Friday, 21 January 2022

Your letters...

Reasons to light bridge

Sir, — As a member of the Make Henley Shine group, I would like to point out (with respect) some facts that some readers are clearly unaware of.

1. Members of this group, who share the same goal of lighting Henley Bridge, are all unpaid volunteers and there is no commercial gain for any individual.

The total cost includes doing the job professionally, which includes carrying out bat and wildlife reports and environmental and flood assessments as well as bridge surveys and hopefully essential repairs to the underside of the bridge.

2. The LEDs themselves are of the same specification and quality as those on London bridges and, importantly, when fitted will not involve drilling into the ham-stone. (These are NOT fairy lights.)

And I’d like to remind people there are still the remains of fluorescent floodlights (rusty bases) from the Seventies on all four corners of the bridge.

We are so lucky to have Daniel Bausor as our chairman as he worked on the London illuminated bridges for several years so we do have an expert leading us.

3. Originally, I put the temporary LEDs on the bridge with the backing of Oxfordshire County Council and encouragement of Henley town councillor Stefan Gawrysiak (he was on site the morning four years ago that we were dangling from ladders with gaffer tape using a Hobbs barge).

This was (at my cost) to show the town how nice it could look — those lights were never designed to be permanent and were always going to come down after a few months.

It took two years for the town council to eventually vote on it and back the project. But without those temporary LEDs I doubt we would be at this stage of hopefully having the only unique LED bridge feature outside London.

4. The concept of Make Henley Shine is to support the town’s businesses and most of the established businesses and clubs in Henley now support the concept, together with the town and county councils, as well as many residents, as was proved by the 2,500-plus signatures on the petition to keep my lights.

5. There are plenty of ancient bridges in London that are now lit up so to say that our Georgian bridge is unique is not quite true. But it is a beautiful, five-arch bridge and we are very proud to show it off and look after it properly.

6. As far as scheduling the lighting times, this is something for South Oxfordshire district and Wokingham borough councils, the planning authorities, to agree. But apart from when supporting music and art festivals, it does not have to be an early morning feature.

7. Regarding the running costs of such a project, these are state-of-the-art LEDs and the cost to run them is absolute peanuts, so we would hope the town council (as it backs the project) will use its power supply to the bridge and would pay for it. To put it in perspective, it would probably be five per cent of the cost of running the Angel on the Bridge pub’s floodlights on the bridge.

8. The Make Henley Shine team are all professionals and I’m very proud they asked me to join them. We ask the people of Henley to have an open mind. As I have always said, in order to stay the same we have to change, so let’s support the town and be proactive and back Daniel Bausor.

The county council might technically own the bridge and pass it as “fit for purpose” in that it won’t fall down and you can drive over it, but when I had the bridge surveyed four years ago it highlighted a lot of essential maintenance and upkeep required.

Most of this you can’t see as it’s from damage to the arches caused by boats over the decades.

Equally, you can’t see the damage to the bridge that heavy goods vehicles cause (they weren’t here 250 years ago). Amanda Chumas has brilliantly highlighted the primary effects of HGVs on townsfolk.

And what about the recent work carried out in order to install fibre optics when the original York stone paths were taken up and replaced with tarmac? How appalling is that? I know the council says this is temporary, but just make sure it is.

It’s a pity that the Henley Archaeological and Historical Group, which we acknowledge is very important, doesn’t see and act on professional data that other people have provided.

The bridge has to be the responsibility of all Henley folk, so let’s take some pride and look after it and back Daniel Bausor and Amanda Chumas in their quests to do exactly that. — Yours faithfully,

Clive Hemsley

Make Henley Shine, Hart Street, Henley

Puzzling decision

It puzzles me how Wokingham Borough Council can have such influence over the presentation/development of our precious Henley riverside.

I refer to the application for a fine building on the Wargrave side to house a truly outstanding collection of beautifully restored Thames boats. Permission has been refused.

