Sir, — To all the strong voices from Blandy Road and Makins Road in opposition to Gillotts School’s improvement plans, I say shame on you for your blatantly selfish Nimbyism. Gillotts desperately needs to improve its facilities; it is far from “adequate”, as one correspondent claimed. Due to my work in education, for more than 10 years I have visited hundreds of schools across the country and I can say from first-hand experience that Gillotts has one of the worst school infrastructures I have seen. I can also say that from my experience, when a school does have modern, open, bright and flexible buildings it makes a huge difference to the teaching and learning opportunities, creativity, pride, morale and dedication of both students and teachers. I applaud Gillotts’ staff for maintaining such a high-performing school in such a deteriorating physical environment and also applaud the school’s leadership for pursuing tirelessly a plan to improve those facilities in line with their high educational goals. My husband is a former governor at Gillotts and I am confident that he and his fellow governors put great thought and professionalism into the Gillotts plan to sell the outlying playing field to fund the school’s long overdue improvement of the facilities. In their plans are new playing fields to be built near the front of the school as well as a multi-use games area, which is a state-of-the-art, all-weather surface which can be used for a wide variety of sports far more efficiently and flexibly than the grass field to be sold, which is only used occasionally for rugby and football. Gillotts’ governors have also explored every avenue needed to raise millions of pounds to create a school that is fit for purpose and have found by far the best option is to sell the under-utilised playing field and use the funds to improve buildings without sacrificing sports opportunities. I see no downside for the school, staff and pupils with the implementation of this plan and only see great benefits if it is put in place. As Henley citizens, we should be cheering on the school and governors in their efforts to provide the best education for our children and for many future generations of Henley children.
I have three children who have all attended Gillotts. In previous years some of my children experienced numerous school closures due to leaking roofs and faulty heating systems. My children regularly complain about the poor quality of the classrooms and hall and describe the school buildings as generally depressing and rundown. The original school buildings were built “cheap and cheerfully” 50 years ago and have never received any major upgrade or improvement. My children also confirm that they use the distant playing fields irregularly.I am a resident of Blandy Road and regularly take walks with my two dogs on the footpath next to the Gillotts playing field. I don’t often see the playing field being used. My neighbours in Blandy Road all have 8ft fences that block their view of the field, so their view will not be affected. If my neighbours do wish to walk in open space, they can’t enter and use the Gillotts fields anyway. If they want to enjoy open fields, it is only a five-minute walk further along the same path to reach the lovely open space of Gillotts corner field.
My neighbours in Blandy Road and Makins Road are the beneficiaries of house-building on open land only a few decades ago. Clearly all those opposing Gillotts’ plan are happy to have benefited from a future-oriented neighbourhood plan then but, now that they are comfortable in their homes, feel future orientation should stop and all educational and housing development should be frozen in time for their benefit. This is the only parcel of land offered to the neighbourhood plan for development that will not result in personal profit. Instead, the sale of this land will make the entire Henley community beneficiaries of a better educational institution. I cannot see a downside. The location for housing is perfect — there are adequate roads and services to accommodate new houses on the Gillotts playing field. There is even a bus that runs along Blandy Road. New houses are desperately needed in Henley. Gillotts desperately needs new school facilities. Residents of Blandy Road and Makins Road do not view the playing field by their choice of high fences and they can access open land with only a few minutes’ walk. I encourage my neighbours, and other Henley residents, to show your support for Gillotts School and your desire for improved education for our children by standing up vocally to the short-sighted, selfish, not-in-my-back-yard attitude of many of your correspondents. — Yours faithfully,
Blandy Road, Henley
Better to fund needy schools
Sir, — I share some common ground with your correspondent Nick Walden (Standard, May 1), having lived in the Henley area (on and off) since birth and having lived in Henley itself from 1965. Like Nick, I remember when the Wootton Manor estate was flat, undistinguished and rather sandy farmland, with no real public access, no potential for community use and ripe for development. And when houses were built on that farmland, they had precisely no effect at all on views from the beautiful Harpsden Valley, though they did have a drastic effect on traffic in St Mark’s Road and St Andrew’s Road, which are now at capacity when it comes to traffic.This makes the old Wootton Manor estate development markedly different to the proposed development at Gillotts School, which would result in the loss of playing fields (a potential public amenity), and would overload some local roads and mar the views from the Harpsden Valley. Sitting at my end of