Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Celebration of heritage and tradition

Sir, — What a splendid sight we were party to in Henley on Sunday — a river parade celebrating our

Sir, — What a splendid sight we were party to in Henley on Sunday — a river parade celebrating our heritage as a nation coupled with our local boat-building traditions.

Jan Beyts and her enthusiastic crew of helpers gave the public who attended an unforgettable sight as the decorated boats sailed past amid cheering. Thanks to all those who took part for creating an event which made us proud and grateful to live in Henley on this beautiful stretch of the Thames. — Yours faithfully,

Gillian Nahum and Steve Hoile

Green Lane, Henley

Big Society, small minds

Sir, — With reference to your article headlined “Permission for three bungalows refused” (Standard, May 10), while it detailed all the negative comments from Sonning Common Parish Council, it failed to include one fundamental fact — that the application was recommended for approval by the planning authority’s (South Oxfordshire District Council) own planning officer.

Interestingly, even allowing for the fact he is an experienced professional planner, he found the application met all the necessary criteria and was not in breach of any planning guidelines.

On the other hand, part-time parish council planning commitee chairman Barrie Greenwood was reported to have uncovered no end of relevant policies which he considered would be breached if this application was allowed.

If anybody is interested enough to watch the committee proceedings on the district council’s website, they will see the planning officers warning the planning committee that they needed to come up with a good planning reason to refuse.

So, in the absence of any good planning reason, they scraped together two reasons based on the objections of the parish council and a neighbour.

The district council has since agreed to remove one of the reasons as inappropriate and inaccurate.

As developers, we have previously built new homes in Sonning Common but are finding a complete lack of engagement on the part of the parish council on planning matters.

We have just won an appeal for four new homes to be built in Wood Lane (Standard, May 31), a process that has constantly been resisted by the parish council.

When we approached the chairman, prior to submitting our application, and suggested a site meeting to discuss our ideas, this was rejected on the basis the council might appear to be co-operating with us.

Yes, that would have been co-operating with us to build four more much-needed homes in the village.

According to the Sonning Common community plan survey, published in 2010 and completed by 78 per cent of households in the village, “in response to the housing question 81 per cent of people favoured small developments on a number of sites around the village”.

We can only assume the parish council does not have a copy.

During our pre-application discussions with the district council, we covered every possible issue and it appeared the planning officer and all the professional consultees were satisfied with the application. Nevertheless, it was refused.

However, upon reading the planning inspector’s decision to allow the appeal, every single objection raised by the parish council and neighbours has been rebutted.

This was a planning application called “bonkers” by one resident, who joined Councillor Greenwood in criticising the vehicular access to the site in one breath but suggested in the next it would be better suited to a 180-space car park! Thankfully, common sense has prevailed and he has since been co-opted on to the parish planning committee.

We fully support the democratic process that parish councils and planning committees are supposed to enshrine but the amateurs continually overriding the professional planners is making a mockery of this Government’s plans to provide all this much-needed new housing stock.

The Big Society will never work without big minds. — Yours faithfully,

Chris Fuller

Exnine Developments and Fieldgate Properties (UK), Henley

Developer should listen

Sir, — Local developer and builder T A Fisher has recently circulated a letter among residents of Sonning Common soliciting feedback on the revised proposals for the “Sonning Edge” housing development in Kennylands Road.

The developer claims to have “listened to what local people said in 2011” and takes “pride in working with local communities”.

In fact, in 2011 this particular developer refused to listen to the concerns of local people, who supported Sonning Common Parish Council and South Oxfordshire District Council in rejecting the planning application. Instead, T A Fisher appealed against the refusal of planning permission, ignoring local preferences.

Fortunately, the company lost the appeal as the government inspector did not accept the proposals either.

This current exercise is not at all a matter of listening to local people but of being forced to change the proposals in order to try to overcome the rejected planning application.

If T A Fisher really wishes to listen to local people and has concern for the community, rather than a solely commercial interest, the company should take notice of the findings of the surveys undertaken by the community as part of the preliminary work for the neighbourhood plan.

These extensive surveys, and the associated public meetings that have taken place over the past year or so, have shown quite conclusively that the people of Sonning Common do not want housing development on the proposed “Sonning Edge” site.

Builders and developers would gain more respect if they came clean and presented their proposals for what they are: property development for commercial gain. Hiding behind the facade of being a community-friendly local developer does not do them any credit.

It is sincerely hoped that the response that this particular developer receives, if any, will reconfirm the view already expressed by the local community in the neighbourhood plan surveys: a clear rejection of these proposals. — Yours faithfully,

Alastair Morris

Sonning Common

Shop wants to engage

Sir, — Following the concerns voiced by residents about the quality of service provided by the new Post Office section of the One Stop shop in Sonning Common, Councillor Chrissie Phillips-Tilbury, parish clerk Philip Collings and myself met with One Stop’s retail area manager Kirsten Lowe and regional manager Sharon Holcroft.

