Sir, — I hope you like this photograph, which was taken on Cow Common, Ewelme, one morning last week.
Having to take our dog Bisto for her early morning walk does have its compensations! — Yours faithfully,
Terry Allsop, Ewelme
Sir, — Fields covered in a crisp, white frost, water reduced to lumps of ice, chicken waiting to be fed, geese to let out, guinea fowl gossiping as they fly down from their tree-top roost, not to mention the birds who wait for their feeders to be replenished.
Slowly the sun is rising behind a group of trees and there in the wood, deer — very still, silhouetted, as they watch our every move, ready to run away should we get too close. Magical! — Yours faithfully,
Diana Jackson, Ipsden
We must limit development
Sir, — As we are starting the new year of 2015, I thought it would be a good time to write this letter.
Let me start with a fact. Henley/Harpsden will have to build 450 dwellings. There is nothing that we can do about this but the residents of the two parishes, who attended an open meeting in the town hall, decided that they would make the decision as to where the homes should go and start a neighbourhood plan.
Henley/Harpsden residents have worked hard to reach the current point where the new draft plan is being completed.
A six-week consultation follows and we hope to ask the community to vote in support of the plan at the referendum in late summer.
This is not a Henley Residents’ Group, Conservative, or town council plan, but a plan decided by residents who volunteered to work for the benefit of the town.
Let’s be clear. Without a neighbourhood plan South Oxfordshire District Council would be able to build these large housing developments where it wished. With an approved plan, it will be Henley/Harpsden’s choice.
The people’s positive vote at the referendum will become a legal planning policy document which the district council will have to follow.
There are also some financial benefits to be derived. As we have a neighbourhood plan, we will receive more of the Community Infrastructure Levy. I expect the full amount to be about £1 million. This can be spent on community projects in the plan area.
We will also receive money from the developers, called Section 106, which will help to resolve some of the problems in the areas where the houses will be built.
The plan has also brought forward a council-owned site which should, in my estimation, bring in a further £3.5 million.
This all means we should be able to help financially with the problems these extra homes will bring.
You will have seen that some developers are putting in planning applications before the plan has reached the referendum stage.
I expect the full support of the district council in letting the will of the people decide at referendum where the homes should go and not approving any applications before this vote. We have not all worked hard for 18 months for nothing.
I suspect that one of the reasons that these applications have come forward is because the Government has decided (in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment) that South Oxfordshire needs even more homes than the core strategy inspector decided two years ago. Part of that core strategy decision was that Henley should take 450 homes, which would be our requirement up to 2027.
However, the feeling is that, when the SHMAA figures are announced this year by the district council, Henley will be asked to provide more homes within that period.
Two years ago, a government inspector gave good reasons why Henley should be capped at 450 houses. Those reasons are still valid and there is no logical argument as to why we should get even more houses but the developers clearly think we will be allocated more, hence the speculative planning applications.
The district council knows my views as to why Henley should not get more homes than the 450 but it is now important that the views of the residents are made known.
Please make the planning policy department at the district council aware of our traffic, infrastructure and other problems created by extra development in Henley.
Write to: South Oxfordshire District Council, Benson Lane, Crowmarsh Gifford, Wallingford, Oxon, OX10 8ED or send your comments, for my attention, to Henley town hall and I will be happy to act as your spokesman. The district council needs to know what we think.
Any decision to allocate more houses to Henley, just two years after the core strategy decision, would show no consideration to the people of Henley who will have to deal with the problems of even more houses on a day-to-day basis.
This current national “developers’ charter” will eventually destroy the quality of life in many beautiful old market towns. Henley should not become one of them. — Yours faithfully,
Councillor Dieter Hinke, Chairman, neighbourhood plan governance committee, and chairman, planning committee, Henley Town Council, Elizabeth Road, Henley
Homes would spoil beauty
Sir, — I would urge your correspondents who commented on the SON 5 application (Standard, December 12) to take a walk from Kennylands Road down the public footpath adjacent to Kidby’s Yard and across the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty up the slight incline towards Kidmore End.
On their return they will surely appreciate the negative impact that a development of 30 properties on SON 5 must have on the views from, and across, the AONB.
The site comes right down to the edge of the AONB and is poorly screened from it and the bulk of the two-storey buildings would be clearly visible in the centre of it.
The residents of, and visitors to, Sonning Common are very fortunate in having plenty of footpaths to walk along, but few have such open views of rolling countryside as this one.
It is easily accessed from Kennylands Road, providing attractive country walks for villagers and their guests and a safer pedestrian route to and from Kidmore End.
The residents of Sonning Common have a commendable record for their efforts to preserve the village’s natural heritage, the acquisition and management of Old Copse and the Millennium Green being two recent examples.