Blandy Road, I would be little affected, though the grandiose plans to turn Gillotts into the best school in the country might well increase the value of my property as it would be within the improved school’s catchment area. But I don’t object to the development on Nimby grounds but rather because it’s the wrong thing to do for the community (and I have the old-fashioned view that Gillotts is there to serve the community, rather than vice-versa). The wider community interest is best served by having a good school (as Gillotts is), lots of green space, more playing fields and an unspoiled Harpsden with new homes (which we need) built on more suitable and more acceptable sites.Gillotts was built with government funding on publicly purchased land but thinks it is entitled to sell the playing field because it became an academy. In my view, the right thing to do with the money raised by any sale of genuinely surplus assets would be to use it for the betterment of the really needy schools in the state sector rather than to fund what amounts to a vanity project for a school that is already comparatively well resourced, as is demonstrated by the fact that it is able to perform so well for its pupils.Mr Walden is technically correct to point out that any resident could have had input into the neighbourhood plan had they joined the housing group when it was established. I missed that narrow window of opportunity and was physically turned away on the steps of the town hall (by a former councillor) when I tried to attend an early meeting of that group. In any event, input should not be limited to the small number of people on specific groups, who necessarily represent a narrow cross-section of residents who are lucky enough (and public-spirited enough) to be able to give up their time to spend on these groups.I don’t suppose the fact that Mr Walden is a builder would have any bearing on his enthusiasm for the proposed new housing development. — Yours faithfully,
Blandy Road, Henley
Sir, — I refer to the letters in which I was either named or referred to in connection with the sale of Gillotts School land.Nick Walden has never spoken to me, while Charlotte Bodman, referring to me as “A certain resident of Blandy Road... fighting a vociferous campaign etc”, might have been better informed given that her husband is a Gillotts governor who knew exactly where I stood on the issue. It’s easy to pass judgement when you aren’t directly affected. How would they feel if they lived in Blandy Road or Makins Road? Note, too, that neither Gillotts’ headteacher nor the chairman of governors lives in Henley, so it’s hardly surprising that they have such little empathy with the concerns of local residents.“Vociferous” implies making a lot of noise. This is not a fair description of my approach. I have always applied good argumentation and have been congratulated on the quality of my papers, letters and pamphlets and the amount of work I have done. Even South Oxfordshire District Council’s chief planning policy officer thanked me for my research into the secretary of state process for the sale of school land. As a result, I have attracted the support of a good number of like-minded residents.That the school and I had a terminal misunderstanding has not lessened my resolve to find a solution that meets the needs of the whole community, including better facilities for the academy. I have always supported the latter but simply disagreed with the means of achieving it. What is conveniently overlooked in attacks on me is that I and a colleague offered to work pro bono for four years on raising funds for the school. We produced a comprehensive fund-raising plan, which the school accepted. The idea was to salami-slice the amount required into manageable chunks and to tap a range of potential funding sources, details of which I will happily provide. I started campaigning around 18 months ago. At that time the school had no guarantee of secretary of state consent to sell the land or of inclusion in the neighbourhood plan. An alternative funding strategy therefore made sense as a plan B, making reliance on the land sale less risky. Had our ideas been taken up then, there would have been a three-year window of opportunity for funding initiatives since, even if permission to develop had been granted, there would still have been a long wait before any digger could enter the site. Current estimates suggest that nothing will happen until summer 2017, when the construction of the multi-use games area and levelling of the sloping pitches take place. No actual new buildings will appear until summer 2018. As construction can only be carried out in the summer holidays, it will take several years before the “core project” (£8.4million plus architects’ fees) is complete. This means several consecutive summers of construction traffic, dust and noise in and around the Wootton estate. I have always stated that I would respect the wishes of the community and I naturally assumed others would too. The recent consultation results have shown a clear community majority against inclusion of the site in the neighbourhood plan yet all indications are that this will be ignored, even though it is clearly not a “Nimby” vote but a much wider community objection to the disposal of school land. It looks like the school will be given more time by theplan’s governance committee to advance its cause. So what was the point of the six-week public consultation? Have we lost sight of our democratic principles? And so much for the people’s plan. Will we have to take to the streets? — Yours faithfully,
Sustainable Funding Action Group,
Blandy Road, Henley
Where’s spirit of community?
