Monday, 02 August 2021

Your letters...

Unfriendly welcome

Unfriendly welcome

Sir, — As a new resident of Henley, I was more than dismayed to find I had been issued with a parking ticket at the Mill Meadows car park during my second week here, especially as I had just witnessed a very angry woman giving loud verbal abuse to the park keepers.

I approached one of them afterwards to see if she was all right and, ironically, to ask about the parking rules for the bricked area in front of the pavilion building.

Meanwhile, I thought I was legitimately parked in a free parking space at the entrance to the car park, directly adjacent to the children’s play area where I had taken my three-year-old to let off steam for half an hour or so.

I very briefly wondered why it was marked differently to the other spaces in the same row (i.e. with the letters “M/C” instead of a pictographic symbol) but my son’s enthusiasm to get to the park NOW meant that I couldn’t think about it for long.

It turns out that the space with the marking “M/C” — the first on the left at the entrance to the car park, adjacent to the swing park and in the same row as the free parking for people bringing children to play — is NOT a free mother/child parking space.

No, “M/C” is for motorcycle. Of course. Why on earth would I think otherwise?

Well, did I feel foolish and embarrassed? Yes, ever so slightly.

Far outweighing that, however, was a sense of annoyance and injustice at the confusion caused directly by the misleading signage. Nowhere does it say the word motorcycle, which is all one word, and nowhere is there a symbol of a motorcycle.

When I went to ask the park keepers how to appeal, they both agreed with me that the signage was poor and confusing. Indeed, one gentleman even pointed out that the 10 spaces allocated for free parking are not numbered so it’s not easy to see where the free parking begins and ends.

They could also both see how I might have assumed, due to its position, that “M/C” stood for mother and child parking and was therefore one of the free spaces.

For most of the past three decades I’ve lived in a Highland village, where there were no parking charges at the play park and, although I’m a new resident here in Henley, I am a university-educated, native English speaker.

I’m also a qualified teacher and a law-abiding citizen so, if I can’t understand the signs at the car park/play park, what chance do the thousands of foreign visitors to this wonderful area have of getting it right?

There have been a couple of programmes on BBC1 recently, exposing how cash-strapped councils are cynically trying to increase their revenue — significantly — by setting higher and higher targets for the issuing of parking fines and traffic offences that are often not legally issued — largely due to inadequate or non-existent signage.

They advised people not to to be disheartened when the council refused to accept their initial appeal and tried to insist that they pay up or lose the right to pay the lower rate of fine. They also emphatically advised people to persevere with secondary appeals to a third party agency.

I took heart from this and have now sent my secondary appeal to Parking on Private Land Appeals but it would be really useful to have some response from the good people of Henley to send in as evidence so, if you agree that the signage beside the play park for the free parking spaces is lacking in clarity — with particular regard to the motorcycle space — please email me as soon as possible at

My appeal is being judged on Tuesday. — Yours faithfully,

Sarah Houston

Simmons Road, Henley

Free parking is required

Sir, — With reference to your article about parking in Henley (Standard, June 14), I agree with Ian Forster that Henley suffers from a lack of free parking at the right time.

He also demonstrated that, unlike other towns in South Oxfordshire, Henley does not offer a “first hour free” whatever time the customer arrives at a car park.

Feedback from your district council spokespeople was too dismissive on this point.

We all know that parking is free before 10am. Big deal — some banks and shops open at 9.30am or later.

Town centre manager Peter McConnell said he doesn’t believe that there is a link between parking charges and shops closing down. Has he bothered to ask shopkeepers?

It’s sad that they should be so quick to dismiss Mr Forster’s proposals.

When I first came to Henley in the Seventies both our car parks at least used to offer all customers free parking from 4pm (not 5pm), thus giving us up to one-and-a-half hours to visit different shops instead of up to half an hour before closing time.

