Sir, — I’m very disappointed with the approach your newspaper is taking towards the Henley skate park.
As residents of Greys Road, my husband and I have a genuine vested interest in the development of the skate park, although this has been studiously played down by both the council at meetings (where my husband and the local councillors, including the much-beleaguered Councillor Will Hamilton were not given a chance to voice their opinions without being shot down) and yourselves at the Henley Standard.
I telephoned your newspaper to highlight the strong-arm tactics of the Skate Park Initiative when they set up in the reception area of The Henley College last year.
Several students complained that they had been pressurised into signing a petition that they had not been given the opportunity to read. Others were told they must sign the petition as even if they themselves did not skate they knew someone who did.
The students who gave information to the reporter I spoke with were not represented in the article you published. On top of this, my comments were given two centimetres of “airtime” while alongside the article there was an almost full-page article on fund-raising for the skate park with images of the beaming Initiative members and councillors.
Cllr Hamilton has raised a valid point by commenting on the negative Twitter messages sent to him. How is this an unacceptable complaint? The “miserable” individuals he refers to are the ones making personal attacks on him via social networking sites, not a comment on young people in general.
As a teacher at The Henley College, I work purely with teenagers every day, every week. I spend my weekends and holidays marking their work and reading the emails and Tweets they send me. I love my job and I respect and admire the students I work with, so I challenge anyone to claim I am anti-youth!
Having read the Initiative’s proposal, it did not fully consider all of the alternatives or the residents’ issues (litter, parking, noise, human traffic, toilet facilities, protection from use of the grounds during late evenings) fully.
My husband and I are constantly calling on the police to visit the park on weekends, past 11 at night, to move on people parked in cars, playing music and generally disturbing the peace.
This is not an attack on the legitimate users of the ramp but it is an issue that has to be considered with an open park available all evening.
I agree that young people/skaters/bikers/bladers need somewhere to go. I come from a town where an indoor skate park was created. It was an excellent facility, providing shelter and jobs, and had a great voluntary “policing” system operated by the skaters themselves who looked after the area and kept it clean and tidy. It meant that all the negative features I have mentioned were markedly less noticeable.
My town could not financially support the park and it closed, leaving an open bowl opposite a housing estate as the only place to go. While the bowl has been wonderful for those using it legitimately, the residents have had numerous problems: older kids pushing the younger kids out, litter from the those using the facility, non-skaters using it to party in the evenings and, worst of all, human waste being found in the surrounding green areas.
If we’d been given a chance to discuss this, maybe the residents of Greys Road could have been insightful, helpful and supportive rather than having a proposal thrust under our noses before we could offer our own ideas.
As it is, we were ignored in meetings, belittled by the campaigners as NIMBY-ists and now the Mayor and your newspaper seem intent on selling us all as whingers and child-haters!
We want to offer ideas but we’re constantly being told we don’t have any worth hearing because we’re biased... oh, the irony. How’s about a bit of free press, where our point of view is not immediately dismissed? — Yours faithfully,
Hannah Edwards- Arnison
Greys Road, Henley
Help plan our future
Sir, — At the beginning of September, the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan was officially launched.
All the information gathered before that date by Henley and Harpsden councillors was added to the new database being formed.
At that time, Henley Town Council and Harpsden Parish Council committed to a process to complete the plan.
We allocated a budget of £50,000 and applied for, and secured, grants of £24,000.
We tendered, interviewed and appointed a planning consultant to guide us through the process and help with the writing of the plan.
We appointed an administrator to help us with the process. We have made rooms available for residents and consultants to carry out their meetings.
Mike Kennedy, the town clerk, manages to put in many hours of help within, and outside of, his normal busy schedule.
We appointed a neighbourhood plan governance committee, whose role is to oversee the budget, make sure the plan runs on time and ensure that we are in compliance with South Oxfordshire District Council’s local plans.
Right from the start we promised that this plan was about localism. It would be for the people to decide on the future of Henley/Harpsden and, in particular, where our housing allocation would be built.
We believe that we have kept our promise and the governance committee has not at any time tried to influence the direction or decisions of any of the working groups.
As expected from Henley/Harpsden residents, the various discussions in the working groups have been articulate and knowledgeable.
I heard how surprised the developers were at the recent meetings with the groups by their depth of understanding of the issues for each proposed site. Some very good questions were asked.
There is passion and commitment within the groups but a clear sense that agreement is necessary for the plan to progress.
