Sir, — Following the decision to adopt the previously unpublished fourth route for this year’s Challenge Henley cycle race (Standard, January 25), Stonor Parish Council is concerned at the undemocratic approach taken by Oxfordshire County Council and the Just Racing UK organisation.
The decision has been reached without any consultation with the parishes most closely affected, despite them having been promised to the contrary.
We can only assume that the consultation on the other routes did not produce the desired response, so it has been decided to adopt an alternative behind closed doors.
To foist route four upon residents in these rural communities without proper consultation is absolutely iniquitous and entirely without defence.
There seems little point in reiterating our original points as these are being totally disregarded.
Suffice to say that, while attempting to produce an amicable and supportive solution to the problems encountered by the triathlon organisers, it would now appear that our efforts have been in vain.
The decision made shows a scandalous disregard for local rural communities and there is no doubt that a monumental wave of disaffected opinion will be the result.
Our recent poll of affected households showed in excess of 85 per cent of respondents being against the event and this was before this latest debacle. — Yours faithfully,
Thomas Dunn, Chairman, Pishill with Stonor Parish Council
Sir, — Thank you for publishing a map of the route of the 2013 Henley Challenge cycle route (Standard, January 25), so that your readers may study the implications for themselves.
I also read the comments and correspondence from Watlington, Swyncombe and neighbouring villages with much sympathy.
The problems in Watlington which will face southbound traffic coming from the M40 hardly bear thinking about.
It appears that Oxfordshire County Council has agreed to this route without further reference to the liaison committee, chaired by John Howell MP. Does the council receive any financial gain for this unilateral decision? Perhaps the Standard will press for a reply to this question?
It will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for divine worship to take place on Sunday, September 8 in the parish churches at Watlington, Swyncombe, Nettlebed, Nuffield, Bix and Rotherfield Greys. Normal access to other churches will be problematic.
In the Thirties, Mr Justice (later Lord Chief Justice) Goddard concluded that “the parishioner’s right to attend his parish church…. may be described as a common law right”. The right is limited to attendance at public worship in the church.
Why should Just Racing (and Oxfordshire County Council) deny parishioners that right or deny an incumbent access to his own church or churches?
Cricket as well as cycling may be enjoyed on Sunday afternoons. Why should cycling upset the arrangements of cricket clubs?
The route goes past the cricket grounds at Nettlebed, Swyncombe, Highmoor and Greys Green so matches there will not be able to take place. Games elsewhere will also be affected as roads are closed and access is denied. — Yours faithfully,
K B Atkinson, Red House Drive, Sonning Common
Sir, — With reference to the recent letters concerning the cycle route for the 2013 Challenge Henley triathlon, may I draw readers’ attention to the finish of the 2012 triathlon, which was routed through the garage drive of the property of the residents of the two blocks of flats, Thames and Connaught Houses, on the north side of Phyllis Court Drive.
This was in contravention of the protocol established between Phyllis Court Club and the council of the management body, Marlow Road Management, responsible for the flats in 1973.
Written consent from MRM for access was not obtained, resulting not only in inconvenience but also hazard to the residents of the flats. — Yours faithfully,
Derek Shirley, Phyllis Court Drive, Henley
Germans welcome us
Sir, — I competed at Challenge Henley in 2011 and 2012 and on both occasions stayed in a guest house in the town for four nights with my wife and family.
We ate in the local restaurants and pubs. I believe the triathlon is a family event, which the host town should be proud of.
I have raced in Challenge Roth in Germany (a sister race) six times and the town completely embraces the event as thousands of people line the streets to cheer on the competitors.
Roth people are very honoured to host the event and make all the athletes very welcome. They have even built a special monument.
Wouldn’t be lovely if councillors and local people of influence would embrace the event like the Germans have? — Yours faithfully,
Mark White, Leicester
Roads unfit for cyclists
Sir, — The row raging over Challenge Henley misses the point.
For me, it’s a wonder any cycling event chooses to come to the town.
Ask any, larger-bodied, part-time cycling enthusiast — the roads around here are shocking, full of bone-jarring potholes, drops, uneven drain covers and asphalt patches. Perhaps if the money from the event went to improving the roads then the locals would be more receptive.
If the competitors really are going up and down the Marlow road this year it’ll be like watching Grand National horses trying to negotiate Aintree. — Yours faithfully,
S Hawkes, Shiplake
Parking will spoil view
Sir, — Work started on a car park at the front of Upton Close, Henley, with only two days’ notice (Standard, January 25).
