Friday, 17 September 2021

Your letters

Careless and hasty plan

Careless and hasty plan

Sir, â?? Unfortunately, the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s Townlands proposal falls well short of the NHS England guidance on clinical commissioning, lacking any of the necessary detail for proper evaluation and, as such, is unsuitable for consultative purposes.Mostly notably: l No business case or evaluation of cost effectiveness has been provided.l There is a lack of relevant strong clinical data to support either the case for change or the case for the proposed model.The needs analysis has been directed to present data for the “catchment” group use of all NHS services but denies the need to provide data or analysis of how and by whom Townlands is currently used, dismissing a key duty to account for both current and emerging needs.If it is that patients are mainly from outside the Townlands catchment area, then surely this information is important to strengthen the commissioning group’s case.

While the ambulatory care model may present benefits, if supported by a number of measures including easy access to urgent care, it does seem to be dependent on well-established and integrated services which currently do not exist.Given the inherent risk, it would seem sensible to pilot any new model alongside the current one prior to radical service reorganisation and bed-cutting.l The proposal does not illustrate clearly the integration of services and how or by whom this will be delivered.It would appear that there will be a need for increased support at home for people who may otherwise have been in hospital, so presumably much of this will be undertaken via the local authority through private home care providers.The burden of payment of this is an important consideration. Is the additional support required to keep someone out of hospital (or hospital at home) NHS funded or is it considered social care and as such a means tested cost? The line is already a blurred one and needs definition and clarification. We already know the NHS can’t afford support services for those with dementia despite acknowledging its disease status.Another important consideration with an increased need for support services at home is recruiting care staff for these roles, a sector notorious for its dependency on zero-hours contracts and the real challenges to attract and keep experienced, skilled staff.There is also the consideration that there is a point at which the cost of providing care in people’s homes is more expensive than in an inpatient setting, not least due to travel time and expense, hence the zero-hours contracts in the home care sector.

• Lack of consultation. How is it that local GPs who currently provide care in Peppard ward have no more detail about the proposals than that which is publicly available? They and many others are key to the success of whichever plan goes forward. Stakeholder involvement and investment is fundamental in managing successful change. Further, there is palpable public anger at the lack of opportunity to seek clarification and ask questions of the plans (much of which could be avoided with a robust and well-written proposal) and the unwillingness of the commissioning group to answer key questions. It is a PR masterclass â?? know the information you want to get across and make that your answer regardless of the question asked.

• No alternative options have been presented, let alone evaluated.The Independent Reconfiguration Panel publishes “lessons” which highlight the main reasons that reconfiguration of health service proposals are referred to them. Of these, poor communication and lack of detail about the plans, important content missing, lack of strong clinical evidence, lack of a solid business case and poor stakeholder and community involvement all appear on their “critical list”.The proposal is, in effect, the loss of a community hospital. The five contracted beds are within a separate care home, the completion date of which is not reported.There is nothing in the proposal to suggest where the beds will be situated, how and by whom the home will be staffed, the adequacy of the skill set and, most importantly, the appropriateness of a care home for the variety of patient groups who may need the step up/down beds.Is this circumventing the necessary consultation period and process required for the closure of a hospital? If the effect is the same the process ought to reflect that.The commissioning group proposes to replace Townlands Hospital with an outpatient and minor injuries unit service minus the 14-bed Peppard ward. It is adding a rapid access care unit which in practice is a next-day, three-day-a-week response unit. There is nothing to suggest additional diagnostics.The RACU seems to duplicate the minor injuries unit and, due to the referral process, requires an extra step or care contact point and further time delay as the unit will only be open three days a week.