Work has been done and it is now the turn of the residents of the neighbourhood plan area to look at this work and give their opinion.
After all, the plan will have to be agreed by a majority vote of the residents, so it is very important that as many of you as possible turn up at the town hall to take a look at it at its progress.
We intend that this plan remains a “people’s” plan and that means we need you, the residents, to give your opinion. The town hall will be open on December 13 and 14 (until 8pm on the first day) and will have an exhibition by the developers.
Your views will give direction to the working groups for the next phase of their work and then we will ask you to look again in the new year.
When the plan was first put to the town council, I remember borrowing a phrase from Thame Council, which was that the council was embarking on a “leap of faith”.
No one in Henley or Harpsden ever doubted that this community would respond and take the opportunity to help plan our area in the interest of all who live here.
I look forward to meeting you on December 13 and 14. — Yours faithfully,
Chairman, joint Henley amd Harpsden neighbourhood plan governance committee
Don’t spoil this haven
Sir, — Regarding the correspondence on these pages and the possibility of houses being built on the Gillotts School playing fields (Standard, November 29), may I add one definite fact which must be considered in making this decision.
The proposal requires access roads coming in and out of Blandy Road and then driving through the Spinney, which grows and flourishes between houses numbered 53 to 59.
May I point out as a fact that many of these trees in the Spinney cannot be cut down because they are protected by long-standing and legal Tree Preservation Orders.
On a different yet equally important point, this spinney teems with wildlife, such as squirrels and woodpeckers and frequently provides a resting place for red kites, which sit there and make their own particular cry.
Perhaps most importantly, on summer evenings, bats fly in and out of this very pretty little corner of Henley. — Yours faithfully,
Robert de Board
Blandy Road, Henley
School field is precious
Sir, — The proposal to build new homes on the Gillotts School playing field may be a way to obtain funding for the school improvements, but at what cost?
If the playing field was to be littered with new homes all huddled together, it would be throwing away a valuable green open space, resulting in a great loss to the school.
Plus where would the outpouring queues of carbon-emitting cars exit the site?
This proposal is short-sighted and would deprive future generations of schoolchildren from having one of the most precious assets that the school now possesses. Many other schools are not fortunate enough to have such a prized amenity.
If the Gillotts playing field is under-utilised, as is said, why is this so? Past generations of Gillotts schoolchildren have made good use of this desirable resource.
It is also said that the playing field is remote from the school building. Are today’s children incapable of walking 100 yards? — Yours faithfully,
Blandy Road, Henley
Complexity of development
Sir, — I refer to Doreen Thatcher’s letter questioning the 10 per cent limit of increased size of buildings within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and in particular along Fair Mile, Henley, but she may be confused between replacement dwellings and extensions to existing ones.
The South Oxfordshire District Council 2011 structure plan policy (H12) states that proposals for the replacement of dwellings outside the built-up limits of a settlement (i.e. within the AONB) will be permitted under certain conditions, one of which is that the proposed dwelling should not be materially greater in volume than the existing dwelling.
The council’s interpretation of not materially greater is a maximum 10 per cent increase in volume.
However, before the 10 per cent factor applies, permitted development rights (i.e development which can be carried out to the existing dwelling without requiring planning permission) also needs to be considered.
The policy (H13) also covers extensions to existing dwellings within the AONB and recites a number of conditions to be met, including a maximum increase in volume of 40 per cent above the existing dwelling but, as in H12, permitted development rights may also need to be investigated prior to final volume calculation.
Permitted development legislation contains a number of complex conditions and that is why developers tend to employ planning consultants who have intimate knowledge of that legislation and, on their behalf, quite legitimately use their expertise to their client’s advantage. — Yours faithfully,
Decision but no discussion
Sir, — I suspect your readers are starting to get bored with correspondence over the planning issues at Hare Hatch Sheeplands.
But I cannot let Councillor John Halsall’s comments (Standard, November 29) go unchallenged.
It is not for him to decide whether our actions are unlawful or not. It is for an independent inspector to decide.
He says “council officers have written again requesting a revised scheme”.
Yes, but that letter was only written three days after the Standard published my own letter complaining about their lack of negotiation. Coincidence or not?
In response, we sent Wokingham Borough Council a new scheme showing a smaller site footprint. Just 48 hours later an official wrote back rejecting the new plan. No debate, discussion or negotiation, just outright rejection. Did Councillor Halsall not know this?