Several questions come to mind, such as why and who will benefit (not the residents of Upton Close)? Why were the residents not consulted (I certainly had no idea until the letter came) and, most importantly, can this be stopped?
Our outlook will now be more parked cars (not our own) instead of a rather pleasant green and flowery area (thanks to Mayor Elizabeth Hodgkin and her team of Gardening Buddies) which we will now not be able to see.
I understood that a scheme for placing wooden posts on the grass area to stop people parking was under discussion.What happened to that rather good idea? What a shame to spoil one of the ways into our delightful little town and turn a very green area into yet another car park. Help! — Yours faithfully,
Tricia Clements, Upton Close, Henley
No benefit to residents
Sir, — I read with interest your report regarding the extra parking spaces being created in Upton Close, Henley.
I have lived at the front of the close for the past 13 years and at no point have I been consulted about these changes.
According to your report, Councillor David Nimmo-Smith says that the work is being done to make it look a little neater and that this will be better for everyone.
This could have been done at a fraction of the cost by adding boulders or posts to stop damage to the grass verge. I fail to see how this will benefit the residents. The road is used daily by visitors and commuters for free parking and the council has now given them more spaces to use with little respect for the people who live here. — Yours faithfully,
Lyn Pitson, Upton Close, Henley
Sir, — I am dismayed that cash-strapped OxfordshireCounty Council is about to squander £5,000 on a pointless 40mph speed limit on a one-mile stretch of Howe Hill, Watlington (Standard, January 25).
I have sympathy for village residents (this isn’t a village) whose lives are blighted by speeding motorists but it is a fact that one’s perception of the speed of a passing car is much higher than it actually is.
The assertion by one resident that cars pass his house at the top of Howe Hill at up to 70mph (on a bend) is, to put it politely, fiction. I asked the council for the results of its speed survey which one would assume a responsible council would carry out before authorising such expenditure. It was not forthcoming.
Concerned that our council was about to squander money on a pointless proposal that would only serve to further blight the appearance of the Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty, I have carried out my own survey which established that the average speed of motorists passing the small group of houses at the top and bottom of Howe Hill is about 38mph — the result, in the council’s words, of site- specific conditions, i.e. bends.
I was foolish enough to waste half a day to attend a meeting at county hall at which this was discussed and it soon became obvious that the decision had already been made to implement this proposal.
The deputy leader of the council was in no mood to let facts and common sense get in the way of his spending plans.
When I asked again for the results of a speed survey, he had to enquire of his colleagues to be told that one had not been carried out.
When I mentioned the results of my own survey, he countered with “we would need to get the speed down to 40mph first anyway”.
No, I haven’t got a clue what that meant either!
At that meeting I got the impression that the council was determined to spend this money come what may. In these straitened times, when will the council begin to practice what it preaches?
It is a fact that the majority of motorists will drive at least 5mph over the posted limit so our genius council will be encouraging drivers to travel in excess of the current average speed. And no amount of signage will discourage the nutters.
What saddens me most about this ill-conceived, profligate proposal is the damage caused to currently unspoilt countryside by 14 new road signs and two more pairs of ghastly suburban, white gates. This will only add to the insidious erosion of the character of some very special countryside. — Yours faithfully,
Paul Sargeantson, Britwell Salome
Sir, — I am writing concerning your story abut the Bell Street stopping-up order headlined “Taxpayers face bill for road inquiry” (Standard, January 25).
I would like to provide the facts to your readers and particularly to correct the headline, which was simply untrue.
The inquiry was held at no cost to Henley residents. Henley Town Council has not spent any money on this case — we specifically resolved exactly this.
The council adopted a principled stand in opposing the proposed order as this would have meant this piece of public highway being lost forever for public benefit.
Our key principle is the safety of the residents of Henley and for this reason we are delighted at the inspector’s decision to refuse the order. This also helps to protect this beautiful historic area from unwelcome development. We also opposed the order on the grounds that this public amenity should be retained for the benefit of all of Henley.
The developer hoped to cash in on the mistakes of Oxfordshire County Council, which overlooked its responsibility to this asset.
The response of the developer and purchasers of the land has been to threaten court action.
Purchasers were incorrectly informed when buying the land that they would have exclusive parking rights.
The town council has always stated that the unwitting purchasers of land from the developer should have their money returned.