For a deteriorating patient or one in crisis, your appointment in the RACU will at best be next day and up to five days away.I am not sure how this is a realistic alternative to accident and emergency or the minor injuries unit or what improvement it offers for patients who are in crisis.The proposal has failed to even provide the planned opening times for the unit and the three-day service seems to counter NHS England’s commitment to 7/7 care, delivering access, quality and expertise seven days a week.The proposal appears to be heavily weighted towards avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions and accident and emergency visits, which is of course welcome.However, no strong evidence is presented to demonstrate the success of ambulatory care models. Research on ambulatory care by the King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust and Quality Watch, among others, indicates that ambulatory care models have not yet achieved their purpose in reducing unnecessary hospital admissions in all but a few disease categories and there has been an increase in admissions for the majority of groups. Part of the explanation for the lack of success is limited access to urgent care.If the proposed rapid access care unit operates only three days per week how can improvement be expected? The focus appears to be on the frail who, without question, deserve improved services. Additional patient groups were identified who could also benefit from redesigned service provision. The groups recommended within the “needs analysis” include paediatrics, ophthalmology, cancer services, obstetrics/gynaecology, urology and cardiology.

There are numerous services and models that could be evaluated that will serve current and future needs of the whole population of the Townlands catchment area but the needs of the above groups are not included and no alternative options have been offered.The chief of NHS England supports the role of community hospitals. Emerging models of care, coupled with better clinical outcomes, support centralised care for certain groups of patients.However, community hospitals can and do provide an important and supportive role in provision of care that clinically does not need to be centralised yet requires hospital admission. Non-specialist general medical admissions for patients within the Townlands catchment area have risen to 1,300 per year as reported in the needs analysis. While the the length of stay is not reported, this is just one group of patients who may benefit from a hospital closer to home.Surely detailed evaluation of hospital admissions alongside data on the use of Peppard ward over the same period (currently omitted) should be presented as part of any proposal, especially one that seeks to close 14 beds.

Townlands presents a great challenge and great opportunity. While there is a clear need and great desire for innovative change, it cannot come at the expense of safeguarding the wellbeing of our community. I am not convinced that the commissioning group’s proposal has been given the time, thought, preparation, engagement and consultation necessary to arrive at an improved, inclusive, efficient service. The proposal seems to be more focused on haste rather than health and has succeeded only to undermine confidence in the process, raising suspicion and, ironically, the blood pressures of the people of Henley.

I suggest re-engaging with stakeholders and the community with a full and proper consultation in line with the guidance for commissioning groups to include an evaluation of alternative options. This seems proportional and fair given the seismic shift in direction the commissioning group is taking on the previously agreed and supported proposal. â?? Yours faithfully,

Kate Rosai


near Christmas Common

Flawed model for hospital

Sir, â?? At last week’s meeting at Henley town hall it became clear that the computer modelling done by the Oxford Clinical Commissioning Group is based on false assumptions, erroneous calculations and “belief” and an “act of faith” (Peter McGrane, clinical director of Oxfordshire Health, Older People’s Directorate).Even with good provision for caring for us in our own homes, which is of course sensible, the real need for Henley is still 34 beds â?? the existing 14 for existing “step down” care and a further six for the commissioning group’s proposed “step up” care, increased by 70 per cent (its own figures) for the growing elderly population over the next few years. Plus a few more for the proposed housing developments, say 40 beds altogether. The proposed ambulatory care â?? an excellent and future-focused concept â?? will be available only three days per week. What will we do if we need clinical care on the other four days? And what will the staff be doing? This concept will work only if it is properly resourced.The NHS promised us in 1983 that the funds from the closed War Memorial hospital would be used to redevelop Townlands. They reneged. The NHS promised us in 2013 an 18-bed hospital, now being built. They are attempting to renege on this promise too, justifying themselves with incompetent computer modelling and “ambulatory (community) care” for three sevenths of the week.My late father-in-law, Gordon Pontin, who died in Townlands in 2000 and my late wife, Nicky (Pontin) Stanton, who died at home in 2012, were both members of the Townlands League of Hospital Friends for decades, serving as treasurer, chairman and deputy chairman.They and many others are not here to be dismayed at what is happening, but we are and we are responsible for our future care, as Dr Peter Ashby and many of our local GPs eloquently expressed at the meeting.The Conservative Government, for which most local people voted, has told us that the NHS is safe in its hands and has promised seven-day care.The community has made it clear that it still needs and expects the promised hospital with enough beds. Now is the time to honour promises, not abandon them.Let us campaign, using proper analysis and modelling, for seven-day ambulatory care and the size of hospital that Henley really needs, was promised and expects. I understand that the Townlands Steering Group has been doing the right things and has been constrained during the consultation process by having to keep engaged with the commissioning group. If the commissioning group does not change its mind we should move into sharper action, perhaps by re-activating the Townlands Action Group.With luck and the right effort, we will finish up with the promised 18 beds. Our MP was instrumental in making the consultation process happen; we will expect his active support if further action is needed. â?? Yours faithfully,


