Sir, Like many others, we are totally against the decision made by Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust to take away our local doctors’ contract to treat patients in Townlands Hospital.
Having had a chance to talk with someone instrumental in getting Townlands updated, I gather there has been consistent opposition to this idea from the trust, which would prefer everything to happen under its auspices in Oxford.
It was intimated that the decision had probably already been made, which indicates a callous disregard for the people who will use Townlands by those high and mighty NHS managers in not trying to even consult us - very typical of a bureaucratic/centrist organisation. They think they know what’s best for us.
A much more likely scenario is that by making it more difficult to staff Townlands they will be able to claim that it is uneconomical to run and so sell it to the highest bidder, probably a private health care provider.
There are serious implications from this scenario -
• Pollution caused by forcing more patients to go to Oxford and more medical staff to come to Henley
• Medical - we are always hearing about bed blocking, especially by old people (and there are quite a lot of us around here) as there are not enough places to move patients into after their time in hospital so new patients cannot be taken into hospital - not good for the patients’ health or peace of mind.
• Speed of service - with all the main hospitals in Oxford in heavily trafficked areas it will take longer to get to the hospital, benefitting neither patient nor visitor.
In the light of all the above, I believe that we should not let sleeping dogs lie but need to take positive action ourselves to ensure that this decision does not get carried through.
What can we do about this? Two things -
1. I would suggest that the first line of action is for as many people as possible to write to our local MP John Howell, setting out our individual concerns - perhaps with a copy to Sam Juthani, Labour prospective candidate, as there is an election just round the corner.
2. Perhaps we should go cap-in-hand to the Royal Berkshire NHS Trust to see whether we could join that organisation as, in my own experience, most of my medical necessities are cared for by the Royal Berks in Reading, which is so much closer than Oxford and I would expect Reading is more often used by local people than Oxford.
We must fight this - we prevailed with Townlands, now let us ensure that it can continue to provide the level of service we have come to expect from it. - Yours faithfully,
Philip Allison and Nansi Diamond, Thames Side, Henley
Listening and supporting
Sir, Your correspondent James Davidson makes some good points and asks important questions (Standard, February 6).
I have chaired the Towlands steering group since 2005. We have been working to safeguard and redevelop the services since then and have been so successful that we now have a large new health campus being built, which is due to open later this year.
We have always listened to the community and represented them in all that time by engaging with the NHS and other key stakeholders.
We report back to the community and Henley Town Council every six weeks with written and/or verbal reports.
The medical support for the Townlands beds is not being lost - the service is being changed and Oxford Health has awarded the contract for all Oxfordshire community hospitals to Oxford University Hospitals.
The new contract does not preclude GPs from the Bell and Hart Street surgeries continuing to work under contract to OUH.
The steering group is working with the Oxford Health trust to ensure the service is improved, not downgraded.
Everyone from the developer to the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS Property Services was taken by surprise by the Sue Ryder announcement late last year.
The service is not being lost but expected to be retained. Whether this is in Townlands or elsewhere will become clear shortly.
The development at Townlands will still include the top floor and if Sue Ryder does not occupy this, other care services will be located in the building.
The steering group is discussing these options with the clinical commissioning group and an announcement is expected shortly.
The group has supported the quarterly meetings in which Amber/Vinci report on status of the build and other stakeholders have attended to ensure a full picture is provided to the community. The next meeting is due in March.
Later this month there will be a meeting to review the Townlands development. This will be open to the public, so Mr Davidson will be able to attend and ask questions and see how the steering group goes about its business of helping to ensure the Townlands project is successful. Watch out for the date in the Henley Standard.
The group continues to provide both visible support to the Townlands project and also works behind the scenes to ensure that our new hospital will open later this year with all the promised facilities that we need.
It has played a key role in achieving an amazing turn round in Townlands’ fortunes since its formation 10 years ago when the threat of closure hung over the site.
We now have a new hospital being opened by the end of the year. The steering group will continue to use the skills, knowledge and contacts it has established over the 12 years of its existence to ensure a successful conclusion is reached. - Yours faithfully,
Councillor Ian Reissmann, Chairman, Townlands Steering Group, Henley Town Council
Sir, I have to admit I continue to be baffled by Oxford Health NHS Trust.
I don’t know whether it is them or me. Their decision to attribute the Townlands Hospital contract to doctors who are not on the doorstep of Peppard ward, as the Bell and Hart surgery are, is totally mystifying, if not thoroughly bewildering.