The proposed development of SON 5 would have a permanent adverse effect on a beautiful natural heritage that belongs to the whole of the village, not just to the occupants of properties in Kennylands Road. — Yours faithfully,
Stan Rust, Kennylands Road (not backing on to SON 5), Sonning Common
Diesel trains aren’t so bad
Sir, — I must say I found some of the comments in your article about a possible delay to the electrification of the Henley branch line rather misleading (Standard, December 26).
As the depot at Reading will, for the foreseeable future, continue to maintain a fleet of diesel multiple trains for services to Gatwick, adding a few more for Thames Valley branch lines would hardly be an imposition, although it would affect train redeployment plans.
Of course, the trains themselves will continue to be part of the same total fleet that they are now, which will still need to be supported by spares etc.
Should diesel trains continue on the branch line we will at least not have the dubious benefit of them being replaced by older electric trains, as is currently planned.
However, I think basic economics would be against the provision of sufficient diesel units to maintain through services to Paddington unless the extra units required to do that could be integrated with other diesel-worked services still based at Reading (not a simple task).
While the mainline electrification scheme has suffered various delays and has reportedly greatly increased in cost, there is no indication as yet how this could impact on plans for the branch lines.
Meanwhile, some preliminary work is very obviously taking place on the Henley branch line with removal of some of the lineside jungle, although this might only be for signalling replacement reasons.
Despite one (so far) apparent possible adverse impact for future changes, resignalling work in preparation for electrification is clearly going on apace for commissioning at, I’m told, Easter.
If electrification does not take place, as was promised, by 2018, that does not necessarily mean it would be delayed until 2024.
Indeed, the comments attributed to Network Rail in your report reflected what they said in a document published in September, which confirmed earlier timescales.
Information in the public domain shows that Network Rail is still to finalise plans for control period 6, which starts in 2019 and could include works delayed from the present control period.
As far as Henley’s economy is concerned, I doubt that through trains to London have had anywhere near as much impact on Henley (except on parking in residential roads) as has the improvement of train frequency to 45 minutes and 30 minutes in the peaks.
Trains which terminate at Twyford seem to regularly unload good numbers of passengers for the London direction. It seems the availability of a frequent service clearly is attracting people to use the branch line and travel into the town by rail. — Yours faithfully,
Mike Romans, Cromwell Road, Henley
Your chance to be heard
Sir, — Timetable changes, electrification and Crossrail may significantly change the train service on the Henley branch line, particularly for Wargrave residents.
The Western Route Study, whose consultation period ends today (Friday), suggests that “the primary constraint on the…. Henley-on-Thames branch is the running time need for a train to complete a round trip” and proposes “reductions in the number of intermediate calls” to achieve two trains per hour.
The Office of Rail Regulation publishes station exit and entry figures and, for 2013/14, these were Henley 771,838, Shiplake 89,240, Wargrave 92,298 and Twyford 1,361,892 plus 637,571 interchangers at Twyford.
These figures suggest which stations (if any) should be selected to have stops omitted. Wargrave is being considered.
As electric trains accelerate more quickly this consideration could be avoided.
Electrification needs to happen concurrently with the main line but it may be delayed.
The progressive withdrawal of the through services from Henley to and from Paddington has been a consistent theme in the Great Western route utilisation strategy issued in March 2010 and the London and South-East RUS issued in July 2011.
The long term planning process, of which the Western Route Study is one component, has superseded the RUS programme so, sadly, the proposed reduction of through services has been forecast for some years.
To avoid these eventualities, please make your voice known by writing immediately directly to westernroute email@example.com
Join the Wargrave Users Group by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and, of course, if you are a Remenham (or Henley) resident email henleybranchuser email@example.com
Please copy me in at cherwell @btinternet.com — Yours faithfully,
John Halsall, Remenham
Sir, — After all these years of living in Henley and believing that my crossing New Street to Bell Street at the Savills corner was the safest, it seems I was very wrong.
So were those living down the left side of Bell Street and Northfield End, tourists etc, who nervously gather there (eyeing the terribly wobbly road surface at the junction at the same time).
I have been inundated with suggested alternatives, ranging from going down New Street, along the river and crossing at the Red Lion lights, or walking the other way towards Marlow Road and crossing or using the central island outside Rupert House School.
Most seem to favour walking down near the Kenton, where traffic is slower, and then racing across the road when a car appears.
All this is obviously dictated by time of day — if it is clear, one feels like playing “angels” in the road or at least crossing it twice just for the hell of it.
Two weeks later I am still paying for my mistake by being incarcerated in the house, waiting for my broken ribs from the impact of the van to knit or whatever.
