Sunday, 01 August 2021

Your letters

A foggy morning on river

A foggy morning on river

HERE is photograph I took of the River Thames in Henley in the fog. — Yours faithfully,

Victoria Page, Henley

Does village have a voice?

Sir, — I read with interest the exciting headlines about the £4 million in return for new homes and the even more interesting news that the money will be used for community projects including new schools, health centres etc (Standard, January 9).

Some of these monies will be allocated, one presumes, to Harpsden Parish Council which appears to be receiving the largest development of housing at Highlands Farm, a site within its parish.

I doubt there will be enough monies left to build one school let alone a multi- storey car park.

In my opinion, developers will not take on the building of schools etc. as it is not within their remit and they need to make profits.

The development of the neighbourhood plan has not considered the area of the two parishes as a whole and most of the housing is to the west of the town.

I believe that from these five sites allocated to the west cars will exit on to Greys Road with the ensuing chaos.

The core strategy now seems to be almost abandoned and developers see Henley as a target for homes for professional commuters moving out of London.

As a Harpsden resident, I have failed to understand the interpretation of the core strategy as I understood that small villages would be exempt from being overpowered by extensive housing development.

Harpsden is a small village with fewer than 500 people due to boundary changes with no amenities such as a post office, school or shops and has narrow roads yet it appears to be allocated the largest development at Highlands Farm.

Shiplake is stated to be two villages, lower and upper, each with a larger population than Harpsden village and with many amenities, transport systems, an excellent post office and shop, a butcher’s shop, a school and a village hall.

They receive no allocation of housing and will accept no housing near their borders but obviously could sustain development. One does query why.

Although Harpsden is a partner with Henley parish in the implementation of the neighbourhood plan, will the voice of its 500 parishioners be heard when voting takes place in the referendum?

I have doubts because we are such a small, rural community with too few people.

Will the population of Harpsden village receive any benefits from the decisions made and the formation of the neighbourhood plan?

I think not and it will not be possible to make changes once the plan has been accepted by a referendum and finally sanctioned by South Oxfordshire District Council. — Yours faithfully,

Odette Moss, Harpsden

Homes locals can afford

Sir, — Your correspondent Mrs J Hadley makes a number of assumptions about the Henley Town Council planning committee’s reasons for objecting to an application by Inland Homes to build 55 flats at 345 Reading Road and suggests councillors should “wise up” and look at the “big picture” (Standard, January 16).

Thankfully, this is exactly what they did.

I, too, am against the application and I spoke from the public gallery to that effect.

Do we really want parents with young children cooped up in a four-storey blocks of flats, or do we want developments similar to Noble/Lawson Roads (and, dare I say, Leaver Road, where Mrs Hadley lives), where the majority are two- and three-bedroom houses of the type that South Oxfordshire District Council suggests in its local plan?

No, Mrs Hadley, the bigger picture is not 55 flats for a developer that has no interest in affordable homes for our youngsters, the bigger picture is what is happening through the neighbourhood plan — 450 houses of which 180, yes 180, will be affordable. Not only that but if the plan’s working groups play their cards correctly, these houses could come under a local lettings policy, giving priority to people with local connections.

So thank you, town councillors for looking at the “big picture”. Perhaps we do after all have the right people on the council! — Yours faithfully,

Ken Arlett, Elizabeth Road, Henley

Looking at bigger picture

Sir, — I write in response to your correspondents Margaret Thompson and Mrs J Hadley.

At the Henley Town Council planning committee’s meeting on January 6, I spoke against the planning application by Inland Homes for 55 homes on the Reading Road site for being over-intensive and of poor design.

Those present at the meeting will know the majority of the committee agreed the design was inappropriate, hence my comment that I would rather a Travelodge there.

I mentioned it merely because Travelodge has expressed an interest in having a presence in Henley and cannot claim credit for the idea.

However, it can only be good for the town, offering both employment opportunities and affordable accommodation for visitors to Henley.

I fully agree affordable housing is much-needed in Henley but this is not what was rejected.

“Affordable” shouldn’t mean cramped and basic. We should be building for the future accommodation that is both attractive in appearance and desirable to live in.