Deanfield Avenue,


Waste of time and money

Sir, â?? Having attended last week’s very well attended consultation meeting (I understand there were even people listening in Falaise Square), I would like to make several points.My main one, as a former architect, is that this consultation on bed numbers should have taken place, and a compromise agreed, two or three years ago before the final planning stages of the design were undertaken. Hospitals of any size are complex buildings and should be designed from the outset to be fit for purpose.To build anything and then say we are going to change its use or function is usually a waste of money, time and, possibly, space.The problem with constructing the building and then saying we are going to use it differently could be that this new rapid access care unit is so new that no one had thought of it before.And on the evidence from the meeting it is new and un-tested as it is not an emergency medical unit, as in Abingdon and Witney, and will work only three days a week with all sorts of potential pitfalls if one falls ill on one of the days when it is not working! If, on the other hand, they have been planning this all along we should have heard about it a long time ago. One contributor made the point that in business or industry one could not operate in such a manner and stay in business long as you would make too many costly mistakes and losses.Had these proposals been agreed before the final design stages had been undertaken there would have been time to look at a different approach whereby the new scheme, which most doctors seemed to favour, could have been phased in properly over a period of time with buildings evacuated and demolished as the transmission moved forward.It was claimed that Portsmouth, I think, ran something similar to a RACU system, but no detailed evidence was given as to its success. It is, after all, a much bigger place than Henley. Sometimes ideas can only apply to places that have sufficient population to allow them to work properly â?? only three out of seven days is not working properly â?? and if it is not going to work properly the idea needs to be cancelled or changed to suit the situation, but not implemented to the extent where we are all nervous about our future healthcare.Incidentally, nothing was said as to whether any adjacent clinical commissioning groups were proposing adopting similar systems as this might have raised the question that if they do not it is quite possible that most of our reduced number of beds would be used by other groups who have run out of beds. Has any account been taken of this? Finally, there now seems to be indecent haste in the public consultation process about bed numbers. This meeting took place only six days before all submissions had to be in. This appears to imply a fair degree of coercion on the commissioning group’s part.I do hope they will think again and realise that a much longer transmission period is needed to overcome any potential problems in this untested system at our scale. â?? Yours faithfully,