Sir, — I am saddened by the decision of Wokingham Borough Council to begin enforcement action against Hare Hatch Sheeplands garden centre.The community will be badly affected by the loss of this facility.As a charity, we benefit from the activities put on by Hare Hatch Sheeplands.Their fund-raising benefits us during the year and to lose this source will have a negative effect on our ability to satisfy the needs of the elderly in the region.In addition, the elderly people in the region are frequent visitors to Hare Hatch Sheeplands, which is a nice place to relax and meet friends on a social outing. Social isolation and loneliness can be very detrimental to the health of elderly people, often resulting in them ending up in hospital. We encourage our members to visit Hare Hatch Sheeplands as a way to avoid social isolation.I would have thought that it was a council priority to prevent people from going to hospital yet it seems as though through its decision to pursue enforcement action, Wokingham Borough Council is intent on removing a facility which could help people stay healthy mentally.I understand that certain regulations were compromised by some of the actions taken by Hare Hatch Sheeplands but considering the value it provides to the community, can the council decision-makers not show a bit of leniency and allow the business to trade as it has and to put right some of its “wrongs”?After all, it has improved the site from what it used to be — a derelict plot of land, that would have attracted all types of pests, including rats and maybe even vagrants. I also don’t see how a small farm can negatively affect a “green belt area”.Also, how can the council deny the right of use of this land, when other “green belt” areas are happily given over to housing development? Wokingham Borough Council does such good work in large areas of the community and it would be nice to see this spirit of community development extended to include the owners of Hare Hatch Sheeplands. — Yours faithfully,
Twyford and District
Don’t kill off garden centre
Sir, — I am writing as an employee and on behalf of many who are saddened and alarmed by the threat of closure to Hare Hatch Sheeplands.Wokingham Borough Council is using its greenbelt policy to refuse planning consent to the garden centre so that the business cannot continue trading in a way that makes it financially viable. Its enforcement may ultimately result in the closure of this well-loved facility.Many who do not understand the full history of the site and its ongoing planning issues may feel that this action is justified and that the green belt should be protected at all cost.They may not realise that just a few yards away, the very same council has allowed the huge expansion of the Twyford Orchards travellers site, transforming a green field into hard-standing for caravans, outbuildings and a number of commercial vehicles and on-site business use.The council considers this use of greenbelt land is for extreme exceptional circumstances and has funded most of the £1.4million for this major development.While this development may well be needed and justified,it seems highly unjust to bend the rules to allow development for one site while using them to condemn another that also has a long history in Twyford and is trying to compete on a level playing field with other garden centres in the area that have been allowed to trade and survive in trying times by meeting customer needs.Hare Hatch Sheeplands is a compassionate and ethically run business, that has been evolving for more than 20 years. Customers that went there as children are now taking their own. The business employs both young and older people that may not find it easy to find jobs. It supports local traders, suppliers and several charities, running many local charitable events.What can be gained by its closure and return to its previous state of unsightly, derelict greenhouses and poisonous giant hogweed? It is currently an attractively landscaped area that is an asset to the area.I hope the council can find a compromise that will allow the garden centre to continue providing employment, supporting charities and providing a service that benefits the community. — Yours faithfully,
Waltham St Lawrence
We loved old roundabout
Sir, — In your report on the new roundabout in Reading Road, Henley, (Standard, April 24), there was no mention of the boat with its topiary driver cleverly set among grasses to represent the river/water.We would like to comment as residents of Mill Lane, having moved here some 20 years ago.We loved the old roundabout with the old boat and topiary driver. We thought it embodied a feeling of the area and liked it also because we and our family have been lucky enough to enjoy good family times on the Thames over the last 50 years or more in a little boat not dissimilar to the one on the roundabout, a GRP motor boat.With no history other than family memories, but the stuff of life to us...So we can relate to Chris Wehrmann’s letter because when we moved here the boat and driver reminded us of our times, discovering and passing through Henley many times.We also agree with his comments that perhaps a rowing boat might have been more “Henley” but it was always enjoyed by us as it was.We also want to thank those who originally organised and maintained the boat, figure and roundabout so well. It always welcomed us home to Henley. We hope the new roundabout will be enjoyed but to us it does not quite seem to embody the spirit and feeling of the Henley we love so much as did the old one.Thank you for the Henley Standard, which keeps us in touch with our town. — Yours faithfully,
Patricia and Michael Paul
Mill Lane, Henley
Bring back the boat
Sir, — In response to Mike Huntington’s letter (Standard, April 17), I don’t know where the old boat from the Tesco roundabout is but I certainly know where it should be — right back on the roundabout instead of the awful new monstrosity that has been inflicted upon us.I have to drive past that thing at least four times a day and it’s like a giant version of a something you might find in a pound shop.Is this the first sight we want visitors to Henley to see? At least the old boat had some connection to the town and the river.In the absence of an enterprising person with an angle grinder, one can only hope it gets swallowed with bindweed and masked from public view. — Yours faithfully,