It would take two seconds for Dr Philip Unwin to leap out of his chair and attend a serious clinical investigation, which could be lifesaving, as opposed to the 45 minutes it would take a doctor from Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, which probably would not be lifesaving. I totally fail to understand. Please somebody explain. - Yours faithfully,
Ffion M Moyle, Harpsden
Sir, I refer to Richard Cuthbertson’s letter with regards to dangerous potholes (Standard, January 30).
Three weeks ago I experienced the same fate on the Old Henley Road from RAF Benson to the main road - a slashed (brand new) tyre caused by a deep trench at the side of the road (6cms deep).
The trench was filled with water, hence one has no idea how deep it is.
By the time I turned off to Huntercombe my tyre was flat. Why does it always rain cats and dogs when you have a puncture?
Thank you to the charming gentleman at Huntercombe Golf Club for letting me use his phone, offering me a coffee and letting me stay in his office until the AA arrived.
On my return home, I filled in the Oxfordshire County Council claim form for a new tyre and also reported the dangerous trench to the FixMyStreet website.
A week later, to my surprise, I had a reply to say it had been repaired. Was this a fluke or does this site really work?
The icing on the cake would be if the council accepts liability and refunds me the cost of a new tyre. - Yours faithfully,
Renee Castle, Watlington
...should be well repaired
Sir, I completely agree with Richard Cuthbertson’s letter regarding potholes.
The roads in Henley town and the surrounding villages are a disgrace.
I used to drive a Fiat 500 but found it wasn’t really up to the job of dealing with continually running over potholes and being driven on roads resembling cart tracks. The poorly maintained roads were damaging the suspension and affecting the steering. I have now purchased a 4x4.
Unless the road defects are dealt with by resurfacing, the problem will never go away. The tiresome patching-up exercise by Oxfordshire County Council is a short-term fix for a long-term problem - that’s assuming they agree to patch them up in the first place.
It seems to me potholes have to be the size of a crater before any work will be sanctioned.
I do quite a bit of driving around the country and I really do think our local roads are the worst.
I’m afraid I do blame the county council for the state of our roads. It is failing to make proper and adequate judgments as to when the roads require repair, which is compromising safety.
The council’s guidelines for what constitutes a repair are sloppy and wildly inaccurate. If it was a private company paid on results, it would be fired. - Yours faithfully,
Melinda Watson, Woodlands Road, Henley
Lower this speed limit
Sir, I refer to the Mike Hollas’ letter headlined “Improving speed limits“ (Standard, January 30).
I concur that the speed limit of 50mph along the stretch of the Henley Road past our pub, the Flowing Spring, is excessive and dangerous.
After the bends and inclines from Shiplake to Span Hill, the road straightens downhill towards the pub.
We witness a large number of vehicles speeding along this stretch before having to suddenly brake outside the thatched house where the road bends once more.
It is also a narrow stretch outside the Flowing Spring so any wide vehicles such as lorries and coaches have to slowly pass and sometimes even reverse to find space. This all happens in a 50mph zone.
While, thankfully, there haven’t been any serious collisions in the four years we’ve run this pub, there have been accidents between cars turning into Spring Lane and speeding cars approaching from the Henley direction.
We have also suffered damage to our signs, gutters and drainpipes and an extraordinary amount of car parts are regularly strewn across the verges.
I agree with Mr Hollas that the speed limit should be reduced to 30mph along our stretch to minimise further risks to both drivers and our property. - Yours faithfully,
Nick Willson, Landlord, the Flowing Spring, Playhatch
Let’s tackle bad drivers
Sir, Chief Inspector Henry Parsons, head of roads policing, says the increase in deaths on roads in the Thames Valley is exceptionally disappointing (Standard, January 30).
According to the Department for Transport, 60 per cent of accidents happen on our rural roads and, on average, three people die every day on rural roads.
I’ve lost four friends in road traffic accidents. Two were pedestrians crossing the road in 30mph areas, a third was killed while cycling at a roundabout and a fourth had a head-on crash in his car with a drunk driver.
Three of these deaths could have been avoided by slower speeds and 100 per cent observation.
Too often I see people driving their vehicles, oblivious to being watched, holding mobile phones, listening and texting, or holding some drinking vessel in front of their eyes, obscuring their view of the road ahead. Do they honestly believe they could avoid an accident? Do they realise the bad example they set to youngsters?
The majority of people driving are law-abiding citizens, who keep their vehicles legally roadworthy, serviced, taxed and insured, while an increasing number are blatantly driving illegally with vehicles that wouldn’t pass an MOT - I refer to vehicles with just one headlight working.
Headlights are designed to shine towards the nearside, highlighting other road users, such as children and cyclists.
If their vehicle has defective lights, then what of the brakes and tyres? Is the car even taxed and insured?
