more with Councillor David Bartholomew. The council should hold its officers to account.

The coronavirus pandemic has been difficult for all organisations but elsewhere it has catalysed more efficient ways of working rather than just giving up. — Yours faithfully,

Alan Giles

Crowsley Road, Shiplake

Change for the better

While the Government has lurched from crisis to crisis, lie to lie, the new Liberal Democrat-led Oxfordshire County Council alliance has been quietly getting on with the job. In just six months, we have reformed the 20mph policy to enable every parish and town council to apply for safer streets, taken civil parking enforcement off our overstretched police and developed new strategies that place cycling, walking and active transport at the centre of policy-making.

We have a huge job ahead clearing up the mess left behind from decades of Conservative neglect, which is made even harder by a deliberate strategy by the Government to shift costs and the tax burden on to the local level. However, May marked a change for Oxfordshire. 2022 will be even better. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Freddie van Mierlo

Chalgrove and Watlington ward, Oxfordshire County Council

Building is no legacy

I just wanted to say thanks to Vincent Ruane for his Nature Notes article about his walk through Reading Golf Club (Standard, December 3).

I think it highlighted all that is wrong with building on green space, something that not only Emmer Green is suffering from but many areas of South Oxfordshire.

It is a beautiful space and building there would not leave a “legacy” for Emmer Green. — Yours faithfully,

Ian Morgan

Highdown Hill Road, Emmer Green

Nature is good for us

Thank you to Vincent and Rosemary Ruane for taking us on a very special countryside ramble alongside the chalk grassland and ancient woodland skirting the old Reading Golf Club course, tucked peacefully away in both Berkshire and South Oxfordshire.

Vincent’s descriptions and Rosemary’s photographs captured perfectly the sounds and wonders of nature, which took on even greater significance during the months of lockdown.

How the natural world preserved and sustained our physical and mental health and brought communities safely together when the pandemic threatened to keep us apart is a lesson we will tell the next generations and a lesson I hope we never forget. — Yours faithfully,

Jane Lawson

Emmer Green

Expensive coffee time

Sir, -— My friend and I met at the Chocolate Café in the River & Rowing Museum in Henley on Monday morning (hadn’t been there for ages).

Well, no wonder there were only about three tables occupied.

We were shocked to find that you now have to pay for parking (last time we were there you were given a token if you were only using the café). To add insult to injury, my friend arrived a few minutes before me and just went over the hour and had to pay £3.50, yes £3.50.

I just scraped in at £1.50 for an hour.

It’s cheaper to pay extra for your coffee but park in town (only £1.20 for two hours).

I have to say the café was pleasant, the staff friendly and the tea and coffee were good and cheaper than the other coffee shops.

Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. We certainly won’t be going again and will not recommend it to anyone else. Shame. — Yours faithfully,

Sue Vivian-Wright

Greys Road, Henley

The River & Rowing Museum responds: “We were sorry to hear of your disappointment in terms of your recent experience.

“As a charity with no ongoing public funding, the museum relies on income from its visitors and supporters. As with so many other arts organisations, the coronavirus pandemic has had a particularly crippling effect on our income.

“In order to secure the museum’s long-term future, parking charges were introduced in August last year for the first time in the museum’s 21-year history.

“For many years, the museum car park had been the only one in central Henley that did not charge. The new parking tariffs are in line with and agreed by Henley Town Council.

“Accessible parking and parking for schools remain free. We understand that this news will come as a disappointment but we have been forced to act responsibly to save the museum from closure.

“We remain very grateful to our regular visitors for being so supportive of this change once they have appreciated the background for its

“I do hope that you, too, will understand the reasons behind the change. It was great to learn how much you enjoyed our Chocolate Café and we do look forward to welcoming you to the museum again in the future.”

Patronising headline

Sir, — I wish to complain about the headline on your article about the new owners of the Goring Grocer “Women leave Waitrose to run village grocery store” (Standard, December 3). I consider it to be absurdly sexist.

Why “women” instead of “friends” or even “experienced retail executives”?

When I first read the headline I thought it was a parody, like the sketch in Harry Enfield and Chums (“Women: know your limits”). I expect many readers of your esteemed organ are female and they may appreciate a less patronising tone. Many of the male readers may also appreciate it too. — Yours faithfully,

Henry Bell

Beijing (formerly of Streatley)

Kindness unrewarded

Sir, — I wish to convey my heartfelt thanks to the young woman who came to my aid when I tried to navigate my way to the Hart Surgery in Henley on Saturday.

She found me in York Road where I had become confused as to the correct route to take. She had just been there for her flu vaccination so she knew exactly where to go and kindly accompanied me to the front door.

I gave my thanks and went on to have my own jab and before leaving booked a taxi to take me home.

When I came out again I found that the woman had been waiting for me — for probably half an hour. My taxi was nowhere to be seen, so she offered to drive me.

After I told her where I lived, she even offered to change her shopping plans so that she would be going past my address.

While I was deliberating, my taxi turned up and, without really thinking about it (partly because I use the taxi firm regularly), I chose to take the taxi. It’s only since then that I have realised I should have taken up the woman’s kind offer. I hope she did not think me rude to refuse it.

I would be delighted if she would get in touch with me through your newspaper so I can give her my thanks personally. — Yours faithfully,

Geoffrey Roberts


Thanks for great event

Editor, — Through your wonderful paper, could I say a huge thank-you to everybody who took part in my Santa fun run in Henley on Sunday?

We estimate that more than 200 people took part, which was fantastic, and we have raised more than £600 for my charities, the Henley and Peppard branch of the Royal British Legion, the Henley Regatta for the Disabled and Henley Plastic Reduction. It was a super morning full of laughter and everybody was dressed up. You all looked fabulous.

Huge thanks to Rupert House School for sponsoring the Santa hats and to Henley Rotary Club for its help with marshalling. Thank you to Amanda McGregor for bringing her beautiful caravan down and serving hot chocolate, to Henley Royal Regatta for giving us permission to run riot on their land and to Tesco Henley, which supplied the mince pies.

Last but not least, thanks to the “Santa Gang”, Councllors Laurence Plant, Stefan Gawrysiak, Ken Arlett, Kellie Hinton and Donna Crook and Laurence’s fabulous dad Stephen, who made the event run smoothly as I ran around panicking. A great team effort.

Merry Christmas, everybody, I’m off to eat another mince pie. — Yours faithfully,

Sarah Miller

Mayor of Henley

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