Can someone advise what collaboration — if any — exists between Henley (South Oxfordshire) and Wokingham? — Yours faithfully,

Mary Batten

Henley

Man to stop hooligans

Sir, — Last week, you published an article about the public being encouraged to leave electric cars in Mill Meadows overnight to be charged.

But the week before you had an article about Mill Meadows being abused nightly by hooligans.

Mill Meadows CCTV had captured images of a car being vandalised but no culprits had been identified.

I’m not surprised as the CCTV is managed from Didcot, where they shamelessly admit data protection dictates that the cameras have to be tilted so as not to record vehicle registration plates.

It is obvious that if electric charging is to go ahead in Mill Meadows overnight that someone has to be there to protect the cars.

I happened to be down by the river last year when a new park ranger was reading the riot act to a large group of people holding a prohibited barbecue.

He was strangely unemotional and composed in what was a very volatile if not dangerous situation.

The listeners immediately obeyed his instructions to stop cooking. I recognised that I was in the presence of someone who knew how to control others in a socially acceptable way. His unflappability was a mystery to me.

A visitor to Mill Meadows said to me later that the council knew who they were picking when they employed him. This park ranger is the man to protect any cars charging at electric points in Mill Meadows.

I don’t know who he is or even if he is still in the area. I hope he is. Putting him in contact with hooligans would, of course, be a value judgment. It would mean balancing paying for his skills against the potential hassles resulting in not having him on site.

I think it would be money well spent to have him with us when seen against the background of the allegedly overregulated CCTV people in Didcot. — Yours faithfully,

Sam Brown

Western Road, Henley

I’m against borders bill

Sir, — Helen Watson was quite right to draw attention to the passing of the controversial Nationality and Borders Bill through the House of Commons (Standard, December 24).

In contrast, John Howell’s response was no more than the standard government line that it’s all the fault of the traffickers.

As an MP, Mr Howell is the leader of the UK Delegation to the Council of Europe, which has responsibility for the European Convention on Human Rights.

Article 2 of this convention, which is incorporated into UK law through the Human Rights Act 1998, protects the right to life.

The UK is required to adopt laws and practices to safeguard the right to life, which includes the safety of lives at sea.

Many organisations, including the parliamentary joint committee on human rights, found that the new bill would breach the UK’s human rights obligations. Despite this, Tory MPs voted to pass the bill without amendment.

The bill will allow the UK to break international human rights and maritime laws at will.

This is hardly compatible with the Government’s aspiration to be a “Global Britain”, promoting the rule of law throughout the world.

Mr Howell should be drawing attention to this dangerous flaw in the Nationality and Borders Bill from his position in the Council of Europe.

Instead he is providing uncritical support through lack of analysis or supine inaction. — Yours faithfully,

David Winchester

Kennylands Road, Sonning Common

Their right to sanctuary

Sir, — Regarding the response from John Howell to my letter about stopping people trying to enter the UK on small boats, it is important to clarify that the desperate people in the boats are not doing anything illegal.

They have every right to apply for sanctuary and should not be turned away without the opportunity to make their case.

When Mr Howell talks about people “getting off the hook so easily and lightly” I think he is referring to the traffickers.

They wouldn’t risk their lives in those flimsy vessels. Traffickers and the people fleeing war and destitution are not one and the same.

There is a tragic lack of clarity here. The political need to be seen as tough is coming into conflict with humane values and the long-cherished notion of fair play.

A step back and a different approach are required. The current approach penalises the wrong people.

As the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, put it on Christmas Day: “It’s not politics, it’s simply humanity.”

People risk their lives to cross the Channel as an act of utter desperation, so much so that the tragic drownings have not stopped more people using this route. They are not just statistics, they are individuals, real people, who have lost everything.

Government policy insists that applications for asylum must be made before they attempt to come here — the very thing they cannot do.

For example, interpreters in Afghanistan who worked for the British are in hiding, fearing for their lives and those of their families. How can they be expected to make those applications before they get to safety?