On the bright side, at least I haven’t had to brave crossing the road anywhere since then. — Yours faithfully,
Judi-Ann Roscoe, New Street, Henley
Sir, — After posting photographs of a very large lorry with an equally large trailer reversing in congested Sonning, I am surprised my motives for taking them are questioned by your correspondent Peter Symons (Standard, January 2).
The lorry driver managed to reverse the trailer and rear of the large lorry into Sonning High Street. It was a feat that deserved applause. If he had tried to cross Sonning’s ancient bridge he would have been fined or may even have lost his licence.
As he was so long with the addition of a very big trailer he may easily have stuck on the brow of the hump-backed narrow bridge, potentially a complete disaster.
It was unfortunate that, unlike most drivers, he did not see the various signs warning of a restricted and narrow bridge and weight limit but he did retrieve the situation extremely well even though he caused traffic chaos in Thames Street and the surrounding roads.
These lorry problems in Sonning would be no more if a new Thames bridge was constructed, something that would benefit both Henley and Sonning. — Yours faithfully,
Robert Lobley, Thames Street, Sonning
Sir, — Another year, another whinge from Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, about the diversion (she insists on the word “closure” for more impact) of the footpath during the Henley Festival (Standard, January 2).
It’s only for a few days and it’s only for a few metres, so what is the problem?
The Henley Festival brings pleasure to thousands and brings revenue and status to the town and yet each year she insists that members of the general public should be able to exercise their right and be allowed to walk through a construction site.
There is immense pressure on the crew to get the site ready for a Wednesday performance as they aren’t allowed to start their work until Monday morning. Should all work stop every time a walker wants to go through it?
Come on, Kate, lighten up. I’m sure your society does good works but your obsession with this issue makes it look like a one trick pony. — Yours faithfully,
John Morrow, Greys Road, Henley
Village is not dead
Sir, — I felt I must write in response to your article about the closure of the Willow Dress Agency in Wargrave and whether the village is “dead” (Standard, December 26).
I have lived in Wargrave for more than 60 years and my husband and his family were born in the village.
Okay, so the high street is no longer the bustling street that it used to be with two banks, a newsagent, butcher’s shop, wet fish shop, two hairdressers, tea room, bakery, electrical store, dairy, chemist, greengrocer, supermarket, post office, haberdashery store, several pubs and two garages as well as the library, which is still there, a working men’s club, theatre workshop and village hall.
Over time Wargrave has expanded with much development taking place.
Village life has changed from the time when you were born within the village, went to the local schools and worked within the parish itself or within walking distance or travelled by rail to nearby villages or towns. With the change in population who travel further afield to their place of employment and the use of the motor car, life has expanded outside the perimeter of the village.
Shopping can now be covered by one visit to the supermarket in the nearest village or town.
Wargrave village has a car park, which is owned by Wokingham Borough Council and therefore a charge is incurred every time it is used.
This, together with the large rents charged by some of the property owners in the high street, does force shopkeepers to close and people to shop elsewhere.
Steyning in West Sussex is a good example of a place that doesn’t charge for parking. There, you are issued with a permit to use every time you visit the bustling high street.
Wargrave’s shops have moved to Victoria Road. We have a dispensing chemist, a newsagent and sub-post office and a general store, all of which give good value for money and are very willing to help our local population.
So, yes, High Street has unfortunately declined in shopping facilities but Wargrave is not dead.
We all need to use our local services as much as possible by walking to them and keeping our cars off the roads.
Wargrave has nearly 40 organisations within the parish to serve us from the beginning to the end, so we are alive and it is wonderful to have the community spirit that binds us all together. — Yours faithfully,
Marion Pope, Wargrave
The history of Bix parish
Sir, — Seeing the stone and flint walls of the abandoned church at Bix carefully and professionally repaired and consolidated is such good news, especially in the present financial climate of cutbacks (Standard, January 2). May I just take the opportunity to put the record straight with regard to some confusing historical dates stated in the article?
It referred to the church being built in the 1600s “when the Saxon settlement of Bix Brand grew...” (Surely a typing error there as by 1600 the last of the Tudors, Elizabeth I, had reigned for many decades and there was not a Saxon in sight!)
In 1066 the Normans had put an end to Saxon rule, culture and buildings traditions.
The oldest part of the church is Norman and was very likely built by the Norman Lord of the manor circa 1200.
Nothing is known of a manor house or hamlet, although the manor (a unit of land and farms, but often without a resident lord, who usually had many such manors) existed as it is mentioned in Domesday in 1086, being of 2½ hides worth £3.
Bix is a typical large Chiltern parish with dispersed farmsteads. There is no evidence of a hamlet or cottages nearby on early maps or in the archaeological record.