The One Stop representatives made it clear that they would investigate and address as a matter of urgency the problems discussed.

Ms Lowe proposed that it would be very helpful if we met again in four to six weeks’ time to review progress and this was agreed.

Ms Holcroft emphasised that One Stop’s community policy encouraged its branches to be locally engaged and expressed a great willingness to be involved in the village fund-raising for the skate park.

It was a very positive, helpful meeting. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Douglas Kedge

Chairman, Sonning Common Parish Council, Lea Road, Sonning Common

Making a difference

Sir, — Over the weekend we saw Henley-on-Thames at its best.

Two events were put on to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the coronation of her Majesty the Queen.

On Saturday we had a wonderful free community event called Music on the Meadows which showcased all the brilliant young talent that we have in Henley.

More than 100 young musicians, actors and dancers performed on the bandstand.

During the afternoon Mill Meadows was packed with all ages and families picnicking and having a great time. People used our new deckchairs and there were so many people that at times it was difficult to see the grass.

Last December, Maggie Atkinson and myself got together and dreamed about a music festival for the young people of Henley. Within a week we had a committee of four old duffers (myself included) and 22 young people.

The young people of Henley drove the organisation of this event forward and they must be showered with praise. Jake, Katie, James, Sophie, Pablo and Ally turned up to every meeting and got the show on the road.

Two other people who deserve special mention are JJ of Eight Ray Music who helped the young people organise the acts and Laurence of Magoos — he has been fantastic in all aspects.

Thank you, too, to the many people who made this possible and thanks to Henley residents for supporting both of these events magnificently.

On Sunday the celebrations continued with the coronation boat pageant.

A parade of 90-plus boats organised by Jan Beyts and her committee gave so much joy to the residents of Henley and visitors alike. All the boats were decked out with bunting, flowers and flags. The boat owners were also decked out in costumes and Union Jacks — marvellous.

The two “beefeaters”, Lawrie and Sandra Anness, were brilliant.

Thanks for organising this, Jan.

These two events showed why Henley is such a brilliant place to live. People create ideas and get things done.

Thank you for these two special community events. Let’s have many more that bring people together and make people smile. Let’s have an impact and continue to make a difference. — Yours faithfully,

Stefan Gawrysiak

Mayor of Henley

Coronation celebration

Sir, — Following Henley’s second river pageant on Sunday, celebrating Her Majesty’s coronation 60 years ago, I would like to thank all those who turned out to cheer and wave as the boats passed through the town.

It was also a wonderful sight from the river to see so many people enjoying the procession of some 90 traditional and classic boats, for which Henley is a centre of excellence as so many of them are locally built and owned.

Many were built before 1900 and are lovingly restored and all are maintained at no small cost of time, energy, and expense. These boats are a finite resource, hence those with a passion for them really are to be applauded.

The boat owners, too, felt the appreciative crowds and atmosphere really started the summer on the river — and with proper sunshine!

Copas generously allowed us to moor the boats early below Temple Island, in six organised divisions, which made the start considerably easier.

Tim Stevenson, the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, took the salute from the viewing deck of steam inspection boat Sabrina, along with Stefan Gawrysiak, the Mayor of Henley and John Howell, our MP.

I had been sent details by many of the owners, so was able to point out boats of interest and explain some of their finer points. Mr Stevenson was amazed at the sheer number and quality of them and their crews.

Later, when all the boats had moored along the Marsh Meadows bank, the party began in earnest and the towpath was full of visitors to the town taking photos of the boats and chatting happily to the owners.

One passing cyclist said: “This is just brilliant — what a show and it’s all free!”

The boat owners all generously donated to the Rivertime Boat Trust a combined total of £1,500.

We couldn’t have done it without them taking the time to dress themselves and their boats, so the final toast goes to Henley-on-Thames, the boat owners and the Queen. — Yours faithfully,

Jan Beyts

Chairman, Henley coronation pageant committee

Speed signs finally here

Sir, — Last week, our promised 30mph vehicle activated signs were installed on both sides of Marlow Road, Henley, close to the entrance to Swiss Farm.

I spent some time observing the traffic on Sunday and found drivers were definitely slowing down so maybe this shows most are unaware that they are still in a 30mph zone when coming out of Henley.

On behalf of all the residents here, I would like to say thank you to members of Henley Town Council’s traffic advisory committee, the councillors, the highways officials at Oxfordshire County Council, the police and everyone else involved in helping us achieve this.

We have still not given up on the much-needed crossing for our residents and holiday camp next door. Maybe, when finances are better, it will be reconsidered, without a fatality.

Thanks also to the Henley Standard for its continued support and interest. — Yours faithfully,

Susan Phillips

Swiss Farm Park, Marlow Road, Henley

Natural born killers

Sir, — I live in a flat overlooking a backwater of the Thames and last Friday I had barely finished reading Paul Sargeantson’s letter about red kites when a commotion outside made me look up.

There flying past the window was a red kite hotly pursued by two large, black and very angry crows — obviously it had been trying to raid their nest!