Harpsden Road, Henley
Let’s scrap ‘Orgasmo’
Sir, — Just what is it with Henley when it comes to statues? First we have the ridiculous saga of where to place a pre-pubescent overweight nymph. Thank goodness she was finally hidden away on the Red Lion lawn.And I suppose there is always the hope that she will be swept away and drowned forever in a future flood.Now, on my return from holiday, I was confronted on entering Henley by an anorexic female clearly having some sort of orgasm. Other than that, the figure conveyed nothing whatsover to me to indicate any connection to Henley and its many attractions.Perhaps the roundabout, instead of being called the Tesco roundabout, should be officially renamed the Orgasmo roundabout.I tell you what: at a charge of only £60 I will design a simple prominent stone marker with some such wording as Henley-on-Thames, river, rowing, restaurants, relaxation.There will be no need to pay me anything as my fee will be recouped by selling Orgasmo to the nearest scrap metal dealer, which would be an appropriate and well-deserved end. Problem solved. — Yours faithfully,
Derek I Hammond
St Andrew’s Road, Henley
Rear view of sculpture
Sir, — Having given the matter due consideration, I have come to the conclusion that the sculpture on the Tesco roundabout depicts a young lady who has just been stung on the bottom and I claim my prize. — Yours faithfully,
Howe Hill, Watlington
Special case for parking
Sir, — I refer to your article about proposals to change the parking arrangements outside Northfield End Stores in Henley (Standard, May 1).Contrary to what Councillor David Nimmo Smith says, there are only two other similar newsagents and general stores in Henley: News News in Reading Road and Station News in Station Road. While both these admittedly have yellow lines outside them, if Cllr Nimmo Smith had frequently made purchases from them over the years, as I have, he would know that there is effectively readily free parking outside both shops. Neither need that fact worry the motorists concerned since there seldom appears to be anyone interested in prosecuting and their parking is anyway of no danger to anyone. One other shop selling similar goods is located at the Esso filling station in Reading Road but that has ample off-road parking.The post office admittedly sells newspapers but it is a not a newsagents and general store, so cannot be compared with the other three.Even so, most will find a very short-term parking space readily available in either Friday Street or Reading Road.I therefore remain convinced that Cllr Nimmo Smith has a duty to put the Northfield End Stores in a parking position no worse than it has been in historically, in a position to compete with its competitors and in the situation articulated by its owners. — Yours faithfully,
Candidate (Oxfordshire Independent Party) Henley Town Council
No claim to attack Tories
Sir, — I write in reference to the letter from Goring Heath Parish Council chairman Peter Dragonetti (Standard, April 24). Councillor Dragonetti was also a candidate for the Green Party in the South Oxfordshire District Council elections and chose to attack the Conservatives. In reply, the Conservatives have a plan for taking South Oxfordshire forward as has been demonstrated by the district council.I don’t believe Cllr Dragonetti had a claim to attack my fellow Conservative candidate for Rotherfield and Woodcote ward, David Nimmo Smith. David and I were on the doorstep across the ward with our literature explaining our message. The same cannot be said of the Greens whose views of representation differ greatly from the Conservatives. — Yours faithfully,
Candidate for Rotherfield and Woodcote ward on South Oxfordshire District Council
Complaining when it suits
Sir, — I was interested to read that Peppard parish councillors were concerned about some 500 experienced adult riders going through the village on the cycling leg of the Henley Highwayman on June 6 (Standard, May 1). I’m surprised that they didn’t have similar concerns when 600 cyclists, many of whom were young and inexperienced, rode through the village on the On Your Bike challenge from Sonning Common on April 26. — Yours faithfully,
Help much appreciated
Sir,— Please may I, through your newspaper, pass on my very grateful thanks to the two people who came to my rescue on Monday, April 13 when I tripped and fell as a result of uneven paving at the bottom of York Road, Henley?
In particular, I wish to express my appreciation to the gentleman who kindly took me to the Hart Surgery for treatment. — Yours faithfully,
Have Royals gone soft? Sir, — Given Reading FC’s tendency to crumble under the slightest pressure, perhaps they might revert to their previous nickname of The Biscuitmen. — Yours faithfully,
Mount View Court,
Beautiful flowers, whatever they are
Sir, — On my walk along the river the other day I came across this beautiful sight — a sea of white flowers in the woodland near Upper Thames Rowing Club. Perhaps one of your readers might help me identify the flower? — Yours faithfully,
Here’s my suggestion....
Sir, — Regarding Rachel Ducker’s sculptured figure on the old Tesco roundabout, I feel it could have been designed with a more appropriate theme for Henley.
My suggestion is The Oarsman and I have included a drawing.
Though I find Rachel’s design excellent, it appears to be a young girl doing a back flip into the River Thames — not the most healthiest of lifestyles to promote.
Come on, Henley, beef up. The Oarsman — gateway to Henley. — Yours faithfully,
Cold Harbour, Goring Heath
Can you spot a deer jumping fence?
Sir, — I see Izzy Gann’s photograph of the flowering bluebells in the woods at Greys Court (
Standard, May 1) and raise you with this picture of the same spot but with a deer jumping the fence.
I was so disappointed to only have on me a manual focus macro lens which I took to take tulip photos but it was still nice to get this photo even though it could have been better. It really is a beautiful area. — Yours faithfully,