Sir, - The other day, when crossing the Thames via Whitchurch toll bridge, I was handed a leaflet explaining there would be yet another price increase on the toll when the bridge re-opens next April. Oh, hurrah.
I appreciate the bridge needs replacing and that this will cost around £4?million. However, let?s look at some figures and see how that works out:
There are more than 6,000 crossings per day but we?ll stick with a round 6,000 to make the maths easier.
Assuming everyone that crosses is a local resident and therefore entitled to the discounted fee of 20p (as opposed to the usual 40p for a car, and £2 for a vehicle over 3.5 tonnes), that is £1,200 per day.
Over 360 days (see how I round things down in their favour?) that comes out at £432,000.
We can easily calculate, then, that it would take just 10 years to pay for the bridge replacement. If they want to argue "expenses", we can make that 11 years.
The current bridge was built in 1902, giving them 111 years to have banked the sum required for the replacement.
Alas, there is a problem with this. The problem is known as "the Company of Proprietors of Whitchurch Bridge".
These greedy (in my opinion) people enjoy a tax-free income from the bridge, guaranteed to them by an Act of Parliament from more than 200 years ago.
They have happily consumed the ridiculously huge profits from the bridge for centuries, not bothering to keep money aside to replace the structure, which is why they feel the need to increase the price to local residents by almost 50 per cent next year (29.4p per crossing,
Furthermore, the Act also prevents anyone else building a bridge or operating a ferry three miles upstream or downstream from the bridge, giving them a monopoly (I?d be interested to know how the Monopolies Commission would view this now).
As if that wasn?t all bad enough, I?ve just heard that the district nurses are being charged to cross the bridge. This was never the case when I worked there 25 years ago.
The bridge management of the time supported these hard-working and thinly stretched nurses rather than delaying them (and everyone driving behind them) by making them request receipts.
And then they have the audacity to want to be excused VAT on their new construction too!
Enough is enough. These greedy "proprietors" need to take a long hard look at themselves. I call upon John Howell MP to raise these issues in Parliament.
It?s the 21st century and it?s about time that Act of Parliament was amended so the proprietors pay their dues. - Yours faithfully,
Geoff Weir, company secretary of the Whitchurch Bridge Company, replies: "Mr Brickhill?s financial calculations are simplistic and wrong. Our last toll application is on our website and it may help him to understand our financial position if he reads it.
Under current legislation, the 40p cash toll will remain unchanged unless and until we successfully apply for a toll increase. We have also agreed with the local parish councils that we will not increase the concessionary bridge card toll above 30p until then.
The company operates under its 1792 and 1988 Acts of Parliament, copies of which are on our website. The provisions include the fact that other persons are prohibited from conveying goods etc over the Thames between the civil parishes of Whitchurch-on-Thames and Pangbourne. Mr Brickhill is perfectly entitled to petition his MP with his views.
We charge tolls for all bridge users except liveried emergency vehicles and disabled drivers and have done so for many years. There is no justification for the company and other tollpayers to cross-subsidise the NHS by allowing NHS employees to cross free."
Closure time exaggerated
Sir, - As a resident of the Whitchurch area, I think you should have checked your facts when you stated that Whitchurch Bridge is to close for 10 months (Standard, June 21).
On reading your article, I (and probably the other 2,999 daily users of the bridge) went into unnecessary panic mode.
We have known about the bridge closure for at least two years and were told that it would be for approximately six months.
We know it will probably cause chaos and as local residents we are not looking forward to this, however there is nothing we can do as the bridge needs replacing.
However, our local parish magazine quite clearly states that bridge works will take place on July 29, as you had said, but this will be to begin installing the footbridge.
The road bridge closure will not take place until the beginning of October and will end in April - a total of six months, not 10.
I think that in future you should get your facts right before causing more chaos to local residents and motorists than is necessary and an apology would not go amiss. - Yours faithfully,
Editor?s comment: "Thank you, D Ward. You are quite right and I must apologise for panicking everyone who will be affected by the closure for making the prospect seem even worse than it is. We will try harder in future."
Don?t give us heart attacks
Sir, - In your issue of June 14 you had a small piece about Kentons Lane in Wargrave being closed from July 4 to 9 for drainage work and road repairs.
Apparently, I was not the only one to suggest to Wokingham Borough Council that this would cause chaos during Henley Royal Regatta when half the world?s traffic traditionally has to be diverted along Kentons Lane.
I was assured by the council that the planned works on Kentons Lane would be rescheduled.
Some surprise, therefore, that in your June 21 issue you repeated the misinformation with more detail of the alternative route avoiding Kentons Lane.
In order to avoid mass heart attacks in Crazies Hill, please could you issue a correction in this week?s issue? - Yours faithfully,
Henley Road, Wargrave
Editor?s comment: "We published the information sent to the media by Wokingham Borough Council, which then failed to inform us of the change of dates for the work.
"Kentons Lane will now
be closed from July 20 to August 2."
Wrong type of passenger
Sir, - The First Great Western special regatta timetable will bring more trains for Henley travellers but for Wargrave and Shiplake commuters it is different.
Several of the regular trains do not stop at these stations. In particular the 8.27am does not stop at Shiplake, thus forcing more on to the nationally famous 7.42am.
The last train at night from London to Shiplake is now 9.57pm as the later 10.48pm connection does not stop at Shiplake.
First Great Western?s response is that it believes it has created a robust timetable that suits as many customers as possible. It says: "We must aim to cater to the majority. To achieve this we look at customer feedback, footfall and the type of passenger we?re conveying on each train."