As for my “binary choice”, as he so quaintly puts it, well, I have repeatedly warned him — and others — that if the council succeeds with its enforcement notice the business will have to close down. That’s a plain and simple fact.
Even the council’s own specialist consultant has confirmed this and if Cllr Halsall has not read his report then I suggest he does.
Don’t keep writing to the papers, John, come and talk to us direct. I have invited you often enough. — Yours faithfully,
Owner, Hare Hatch Sheeplands
Sir, — It was great to see Jeremy Paxman’s excellent contribution to Joan Bakewell’s recent BBC Panorama programme, called Our Dirty Nation.
My son and I cycle around Maidensgrove and Russells Water weekly and easily fill two full bags of discarded litter each time.
The usual detritus includes isotonic energy gel foil packs discarded by cyclists, fast food packaging, coffee cups, Lucozade, Red Bull bottles and beer cans (drivers or passengers?) as well as polythene bags of doggie poo tossed away by inconsiderate dog walkers on Maidensgrove Common.
Having lived in the area over many years, we have seen this littering problem become worse.
The usual culprits are car/van drivers not from the local area.
One thing we can all do though is to take responsibility for these inconsiderate folk — don’t just ignore or think it’s someone else’s job to pick it up, pick up that crisp packet or can and take it home and bin it. That’ll help keep our Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty special.
Thanks very much for your support. — Yours faithfully,
Mark and Joe Williams
Wrong target for protest
Sir, — May I correct the impression created by your correspondent Beth Timms and add clarity to the current debate about 38 Degrees’ attack on John Howell MP (Standard, November 29).
Firstly, I have always been a strong supporter of 38 Degrees since its creation by Gordon Roddick, David Babbs and others in 2009.
I passionately believe 38 degrees and other similar, internet-based, organisations are essential to enable any individual to have a chance to bring about change.
However, in my personal opinion, 38 Degrees is not always correct in all its actions at a local level.
The current draft “gagging” Bill is unfit for purpose. I made this point to the 14 local 38 Degrees supporters who attended their recent policy meeting in Henley and again to the 30 supporters who attended the discussion with John Howell MP last Saturday morning.
However, I believe it is unreasonable for 38 Degrees to expect our local MP to be able to bring about a change to the Bill simply because he is parliamentary political secretary to Andrew Lansley, the minister who is nominally responsible for this threat to our democracy.
Sadly, if all the readers of this paper were to post a personal letter to Mr Lansley and a copy to the editor of the Daily Telegraph, plus a copy addressed personally to John Humphrys or James Naughtie, or John Snow, these letters would probably have far more effect than writing any letter to our MP.
Mr Howell, our local MP, is only a messenger. His Power to change any Act of parliament is minimal. This is why many of your readers feel so disenfranchised.
38 Degrees needs to focus on the political power brokers at a national level rather than undermining the local credibility of a single MP, such as Mr Howell.
The Henley Standard could create its own petition to the Government and make our fundamental objection to this anti-democratic Bill more powerful.
The Bill is so bad that the Government itself had to make more than 20 amendments to its own draft legislation! — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — We are writing to express our concerns about part 2 of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament.
We hope that your newspaper can raise awareness about the danger it poses to UK public life.
On Saturday at the Christ Church Centre in Henley, constituency representatives from our groups met John Howell MP to discuss the Bill and our concerns.
Our worry is that, as it currently stands, this Bill could prevent charities and other organisations from campaigning and so deprive ordinary people of their freedom of speech.
Many charities and other organisations share this concern about the Bill. Parliament’s own joint committee on human rights has urged the Government to reconsider the impact it could have on rights of free speech and freedom of association and last week the House of Lords heavily criticised it, calling for extra time to debate it before a vote.
Over the years, many of us have joined campaigns launched by other organisations to support and speak out for those less fortunate.
Nobody should try to restrict our ability to have our views heard, whether we choose to do it on our own or through others.
This Bill threatens to stifle legitimate public debate and non-party political campaigning on issues that affect people’s daily lives.
The Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement is consulting with all non-governmental organisations and all major stakeholders to produce recommendations before the Bill goes through the final stage of discussion in Parliament.
All we are asking our MPs is to listen to our concerns, take the commission’s recommendations seriously and amend the Bill accordingly.
