Sir, — I thought you might like to see this photograph of the field above Upper Thames Rowing Club that I took in August 2007.
It was taken from the top of the hill looking back towards the river, following the footpath from Remenham Church Lane. — Yours faithfully,
My plan for thriving town
Sir, — I read the letter from Henley town centre manager Peter McConnell (Standard, August 30) and then I saw Airplane on TV.
There’s a scene in this film where the stewardess tells the passengers from the cockpit that everything is fine and dandy and then says, at the end of her address, “by the way, does anyone know how to fly an airplane?”
The position of the Mayor and the town centre manager should be elected annually and be subject to a submitted manifesto.
I’ll happily stand to do either role for expenses only and I’ll put the £16k part-time wage of the latter back into the civic pot. That’s a good start. Here’s my plan:
lGo to Marylebone High Street (or Marlow or Stratford-upon-Avon) and see how they do it, achieving a unique retail mix and vibrant micro-economy.
lEstablish a Henley enterprise scheme with the retail-generated (Tesco) £4 million plus interest that Henley sits on, managed by an elected entrepreneur. We must, as a community, go into business with retail for mutual benefit in every sense. Partnership is the word, culturally, commercially and financially.
lActively canvass selected businesses from a prepared list to come to Henley on this basis. They will come.
lEmbrace the landlord community for what it is, an important part of our local community. It is not the enemy. The Mayor should entertain the landlords on a monthly basis and put time into developing cross-town thinking on mutually beneficial initiatives.
lDrop any idea that pop-up business is good. It is not. It destroys perceived continuity in the high street, undermines consumer confidence in traders who are “here today and gone tomorrow” and opens our doors to opportunists. The town has a valued profile, it is not a cartoon.
lConsolidate the various non-remit private company bodies that receive public funds but don’t have to report to anyone, such as the Henley Partnership, into the town hall. The town must be run by elected people who have a formal constituency, not private or specific interests, especially where public money and interest is involved.
lAdopt the heavy goods vehicle paper that I submitted to the town council two years ago with the endorsement of the Henley Partnership but which was rejected without proper discussion. It answers the valid concerns raised by Malcolm Lewis (Standard, August 30) by establishing a dialogue with toll funding from the Road Haulage Association and the regular corporate HGV users.
lEstablish free first two-hour parking in the town. Henley has to be easily accessible and user-friendly. We can afford to do this. We cannot afford not to.
lAs we invest in the independent retail sector, apply a levy on the corporate element, what may be called the “chain” businesses. They should have to pay us a local tax (Starbucks!) on after-State tax net turnover. I suggest two per cent up to £1million and three per cent over £1million annually.
lCreate a subsidy scheme for existing and valued independent traders so that local business can continue to thrive in the face of competition from the supermarket chain stores.
Business will be attracted to this town if we demonstrate that we know what we are doing. We have the funds but we need the expertise, real expertise with responsible and proven business experience.
I’m not a newcomer from the antipodes or a so-called marketing expert. I am a second-generation Henley resident, running successful businesses in various international commercial and cultural sectors.
My father was a BA captain. He knew how to fly a big plane. It runs in the family.
By the way, I’m also up for MP when it comes round — for expenses only. I’ll put the handsome wages back into where my family loves to be and where it benefits — into Henley, not into a privileged residents’ elite, but the complete community of it. — Yours faithfully,
St Mark’s Road, Henley
Time for rebellion
Sir, — I often find myself on my travels wondering if the place I’m in would be a nice place to live.
I look at the people to see if they are smiling. Are the pavements swept and clean? Does the place have the shops and services I need? Is there enough space for both car and man? Would life there be tranquil, easy?
It often depresses me to think: yes, it would. Why should it be so?
It’s not the same answer when I think of my home town of Henley. It’s not “the grass is greener” effect, I can assure you of that.
I delve into the comparisons and find that Henley seems to be the forgotten relative of Oxfordshire. Here at the very bottom of the shire the people seem to be ignored.