France, Germany and Spain have each taken in more than twice as many as the UK. The UK has broken its promises to help and has closed down resettlement projects and access to official routes.

This all helps to keep the traffickers in business.

I go back to my original question, how can Border Force officials legitimately be ordered to endanger lives at sea or leave people to drown? It was a serious question. What kind of government thinks it reasonable to do that? — Yours faithfully,

Helen Watson

Laureate Gardens, Henley

Good acting experience

With reference to the letter from Kathleen Cosnett about the Fifties ITV series Robin Hood (Standard, December 24), an interesting additional fact is that for five years, the role of Will Scarlett was played by a very young Paul Eddington, much better known, of course, for his roles in The Good Life and Yes, Minister. — Yours faithfully,

Peter Staveley

Tuscany, Italy

I heard Tutu speak live

Sir, — As I watched the thanksgiving service to Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Saturday it brought back memories of the occasion when I heard him speak.

His vitality and charisma are well known but the event itself may interest your readers.

It was the induction of the new Bishop of Maseru, which took place during the two years I was working in Lesotho.

Invited to attend the ceremony, my wife and I set off in the direction of the Anglican cathedral.

We were soon caught up in a large crowd so I waved my invitation at an official who promptly jumped into our car and directed us to a large sports field.

To our amazement, an altar complete with a large cross had been erected in front of one of the netball posts. The cathedral could not have held the vast crowd which circled the field.

The then King Moshoeshoe II, his Queen and Prince Letsie, who has since succeeded his father, together with bishops, politicians, and officials from around the world, were present.

There were speeches by Archbishop Tutu, the King and many others along with ceremony, singing and traditional dancing. This started at 11am and finished at 3.30pm when food was served. — Yours faithfully,

Douglas Wright

Lowfield Green, Caversham

Praise that’s overdue

Editor, — Having rather famously complained about the service provided by the minor injuries unit at Townlands Memorial Hospital in Henley on your front page in September 2019, I feel I have to now praise the unit for the care I have just received.

A few weeks ago, I fell and injured my leg. After two weeks it obviously wasn’t healing so I took myself to the minor injuries unit to see if they could help.

With covid and the push on boosters, I wasn’t at all sure where someone with a minor but old injury should go but hoped they could help.

The place was buzzing. From reception I was directed to a small side window behind which sat a triage nurse. This was new as she certainly wasn’t there/available on my last visit.

I was given a form to fill in and then sat with the other patients, all of whom seemed in greater need than me.

Within half an hour they had all been called in and dispatched home, bandaged and cared for, and then it was my turn.

I was met by a bubbly young nurse who re-dressed my leg and talked me through how to apply the extra dressings. She gave me what to look for, such as infection. I could go back if I was at all worried, she said.

And go back I did — Christmas was coming and I didn’t want any problems. It was the same rapid service and although initially I saw a different nurse, she knew who had helped me last time and called her to see if she thought the wound was improving.

It was, so it was re-dressed and I was told to see my GP practice nurse for further dressings.

My next appointment was indeed with my practice nurse. She had my notes from Townlands and continued my care and made another appointment for me.

But before I could go back I got covid and had to isolate. On Monday, almost a week late for my appointment with the practice nurse, the surgery was closed so I went back to Townlands.

Yet again I was greeted by a friendly nurse. Apparently the minor injuries unit would not get any funding for my ongoing care but of course they would change my dressing, clean the wound and send me on my way with a couple of fresh dressings.

So thank you and I apologise to all the staff whose feelings were hurt by my comments in 2019.

As another patient commented this week, it’s a marvellous resource. — Yours faithfully,

Judith Phelan

Deanfield Road, Henley

Marriage advice...

Sir, — I thought your readers may like this piece of helpful advice.

If your wife spends many hours preparing Christmas lunch. try not to criticise anything and don’t give her a new tin opener as her main present. — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Smith

Holiday Inn, Oxford

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