This country’s history and heritage are embedded in the principle of freedom of speech and democratic consultation. As it is, this Bill could undermine these core principles of our democracy. — Yours faithfully,
Joel Young, community engagement officer for Guide Dogs in Oxfordshire, Paul Outhwaite, regional campaigns manager, Oxfordshire RSPB, Anastasia French, campaigns officer, Oxfordshire Ramblers, Rachael Orr, head of community campaigning in Oxfordshire, Oxfam, and Phil Evans, regional co-ordinator for Oxfordshire, Christian Aid
My friend is truly honest
Sir, — Further to your report on the acquittal of Genevieve Agnew for shoplifting (Standard, November 29), I felt I must write.
I run a small social care service in this area and am a business associate and also a personal friend of Ms Agnew.
Genevieve is one of the most honest people I know. I am shocked that such a case can be brought against someone of good character.
The trial ended in acquittal, which was no surprise to those of us who know her.
I hope that Genevieve can now get on with her life without this ordeal hanging over her. — Yours faithfully,
Surley Row, Emmer Green
Thank you to everyone
Sir, — Some weeks ago, the Henley Standard published my letter appealing once again to the people of Henley and district to give generously to the Poppy Appeal.
I am happy to report the sum raised during the Remembrance period exceeded £20,000.
On behalf of the Royal British Legion Henley branch committee, I would like to express our sincere thanks to all those who contributed to this magnificent result. Thanks also to Shirley Lees (Poppy Appeal organiser) who worked tirelessly marshalling the activities of the-house-to-house and street collectors, especially the young enthusiastic sea, army and air cadets.
Brian Hughes deserves special mention for having raised an astonishing £3,000, bringing his total raised over the last 18 years to more than £48,000.
Key elements of this year’s success were Sam Brown’s ukulele band which attracted happy crowds in Market Place, the Second World War-themed dance in the town hall organised by Connie Butt and the sing-along at the Bull pub led by Anne Evans on the piano. All of which we hope to repeat next year.
Martyn Sheldrake’s military vehicle display added interest, atmosphere and many donations.
We very much appreciate that these events were well publicised by this newspaper and went a long way to ensuring their success.
Many thanks to Waitrose, Starbucks and La Riviera Café for offering shelter and endless cups of coffee to our stalwart collectors when the rains came!
The Legion spends £1.6 million each week, mainly on welfare. The citizens of Henley can be proud of their contribution to this worthy cause. Thank you all.
Finally, if you know of any ex-servicemen or women, or their dependents, who may be in need of help from the Legion, please encourage them to call the national helpline, 01844 216961.
Alternatively, they may call Nick Launders (case worker) on (01491) 628243, Stan Ainsley (branch secretary) on 07935 755905 or me on (01491) 638720. — Yours faithfully,
Chairman, Henley branch of the Royal British Legion, Maidensgrove
Marvellous appeal total
Sir, — The Shiplake and Dunsden branch of the Royal British Legion would like to thank everyone who took part in this year’s Poppy Appeal collection, especially the door-to-door collectors who excelled themselves.
The collection so far (there are still a few donations to come in) has raised the marvellous total of £6,582.
This money has been raised in the Shiplake, Binfield Heath, Dunsden and Playhatch areas. — Yours faithfully,
Honorary secretary, Shiplake and Dunsden branch, Royal British Legion
Don’t forget Philippines
Sir, — I was sorry to read about pensioner Roy Cooke’s purchase of mouldy custard from Waitrose (Standard, November 22).
I was even sorrier that the Henley Standard managed to devote a whole page to the story at a time when many of us would be feeling great concern for the food shortage and plight of the people in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan. — Yours faithfully,
Mrs H S Pollard
Hurst Road, Twyford
The editor responds: “We, too, felt for the victims of the typhoon, which is why the front page picture story of the same edition was about a Philippines appeal fund-raiser and the lead story on page 7 was about a search and rescue team from Henley helping to provide medical aid in the country.”
Sir, — Some weeks ago you were kind enough to publish my harsh attack on the misguided plan to carry out gas main renewal work along Crisp Road, Henley, over the three winter months.
Well, the chaos arrived soon after. Our stretch had a notification of work to be done in the first week of November.
For four weeks now we have been tripping over a lounge full of what was in the substantial cupboard under the stairs because the letter said it could possibly need enough access to change the meter.
In the street holes have been dug, barriers erected and water meters exposed for all this time and there is parking chaos in an already difficult area and weeks of traffic lights that block the junction at Crisp Road and Hop Gardens.