Can I suggest we go back to this? It would surely help many small shops as well as their customers. It would also be free parking to meet the needs of customers and shops rather than those of councillors and town officials. — Yours faithfully,

Bruce Brown

Elizabeth Road, Henley

Stop growth of road signs

Sir, — From a cyclist’s view, road signs are okay provided they are placed in the right spot.

Unfortunately, I see new signs in doubles on both sides of the road — why?

In some parts of the West Country many signs are being removed because the mess they bring to the scene. Here in Hampshire we haven’t such wonders.

We seem to be doomed by swelling traffic flows and more bits of metal messages to remind us where we’re going to.

Poor Peter Richardson wants to add more to our lovely landscape (Standard, June 14). He should count himself lucky the council hasn’t dumped a flashing speed indicator device on his hilltop. — Yours faithfully,

Peter M Adams

Petersfield, Hampshire

I’m against car wash...

Sir, — As a park home resident at Swiss Farm, I am most concerned about the proposed car wash at Henley Rugby Club (Standard, June 28).

Firstly, we do not live on a caravan park, as stated, but pay a lot of money for our homes, including considerable ground rent and council tax.

Secondly, I am worried at the noise a generator would bring considering our homes are not bricks and mortar construction and not sound-proofed like a normal house.

We most certainly would hear any extra noise as we overlook the small field separating the rugby club and our home.

I wish very strongly to oppose this proposal — Yours faithfully,

Margaret Salter

Swiss Farm, Henley

...but I’d welcome it

Sir, — I read with amazement the piece on the potential car washes at Tesco and Henley Rugby Club.

I can’t believe there is so much attention over them.

I don’t recall any fuss when the 7am till 7pm (often later), seven-day-a-week operation opened on Newtown Road.

I live in Farm Road and can confirm that jet washers and compressors are very noisy, especially at 7.30am on a Sunday.

I welcome the opening of a couple of others in town — perhaps it will spread the noise?

Adam Griffin

Farm Road, Henley

Don’t shatter this dream

Sir, — Very soon, the Townlands Hospital redevelopment will be signed off and construction will start. After 30 years of struggle, we will finally get the hospital, care services and homes that we need.

Everyone in Henley and the surrounding area has supported the long struggle and will be able to feel pride at our achievement against all the odds of not just saving Townlands but working with the Oxfordshire NHS Primary Care Trust on a successful redevelopment.

We have had to endure many false starts and setbacks over the last 30 years but finally everything is in place. Delaying now would be pointless and seriously endanger the project.

We have the perfect site, an excellent plan, funding and a developer and NHS partner all set to go. All these might be lost were we to delay.

Ten years ago, Barry Wood was one of those who had the vision and energy to see the need for the Townlands Steering Group to be established and engage with the trust to ensure that the hospital not only remained open but was redeveloped as a 21st century health facility.

His argument for a delay (Standard, June 21) is all the more surprising given what has always been his understanding of the urgency in resolving the problem of this long-running threat to the vital services provided at Townlands.

In Barry’s own words, delay is truly unthinkable.

To argue that building many more houses in the town centre on a site with limited access will help ease the problems of congestion and pollution is to fly in the face of the evidence.

Barry does not explain where a new health facility could be placed, nor how it might save £10million, as he suggests, nor how alternatives might benefit Henley.

The current redevelopment plan exceeds our wildest dreams of a few years ago when the future of Townlands was bleak. We should not allow our attention and commitment to this vital facility be distracted. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Ian Reissmann

Chairman, Townlands Steering Group, Gainsborough Road, Henley

Toxic plants should go

Sir, — Your article regarding the planting of Henley market place with a toxic shrub (Standard, June 28) raises several issues.

Firstly, Henley Town Council has a duty to provide a safe environment for all residents and visitors to the town in all the public areas.

Planting this area with a toxic shrub is fundamentally failing in this duty.

Secondly, the council seems unwilling to accept any responsibility in this matter, initially blaming the parents and then implying that the supplier had the ultimate decision about the choice of plants and shrubs used.