Philip Allison

Thames Side,


Powerless stakeholders

Sir, â?? There appear to be at least four major considerations to be taken into account in decisions on the future of Townlands Hospital.l Local stakeholders: there is a long history which has led to a distrust of remote decision-makers. There is a high level of engagement among Henley residents, as shown by the Townlands Steering Group and town hall meetings over the years as well as their experience of the hospital’s services.l Regional and national administrators: the political, legislative and financial decisions and pressures, such as the Health and Social Care Act 2012, which they have to respond to.l Medical: changes in healthcare service practices, with a move to ambulatory care, integration with social services and centralisation of specialist treatment.l Number of agencies involved, each with its own interests to protect, OxfordHealth (NHS Foundation Trust), Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and Oxfordshire County Council, as well as others unnamed.In the debate, beds have become an emblem for views and feelings on plans for the new Townlands ambulatory model. In fact, “beds” is shorthand for “units of care” for which, obviously, physical beds are a necessary but not sufficient component.In “modelling step-up and step-down bed numbers for Henley”, the calculations appear to be based on current bed usage.Yet in “consultation on proposals for future services at Townlands Hospital” (Futuredoc), it is stated that in the next 20 years in South Oxfordshire, there will be a near three-fold increase in the population aged over 85 years and a 70 per cent increase in the number of people aged over 65 years.No reference is made to the overall population increase as a result of house-building, Henley alone being required to add 450 dwellings to its housing stock by 2027, as outlined in the neighbourhood plan.Modelling which fails to take into account the impact of such increases is inherently flimsy, simply reinforcing unease among local stakeholders about reducing the number of beds to between five and eight.The proposal to, in effect, outsource these beds to the as-yet-to-be-built care home adds to this concern, not least because, as Mrs Butler (Standard, June 12) pointed out, care home staff are not trained nurses, so it isn’t altogether clear how the units of care will be provided.Furthermore, such outsourcing adds another potential fail point on the patient’s ambulatory journeys. None of the documentation explains why there will be no emergency medical unit (i.e. same-day emergency treatment) and instead there will be a so-called rapid access care unit (RACU) in which service “delivery” will take place over two days, while the RACU itself will be open for only three days a week. In what sense this is “rapid” is not obvious.The new ambulatory model proposed for Townlands will depend on the work of “integrated locality teams”. Such teams will involve a number of people and agencies (12 are listed), leaving plenty of room for fail points unless setting up these teams involves some serious planning, training, management and co-ordination so that the various service providers understand and appreciate their role in the patients’ ambulatory journeys.Again, stakeholders will be rightly sceptical about the implementation and management of these integrated locality teams.It is extremely disappointing that the Townlands project should have confronted so many problems at this late stage, and that local stakeholders, rather than being reassured, feel powerless and even angry before decisions that are being made by agencies remote from their concerns and experience.These agencies have not benefited their cause by seriously underestimating the commitment of Henley stakeholders, by their communication style, by a lack of clarity and openness on key decisions, by an unsatisfactory questionnaire and, above all, by the absence of anything that could be called a business plan. â?? Yours faithfully,

Ron White

Milton Close,


How long till five go too?

Sir, â?? Please register my opposition to the plan to reduce the planned number of beds at Townlands Hospital from 18 to five.I find this a ludicrous proposal. We use the Townlands facility and to have only five beds covering the intended catchment area is unbelievable. I also believe that the cost per bed must be higher for five than for 18, which, I am sure, would be used to close the five-bed facility in the not too distant future.Please provide the approved facility which gave justification to rebuild the hospital. â?? Yours faithfully,

Geoff Giles


We need beds and clinics

Sir, â?? I appreciate you are receiving many letters on the subject of Peppard ward at Townlands Hospital but I would just like to add my thoughts.Many years ago we all campaigned to keep a hospital in Henley and here we are it’s being built but, behind a smokescreen, the goalposts have been moved.Beds are an absolute must. I know from personal experience (my mother was on the ward) that the nursing, physiotherapy and encouragement given on the ward are essential to getting the patient confidently back on their feet to return to their own home or, in many cases, home with a care package. Sadly, that is not always available and can take many weeks to put in place.So if there are no beds and patients go straight home from the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, where will all the extra carers, physiotherapists and district nurses come from? The nursing staff do a brilliant job and work as a wonderful team.I have been going on to the ward twice a week for almost seven years as a volunteer and I know how essential the beds are and that they one almost always full.The new clinics sound wonderful and will be much appreciated but surely there is room for both â?? a Peppard ward and a treatment ward. At least the building would be in use full-time and not three days only for the clinic.And why is the hospital being pulled down in November before alternatives are ready? Just a small addition. Our whole family have had great care from the Bell Surgery, firstly by Dr Ganly and now Dr Langley and the other GPs in the practice.We thank all the staff at the surgery who have all been nothing but helpful. â?? Yours faithfully,