Two days a year of police observations and speed cameras obviously hasn’t worked.
So, finally, could I ask the chief inspector, through your paper in what his future plans are to stop people deliberately breaking the law on the public highway, thus putting innocent lives at risk from injury or fatality? - Yours faithfully,
J S, Henley
Junction is dangerous
Sir, Further to Ed Sierpowski’s letter, (Standard, February 6) I believe that the junction to which he referred is at Bolt’s Cross, not Shepherds Green.
His memory obviously doesn’t serve him well as there was a fatality there at Christmas time a few years ago. I am sure it is certainly still in the memory of the deceased’s family.
From personal experience, I wish that there had been a police presence at this exact spot a few weeks ago when I was, fortunately, driving well within the speed limit, as was the car coming towards me, but an impatient driver decided to overtake on that slight bend where she couldn’t possibly have seen me coming from the opposite direction. Not only was it dangerous driving but breaking the law too.
Unfortunately, due to impatient, bad driving there have to be speed cameras and a police presence here.
Again, referring to Mr Sierpowski’s letter, it’s a shame that there isn’t more of a police presence on the narrow parallel road which is actually where Shepherds Green is as I am fed up with having to drive into the hedge as yet another car or van comes hurtling towards me along that stretch of road, which has a 30mph speed limit.
Perhaps Ch Insp Henry Parsons (Standard, January 30) could sort something out? The article in which he was quoted said that 27 people died on the roads of Oxfordshire last year. From experience, I can see how this happens. - Yours faithfully,
Mrs C R Bailey, Shepherds Green
Sir, I write in exasperation over the state of the parks, pavements and pathways of Henley.
The amount of dog dirt strewn around the town beggars belief. Wading ankle-deep through dog poop is not only deeply unhygienic and unpleasant, it is also completely unacceptable.
One would expect dog-owning residents of this fine community to have a little more pride.
I would be interested in hearing whether any of your other readers have similar grievances? If so, perhaps it could form the basis of a Henley Standard editorial campaign?
Please, please, please... pick up after your dog. - Yours faithfully,
Simon Lloyd, Harpsden Road, Henley
Why do pubs keep closing?
Sir, So another Brakspear pub, the Horns in Crazies Hill, has closed after a year in business.
This follows the Bottle and Glass in Binfield Heath (sold by Brakspear in 2014), the Queen Victoria, Wargrave (sold by Brakspear in 2014), the Crown at Nuffield (empty for more than a year), the Four Horseshoes, Checken-don (sold by Brakspear in 2014), the Rose and Crown in Henley (closed for more than a year)... the list goes on.
As a Henley drinker, can I ask what exactly is Brakspear doing in terms of a strategy to prevent these closures? Why is it investing a couple of million in the Bull in Henley and buying the Henley Brewhouse (which is now an abject fai-lure of a pub) when it could really boost the profile and reputation of the local country pubs?
There is a demand among local people for pubs in their village. There certainly is in the Crazies Hill area.
Why can’t Brakspear make a success of them? The Flowerpot in Aston (population about 50) has done a great job in having the same landlord for over 20 years and the Maltsters Arms in Rotherfield Greys does well.
How are those pubs working and the rest of Brakspear pubs around Henley are just left to close down?
Speaking about the closure of the Four Horseshoes in Checkendon, Brakspear chief executive Tom Davies said, “The general feeling was the pub hadn’t been successful virtually in living memory and there were lot of other good pubs in the area.“ (Standard, September 18).
Read that again. “A lot of good pubs in the area”. Does that mean Brakspear can’t compete with them? What does that say about Brakspear? What a joke.
I just hope that Mr Davies sorts out his marketing strategy and instead of pumping millions into one pub, the Bull in Henley, Brakspear invests in staff, local marketing and other initiatives to bring back local drinkers to the pubs.
Surely it makes more sense and will create that “spirit of community“ that Brakspear is so much into promoting at the moment? - Yours faithfully,
James Lambert, Rosehill, Henley
We were the real winners
Sir, I took part in the Henley round of Rotary’s Youth Speaks competition and am writing to tell you that it was not the Reading Blue Coat A team that won the round, as you reported (Standard, January 30) but actually the B team, which consisted of myself, Matthew Peters and Harry Cotten.
The subject of our talk was “The Beautiful Game (football)”. I was chairman and the main speaker was Matthew, who is 14 and lives in Emmer Green. The vote of thanks was given by Harry, who is also 14 and lives in Swallowfield.