The workforce, by all accounts from neighbours who have had the opportunity to talk with some of them, commutes from the North every Monday and returns every Friday.
Again I ask who planned this nonsense and allowed it to happen at this time of year, especially as this particular week the closed-off roads will mean the late-night shopping tonight will have no side roads to relieve the pressure for through traffic?
Will there be someone to answer for this? Is someone going to put their hand up to this stupidity? Or is Henley going to suffer yet again because of a combination of council and corporate ineptitude? — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — I wonder if you would permit me to publicly thank the person who hit my parked car in Vicarage Road, Henley, (near Damer Gardens) on Monday and then drove off without leaving their details.
The car was not only damaged but hit it so hard that it ended up partly on the pavement.
Thank you, sir or madam, for leaving me with a significant bill for a respray and for having to have the steering inspected in case you damaged it when you bounced the front end of the car sideways on to the pavement. Due to the obvious force with which you hit my car, and the position in which it ended up, you cannot have been unaware of the accident, nor can your vehicle have escaped damage.
I have reported the incident to the police, who have logged it as a failure to report an accident.
Perhaps, if you have any guts or conscience, you might consider going to Henley police station and owning up to hitting a silver car in Vicarage Road on Monday or you might contact me privately via this newspaper and offer to pay for the damage.
As it is an older car, no insurance claim is possible without writing off the vehicle (despite my having carefully kept it in good condition until you hit it), so I am left heavily out of pocket through your bad driving and moral cowardice.
As I only work part-time, this is a crippling bill for me to have to foot — and through no fault of my own.
Thank you again for a wonderful start to the week. — Yours faithfully,
Kennylands Road, Sonning Common
Courtesy and efficiency
Sir, — Following an accident with a pothole the Peppard road, opposite Manor Farm, resulting in a new wheel and tyre, I write to show my appreciation for the efficiency and courtesy of the Sonning Common Vauxhall garage. Many thanks. — Yours faithfully,
Shiplake Bottom, Peppard
The inclinations of giant rodent
Sir, — I was intrigued as Lady McAlpine appears to talk with some authority when commenting that the male of the species returns home when the weather turns colder or he is in need of sex (Standard, November 8).
Readers may also be interested to know that the male actually sleeps very little, preferring instead to doze during the morning in thickets on riverbanks, or wallowing in the mud and water when cooling down in the heat of the midday sun.
Males are also known to communicate between one another using both scent (which is secreted by their glands) and sound, having a number of different vocalisations including whistles, barks, grunts and squeals.
I refer, of course, to the habits and possible motivations of Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris or Jack the Capybara, here pictured with my good friend and keen runner Nicholas Edwards.
As I would have been taking my morning nap at the time, my thanks goes to Alexandra for actually taking and providing the picture. — Yours faithfully,
Queen Street, Henley
Sir, — Please may I make an appeal through your esteemed publication to my errant husband Jack?
Contrary to popular belief, I am no longer missing Jack. The tapirs and I are getting along just fine in our cosy enclosure with plenty of fresh hay and a sunny aspect overlooking the Thames Valley.
Jack and I did once contemplate a more bohemian lifestyle closer to the river but I thought we had, by mutual understanding, returned to Lady Mac’s private estate where our ideals were less controversial.
Jack, however, as I can see by the correspondence in the Henley Standard, has been living the life of Riley, getting back to nature, free swimming and generally courting the paparazzi.
I can quite categorically deny Lady Mac’s assumption that he will be welcomed back home when he gets cold and he fancies a bit of sex, especially as his latest escapade showed him cavorting with a young blonde on the riverbank. — Yours faithfully,
Jaqueline, Mrs Capybara
(alias N Taylor), Makins Road, Henley
Thanks for buying our charity cakes
Sir, — Lucy Gerhartz, Emerald Aston and myself have been running cake sales just outside Lovibonds Brewery in Henley for the last four weeks for a charity called MicroLoan.
It was for a competition at our school (the Abbey in Reading) and we have raised almost £250.
We would like to thank everybody who came, especially the man who bought 15 rice crispy buns and the man who came and bought some cakes and then came back to give us a bigger donation. MicroLoan supports women in Malawi and Zambia to work their way out of poverty by giving them a small loan to set up their business.
Thanks again to everyone. We really enjoyed helping other women and we hope you enjoyed our cooking! — Yours faithfully,