Dot Hollinrake

Brocks Way,


We need more consultation

Sir, â?? It was very frustrating on Tuesday evening last week, when many people wishing to attend the public meeting at Henley town hall regarding Townlands, myself included, found ourselves excluded and locked out because the venue was already full.In the light of this, I would urge the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group to hold further meetings and extend the consultation deadline in order to ensure that all residents have the opportunity to express their views.With regards to the ambulatory care model which the group now favours, in many ways it is very sensible and preferable that people be treated in their homes, thereby avoiding the risk of hospital infections and the psychological damage from becoming institutionalised, but this does not do away with the need for beds at Townlands. The commissioning group claims that the new model will allow for the provision of a next day one-stop diagnostics and treatment service in the communityâ?¦ but what happens to the elderly resident (of which Henley has a good number), who lives alone and generally is able to live independently, but who is then found collapsed on the floor of their home? Where are paramedics supposed to take them for fast-track assessment? If the commissioning group has its way and scraps all the Townlands beds, then presumably the only place the patient could go would be through accident and emergency at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.If so, then I fear that the chances of such a patient’s fast repatriation to their home from there will be sharply diminished.In my opinion, we do still really need some beds at Townlands to go hand-in-hand with the next-day, fast-track, diagnostic and home- based ambulatory care model, which the commissioning group is proposing. â?? Yours faithfully,

Amanda Chumas

Bell Street,


Consultation was flawed

Sir, â?? The Townlands Steering Group meeting on June 9 considered the answers given to the questions that it had notified to the Oxfordshire Clinical Commisioning Group in advance.The group also considered the answers given by the CCG to the members of the public at the meeting who asked an extensive set of detailed and searching questions. It is obvious that the CCG proposals are strongly opposed by a large majority of the community. The group expects the consultation will show this clearly.The CCG will report on the consultation to the health overview scrutiny committee of Oxfordshire County Council on July 2.The steering group is planning to make its own submission to the committee.The committee has two levels of responsibility with respect to Townlands: l Ensuring that the consultation has been correctly and properly carried out (section f of its terms of reference).l Ensuring that the inhabitants of Oxfordshire receive hospital and community healthcare services and social care services (sections a, b, e, and g of its terms of reference).The steering group believes the CCG consultation is flawed and has failed for the following reasons:

• Insufficient information on the way the model will work.

• Insufficient information on the transition from the old model to the new by November 1.

• Absence of information on what will happen to staff between November 1 and the opening of the rapid access care unit in the care home.

• Lack of any information on the monitoring and scrutiny post-implementation (e.g. by identifying the process and key performance indicators).

• Refusal of the CCG to provide the detailed current bed usage figures or their modelling data.

• Unanswered questions on the modelling figures expressed at the meeting on June 9 (e.g. from steering group member Geoff Probert).

• The questionnaire made it very difficult for the community to express clearly our views on the proposals.l Lack of any information on costings.

• The emergence of significant changes to the proposals in the course of the consultation, including:

•. That the rapid access care unit would be open only three days a week.

2. The fact that emergency medical units were used to provide reassurance of successful examples of operation of the new model which are quite different from RACUs (e.g. being associated with community beds at Witney and Abingdon).

3. The new model is expected not to require additional community health resources (e.g. district nurses). No evidence has been provided to support this.

4. The new model is expected not to require additional adult social care resources. No evidence has been provided to support this.