Our neighbourhood plan has yet to be adopted. This is about looking at the bigger picture, not being dictatorial, but putting guidelines in place which make it clear to developers that we expect the best for Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Lorraine Hillier, Henley Town Council, River Terrace, Henley

Young need housing

Sir, — They’ve hardly put the Easter bunnies on the shelves at Tesco before the electioneering has started.

Councillor David Silvester (Independent) states that having been confused for the last “40 years or more” he now believes in being a good European and prospective parliamentary candidate Sam Juthani (Labour) states that, in addition to the standard promises, he will “listen to the residents of Henley”.

If last week’s first three letters are anything to go by, that will mean dragging Marks & Spencer into the town, secretly sorting out a micro-climate (just for the Henley area) and building some houses for young people.

I like the house-building suggestion — it would offer local work opportunities and, providing a good percentage was social housing, it would also allow local younger people to remain in their own town.

Affordable housing is not the “council housing” people fondly remember, it is cheaper housing at a notionally affordable purchase price — still well beyond the dreams of most young people in this area.

In fact, most of the young people I know have given up on the idea of ever being able to afford to buy their own home but, short of that, they would like to have a decent standard of accommodation where their tenure is not threatened and where they can raise a family in the area where they grew up themselves. Are you listening, Mr Juthani? If so, promise a programme of social housing for Henley and get rid of the affordable housing myth that local authorities have been duping people with for the last few years.

Support local initiatives like Music on the Meadows that encourage young people to aspire to developing skills they can use in the music and entertainment industry (like Jayson Jaurigue, who was featured on page 4 of the same edition).

Young people will vote for you if you do something for them — and so would many of their parents and grandparents. — Yours faithfully,

M Goodwin, Homelands Way, Henley

Help others to follow you

Sir, — I was struck by John Howell’s comments about his working class origins (Standard, January 16).

The policies that he has consistently supported since becoming MP for Henley have hugely damaged social mobility.

Children from a working class background have fewer opportunities to rise into professional occupations than ever before because of this Government’s policies as follows:

• Abolition of the educational maintenance allowance, which had helped 16- to 19-year-olds to stay in education.

• Tripling of university tuition fees.

• A welfare reform shambles, with universal credit the subject of constant delays.

• Spending cuts which have hurt the most vulnerable.

All of these factors, and more, have contributed to the situation where one in five children in the UK is living in poverty.

This Government’s economic record clearly shows growth based on house prices and share prices, while net disposable national incomes are still 5.6 per cent below their pre-recession peak.

I commend Mr Howell on his personal journey from his working class roots to becoming a Member of Parliament. I just wish that he supported policies that might help others to make the same journey. — Yours faithfully,

Sam Juthani, Labour Party Prospective parliamentary candidate for Henley, Caversham

Give us back our country

Sir, — Is Councillor David Silvester serious in saying that Britain should just knuckle under and become subservient to Europe (Standard, January 16)?

He has not even got the right words to “Rule Britannia” (It’s not “Britain never, never shall be saved” but “Britons never, never shall be slaves”), unless his version is perhaps a Freudian slip. Despite David Cameron’s promise to reduce immigration to “tens of thousands”, we have had more than 260,000 new arrivals during the last two years.

There is nowhere near a balance of numbers as those who leave Britain are fewer than those coming in and are mostly those we can least afford to lose.

The Conservatives’ promise of a referendum in 2017 is likely to be a referendum of revised terms of membership (if that can be achieved at all, which is highly doubtful) rather than a straightforward in/out choice and I do not trust the Conservatives even to produce this.

We pay £54 million a day to the EU, getting very little in return, except diktats from Brussels about fruit and vegetables, lightbulbs and the wattage of vacuum cleaners.

We have lost most of our sovereignty and the electorate have had enough. We want our country back! — Yours faithfully,

Adrian Vanheems, Baskerville Road, Sonning Common

Smaller, fun spa needed

Sir, — I was sorry to see that the plans for a new health and fitness centre at Phyllis Court Club have been shelved (Standard, January 16), although as a member I can appreciate that it was difficult to be sure that the project was financially viable.

I fear that it was just too ambitious, perhaps too grandiose.

Personally, I think that Phyllis Court Club is a much under-used and underrated amenity to the town.

It enjoys the most wonderful south-facing riverside position and, particularly in the summer months, is far and away the nicest place to have a drink, a meal or just a cup of coffee for miles around.

