Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Primary pupils reunited after 60 years

Sir, — I attended last week’s reunion to mark the 100th birthday of Sonning Common Primary School and took this

Sir, — I attended last week’s reunion to mark the 100th birthday of Sonning Common Primary School and took this photograph of the pre-1959 pupils. The picture shows a group of us who left in the early Fifties and hadn’t met up since — until last week. — Yours faithfully,

P D Rickards, Green Lane, Sonning Common

Thinking the Unthinkable

Sir, — It is some 15 months since UNITED! launched its vigorous campaign for a neighbourhood plan for Henley and Harpsden.

On Thursday last week that vision became a reality as South Oxfordshire District Council gave the green light to the project — hurrah!

Lest we forget, let us give full credit to the quiet determination and diligence of four councillors — Hinke, Akehurst, Hamilton and Nimmo Smith who have steered us through the political whirlpools of local politics and delivered us in good spirits to the starting post where the hard work begins for the residents of both parishes.

As we wrestle with the location of at least 400 additional houses and the demands they will make on our local infrastructure, services and economy, the benefits of this planning process will be many.

Get this right and Henley will be refreshed as a thriving town with improved infrastructure, focused services and happy people living in an economically prosperous community with an internationally renowned name.

Get it wrong and our economy will gradually contract and we shall enter an economic backwater out of which even Mary Portas could not navigate.

To put it simply, we are playing for the future wellbeing of our town in the 21st century.

However, there are caveats as we move forward.

Just as UNITED! has had to put away prejudicial thinking regarding Lucy’s Farm in particular and write a constitution that espouses “the most suitable outcome for the whole area, protecting where possible the local interest”, we do expect all residents to enter into the neighbourhood plan process in the same vein.

Our joint efforts should jealously guard “thinking the unthinkable” and allowing the dice to fall where they may in the public interest. Que sera, sera. If the development of any potential site is judged to be in the public interest after rigorous and pragmatic appraisal from every angle, then UNITED! will support it but if that appraisal is perverted by obscure forces then we shall oppose it.

Hence our disappointment with the views expressed in your newspaper last week regarding Thames Farm, a site patently worthy of being considered as part of any neighbourhood planning process.

Thames Farm ticks many of the boxes for a potential site for sustainable development — and it certainly resides within Harpsden.

The site should be rigorously tested for its suitability and a holistic appraisal of the effects on infrastructure and services made.

It certainly should not be subjected to a pre-trial by prejudicial thinking and actions from adjacent parishes.

Such thinking applies to all potential sites as they should be considered with a totally open mind, free of preconceived opinions and without any outside influences.

It is time for traditional British fair play to hold sway and for the volume to be turned down on strident reactionary voices. It should now be clear that Townlands Hospital is not signed off for building after repeated false dawns and there is little communication on the subject as the NHS has greater priorities.

I have been continually frustrated in my attempts to have the positioning of the hospital reconsidered. I am consistently pushed aside by mantras from the powers-that-be that “it’s too late” and “don’t rock the boat or we shall lose the hospital”.

Having worked assiduously on the Townlands project from the start in 2003, nobody is more mindful than I of the need to avoid jeopardising the project.

However, I cannot believe that the NHS would not listen to a plan that would save it about £10million and when this town cannot afford to continue to be clogged by traffic which is ruining the air quality and the health of our citizens. Traffic congestion is a real threat to our local economy and already a contributor to the closure of shops.

Dare I say that Townlands does not now need to be rushed as we can live with a reprioritisation of scarce NHS resources even though it is in a less than satisfactory condition.

For the good of our town, the relocation of the hospital needs to be part of the neighbourhood plan, which should be completed by 2015. It’s a small time to wait for a more perfect solution with outstanding benefits.

Any relocation would allow the building of houses close to the town centre, which would boost the local economy to the tune of approximately £1million, reduce car journeys around our narrow medieval streets by about 30,000 a year and bring down the average age of the population by an influx of younger people into affordable homes.

This is a no-brainer that needs to be considered as part of a holistic future picture for the town. The think-tank that is UNITED! is continually assessing sites and infrastructure and welcomes residents who feel that their creativity in “thinking the unthinkable” needs an outlet.

We shall, of course, continue to pose our ideas for consideration as the project groups gather momentum.

At all times, we respect the neighbourhood plan as the people’s plan and encourage all residents to play their part enthusiastically in shaping our town for an inclusive and prosperous future for all. Please grasp your opportunity. — Yours faithfully,

Barry Wood, Blandy Road, Henley

Let’s build here, I say

Sir, — I think it is a great idea to build 110 homes on Thames Farm and the old Engbers garden centre ought to be used for 100 more (Standard, June 14).

I used to live in Shiplake and always thought it would improve if there were more homes.

Some houses were built in Lower Shiplake in the Eighties and there were no problems then.

Are people worried because they think affordable housing may bring in a different class of people? I think it would just encourage more youngsters to stay in the area. We were used to lots of traffic from the garden centre when it was open so no problem should arise if a new road comes out from the estate. Just extend the 30mph limit to cover that stretch. I say yes, build.

I would also like to say it was nice to see the comment from Jessica Hayes congratulating those involved in the Buy A Basket campaign.