The law and common sense both say that being missold land entitles you to your money back.
The only loss is to the developer, which believed it had been delivered an unexpected and undeserved windfall.
The inspector’s report on the costs clearly backed up the town council’s view that there is little or no loss to the taxpayer resulting from his decision.
His report considers possible public loss and states: “These two purchasers would be forced to concede their spaces and no doubt the purchase price would be returned. This would clearly be a personal loss but would not count much, if anything, as a public interest loss.”
It also states: “This is a personal and not a public disbenefit. Thus the public benefits again lie with rejecting the stopping-up order.”
The town council has repeatedly called on the county council to fulfil its obligations as the highways authority and lead a process of resolving this situation in a way that is safe for the public as well as being fair and reasonable to all parties.
We look forward to working with the county council to achieve this. — Yours faithfully,
Councillor Ian Reissmann, Chairman, finance strategy and management committee, Henley Town Council, Gainsborough Road, Henley
Estate isn’t problem area
Sir, — With reference to your report headlined “Police target estate in campaign to stop burglars going ‘local’” (Standard, January 18), while I welcome the targeting of burglary — and the police are doing a great job on this in Henley — I feel that it is not right to characterise Gainsborough as a problem estate.
I moved to Gainsborough in 2011 and have been impressed at the community spirit. I have lived in five areas of Henley and Gainsborough is the friendliest so far.
While the police may need to target certain areas, it is extremely important not to publicly label them negatively. This is for the benefit of the vast majority of law- abiding residents in those areas and indeed for the whole of Henley.
Although Henley is not without a few problems, we have very low levels of crime compared with the rest of the UK. — Yours faithfully,
Councillor Laila Meachin, Henley Town Council, Gainsborough Road, Henley
Too noisy? Then move
Sir, — With reference to your story about neighbours being upset over the noisy freezer in the garden of La Bodega (Standard, January 18), how dare customers “wander outside with their drinks, talking and laughing”?
The noise from the freezer needs to be sorted out but the neighbours need to realise that they chose to live in the middle of a town. It is very unreasonable of them to expect everyone to be silent just to please them. If they want uninterrupted peace and quiet why don’t they go and live somewhere else? — Yours faithfully,
Henry Smyth Watkins, Henley
Show respect for the dead
Sir, — I was walking along Church Street by Trinity Church in Henley at 8.15am on Thursday last week when I saw a man standing by the graves in the churchyard with his son and daughter.
I then noticed he had a black spaniel-type dog, which he allowed to defecate on one of the graves.
Although he picked up the dog mess, I was so shocked that he could show such a lack of respect for the dead — and while with his children. What sort of an example is he setting them?
I believe that this was not the first time this man has done this. I have seen him before letting his dog roam freely over the graves that people have chosen as their final resting places and allowing it to urinate on them.
I have written this letter in the hope that someone recognises him as this may embarrass him enough to stop him allowing his dog to use the churchyard as a toilet.
This has upset me very much as I have family buried in the churchyard.
I have also made Rev Duncan Carter, the vicar, aware. — Yours faithfully,
Mrs Crook, Abrahams Road, Henley
Thoughtless dog owners
Sir, — On walking around Maidensgrove Common you can’t fail to notice the blue or green dog poo bags littering the scrub areas and then you turn a corner and stumble on a dump of them.
Well done to the person who put up the following notice: “To whoever is creating this pile of dog poo bags, please can you remove them? The bags do not decompose and will remain an unsightly mess until some poor person under the local, annual litter blitz has the unfortunate task of removing them.
“If your dog must foul on the common, encourage it to do so at the edge where there’s no risk of families picnicking. Poo eventually rots away, bags don’t!” Dog fouling is a topic regularly covered on your letters page but what are people thinking when they create such an unsightly mess in a beauty spot? Maidensgrove Common is used daily by dog walkers, including professional ones who offload vans full of dogs to run and foul freely.
Whoever the dogs belong to, if their owners are clearing up after them with bags, that’s great but then why can’t they dispose of the bags at home? — Yours faithfully,
Name and address supplied
Thanks for saving dog
Sir, — I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all the considerate drivers who slowed down on the B481 through Peppard on Wednesday afternoon last week when my little old terrier suffered a panic attack and ran blindly along the road.
