Sir, — I would like to offer a huge thank-you to the organisers, performers, volunteers, exhibitors, gurkhas and fellow ticket holders for making the first Hideaway Festival such an amazing coming together of music makers and music lovers.
A very special thank-you to Sir William and Lady McAlpine, their staff and resident exotic animals for letting everyone share their piece of heaven for the weekend. — Yours faithfully,
Western Avenue, Henley
Sir, — A group of us descended on Fawley for the very first Hideaway Festival. What a fantastic event it was — well organised with lovely food, excellent beer, happy people and back-to-back brilliant music!
There were three stages for the bands to appear on and we saw some wonderful young talent as well as some very memorable “oldies” including the Blockheads who closed the festival and totally rocked!
Thank you to the event organisers who did an excellent job and to Sir William and Lady McAlpine for allowing us to use their garden! — Yours faithfully,
Sir, - I have been lucky enough to experience two hot air balloon rides.
Both were amazing evenings that I will not forget and the sunny, calm, warm evening of last Saturday would have been perfect for such an experience in Henley.
On both occasions the pilots were acutely aware of the countryside below and acted sensibly and responsibly when going above equestrian centres of any sort.
Last Saturday, my horse was unwell due to a complication with her central nervous system and she was weak and unstable on her feet but she was out in her field at Friar Park Stables at the top of Gravel Hill, where it was considered by my vet that her convalescence would be best served and she was under my constant surveillance.
It was hoped that after a quiet night she would start to pull through.
At around 8pm that evening a Virgin hot air balloon appeared very low on the western horizon of the yard and for an awful moment it looked as though the balloon was about to land in one of the empty fields near my mare.
However, it then put on its burners and floated just above the trees and on towards Henley town centre.
Horses are flight animals and such a sight and sound will immediately put them into a panic. It is pure instinct.
I watched with despair as my mare turned to try to run, fell heavily and was unable to get back on to her feet. I had to call the vet to perform the inevitable.
It is possible that in her weak state she would not have lasted the night anyway but I was deprived of the hope that she might and the yard was left with seven other stampeding and distressed horses in the other fields.
I will forever have eight years of wonderful memories of my beloved Della (and I hope that those balloon riders will have lovely memories of their experience) but please can this be a call to hot air balloon pilots to do their research and use their eyes and common sense when they are flying low over the ground.
Please stay up high when there are horses around. The recommended minimum height is 500ft around livestock - with good reason. - Yours faithfully,
St Mark?s Road, Henley
Lift ban on barbecues
Sir, - I completely agree with Janet Wood?s comments concerning barbecues in Marsh Meadows, Henley, (Standard, August 9).
Many people do not have gardens and if they do they certainly don?t have riverside views.
While I strongly believe people should be responsible and not leave a mess or wreck the grass, I personally really enjoy seeing people with their families and friends having a nice time in a place that locals get to enjoy all year around. - Yours faithfully,
Orchard Close, Shiplake
Sir, - The well-attended meeting of the incipient Gainsborough Residents? Association on Thursday last week displayed the very best possible attributes of grassroots localism at work.
In addition to the two Henley Residents? Group councillors and myself at the meeting, it was good that two Conservative councillors made it from another important meeting to witness some of the proceedings.
David Cameron himself would have been proud to be there and would have learned a lot too.
Here we have a community of 210 households, who for too long have been denied many of the basic superstructures of community life, centred in the need for a residents? association, some communal activities like gardening to make the place look good and for a community hall and associated facilities.
These Gainsborough folk are all council taxpayers, and they could well have taken the line, "what are the Government and councils going to do about it?"
But, as eloquently stated by prime movers David Eggleton and Paula Isaac, instead they have said, ?What are we going to do about it? to which they?ve answered ?We?ll get on with it ourselves?, going on to use their own money, talents, creativity and hard graft. Certainly they will need financial help but there will surely be sources available for that.
The main thing, and the feature that distinguishes this movement as pure grassroots localism, is that they, not government or council, are making things happen. I take my hat off to them and so should all the inhabitants of Henley.
There is a saying that if you throw your head over the bar, the rest of you will follow. The head is certainly over, may the rest swiftly follow. Who knows, maybe even some other localities across the town will copy their lead! - Yours faithfully,
Henley Town Council, Luker Avenue, Henley
Review was overdue
Sir, - In his letter headlined "Secretive land grabs" (Standard, August 9), Dr Barry Wood makes all sorts of spurious accusations and claims, some of which relate to politicians which it is not my place to answer.