Over winter we had the gritting fiasco for the third year in a row.
Visitors find the parking difficult and odd that the “first hour free” system, so very common elsewhere, hasn’t been introduced here and that in summer, when the weather is glorious, all the coffee houses that ought to be taking advantage are closed after 5pm.
There seem to be more empty shops and for longer than elsewhere because of excessive rates. The Old Fire Station Gallery has had a less than 50 per cent occupancy since the rental cost doubled a little over a year ago.
In the last few weeks repairs to roads outside the town virtually cut us off and yet had nothing to do with Oxfordshire County Council, which obviously feels we don’t deserve good roads as is evident to anyone driving for more than a few minutes in any direction out of the town.
This paper frequently has articles of the battles locals have with the establishment to prevent eyesores, inappropriate redevelopment, demolishing our history and poor use of resources.
All of which, incidentally, come to nothing. Why? Because those who should be serving us just don’t care.
We seem to have acquired the status of a posh leper and an attitude towards us of “too rich to care about”.
Henley needs to stage a rebellion — and fast! — Yours faithfully,
Keeping the town clean
Sir, — May I agree with Lynda Thornton-Hunt’s letter headlined “Where’s civic pride gone?” (Standard, August 23).
We do have a problem in Henley regarding the cleanliness of our streets and with business waste.
Currently we have our streets cleaned by South Oxfordshire District Council, which means that they are only swept.
An example of this is the market place, which is swept but is in dire need of a thoroughly good wash.
Henley Town Council has recently pressure-washed around the town hall and it looks splendid.
As Mayor, I noticed some time ago that Henley’s streets need washing with good old- fashioned soap, water and a bit of scrubbing.
I raised this with the district council, which is the principal authority for pavement cleaning.
We are at present asking for quotes to thoroughly clean the market square, which should happen very soon.
Can I please ask, through the Henley Standard, that all businesses in Henley do the same? Could you please wash in front of your businesses and shop fronts?
There is an old adage that “many hands make light work”. If all businesses clean in front of their own shops then this will go some way towards engendering “civic pride” and it will also make Henley an even more beautiful place.
The other issue that I have been working on is business waste, which is put out on to the streets at 5.30pm but is not collected until 6.30am the next day, some 13 hours later.
This means that people using Henley’s pubs and restaurants in the evening (the night-time economy) have to navigate rubbish bags.
Can I please ask businesses in Henley to find a solution to this problem? Readers of the Henley Standard might also have some suggestions.
We are all enormously proud of our town — let us try to make it even better. Let’s make a difference. — Yours faithfully,
Mayor of Henley
HGVs driven dangerously
Sir, — Sitting in the garden of the Three Horseshoes in Harpsden Road, Henley, you often see some “interesting” driving as cars fail to deal sensibly with the mini roundabout at the junction of Harpsden Road and Reading Road.
However, the other day I witnessed a new trick at about 6pm on a Thursday evening as a Tesco lorry approached the traffic island just along from the roundabout.
The lorry was heading towards Henley from the store and decided not to stay in the left-hand lane but to veer into the right-hand lane on the wrong side of the road and avoid dealing with the island altogether.
It continued across the mini roundabout on the wrong side of the road and on into Henley.
Clearly this is dangerous, unacceptable and a blatant driving offence. (Sadly, I witnessed exactly the same manoeuvre by a BMW X5 on Friday night at about the same time.)
I have reported the matter to the duty manager at Tesco and await the response with interest.
Many letters have been written to the Henley Standard over the years regarding the route taken by Tesco lorries servicing the store.
If driving such as that witnessed is symptomatic of the Tesco drivers’ lack of care then it is time the lorries were banned from the town centre. — Yours faithfully,
Reading Road, Henley
Sir, — I am absolutely disgusted that the zip wire at the adventure playground in Henley has still not been repaired.
It has been unusable for nearly four weeks now, if not longer — virtually throughout the kids’ summer holiday break. The zip wire is one of the most popular attractions for the children and I take my nine-year-old daughter there regularly.