The steering group is very disappointed that the CCG has failed to provide supporting documentation for its proposals which would allow the community to provide a fully informed response to the consultation.The lack of support from the GPs for the proposals underlines this failure.The steering group will urge the scrutiny committee and other stakeholders to act to ensure that the CCG reverts to the service model as specified in the original business case approved by the primary care trust and strategic health authority in 2012, planning permission for which was also granted in the same year.The steering group will continue to engage with the CCG on a new plan based on the new model of ambulatory care, as it is clear than this is supported in principle by many GPs and other clinicians and has operated successfully as part of an integrated system of health and social care in other parts of this country and around the world. â?? Yours faithfully,

Councillor Ian Reissmann (chairman),

Councillor David Nimmo Smith,

Dr Peter Ashby,

Barry Wood,

Dr Fiona Galton-Fenzi,

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak,

Councillor Julian Brookes

Townlands Steering Group sub-group,

Henley Town Council

We’re right behind you

Sir, â?? We strongly oppose the reduction from 18 beds down to five. Please add the following residents’ names in support of Save Our Beds. â?? Yours faithfully,

Mr & Mrs M Jones,  

Marcus Jones,

Mr & Mrs R Crossman &

Miss M Jones

Lower Shiplake

Stick to your promise

Sir, â?? I call on the Oxford Clinical Commissioning Group to stick to the original promise of 18 beds at the new Townlands Hospital. â?? Yours faithfully,

Richard W Moyle


Healthcare at its very best

Sir, â?? Amid the letters of outrage in your columns regarding the scheduled Townlands bed count, I have noticed comments regarding recent disappointment with the Bell Surgery.Then came Janie Stow’s letter supporting the surgery (Standard, June 12).I must add my voice to that of Ms Stow.Although I have only been a patient at the Bell Surgery for 22 years, I can affirm that I have never received anything other than the most professional treatment of such ailments as I presented and nothing other than the most caring treatment.I knew both the doctors who recently retired and the one who is seriously ill. They were wonderful.But there are many good things happening at the surgery today.In the last month I’ve had three appointments, two of which I booked easily online and checked in simply with the automated system. Nothing could have been more efficient.With regards to the two bugbears often raised â?? waiting times and continuity of clinician â?? I suggest that these are widespread issues throughout England. I note from the signs in the waiting room that patients can get emergency treatment, if really needed, on the day and telephone consultations are now available too.Unless someone can re-organise the NHS in a hurry, the increase in demand and limitations in GP availability will continue to put surgeries under pressure. That argument is with the Government, not the individual surgery.And it all comes down to people. The practice nurse I dealt with simply exuded charm and cheerfulness and Dr Haider, whom I saw twice, could be an exemplar of all that is best in a GP from a patient’s point of view: enthusiastic, focused and friendly.Each time I came away diagnosed accurately, prescribed as necessary, educated where appropriate and with a grin on my face. Healthcare doesn’t get better than that. â?? Yours faithfully,

Richard Jones

Reading Road,


Plan should be robust

Sir, â?? Henley town councillors, both new and old, have a responsibility to us all to insure that the neighbourhood plan process has been fair and unbiased and that a robust plan has been prepared.However, despite some £100,000 being spent, the current plan appears flawed with South Oxfordshire District Council commenting as follows on the inclusion of the Fair Mile site: “As a greenfield site partly in the conservation area, this new allocation is regrettable given the availability of brownfield land with higher capacity (e.g. Highlands Farm).“This sensitive area contributes significantly to the attractive landscape setting of the town and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and could raise the pressure to infill gaps along the Fair Mile, which currently provides a very spacious and sylvan approach into the town.” It seems perverse that the town council’s neighbourhood plan governance committee, which took the final decision on allocations, should be under-allocating on brownfield sites just so they can include a greenfield site.Surely they are not just putting our £100,000 at risk but the whole process. It is their responsibility and they must be held accountable.We need more councillors like Dylan Thomas to stand up for all the people of Henley, north and south, and ensure we get the plan we have all contributed towards with time and money. â?? Yours faithfully,