Commuters from Shiplake are obviously the wrong type of passenger. - Yours
Bolney Trevor Drive, Lower Shiplake
Leave statue to the birds
Sir, - Well done to Councillor Sam Evans and her colleagues for dumping their Poundland, soft-porn garden gnome-maid in a traffic-blighted spot behind a tree.
The outcome is far better than expected, as it?s out of the way and fairly obscure from many viewpoints. Thankfully, we don?t have to see it or discuss it any further and can leave it to the birds to sit above it and shower it with the respect it deserves.
Some like it and some don?t. However, let?s agree on one thing: "popularity" and "cash" are not the only criteria for public art, otherwise who knows? we could end up next with a 100ft Ronald MacDonald straddling the town.
Shades Of Grey might be more popular than Shakespeare today but Shakespeare better reflects us and our culture and is far more appropriate and enduring in the public arena. These are the issues that are important. - Yours faithfully,
Hamilton Avenue, Henley
School needs extra space
Sir, - I write in response to the comments and objection made to Sacred Heart School?s plans and application to build two outdoor chalet-
style rooms on the school field (Standard, June 21).
I would like to clarify a couple of points:
Firstly, we have limited internal space and plan for the rooms to be used for meetings, one-to-one teaching and small group teaching sessions away from our two busy shared areas in the main school building. The small rooms will not be music studies to be used for music lessons and noise will certainly not be "an issue at the end of the school site" as suggested by Councillor Dieter Hinke.
Secondly, the site for the proposed new building is the only possible option if we are to ensure that we don?t lose valuable outdoor play space for our pupils and comply with health and safety
standards. These standards stipulate that wooden buildings or structures must be five or more metres from the main school building.
Concerns have been raised and objections made without interested parties having visited our school site or having met with myself or the governors to be clear of the plans.
I would be more than happy to meet with Joanna Moss and members of the town council to discuss such concerns and allay any fears. - Yours faithfully,
Headteacher, Sacred Heart Primary School, Greys Hill, Henley
Appalling and inappropriate
Sir, - I would like to respond to the letter headlined "Pragmatic approach" from Steve Bishop, chief finance officer of South Oxfordshire District Council (Standard, June 14).
It referred to the persistent hounding from 2009 to 2013 of an 80-year-old man, whose sole income is a basic state pension, for a council tax bill of £170.
The council was unable to trace the pensioner?s payment, through a third party, from the Post Office of one month?s bill and decided to chase him, despite having in its possession a valid receipt for this specific payment and in full knowledge that he had never fallen behind, ever.
A few days before Christmas 2011 the pensioner received the following council ultimatum: "Unless I receive settlement or an offer of payment within the next 14 days, I will have no option but to commence committal proceedings against you. You will be summonsed to appear before the magistrates? court, where an application for your committal to prison may be made."
Hounded by bailiffs and threatened with imprisonment for £170 they had proof of payment of - is it possible for us to imagine the stress this caused? This appalling attack was neither appropriate nor understanding. It was grossly disproportionate, a drain on taxpayers? money and makes one question the fairness, integrity and mental suitability of the council staff involved.
To round this off, the "apology" letter sent in 2013 focused most of the correspondence on blaming the pensioner. - Yours faithfully,
Chris and Teresa Page
Crisp Road, Henley
1902 regatta remembered
Sir, - I am in possession of a small booklet of John Betjeman?s poems and thought you might like to reproduce this one by him for the 1902 Henley Regatta. - Yours faithfully,
Elizabeth Road, Henley
Underneath a light straw boater
In his pink Leander tie
Ev?ry ripple in the water caught the captain in the eye.
O?er the plenitude of houseboats
Plop of punt-poles, creak of rowlocks,
Many a man of some distinction scanned the reach to Temple Island
As a south wind fluttered by,
Till it shifted, westward drifting, string of pennants house-boat high,
Where unevenly the outline of the brick-warm town of Henley
Dominated by her church tower and the sheds of
Lay beneath a summer sky.
Plash of sculls! And pink of ices!
And the inn-yards full of ostlers, and the barrels running dry.
And the baskets of
Swinging over river-gardens
Led us to the flowering heart of England?s willow-cooled July.
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
To be together on warm
In gentle closeness.
Successful flag day
Sir, - The flag day held by the Henley branch of the M S Society in Henley town centre recently raised £524.05.The branch would like to thank the townspeople for their support. - Yours
Few films for the young
Sir, - I?m sure it?s not just me who finds the selection of films at the Henley Regal cinema boring.
I wrote to them and they admitted they were selecting films for the "older" age group. Well, that sums up Henley, doesn?t it? - Yours faithfully,
Mrs J Hadley
Leaver Road, Henley
Thanks you for my lovely river cruise
Sir, — I just wanted to thank the Henley Standard for the competition prize of the Sunday lunch jazz cruise with Hobbs of Henley on Father’s Day.
We had such a wonderful time — delicious food, lovely company and the most fantastic jazz band, which really made the day so special.
The staff were so accommodating, which made such a difference. Everybody was relaxed and really having a great time. Some couples even got up at the end and danced the afternoon away to the glorious music.
This is a photo from our wonderful day that we will not forget in a hurry. Thanks again. — Yours faithfully,
Please pay for my damaged car and repair pothole
Sir, — On my way home from work on Thursday last week, I struck a massive pothole in Stonor, which dented my wheel alloy and caused the tyre to deflate.
I am so annoyed because I can’t afford to replace it. I hope that Oxfordshire County Council will pay for the damage and fill in the pothole before someone is hurt or worse. — Yours faithfully,