I will, however, respond on the issue of the parish boundary review that South Oxfordshire District Council is undertaking.
Dr Wood said: "No one has asked the council to take this action but they thought it would be a good idea after all of these years."
If he had read the report I put to the council he would have seen that government guidance suggests a review such as this should take place at least once every 10 years. We are long overdue.
Apart from some very specific reviews (such as the creation of Binfield Heath parish about 10 years ago), we have not addressed the issue of community governance for many years. We need to do it. The review is not just about parish boundaries but also, for example, provides an opportunity for parish councils to seek changes to the number of councillors representing the local community, or to change the name of the parish.
At this stage we are seeking comments on the terms of reference for the review - these can be found on the district council?s website.
If Dr Wood, or anyone else, thinks that we should not consider the principle of what Henley, Harpsden and Shiplake councils have asked us to review then please respond to the consultation and let us know why before the end of September.
The council will be meeting in October to finalise the terms of reference. Only then will we start considering the merits of the proposals that we have included in the review.
At that point, we will run a further round of consultation that will give everyone, particularly those directly affected by proposals, an opportunity to comment. - Yours
Chief executive, South Oxfordshire District Council
Sir, - I had some difficulty understanding Barry Wood?s convoluted arguments but in essence I think he was saying he would prefer to have 110 houses built at Thames Farm, near Shiplake, rather than have housing development near his own home in Henley.
While his views are understandable from his personal perspective, what is not understandable is his need to make wild accusations about South Oxfordshire district councillor Malcolm Leonard and Shiplake parish councillors being wily, Machiavellian, short-sighted and self-centred.
All these individuals put in many, many hours working selflessly for the community they serve. I hope Mr Wood can find it in himself to apologise. - Yours faithfully,
Oxfordshire County Council, Mill Lane, Shiplake
Sir, - South Oxfordshire District Council has a legal duty to review the governance arrangements operating at the parish level every 10 years or so.
For Barry Wood to suggest that the council is undertaking this review because "they thought it would be a good idea" is quite absurd.
Equally bizarre is his assertion that Henley Town Council has "rushed in" and "behind closed doors" made decisions with Harspden and Shiplake that have been "stitched together".
Lest anyone should think that Henley Town Council conducts its business in what would be a highly inappropriate, if not illegal, manner, let me reassure your readers as to what actually took place in the presence of both the public and the press.
David Buckle, chief executive of the district council, wrote on April 12 requesting information by June 28 of any changes to the governance arrangements that parish and town councils wished to put forward for consideration under their community governance review.
The terms of reference of this review can be found on the town council?s website (www.henleytowncouncil.gov.uk) within a report to the finance strategy and management committee on June 4.
The report examines warding arrangements and suggests changes to the Henley parish boundary.
The committee?s recommendations, which are clearly set out in the minutes of this meeting and are also available on the website, were adopted by the full council on June 25 and communicated to Mr Buckle the next day.
Out of courtesy to our neighbours, the chairman of Harpsden Parish Council was merely appraised of Henley?s proposals before full council met. - Yours faithfully,
Town clerk, Henley Town Council
Sir, - With regards to the responses to my previous letter from Messrs. Butterworth and Hatt, am I correct in thinking they are saying we should just be grateful that someone is prepared to spend their time being a parish councillor, regardless of their suitability for the role or the input of the electorate (or, indeed, the lack of input from the electorate as this parish has been denied the opportunity to vote for Goring Heath Parish Council for more than 10 years)?
This seems a dangerous way to go about things.
As to the supposed lack of volunteers, I must question that. I know of at least two incidences of there being more than one person being interested in a vacant council seat but the council still
On one of these incidences, three friends all decided they would stand. None of them got the seat, though, and a fourth party was co-opted (this was a while back, when Mr Hatt was still on the council). The other incident was in the last four years.
This is why I question the democracy here. We have a parish council in Goring Heath in which only three of the eight members have ever been voted for - and none of them in the last decade.
And the council chairman apparently believes a planning application for a single dwelling is a form of religious extremism. I?m sure others can see my concern.
All that being said, maybe there is a lack of interest in the parish council.