Thomas Bowlby

Fair Mile,


Redrafting necessary

Sir, â?? Councillor Dylan Thomas raised his concerns at the special meeting of Henley Town Council over the proposed allocation for housing development of the Fair Mile land, which is a greenfield woodland site in the conservation area.At last someone within the council is questioning the policy to allocate this land and acknowledging the irreversible damage that development here would cause to the conservation area.Cllr Thomas should be supported by all those interested in Henley’s heritage assets. As he stated at the meeting, the plan is flawed.Here are some of the relevant facts which have not always been made obvious: l Approximately 75 per cent of this prominent woodland site is in the conservation area (not a third, as stated in the town council’s draft submission document). Conservation area designation means that an area is of notable environmental or historical interest or importance and is protected by law against undesirable changes.l It is at the heart of the Fair Mile Character Area, which is designated for its spacious and rural setting. l Development will involve a new road junction on Fair Mile at the point of a protected key Henley view as defined by the conservation area character appraisal.l There have been 16 previous applications to develop on the land, including a planning appeal. All were rejected, principally on the grounds that development would damage the conservation area.l South Oxfordshire District Council states in the most recent consultation exercise that the proposed allocation is “regrettable, given the availability of brownfield land with higher capacity”.It is illogical to argue that this land can be developed with a multi-unit housing scheme and new road junction without significant damage to the conservation area. To permit such development would be contrary to formal government planning policy and the district council’s adopted planning policies. These are obligations that the town council must not sweep under the carpet.To comply with the district council’s core strategy, the town council must allocate land for the development of 400 houses, not 450. An allocation for 450 houses is only required if land free of constraints is identified. The Fair Mile land is not free from constraints, as acknowledged by the district council, therefore it should be removed from the plan. I urge others to support Cllr Thomas and insist that the neighbourhood plan is redrafted to stop inappropriate housing development and to protect Henley’s unique heritage assets. â?? Yours faithfully,

Simon Parsons

Fair Mile,


Protect this special are

aSir, â?? I am pleased to see that the new Henley Town Council has voted to delay the submission of the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan, which was put together by their predecessors who sought to permanently harm one of Henley’s most important and beautiful areas.I am particularly heartened by the strength of conviction of Councillor Dylan Thomas.Henley is a very special place, not just for those of us fortunate enough to live here, but also for the many who choose to visit.Fair Mile has been recognised as one of the most iconic entrances to any town in England. Previous generations have sought to protect it for us to enjoy and it is our responsibility to protect it for future generations.It is enjoyed by those who drive through every day, by walkers and dog walkers and by cyclists for its wonderful setting and views.As a town, we consistently voted for developing our brownfield sites before even considering our green fields.I notice that South Oxfordshire District Council supports this view with its most recent comment on the plan, saying that it is unfortunate that the Fair Mile site, as a greenfield site, should be allocated when there is brownfield land with higher capacity available.Hopefully, all the town councillors will support removing the Fair Mile site from the plan and together take pride in protecting our very special Fair Mile conservation area. â?? Yours faithfully,

E J Wilkinson

Fair Mile,


Site is not deliverable

Sir, â?? The neighbourhood plan has been delayed pending the traffic report.I see that Councillor Dylan Thomas has queried the inclusion of the Fair Mile land within the sites allocated for housing. Good for him.I believe that it is quite wrong to allocate this land for housing as it is both a greenfield site and, more importantly, in the conservation area. Any development will potentially damage the conservation area and could result in an urban sprawl along the Fair Mile.There is also a question as to whether the site would ever receive planning permission and therefore is it deliverable under the plan criteria? I believe not.South Oxfordshire District Councill and English Heritage have raised several questions over the site access on what is a very busy main road into the town. The required new major road junction would destroy this section of the Fair Mile. The district council also states that any allocation would have to be subject to a caveat that it cannot be bound by the allocation when considering a future planning application.This stipulation is in light of their statutory obligation to preserve and enhance the conservation area. This all makes sense when one considers that 16 previous applications and a planning appeal on the land over the last 40-odd years have all been rejected.So why are they seeking to allocate a site which is not deliverable? In short there is none and to do so will only open up the plan to challenge. We need to think again and remove the Fair Mile from the plan. â?? Yours faithfully,