It is quite true that these predators take the eggs and chicks of nesting birds and have even been seen to carry off young cygnets.

Perhaps they are also responsible for the quick disappearance of the many goslings which the flocks of Canada geese produce each year.

So maybe the re-introduction of the red kite is a mixed blessing? — Yours faithfully,

Enid Light

Wargrave Road, Henley

Invitation to former pupils

Sir, — Sonning Common Primary School is celebrating its centenary this year and will be hosting a series of open evenings for former pupils, parents and members of staff.

There will be tours of the school, old photographs, exhibitions, the chance to meet classmates you may not have seen for many years and much more.

The success of these evenings really depends on as many people as possible coming along. In order to maximise reunion possibilities, it is suggested that guests come on different evenings according to the date of their connection with the school as follows: Tuesday, June 11 — pre-1959; Thursday, June 12 — 1960-1979; Tuesday, June 25 — 1980-1999; Thursday, June 27 — 2000 to present day.

All the reunion evenings will run from 7pm to 9pm. To confirm attendance, email the school at office.2506@sonning-common.oxon.sch.uk

I hope anyone who reads your newspaper will consider themselves invited. Everyone can be sure of a warm welcome. It doesn’t even matter if you did not much enjoy being at the school! — Yours faithfully,

Melanie White

Sonning Common Primary School, Grove Road, Sonning Common

And I thought it was art...

Sir, — I am indebted to your correspondent A Stacey (Standard, May 31) for explaining what is happening on the A4130 at Bix.

I thought it was a piece of modern artwork and that the nuts, ridges and holes were all part of it, slowing us down to a crawl to view it properly! Silly me. — Yours faithfully,

Geraldine M Radley

Vicarage Road, Henley

Beautifying our estate

Sir, — With reference to the planting morning on the Gainsborough estate (in Henley (Standard, May 31), we would like to thank some people and organisations that were not mentioned.

There were too many people to mention in one small article but we feel that it is only right that everyone involved is thanked for their efforts.

It was a lovely morning and we were so pleased with the effort that everybody from experienced gardeners to the very young put in.

We would like to thank Henley Town Council’s park services staff who dug out the flower beds using equipment from Southern Plant Hire.

We would also like to thank the council, Henley in Bloom, the Gardening Buddies and especially Councillor Kellie Hinton for their support.

Also special thanks to Jamie from Gainsborough Road who has been giving up his time to mow the grass around the flower beds to keep it looking tidy.

Lastly, we would like to give a huge thank you to all of the residents of the Gainsborough estate who donated both money and time to the planting project — the flower beds look beautiful and lots of people have commented on how lovely it looks.

Thanks to everyone involved and look out for future projects that will be happening on the estate. — Yours faithfully,

Paula Isaac and David Eggleton

Gainsborough Road, Henley.

Pointless slaughter

Sir, —For me, this is without doubt the most beautiful time of the year and the roadsides are at their best right now. Sadly, beautiful spring flowers are not to everyone’s liking: in many places the destruction started some time ago and any day now Oxfordshire County Council’s red tractor will be unleashed to wreak its slaughter of the verges.

The charity Plantlife describes this practice as “nothing short of vandalism” and says that councils are killing “culturally significant” wildflowers by mowing verges so frequently.

After quite a late spring, I was astonished that the council sent out its contractors on May 2 to cut vast areas of grass around all road junctions.

This grass was no more than 3in tall and the response from “highways” when I remonstrated with them was that they had received complaints about visibility problems.

I’m not sure that that could be true: I would suggest that the average eye level of a motorist is over 3in so that first cut (of many) was a complete waste of money.

For 20 years I have been complaining to the council about its over-zealous verge-trimming policy.

It has at last reduced from three to two the number of main cuts but this would be the result of budget cuts rather than some common sense creeping in.

The expenditure of nearly £1 million on cutting verges is outrageous, particularly at a time when we should be curbing expenditure, reducing CO2 emissions and preserving wildlife.

If Oxfordshire County Council was to redirect only 25 per cent of this budget towards highway maintenance, it could afford to repair 5,000 additional potholes.

Sadly, this too would be a waste of money since its contractors are not allowed to effect lasting repairs. They are patting cold, topcoat tarmac into wet holes of any depth and then failing to seal the joint with a hot sealant.

This last procedure is essential for a lasting repair but the contractors are not allowed to do this any more lest it produces a tiny area of slippery surface. This is madness, of course.

The leader of the council explained recently that during the difficult (financial) times ahead “our focus will be on, as far as we can, the most important services while providing value for money in tough times”. Value for money? I’m not so sure. —Yours faithfully

Paul Sargeantson

Britwell Salome

My ode to summer

Sir, — Here is another of my poems, which I wrote in 2004. — Yours faithfully,

David M Page


How lovely is the lea

To sit in quiet company

And look upon the hill to distant parts

To be together on warm summer days

In gentle closeness.

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