The only buildings are those of the nearby Valley End Farm, which may well once have been the site of a manor house or manor farm but we do not know. — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — I was interested in the letter written by Lt Chater, of the 2nd Gordon Highlanders, from the Western Front in December 1914 (Standard, January 2).
My great uncle, the Rev Esslemont Adams (later Colonel and awarded the MC and DSO), was chaplain to the 2nd and 6th Gordon Highlanders and organised the joint burial service on Christmas Day 1914.
As the Germans did not have a pastor, he was asked to officiate at the service assisted by a German divinity student. This was the only formal religious service recorded as part of the widespread truce that day. The 23rd Psalm was read in English and German.
My great uncle was given a cigar which he kept as a souvenir and in return gave the senior German officer a copy of the Soldier’s Prayer, which the German put into his cap, saying he believed what it said and after the war would take it out and give it to his youngest child as a keepsake.
It is well known that the Gordon Highlanders were greatly respected by the Germans for their bravery and suffered tremendous losses. — Yours faithfully,
Aubrey Adams, Kidmore End
The woman’s busy enough!
Sir, — I agree with your correspondent Margaret Robertson that Chrissie Phillips-Tilbury should get more involved with her community (Standard, January 2).
After all, Chrissie must have lots of idle hours to spare when not engaged on Sonning Common Parish Council duties and various other voluntary activities, including the Women’s Institute, Village Gardeners and the Christmas Day Lunch Club, for example! — Yours faithfully,
Ken Stevens, Red House Drive, Sonning Common
Sir, — The Henley Choral Society’s Christmas concert at St Mary’s Church in Henley on December 9, performed to a capacity audience, was a lovely event and a fitting start to the Christmas season.
It also featured the debut of the Henley Youth Choir, the society’s new children’s choir whose brilliant singing was enthusiastically received by everyone present.
As a way of helping other children who need help, the society chose the Chiltern Centre for disabled children as its nominated charity to benefit from a retiring collection at the end of the concert.
I would like to give public recognition to the generosity of that Christmas audience on that December night who between them gave the wonderful total of £1,139.53 as they left the church.
When gift aid is added, it means that the retiring collection raised £1,424.41 for the ongoing work of the Chiltern Centre.
Thank you to all of you who were there that night and to the chair and committee of Henley Choral Society for making this possible. — Yours faithfully,
Paul Barrett, Chairman of trustees, Chiltern Centre for disabled children, Greys Road, Henley
Thank you for kindness
Sir, — We would just like to thank the kind people who handed a pair of child’s glasses in to the River and Rowing Museum in Henley.
The glasses were lost on the afternoon of December 21 and we had spent a long time then and on the following days searching for them.
It was very kind of the finder to take the trouble to hand them in and their action was much appreciated by the family. — Yours faithfully,
Michael and Pat Paul, Mill Lane, Henley
Sir, — I would like to thank everyone who rushed to help me when I fell over in the Waitrose car park in Henley on New Year’s Day, in particular the lady who drove me to the Townlands Hospital minor injuries unit.
They staunched the bleeding from my nose and offered advice.
The friends who were with me were so impressed by the concern shown that they want to move to Henley.
A happy New Year to you all. — Yours faithfully,
Wendy Newell, Greys Road, Henley
Just a brief observation...
Sir, — Much of the correspondence in recent editions has been of impressive length. Is this letter too short to merit consideration? — Yours faithfully,
Martyn Read, Mount View Close, Henley
Giver Roger a column!
Sir, — I refer to the riposte from Roger Clayson (Standard, January 2).
Might I respectfully suggest you employ him forthwith to write a weekly humorous consumer column for the Henley Standard.
Great stuff and had me chuckling as much as the time I put an ad in a local village shop, advertising a “psychic fair — you know where it is, you know when it is”. Nothing more.
The next time I went into the shop they asked me if I wanted to renew the ad. Keep up the good job, Henley Standard. — Yours faithfully,
Bruce King, Wallingford
364 days too early surely...
Sir, — I noted with some astonishment while in Henley on New Year’s Day that several people already had Christmas decorations up. With 364 days before Christmas, I found this to be a little premature. — Yours faithfully,
Martyn Cooper, London Street, Reading
Sir, — While out walking on New Year’s Eve morning I took this photograph looking upstream from Marsh Lock — cold, still and peaceful. — Yours faithfully,
Colin Mather, Rowan Close, Sonning Common
Sir, — I thought I would send you a of photograph I took of Shiplake Lock on New Year’s Eve showing the river frozen and a swan looking a little bewildered.
All the best for 2015 to everyone at the Henley Standard. — Yours faithfully,