I still consider her to be the record holder as she sold 146 baskets just to businesses, which is what it used to be all about. Now they are sold to residents as well to boost the numbers. It is nice residents are getting involved but you have not broken Jessica’s record. — Yours faithfully,

Janice Tomlin

Blight of litterbugs

Sir, — It has been very heartening to read in the Henley Standard in recent weeks about the local concern about litter, especially the people who are willing to do something about it.

To hear of children wanting to help was excellent evidence of young people caring about their environment.

For many years, the Henley Wildlife Group has run work parties on Mill Meadows on the first Wednesday of the month (9.30am to 12.30pm).

We have management tasks to do but any spare resource is used for litter-picking. We have removed a lot of litter from the wildlife areas on the Meadows over the years and will continue to do so.

If anyone would like to help, they would be most welcome. For more information, please call me on (01491) 578633 or email me at s.rankin@ btinternet.com

There is always litter to be collected despite the town council’s efforts. It is a shame people don’t dispose of their litter more responsibly to reduce the burden on the public purse.

Barbecues continue to be a problem, both the discarded disposable ones and those that leave scars on the grass. It would be good to see more done to discourage them.

We also collect litter on the Valley Road chalk bank from time to time. I was pleased to read the letter from Caroline Langler, of the Henley in Bloom committee (Standard, May 31).

I hope many people will get behind the committee and help clear the town of litter for the Britain in Bloom judging — July 29 for the regional judging and July 29 to August 9 for the national judging.

Do let us know what areas to concentrate on and what should be done with the litter collected when the bins are full. — Yours faithfully,

Sally Rankin, Chairman, Henley Wildlife Group, Coldharbour Close, Henley

Old flooding problem

Sir, — Nearly 30 years ago I came to Henley with my wife and family.

We liked what we saw and lived and worked among you for about seven years before we had to move on to pastures new.This year we returned for a visit and enjoyed being among you for a few days while revisiting old haunts.

Disillusion set in last Saturday when it rained and we discovered that the Marlow Road still floods.

Unthinking drivers rushing into town forced water on to the footpaths to the two camp sites, soaking the occasional pedestrian as they passed by.

Come on, Henley-on-Thames, the flooding on this stretch of road was a problem more than 20 years ago — I know as I used to travel on it twice a day.

Please wake up and do something about it now! —Yours faithfully,

David Bath, Hessle, East Riding

Where has bench gone?

Sir, — I am dismayed to note that the bench in Rotherfield Road, Henley, is still missing.

I believe that a local resident originally put it into storage while renovation work took place on their property.

This wrought iron and wood Great Western Railway bench has been enjoyed by countless generations for more than 35 years.

It is vital that the custodian of this bench returns it to its original place as a matter of urgency.

That way it can be enjoyed again for all generations to come. — Yours faithfully,

Angelina Jones, Greys Road, Henley

Verge cutting is necessary

Sir, — While no great supporter of Oxfordshire County Council’s lack of road maintenance, reducing many of our roads to Third World standards, I do not agree with Paul Sargeantson (Standard, May 14) about its verge cutting.

I support verge cutting, especially on sight lines at junctions and on dangerous bends. Failure to do that could result in actual slaughter.

It is also worth noting that plants respond to management and the fact that wild flowers abound on road verges is the result of verge trimming over the last 20 years.

Reducing the cutting frequency could actually cause wild flowers to be smothered by grasses etc and reduce their prevalence. — Yours faithfully,

Jon Hatt, Goring Heath

Networking opportunity

Sir, — I recently attended an excellent business networking evening at Hotel du Vin organised by the Henley Partnership, entitled House and Home.

Fiona and Phil at the hotel provided us with some delicious canapés and chilled fizz and I believe every single person went away with some new leads, contacts and even ideas for joint marketing opportunities.

I spoke to local interior designers, landscape gardeners, architects, house builders, window fitters and local solicitors among others.

I understand this affinity group meeting was the first of its kind to be organised by the partnership and I sincerely hope there will be many more.

I found it to be an easy way to meet people associated with my business and I look forward to forging long-standing relationships with these local businesses. — Yours faithfully,

Philip Booth, Sotheby’s International Realty, Hart Street, Henley

Superfluous detail

Sir, — Your article on the problems caused to the independent traders in the passage from Market Place to Market Place Mews, Henley, by building works (Standard, May 14) rightly highlighted their plight.

However, I thought that it was very ungallant of you to include the age of Vicki Smith, from Sonning Common, who helps manage Vintage Look, one of the more eclectic Henley shops.

Just what did the inclusion of her age add to the piece I wonder? — Yours faithfully,

R Welch, Caversham

Reward for instruments

Sir, — I would like to thank you for the report regarding my stolen musical instruments (Standard, May 7) and the numerous people who showed concern.

The oboe and a cor anglais have not yet been recovered. They were both in a double case that was taken from our house between May 29 and June 5, together with two wallets belonging to our sons.

I am offering a £400 reward for information leading to the recovery of my instruments. Call (01491) 579779 or email jane.gray@btconnect.com — Yours faithfully,

Jane Gray

Hunt for old doll’s clothes

Sir, — Has anyone any used/unwanted doll’s clothes or toys, crochet or knitting patterns they don’t use any more as my daughter is learning to knit and crochet but we are finding these things really hard to find.

If so, I would be grateful to receive them at the address below.

I have holidayed many times in your part of the country and find the local people lovely. Thank you in advance. — Yours faithfully,

J Fisher, 1 Hillcrest, Thirsk, North Yorkshire, YO7 4JJ

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