I have tried calling the town council contact number displayed by the gate entrance on numerous occasions but to no avail.
Although I have left voicemail messages, no one from the council has bothered to reply.
Through other sources, I have been informed that replacement parts have had to be ordered from Germany. Why does the council not keep a set of replacement parts in its local depot for cases like this?
It’s bang out of order and I know that many other parents feel the same way.
We pay large council tax rates, so for goodness’ sake, town council, sort it out! —Yours faithfully,
Reading Road, Henley
Councillor Jeni Wood, who chairs Henley Town Council’s recreation and amenities committee, responds: “I am pleased to confirm that the zip wire has now been repaired and is up and running again.
Unfortunately, two component parts required replacement, the zip wire itself and an end-stop.
I welcome Mr Ryan’s positive suggestion that we should hold a stock of spare parts in our depot and will see that a supply of key components is kept for maintaining all our play equipment in the future so that the downtime can be significantly reduced.”
Grateful for real contact
Sir, — We are so blessed to live in Henley.
I recently tried to book train tickets by phone. I struggled to understand the British Rail employee but did manage to get my details across to her. It was a very frustrating exercise. For some unknown reason, as I started to give my credit card details, I was cut off.
When I called back, it was impossible to find the girl who was helping me and I was told I had to start again.
I am not one for getting stressed out but that really screwed me up.
The next morning I went to see Peter, our rail ticket man at Henley station. He was more than kind and helpful, spoke clearly and found the same price for my tickets as I had found online. The transaction was done in no time and with a smile.
How blessed we are to be able to still do transactions with human contact.
While writing, may I ask why it is that the law on dropping litter and cigarette ends is not enforced in Henley?
Like Lynda Thornton Hunt, I think it would be wonderful if our pavements were cleaned regularly.
Finally, I would like to say how blessed we are to have the Gardening Buddies, who so kindly give their time to make our town even more beautiful than it is. — Yours faithfully,
Wyndale Close, Henley
Valid right to an opinion
Sir, — I was intrigued by your correspondent K B Atkinson’s letter in reply to mine regarding HS2 (Standard, August 30).
I believe he is splitting hairs about Henley not being in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
In fact, it is in the Chilterns natural area and many of the surrounding hamlets where the Henley Standard circulates are most definitely in the AONB.
Moreover, the Chilterns Society’s maps include Henley within the AONB.
A Henley town councillor is in no way barred from expressing views on the AONB, which is the overall environment in which Henley people live. In this connection:
Henley Town Council not only has a representative on the Chilterns Conservation Board but also all councillors have an invitation to attend the annual Chilterns forum.
All Henley residents live in the Henley (and Thame) constituency, much of which is situated in the Chilterns.
As constituents, they thus have a perfect right to raise matters within their local MP’s responsibilities.
Some of them, myself included, have lived in the Chilterns for almost all their lives. That alone gives them the right to raise their Chilterns concerns, wherever they may live and work now.
Having said that, what amazed me about Mr Atkinson’s letter was his complete omission of any comment on the convincing data provided by the Institute of Economic Affairs.
He also made no mention of personalities such as John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (membership 70,000 firms), who has now turned against the project, or of leading politicians such as Alastair Darling MP, who helped originate the project and is now dead against it.
Moreover, if Labour-style social and economic engineering to redistribute wealth and population to the North is the current “Conservative” raison d’etre for the scheme, it is actually likely that more wealth and population will instead come south to the powerful magnet of the South-East rather than any net movement going north for trains go both ways!
Mr Atkinson’s letter was headlined “You can’t stop progress”. Progress? How can saving 20 minutes on a trip from London to Birmingham and onwards north pro rata at a cost of £80billion and with massive disruption to land and people, be progress?