It is unfortunate that it has something of a reputation (not entirely undeserved, I fear) of being exclusively a haunt of genteel pensioners.

It is very difficult to know why more of the younger and just as affluent generation who live in this area do not claim it as their own.

Judging by the price of houses around these parts, there are plenty who could afford to become members. I think they are missing out.

I think the committee should be applauded for bringing forward such a bold proposal and I hope it does not give up hope.

My view is that the scheme was only flawed by two things:

1. The proposal for a 20m swimming pool. That’s too big and there are several other pools around the town where anyone who wishes to do so can go and swim lengths.

2. The proposal for a gym. Again, there are several large and well-equipped gyms around the town for those who wish to use such ghastly things.

Both these were mistakes in my view. The present membership has little use, need or enthusiasm for either.

No, I think that the project should have been for a much smaller fun spa, incorporating a big sauna or two (wet and dry), a big steam room and a small fun pool with lots of bubbles and jets of water. Such facilities are practically non-existent in the immediate Henley area. Those at Nirvana in Sindlesham are, I think, the nearest.

I think that such a project would be affordable to the members and a considerable benefit to the town. More importantly, I think it would attract younger members.

Such facilities are often provided by hotels these days. A good example is the spa at the Macdonald Hotel in Bath.

So, back to the drawing board, I fear, but I hope the committee does not feel so demoralised by the rejection of the project as to throw out the drawing board altogether.

A smaller, fun spa project, perhaps carefully designed with a view to adding further facilities when funds permit, might well be the way forward. — Yours faithfully,

Nicholas Blandy, Quarry Lane, Shiplake

Should have costed it first

Sir, — Some time back, a US president is alleged to have blustered: “What we have here is an escalating situation of total non- commitment” which seems to adequately describe the shemozzle with Phyllis Court Club and its “will we/won’t we” spa and leisure centre.

Of course, we must respect the fact that, as a members’ club, it has the right to do exactly as it pleases but it does seem astonishing that the most recent shelving of the planned development by its council was due to a lack of commercial viability.

The hard work of getting planning permission had been done, paving the way for members to plan their pool apparel in readiness for a plunge.

What a grand way of boosting club funds through new membership including, dare I say it, younger families.

Nirvana presumably spotted the opportunity in 2011 when it offered to fund and run a pukka leisure centre at Phyllis Court and generate income for the club.

Sadly, that was washed down the pool plughole as negotiations hit the buffers.

So, Danesfield House, all is serene…. you can sleep well again in the knowledge that Phyllis Court Club will not be swiping your independent spa and leisure club members, nor attract flamboyant wedding and pool parties for the likes of George Clooney.

And those manning the stealth guard posts on the approach roads to Phyllis Court Club can again put away their noise meters, notepads and pitchforks. — Yours faithfully,

Michael Hodges, Station Road, Henley

P.S. Should Phyllis Court Club ever think of serving the Henley Festival with a dab of competition, how about “Status Quo” for top billing?

Help protect wild birds

Sir, — I saw an injured tawny owl while walking my dog and became very concerned when it tried to fly off but couldn’t.

I saw it scuttle into the undergrowth, so I made a note of the spot and called the RSPB who recommended that I try to catch it. I gathered up garden gloves, a large box lined with old towels and two torches. When my husband got home we went back to the spot and looked for about 10 minutes in the dark.

I was just about to give up when my husband spotted it, lying on the ground. It was still breathing so he picked it up and we put it in the box.

We got it home, put it in a warm room and then I started checking websites.

Thank goodness I found the Friends of Chrissie’s Owls and Stonesfield Owl Rescue ( contact.php).

She does a 24-hour rescue service for owls and other birds of prey.

I called her and we arranged to meet her halfway between our homes with the owl. Chrissie looked after the bird overnight but it was suffering from very advanced symptoms of trichomonas.

The owl was put down the following morning by a vet, held by Chrissie.

She told me that trichomonas is carried in the saliva of pigeons (wood and feral) and doves and is passed to other birds via bird baths and feeding stations.

She recommends cleaning out bird baths and tables every day to prevent this terrible disease.

Do make a note of her website and contact her immediately if you find an injured bird. — Yours faithfully,

Linda Seward, Cookley Green

Ruination of rural lanes

Sir, — The photographs of the fly-tipping in a lane off Harpsden Way (Standard, January 9) only add to the forlorn and sorry-looking state of this route for cyclists like me.