The three of us agreed that the whole experience was exciting. Please can you write an apology in the next edition of your newspaper? - Yours faithfully,
Barnaby Frowen, 13, Three Mile Cross, Shinfield
Sir, Apropos the letters from Nicolas Blandy and Michael Hodges (Standard, January 23), the latter mentions Nirvana as having been “washed down the plug hole”.
As it happens, on November 3, 2010 I sent a letter to Diana Barley, secretary and director of Nirvana Spa & Leisure, pointing out that the Marlow Road Management garage drive leading to the proposed site, known as the Old Shale Courts, and use of this driveway is strictly subject to the residents’ permission and under no circumstances would this be given without their unanimous consent.
On November 17, 2010 I received a letter from Tim P Harding in which the final short paragraph read, “You may be assured we would only ever want to be involved in a development if a majority of members of Phyllis Court Club want us to be there”. i.e. The crux of this matter and subsequently the Henley Challenge issue is MRM’s control of its garage drive. - Yours faithfully,
Derek Shirley, Phyllis Court Drive, Henley
At least see the evidence
Sir, I was amazed to read that my short factual letter of two column inches (Standard, January 23) managed to generate three letters measuring 50 column inches in reply.
Where there is nothing that I can say to change these correspondents’ minds the sensible thing is to say nothing.
However, P M M Collings misquoted my letter. The actual figure I wrote was 0.2C, which in that context is a significant temperature rise.
M Reid kindly says that the figures released by the Met Office are interesting and chooses to ignore them.
Richard Jones claims that the Met Office only predicts the weather for the next few days. Surely he knows that it collects and stores a vast amount of weather data.
I certainly made no predictions about the climate in 85 years’ time. Perhaps he should “get a grip”. These correspondents admit that the global climate is warming but claim more slowly than in the past and suggest the rise is a result of cleaner air.
Perhaps they should visit Los Angeles or Peking or take a trip to the Amazon Jungle, where burning wood is releasing smoke on a daily basis. - Yours faithfully,
Andrew Hawkins, Berkshire Road, Henley
Sir, I visited the Sonning Common neighbourhood development plan public exhibition on Saturday.
I have attended every public meeting and every exhibition of the plan. I was involved with the traffic group in 2012/13 for which I authored a report in November 2012 and presented it at one of the public meetings.
Last weekend there was a surprise. The current draft of the plan, which is now in public consultation, supports a park and ride into Reading from Sonning Common.
This has never been mentioned in any public plan meeting and I haven’t noticed it in any previous exhibition.
But there it was on page 51, “Policy VC2b - Applications for ‘park-and-ride’ parking facilities, which are in close proximity to the bus route to Reading, will be supported.“
There is no detail on why this is necessary or why our parish council thinks Sonning Common is a good place for a Reading park and ride and there is no suggestion on where it could be located or analysis of the impact on the village.
Councillor Leigh Rawlins is insistent that a park and ride has been referenced through the plan yet no one that I have spoken to in the village is aware of such a proposal.
I would be grateful if I could use the pages of your newspaper to publicise this aspect of the plan, which is important to the future of the village and a subject on which I think many people will be interested to have a view. - Yours faithfully,
Craig Henderson, Sonning Common
Sound future for fireworks
Sir, Despite opposition from a small number of councillors, I am delighted that the Henley Summer Regatta Fireworks have now been saved for this year and are on a sounder financial footing for the future.
This has always been an event that can be shared by all Henley families - I have fond memories of taking my wife and two young daughters to it - and has always been a “thank-you“ to the towns-people for putting up with any regatta disruption. My thanks to Billy Pinches and Lady McAlpine for their tireless efforts in organising this event and I look forward to this year’s fireworks. - Yours faithfully,
Martin Akehurst, Mayor of Henley
Sir, I must express my upset over the letter from Diana Beveridge, who obviously has a negative view of society (Standard, February 6).
How can you decry someone’s achievements, especially those of a company which has created its own branding?
Marc Antoni achieved what it has by sheer hard work and excellent customer service.
In today’s society we should praise those who have created their own success, including acknowledgement by their peers of their excellence.
However, my main concern is the nature of Ms Beveridge’s comments that the salon is a front for something else.
I have never been a person of ill repute, yet her letter implied that my hair care is provided for services rendered by myself. This is a scandalous remark.
I have been going to Marc Antoni for 28 years and at no time has anything immoral been proposed.
Does she realise how offensive her remarks are to all the young people who work in this establishment?
No doubt their parents are now concerned about their place of employment!
I trust Ms Beveridge’s letter will not deter prospective new clients from visiting Marc Antoni.