And that at a time when the nation is £1.4trillion in debt there are more attractive alternative transport opportunities with far better returns elsewhere. — Yours faithfully,
Councillor David Silvester (UKIP)
Luker Avenue, Henley
Sir, — I welcome the comments of K B Atkinson in reply to Councillor David Silvester regarding HS2 and likening it to the existing West Coast Main Line through Tring cutting.
I would like to add to the debate by mentioning what might have been had it not been for, in part, political intervention.
In the latter half of the 19th century Sir Edward Watkinhad many railway interests worldwide.
As well as his UK interests, he encouraged the uniting of the provinces of Canada by the Canadian Pacific and closer to home was on the board of the Chemin de Fer du Nord.
His vision was a new main line linking Sheffield, Manchester and Leeds with the Continent via a Channel tunnel, constructed to Continental loading gauge rather than the more restricted UK one.
The northern section of railway was built as far as Marylebone — the Great Central Railway — but only a start had been made on the Channel tunnel when political pressure halted further progress.
Dr Beeching, or rather his political masters, shortsightedly closed much of that line in 1966 and, true to the spirit of that age, hastily built on strategic parts of it, thus ensuring no one could ever re-open what had been designed as a high-speed rail route.
It is therefore not without some irony that the proposed route of HS2 parallels much of the course of the old Great Central.
Had those Sixties politicians had some Victorian vision about them no doubt we would not be having discussions today on whether we should build new or enhance existing routes, the line would still exist — and presumably all our problems of an overcrowded transport infrastructure would be on their way to being cost-effectively solved.
Let us hope that our political masters, and their opponents, do not lack the vision or courage to do what is undeniably the right thing for the country and its connectivity to Europe and start digging! — Yours faithfully,
Brook Street, Watlington
Rural schools missing out
Sir, — I refer to your article headlined “School urged to find new way to fund £3m rebuild” concerning the Peppard School rebuilding project (Standard, August 30). Unfortunately, the anticipated funding by Oxfordshire County Council is not currently available despite considerable efforts over the past three years to prepare a “shovel ready” project.
We are advised that this is due to the legal “basic needs” obligation on the council to provide additional school places in Oxford and Oxfordshire towns to meet an unexpectedly large population growth.
This necessary focus of expenditure on urban areas deprives rural schools of essential improvements, a tendency that has been experienced for many years, in some cases decades.
Peppard has been particularly affected, especially as it suffers from a very small site that precludes the provision of adequate buildings and outside recreation space, regardless of funds.
The only satisfactory solution is rebuilding on a new site, a pressing need as we approach full capacity.
Improving academic standards combined with the Christian ethos and the family atmosphere of a village church school are proving increasingly attractive to parents.
A financial scheme has been devised to meet around 30 per cent of the project costs.
However, the basic needs obligation and reduced funding of local authorities makes the balance difficult to find.
As Councillor David Bartholomew noted, it is important to advance the “tipping point” so that the opportunity cost to the council becomes more attractive.
We have had significant success in fund-raising but the scale of the task now facing us is certainly beyond the capacity of the school and village alone. It is now time to widen our appeal into the local community, a locality well-known for its philanthropy from individuals, businesses and charitable bodies alike.
Doubtless there are many former pupils in the area who recall their days at Peppard School with affection and recognise the excellent start in life that it gave them.
Anyone who feels that they may be able to help us should contact the school in the first instance for further information or a discussion, either by email at office.3205@ peppard.oxon.sch.uk or directly at Church Lane, Rotherfield Peppard RG9 5JU. — Yours faithfully,
Ian D Heriot
Governor, Peppard Church of England Primary School
Problem was predicted
Sir, — I read with interest the letter last week about parking at the Henley Show.
Unfortunately for Mike Cannon, he was warned two shows ago that the Kimblewick Hunt, who were paid for car parking duties, were not up to the job.
After the departure of Stuart Gray and others from the hunt, a great deal of the goodwill that persuaded hunt helpers to give up a free day to be on car park duty at the show evaporated.
Mr Cannon and the hunt were both told that there simply weren’t enough people willing to lend a hand and they should get professional help.