I should also thank the kind workman who eventually managed to catch the dog, so he was returned safely to me. My sincere thanks to you all. — Yours faithfully,
Name supplied, Peppard
Big cat could survive in wild
Sir, — Like your correspondents Wayne Edwards and Amanda Watkins-Cooke, I saw the same animal cross the road in front of me at dusk between Gallowstree Common and Cane End last autumn.
Like them, I know what I saw! The animal was black and about the size of a Labrador with a long tail but it moved like a cat. It was not a dog or large domestic cat.
I have a friend who was walking with her dog at Binfield Heath when she had a similar experience. It, whatever it is, has now been seen over the past few years by a number of people in the area between Bix, Ipsden, Cane End, Binfield Heath and Tokers Green i.e. in the woods of the heathlands of South Oxfordshire. A panther could easily survive on game etc. — Yours faithfully,
Diana Hadaway, South Stoke Road, Woodcote
Surprised by a wallaby
Sir, — I am not sure if this is of interest but while running through the woods in Catslip on Wednesday morning last week, a wallaby sprang across the path in front of me.I couldn’t believe my eyes!
It then continued on its journey, bounding through the snowy trees. I know that there have been previous wallaby sightings, so thought I would let you know about mine. — Yours faithfully,
Sophie Eckersall, Nettlebed
Cold weather, warm welcome
Sir, — In these days when there is so much negative publicity about attitudes, I take off my metaphorical hat to Urban Fitness in Henley.
Arriving in town at 6pm on a cold January day with over an hour to kill ahead of a dinner with friends, but with a kit bag in my boot, I popped my head around the gym door to enquire if I could use the changing facilities and, if so, would I need to extend my mortgage in order to pay for it.
Not only was I warmly welcomed but, despite my genuine protestations that I should at least pay for the hot water in the shower, the Urban Fitness team steadfastly refused my offer of financial recompense.
I was always told that one good turn deserves another. So, good folk of Henley, support a local facility which was a great advert for the hospitality on offer in your beautiful town. — Yours faithfully,
Jonathan Smith, Wellfield Close, Coed-y-Paen, Monmouthshire
Couple of comedians
Sir, — Many thanks for the inclusion of your new comedy section, as supplied with such unerring nerve and audacity by Andrew Wallas and Anna Pasternak (Standard, January 25).
Ms Pasternak in particular has a most original line in comedy ideas.
The one where she fumed at Mr Wallas as she cooled off in the pool of their Italian holiday home and threatened to leave him in 15 years’ time if he didn’t join her there... well, I thought I’d encountered most sitcom set-ups but not that one. A priceless gem and one of many scattered about the piece.
We’re told Mr Wallas and Ms Pasternak’s relationship stretches back as far as September 2010 so is it any wonder they can boast such an acreage of anecdote and experience?
Quotes such as “We’re trying to tell the reader to have the courage to hold out for their dream” and “we laugh a lot together and we cry a lot” showed that there was room for platitude and cliché as well.
I could go on but last week John Crace in the Guardian said it all for me. If any of your readers are tempted to buy the book that your new comedy corner section was based upon, then I suggest they read his review first. — Yours faithfully,
Richard Tippett, Church Street, Henley
Nothing new about horse
Sir, — The recent interest in the contents of beef/horse burgers prompted me to send you this poem, Market Day, which I composed back in 1960.
Nothing has changed much since then it seems. — Yours faithfully,
David N Page, Woodcote
When I was young I lived near Crewe A town comparatively new and Sandbach wasn’t far away We used to go there market day
The market was a splendid place with stalls in every little space For sale were wares for every taste including jewellery (of paste).
They offered goods for every wish; That’s strange, I can’t remember fish, ribbons and lace, with bottled scent and reject pots from Stoke-on-Trent.
Apples, bananas, grapes and pears children’s books and teddy bears china and beads, some foreign glass and ornaments from Brum (of brass).
The butcher’s stalls with meat, of course some looked suspiciously like horse I always did avert my eyes from chitterlings and stale pork pies.
One man complained of too much fat the butcher said “Ah,” as to that “I shan’t sell that today here, son but tomorrow I’m in Congleton.”
Sir, — There being only one Dr Rowan Williams, he is an alumnus of Christ’s College Cambridge, not alumni (Standard, January 25).
He is now master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, which is where the confusion could have arisen.
Now, should that apostrophe be where it is in pedant’s or should it be pedants’? Or should there be an apostrophe at all? I await further correspondence. — Yours faithfully,