However, with the amount of disillusionment I?m experiencing, I can?t blame anyone for wanting to steer clear of these people and their crazy ideas! - Yours faithfully,
Denied vote for decade
Sir, - I can only assume, after reading the responses from Jon Hatt and Harry Butterworth supporting Goring Heath Parish Council (Standard, July 26), that they did not read the "chairman?s report" in the July edition of the newsletter that Mr Brickhill was referring to in his letter (Standard, July 19). Muslim extremism is behind the beheading of Lee Rigby on a London street, it is 9/11, it is the Boston marathon bombing and many other diabolical incidents, it is not a planning application for one house and it is not an innocent neighbouring household, especially not my innocent neighbouring household!
I agree with Mr Brickhill that Peter Dragonetti has shown himself to be unsuitable to hold any public office and I am disgusted that we have been denied the democratic right to vote for this council in over a decade. - Yours faithfully,
Keeping lid on taxi fares
Sir, - I read your article regarding taxi fares (Standard, August 9) with interest.
As you reported, South Oxfordshire District Council voted to continue to allow operators to set their own tariffs.
This will allow them to compete with each other, driving down the costs to residents of Henley as they find new ways to either diversify or reduce costs without reducing quality.
The alternative would have seen the council dictate what local taxi companies should charge and in doing so artificially set the market.
It seems to me that a simple bit of economics was at work here. If we let the state fix prices we will see a reduction in the quality of the service as operators lose incentive to constantly strive for an edge over their competitors.
Incidentally, it has been suggested to me that council-set tariffs would simplify matters for consumers.
I would urge residents considering this viewpoint to have a look at the Oxford City Council taxi fare system. It?s extremely complicated and useless as a clarification tool. As an example, waiting time is measured in periods of 18.9 seconds.
I was delighted to support local businesses in setting their own prices and was pleased to vote for operator tariffs. - Yours faithfully,
Councillor William Hall
South Oxfordshire District Councillor (Henley South), New Street, Henley
Sir, - Can anyone explain why it is that our county council, which I have always believed to be in Oxfordshire, fails to have its main switchboard and services mentioned in the phone book?
Neighbouring authorities, such as Reading, Wokingham and even Hampshire, give very full details but I suppose that hiding their activities in this way must reduce the number of phone calls that need to be dealt with. - Yours faithfully,
St Andrew?s Road, Henley
Celebrate fresh start
Sir, - I refer to the letter from Leslie Burridge criticising Lady McAlpine?s support of the festival?s new venue (Standard, August 9).
By all means disagree but please don?t pour scorn on someone who devotes herself so tirelessly to raising money for charity and, with her husband, opens her home and grounds so often to give many people so much pleasure.
She is a lady who, I am sure, knows a great deal more about the realities, both socially and commercially, of organising a successful festival than many of us.
As a family who have been going to Henley Festival for many years, including the very first one in just such a summer as we are enjoying now, we may have mixed feelings about the change but it?s hardly the end of the world.
People can still fill the town in their finery, eat in all the lovely restaurants and then take a delightful boat trip to the new festival site.
Surely we should be celebrating a new beginning and continuing to support an occasion we are so proud of rather than casting doubts and wishing it to fail. - Yours faithfully,
Swiss Farm House, Henley
Hoping for agreement
Sir, - May I make one observation about your article headlined "Garden centre owner attacks councillors over planning row" (Standard, August 2).
The article stated that I "agreed to demolish some of the unlawful buildings". I do not consider that any of the buildings are unlawful and that is why I have appealed against Wokingham Borough Council?s enforcement notices.
Most of those notices do not refer to the buildings themselves but to the use of the buildings.
We have many customers from Henley and Wargrave who are anxious about our future. I can reassure them that we have appealed against the enforcement notices because we are determined to stay in business and provide the facilities and services they have come to expect and enjoy.
We fight on but still hold out the hope that council officials and individual councillors will agree to enter into some form of negotiation so that a mutually acceptable agreement can be reached. - Yours faithfully,
Owner, Sheeplands garden centre, Hare Hatch
All?s well for bees at least
Sir, - In the spring we were being told "the end of the world is nigh" as our bee population, upon which we rely so much for our food, was dying out.
I am pleased to report that here at Broadstreet Farm we have more bees in greater variety than we have ever seen before. All may be well after all. - Yours faithfully,