Mr Gray had organised the car parking both with and without help of the cadets for more than eight years with few problems. I should know — I was one of his helpers. — Yours faithfully,
Name and address supplied
Organisers do work hard
Sir, — Yes, there obviously was a problem in the car park at last year’s Henley Show.
It’s difficult to pluck 25 missing people from thin air to aid with parking.
More to the point, I would like to say, after about 27 years on the committee and now retired, that the chairman has a very long day full of commitments, ending with attending the lowering of the flag and the national anthem.
Organising the show takes an enormous amount of time, effort and commitment by a fantastic committee of devoted voluntary people.
Problems will occur dealing with so many people.
Perhaps I could advise people to leave earlier or later to avoid peak times.
I have never attended a successful show where I have not had to queue. — Yours faithfully,
Nicholas Road, Henley
Bowls club isn’t broke
Sir, -— Two recent articles in the Henley Standard have quoted a parish councillor as saying that Peppard Bowls Club is in “some sort of financial difficulty” (August 16) and “in ‘some difficulty’ due to the ageing and declining membership” (August 30).
I would like to add some perspective to these statements as rumours are now circulating that we are about to close our doors, which is far from the truth.
Undeniably, like most bowls clubs, we are always looking for new members as older members become unable to play. It goes without saying that declining membership impacts the club financially.
I cannot emphasise too strongly, however, that the club is still very much in business and is embarking on an active campaign to recruit new members and seek increased sponsorship. We will be there next season!
This summer has been wonderful. The weather has been kind and we have fulfilled all of our league and friendly matches and we have had some memorable battles on the rink.
As a spectator, it is sometimes difficult to appreciate the excitement of playing. Just imagine coming to the final shot of the final end of a three-hour match with the scores tied and the opposition skip has one shot left to win the game.
This happened to me a few weeks ago and I can only liken it to an England football penalty shoot-out — I had to look away.
Like our footballers, he missed and we won. Hooray!
Bowls has an image of being an old people’s sport but, like any sport, if you start early you are likely to reach a higher standard. Witness the county game where there are plenty of good up and coming youngsters.
So come on, you aspiring new bowlers, there is still time to give it a go this season before the green closes.
Our club afternoons are Mondays and Thursdays and if you arrive at 1.30pm with flat shoes you can be assured of a warm welcome and an entertaining time.
Then, next season maybe, we can look forward to welcoming you on board. —Yours faithfully,
Dr John Waterfall
Committee member, Peppard Bowls Club
Nine years of Birdstock
Sir, — On Sunday, the ninth annual Birdstock, a local music festival, took place at the Bird in Hand in Henley.
All performers and helpers give their time freely, raising money for local charities. This year, more than £800 was raised for Bishopswood Special School and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who have attended and donated over the years.
Your support for this event is much appreciated and we look forward to doing it all again on the 10th anniversary in September 2014.
I would also like to thank Andy Crowdy, the driving force, talent and inspiration behind the festival, and Graham and Celia at the Bird in Hand for providing the facilities and unique atmosphere for everyone to enjoy a day of music and good company. — Yours faithfully,
Paul Hawkins (Wac)
Plowden Way, Shiplake Cross
Get behind the Hawks
Sir, — The pre-season friendlies are over and the real thing starts at 3pm tomorrow (Saturday) at Dry Leas.
Red kites will be wheeling gracefully over the ground where the Henley Hawks play their open, running rugby and so convincingly won promotion on the last day of last season in front of a record crowd.
Now is the time for the town to again get behind the team as they step up a division and face sterner tests.
If last season is anything to go by, this is again guaranteed to be great entertainment. — Yours faithfully,
Councillor David Nimmo Smith
Henley Town Council and Oxfordshire County Council, St Andrew’s Road, Henley
What we can look foward to
Sir, — I thought you might like to add this to your seasonal collection of pictures of the footpath from the fields from Remenham Lane to Remenham Church Lane.
Those winter days are not far away now! — Yours faithfully,