When I was growing up in Henley this lane would have been classed as attractive with full green verges end to end. Not any more.

The modern movement of traffic has for years torn large chunks from the sides and lane edges have been replaced by half moons of Tarmac.

Some of the precious verges have practically disappeared. No longer attractive, let alone beautiful.

Traffic only adds problem to our local lanes, no matter what county they are in. — Yours faithfully,

Peter M Adams, Ramscote, Petersfield, Hants

Finally, some good sense

Sir, — How refreshing to see that the Wokingham Borough Council busybodies have now agreed to take a more lenient view of Hare Hatch Sheeplands garden centre, which is a good place to shop.

In Finchampstead they readily gave permission for a bungalow millionaire to set up polytunnels. — Yours faithfully,

J Alton, Finchampstead

Takeaway’s added value

Sir, — I write with reference to the prospective return to Henley of Mohammad Seylani-Zadeh’s kebab van.

His wares will help soak up the alcohol, meaning that people won’t leave town quite so tanked up.

This always used to work for me in my teenage years.

If pubs throw out at midnight anyway, then serving food until midnight shouldn’t impact on local residents any more — Yours faithfully,

Tony White

Web-surfer’s pseudoscience

Sir, — Another week, another mishmash of fact and fiction from M Reid on climate change (Standard, January 16).

Fact number one: NASA (hardly a hotbed of hippies) has just announced that 2014 was the warmest year since records began in 1880.

Why this news is, in Mr Reid’s words, “propaganda” is beyond me.

Those, like me, who worry about global warming claim that the world is, err, warming — and NASA tells us that this is true. Surely this is relevant to the discussion?

NASA goes on to state the following: “The 10 warmest years in the instrument record, with the exception of 1998, have now occurred since 2000. This trend continues a long-term warming of the planet.”

True, the rate of warming has slowed over the last decade but this is nothing new. The temperature record shows that the planet’s surface has been warming for a century in a step-wise manner: sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly (it is to do with the cyclical pattern of heat transfer to the deep ocean).

We have just gone through a slow-warming phase but if Mr Reid would consult the proceedings of the latest American Meteorological Society’s annual conference, he would learn that we are likely to be moving into an accelerated-warming phase in the coming years.

Mr Reid also tells us that “climate modellers assume a theoretical positive feedback from water vapour” but then pours scorn on this idea. Nonetheless, the link between water vapour and increased warming is well-established: CO2 causes the atmosphere to warm and warmer air holds more water vapour. Consequently, the planet then warms even further since water vapour has a greenhouse effect.

This isn’t a theory but something that can easily be verified by a simple experiment. Indeed, any chemistry teacher at Gillotts School or The Henley College would be able to demonstrate this “theory”.

In truth, rather than cobble together a bunch of half-baked barmy ideas from the darker recesses of the internet, Mr Reid would do well to improve his science literacy by signing up for the wonderful series of evening classes on climate change science regularly given by Dr Richard Allan at Reading University.

Dr Allan is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the role of water vapour in climate change. I am sure that Mr Reid, professing to be an expert in this area himself, knows of Dr Allan’s work. Well, perhaps not.

I have had the privilege of attending Dr Allan’s course and also listening to lectures given by Professor Nigel Arnell, the head of Reading University’s Walker Institute on Climate, and many of his colleagues.

These people are not, I must stress, the great unwashed green hippies living large on UK taxpayers’ hard-earned money of climate sceptic caricature. Rather, they are dedicated, hard-working professionals who have forsaken more lucrative private-sector careers to pursue a life of science.

And these climate scientists are not “alarmist” (fussing about nothing) but “alarmed”. That is, all the ones I have met are deeply concerned that burning fossil fuels is leading to extremely dangerous climate change.

Putting the climate scientist community to one side, what about the private sector? What does Lloyd’s of London think (no green hippies there either)? Google their report “Catastrophe modelling and climate change”. Bottom line from Lloyd’s: climate change is happening, it is caused by humanity and it is going to be painful.

My advice to Mr Reid: stop reading all those second-rate climate sceptic blogs and websites and get out more. — Yours faithfully,

Justin Bowles, St Mark’s Road, Henley

Warmest year in a century

Sir, — The Met Office has recently confirmed that 2014 was the warmest year since records began in 1910.