If the council had carried out even a basic risk assessment, the toxicity of the shrub would have come to light and something else could have been selected.

Again, it has fundamentally failed in its duty.

Lastly, no matter that these shrubs may cause only “mild stomach upset”, they are also poisonous to animals, so any dogs that are brought into the market place will also be at risk.

It is interesting to know that birds avoid eating the berries of this shrub — not so bird-brained after all!

I would therefore like to urge Henley Town Council to reconsider the planting scheme in Market Place and all other public areas of the town where these shrubs are used. — Yours faithfully,

C Smith


Festival move is mistake

Sir, — I expect I am not alone in being struck by the irony of an email communication last week from the Henley Festival announcing a competition to win a lift home from this year’s festival courtesy of the new main sponsors, BMW.

We all know how to get home from the current site... but what would be useful is if BMW could provide a fleet of about 100 cars for the next 15 years when the festival has moved down to Greenlands, which is a far more relevant issue.

I am sure that there are many strong reasons for the relocation but the initial reaction from the Henley community (and I know hundreds who regularly attend) is almost universally one of either disappointment or worse that the festival is leaving the current site.

Being able to walk to the festival has been a major attraction and with ticket prices rising year on year, the added transport costs and logistics will certainly put many local people off.

I wonder if any of the festival management have thought of providing a coach shuttle service from the town.

If they hired five 50-seater coaches, they ought to be able to move 500 per hour — two trips, so if the service operated between 5.30pm and 8.00pm, you would have capacity for 1,250 each way. A serious suggestion, so I hope someone is listening.

I am sure we will all give it a go at least one day next year but I doubt you will get people committing to as many days in advance as they currently do unless there is a massive incentive from the festival to do so.

I also understand that a 15-year deal has been signed with the management college, so what happens if after, say, three years the move really hasn’t worked? I hope there has been the foresight to include a break clause in the contract.

Or is the reality that it just is not economic any more at the regatta site? If so, somebody must be getting rather too greedy with their demands — surely the regatta cannot be pleased that they have lost the revenue stream from the festival.

If this is a major factor at the heart of the move, it would not be the first time in recent years that the regatta has adopted a very inflexible approach with local organisations. — Yours faithfully,

Rob Heginbotham

Sonning Common

Gill Mitchell, chief executive of the Henley Festival, responds: “The three most significant factors behind the festival’s impending move to the Henley Business School’s Greenlands site are the importance of being able to generate funds for our charitable activities, our continuing viability as a whole and the availability of a site that enables us to build a more practical schedule and which affords fantastic opportunities for creating a festival in an even more magical environment.

“Our charitable remit is one that is often overlooked but is critical to our continuation, working as we do year-round with the young and disadvantaged.

“We really anticipate being able to expand this vital part of the festival’s work consequent to the move.

“Equally, as custodians of the funds of our charity, the Henley Festival Trust, we cannot over-stress the importance of the wider financial point. With our current level of costs, it has been hugely hard simply to break even in recent years.

“Happily, the agreement with Henley Business School should release us from this particular tightrope that we have been walking.

“In terms of accessing the new site, it is our intention to make life as easy for possible for the percentage of our audience that has been used to coming by foot. Hopefully, we can turn this to our advantage and make their arrival and departure yet another special part of the festival experience!”

Panto dame kept promise!

Sir, — Well, I did it — just as I promised I would on this page in September.

I completed the Sue Ryder Starlight hike in Green Park, Reading, on June 22 in full pantomime dame costume (thanks to an initial dare by the Nettlebed-based local fund-raising/volunteer co-ordinator and friend Marion Haynes).

Last year, I helped by being a volunteer marshal, so I thought I would take part this time and what an emotional and uplifting couple of hours it turned out to be.

Like many, I walked to celebrate the lives of family and friends such as David Geary, a former mayor of Reading, and Liz Middleton, who are both much missed by so many.