Finally, how hypocritical of you to take the money for the advert placed by Marc Antoni yet in the next breath put them down. Shame on you. - Yours faithfully,
Christine Dobson, Reading
Excellent hair salon
Sir, I was totally amazed, if not a bit bewildered, by Diana Beveridge’s letter.
What century is she is living in? I think it’s astonishing that someone could be so narrow-minded in this day and age.
The advert was just that, an advert highlighting the remarkable achievement of a local hair salon which has been in business here in Henley for 31 years and we in Henley should be very proud of the salon’s achievement.
I am not a hairdresser but I am aware that there is an enormous amount of work, time, dedication and passion that goes into these competitions by young people who want to progress in their chosen career.
I am a customer of Marc Antoni’s but unfortunately I do not have a body like the models that were in the advert but then maybe that is Diana Beveridge’s underlying issue. Yours faithfully,
Patricia Havenga, Henley
Sir, I write in response to the letter from your reader Diana Beveridge.
I was very surprised that not only would someone comment in such a way about a long-standing, thriving business in Henley, but also that you actually published the letter.
It was very short-sighted of you when it is Marc Antoni which has paid to advertise with you, not only with the advertisement mentioned but on many occasions.
I would think that Diana Beveridge would not be quite so vocal with her opinion if her daughter was a member of staff at the establishment in question and I find her comments not only crude and salacious but also bringing someone’s business and livelihood into disrepute.
The fact that you actually published her bawdy comments beggars belief.
I trust that you will be publishing my letter together with an apology to the Marc Antoni salon, their staff, including my daughter, and their clients. - Your faithfully,
Hilary Jennings, The Orchard, Earley
To borrow a phrase...
Sir, You made an unfortunate error in your Diary article about Uri Geller (Standard, January 23).
You cannot borrow “off“ someone, you borrow from them. While I accept that to borrow “off“ someone is sometimes used in language these days, it is incorrect English and you, as a newspaper, do have a responsibility to use correct English.
Should you need to employ a proofreader I am happy to offer my services. - Yours faithfully,
Mrs R Evans
Only pride damaged
Sir, Many, many thanks to the people who looked after me when I fell in snow last week, particularly to Dr Ellen and the staff at Sonning Common helath centre, to Helen Norris, who saw me fall and stayed with me the whole time until the ambulance arrived, and to the paramedics who took me the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, where the care was exemplary.
I am fortunate in that there was no permamnent damage, just a bump on the head, a lot of bruises and some very damaged pride! - Yours faithfully,
Chrissie Phillips-Tilbury, Woodlands Road, Sonning Common
Green Party is growing
Sir, Nationally there has been a massive increase in Green Party membership over the last few months.
It has now passed 50,000, well ahead of the Lib-Dems and UKIP, and the rate of increase is increasing.
In the third week of January, more than 13,000 members joined. If this growth rate was to continue, then Green Party membership in England and Wales would pass the Tories (134,000) in mid-March and Labour (190,000) before the general election.
And in Henley? Membership has gone from five to over 50 in just three months. Passing the Tories and Labour is impossible you may think but the Green’s surge, driven by social media, where change can happen at phenomenal speed, is occurring because people can see that this party offers a different sort of politics.
This isn’t just a “fashion“ statement. More and more people are taking the survey on the website voteforpolicies.org.uk
This survey shows you policy statements from six UK parties but with reference to the party name removed.
You select which policies you prefer and, at the end, the site shows you which parties your choices came from.
The results from over half a million surveys show that, independent of party political bias, Green Party policies are chosen more often on their own merit than policies from all the other parties.
Do try the survey for yourself and find out who you should be voting for.
If you find that it is the Greens and you want to join or find out more then you can do that on their web site, www.greenparty.org.uk
To get involved with the local Green Party then send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org - Yours faithfully,
Ian Petrie, Volunteer co-ordinator, Green Party, Henley, Vicarage Road, Henley
Bad deal for disabled
Sir, On trying to book Henley Festival tickets for myself and my disabled husband recently, I was informed that access to the disabled seating areas had been changed.
My husband uses an electric disabled scooter and we were told that, due to the fact that someone on a scooter had toppled over going up the ramp to the disabled area, that scooters could no longer be accommodated.
We were told that we could reserve a space on the lawn area as this was now all “bookable“ but it was pointed out that, depending on the artist performing, people would get up and dance, which would block my husband’s view.
We are not particular fans of orchestral/classical music, which would not be a problem.
We live locally and my husband’s use of the mobility scooter means that I can walk while he “drives“ to, and around, the festival site, something we have been doing since it started.
This change effectively means that my husband, and anyone else using a mobility scooter, is excluded from any concert where there would be dancing in the lawn area, which these days could be about half the acts. Yours faithfully,