The UK’s mean temperature for 2014 was 9.9C, which is 0.2 degrees C higher than the previous record set in 2006.

Eight of the UK’s top 10 warmest years have occured since 2002. — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Hawkins, Berkshire Road, Henley

Supporting science talks

Sir, — Through this well- circulated paper, I wish to offer my gratitude to Quintessa, a mathematical and scientific company based in Henley, for offering a much appreciated donation towards the running of Café Scientifique Henley.

This popular monthly programme of scientific talks for the community requires some finance and to have a base donation each year makes a huge difference.

The next talks cover subjects such as viruses, graphene, bumblebees and Uranus/Neptune and notices are always placed in this newspaper.

Thanks again to Quintessa for sponsoring the programme. — Yours faithfully,

David Dickie, Co-host, Café Scientifique Henley, St Katherine’s Road, Henley

Successful youth club

Sir, — My reported comment in your article about the financial support given by Sonning Common Parish Council to Club SC (Standard, January 16) is open to possible misunderstanding and I wish to clarify.

Club SC is a very successful youth club and has a membership, signed up with parental agreement, of more than 100 young people. It is now in its fourth year and is a very popular facility for youngsters from Sonning Common and the surrounding villages.

The youth club is supported and welcomed by residents as a vital element of our village life.

While the parish council’s continued support is crucial to its success, the club itself is succeeding beyond all expectations. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Douglas Kedge, Chairman, Sonning Common Parish Council, Lea Road, Sonning Common

Never did like those offices

Sir, — I never did like those South Oxfordshire District Council offices — brown, bland, boring and, now, burnt down.

Let’s hope the replacement is much more interesting. — Yours faithfully,

Robert Warner, High Street, Ramsbury, Wiltshire

I wish staff all the best

Sir, — It was very sad to see the South Oxfordshire District Council offices in flames.

I am a driver, chairman of the South Oxfordshire Taxi Drivers’ Association and a human being.

I deal with the council’s taxi licensing team from time to time. Rob Draper and his team are such a lovely bunch and are always ready to help.

The thoughts of the members of the association are with the staff of the council. I hope things are back to normal soon. — Yours faithfully,

M Parvaiz, Chairman, South Oxfordshire Taxi Drivers’ Association

What money can buy...

Sir, — Not the least intriguing fact in your fascinating report on the vicissitudes surrounding the auctioning of Lady Hambleden’s art collection (Standard, January 16) — other than an insight into the world of the super-rich — was the reference to the family’s most prolific collectors.

Two of these, according to your report, were W F D Smith the second viscount, born in 1868, the son of W H Smith, founder of the book sellers and stationers, who died in 1865. From beyond the grave? Please explain. — Yours faithfully,

Alexis Alexander, Gosbrook Road, Caverhsam

Editor’s comment: “The explanation is the word “grand” should have been used as a prefix to “son” but was, unfortunately, omitted.

Founder W H Smith (1792-1865) and his grandson W F D Smith (1868-1928) were the most prolific collectors. The missing link was W H Smith the younger (1825-1891).

I am sorry for the error, which should have been spotted (perhaps like a masterpiece).”

Sir, — I hope you like this photograph of sheep grazing on the Site of Special Scientific Interest that is usually called Swyncombe Woods.

I believe the area is really called Icknield Plantation. If I am wrong I hope someone will correct me. I used the photograph for my wife Nicola’s birthday card on Friday but I am not disclosing her age! — Yours faithfully,

Terry Allsop, Ewelme

Sir, — Further to our letter last week, the Christmas illuminations on our house (in case you hadn’t seen them) included two trees we purchased through Henley Town Council.

By the way, Marlow seems to be following the same Christmas tree idea with far greater support.

I hope more residents and companies in Henley support the scheme next year. — Yours faithfully.

Sue and Tony Vivian Wright, Greys Road, Henley

Sir, — Here is a photograph of sunrise on a frosty morning in the Chilterns.

It was taken from my bedroom window looking towards beech trees at the edge of Maidensgrove Common.

An hour later, I took this picture of a red kite calling to another one that had just taken off.

Again, it was taken through a window, this time looking north. — Yours faithfully,

David Wood, Maidensgrove

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