Talking of friends and family, that is what all the staff and volunteers of the local Sue Ryder branch have become to me, even though we may meet only a couple of times a year.

Such comradeship is, sadly, becoming increasingly rare so is extra special when discovered.

Finally, congratulations to all those staff, volunteers and performers et al who once again made the Starlight hike so successful and special — you all worked so hard yet remained so welcoming and supportive.

And don’t forget, guys, these hikes are no longer just for women. With love and kisses…. — Yours faithfully,

Luscious Lucy (aka Paul Farmer)

Wensley Road, Coley Park, Reading

Unclaimed Fenner guitar

Sir, — Reading Jane’s letter about the stolen musical instruments (Standard, June 21) prompted me to write this letter, although from a different angle.

About four weeks ago, a train driver brought in a guitar that someone had left on the Henley train, a genuine Fenner, which I understand from those in the know is worth about £600, but no one has yet come forward to claim it.

In these days of boy bands, one would have thought that it is some aspiring young musician’s prized possession, so if anyone has a lost a Fenner electric guitar, or has a friend who has lost one, have a word with me at Twyford station.

There is a serial number on this instrument so hopefully we might be able to reunite it with its owner. — Yours faithfully,

Norman Topsom

Station master, Twyford station

Why repeat the request?

Sir, — I read with interest, if not shock, the letter from Mrs J Fisher of Thirsk, North Yorkshire (Standard, June 21).

About two-and-a-half years ago, you published the same letter from her.

I called the paper to get her phone number, which she had given to you and she gave her permission for me to have it. We used to talk on the phone and we texted each other quite often. We even exchanged Christmas cards.

She worked in a supermarket and her husband was a builder. Then it all came to a sudden end and I didn’t hear from her any more.

I sent her so many dolls clothes patterns. There must have been 40 or more and a large bag of wool and needles. The postage wasn’t cheap as the patterns weighed a lot.

I’m shocked that the same person has asked for patterns. If other friends of hers needed patterns she could photocopy them. — Yours faithfully.

Jo Andrews

Gainsborough Road, Henley

Help another worthy cause

Sir, — While Henley in Bloom is a wonderful way to make the town more attractive to the community and tourist alike, how much more meaningful it would be if a small donation from each basket or associated planting could be donated to the less fortunate who live in the war-torn and famine-stricken areas of the globe.

For us privileged enough to be living in Henley with all its beauty and amenities, it is all too easy to forget that we are a global community as well as a local one. — Yours faithfully,

Richard Creed

Simmons Road, Henley

Searching for relatives

Sir, — My name is Jennifer Nelder, née Dorey. I am visiting from Australia and trying to find some living relatives of my great grandparents.

They were Ernest John Brown, who died in 1959, and Ann Brown, who died in 1956. They are buried in the Trinity churchyard in Henley.

My grandmother was their daughter. Her name was Mabel Brown and she was born on June 30, 1904. She married George Thomas Dorey, who was grandfather to Herbert (Ted) Dorey, who still lives in Albert House in Greys Road.

If you are related to them or know of someone who is, please call me on 07580 727389. This is my mobile number while here in England. We return to Australia on August 31. — Yours faithfully,

Jenny Nelder

Let’s nurture our children

Sir, — What type of town do we live in where the residents object to a children’s playground and a primary school seeking to add additional teaching space (Standard, June 28)? — Yours faithfully,

Joe Bates

Niagara Road, Henley

Perplexed by this recycling system

Sir, — I am perplexed as to how the current system of general rubbish bins in the King’s Road car park in Henley is deemed more suitable than the bottle banks/recycling bins we used to have in the same spot.

It is quite apparent that there needs to be a better thought-out solution.

I don’t wish to imply that the old system was the correct system to use but this has not been the first time I have seen the bins like this and it is a great disappointment to see such an eyesore in such a prominent position. — Yours faithfully,

Charlie Bowder

Northfield End, Henley.

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