Tom Kane

Barn Lane,


Consulted but not listened to

Sir, â?? Many emotions were evident when the newly elected Henley Town Council voted in favour of keeping the link between the neighbourhood plan housing allocations and the traffic survey intact.From my perspective, it was the right choice as it was only in the neighbourhood planning process that the traffic survey originated and this issue was key from day one.The traffic survey should have been started when it was suggested that Henley has 450 more homes or at least when the neighbourhood plan process had just begun. In general, I feel the people of Henley have been consulted on the neighbourhood plan but have not been listened to (there is a big difference) and recently the governance committee has started to make its own decisions rather than concentrating on governance.The Gillotts decision may also fall into this category.So much for the people of Henley being “the decision makers” and “infrastructure before housing” that we were promised.There is now a high risk that the neighbourhood plan referendum may not be successful. The vote is dependent on scaremongering about free range planning outcomes instigated by developers rather than Henley being in control of its destiny. This is not the sign of a successful dialogue. Henley deserves better. â?? Yours faithfully,

David Dickie

St Katherine’s Road,


Plan delay is welcome

Sir, â?? It was good to see that two new Henley town councillors are willing to put the interests of the town above petty party politics. By voting to oppose the submission of the neighbourhood lan, Councillors Dylan Thomas and Simon Smith are to be congratulated for letting the wishes of their constituents and good common sense prevail.Although Councillor Marton Akehurst described the plan as “the people’s plan”, it appears to have grown enormously since “the people” last saw it. The version that went out for consultation was 90 pages long. The one that appeared at the beginning of June is 802 pages long. And that’s without the yet-to-be-completed transport strategy. Now that the submission of the plan has been postponed, councillors will at least be able to have time to read it all before approving it. Let’s hope common sense continues to prevail. â?? Yours faithfully,

Dick Fletcher

Mill End,


‘Superfast’, my foot!

Sir, â?? Access to superfast broadband in 2015 is as vital a necessity as Royal Mail was in preceding centuries. It is not a luxury or extravagance. For domestic households, day-to-day banking, licensing a car or buying a TV licence, our children’s studying and education and, yes, reading the paper, all require an efficient broadband service â?? a service that will come under increasing pressure as more previously paper-led tasks are digitalised.Unarguably, the internet will be our prime method of communication.For rural businesses to thrive effectively, thus offering employment to the local population, superfast broadband is non-negotiable.Since having broadband installed several years ago (never supersonic in the first instance) we have endured ever-slowing delivery speeds and bandwidth, particularly at weekends when households further up the line, as is their prerogative, access the internet to watch streamed films, use iplayers, play games and talk via Facetime and Skype. At times, any useful internet access becomes impossible.The Government’s Digital by Default system would be hard to implement on a rainy Sunday afternoon in the Bix and Assendon area.The assertion by Pete Stanton of Oxfordshire County Council that “more than half of the 225 houses in Bix and Middle Assendon will have a faster connection” by December (Standard, June 12) is completely unsatisfactory. Ergo: less than half will not have a faster connection.As a household more than three miles from the nearest junction box, we will fall into the latter category.I look forward to his “alternative solution” which will solve the problem, albeit with a large dollop of scepticism. â?? Yours faithfully,

Susannah Moss

Bix Bottom

Thanks for backing show

Sir, â?? Thank you for your coverage of the Music for Nepal benefit concert (Standard, June 12). It summed up perfectly what a very special evening it was for the performers, organisers and audience alike.We are delighted to say that donations have continued to pour in and today we have sent a cheques to RECOS Nepal and the DEC Nepal Earthquake Appeal totalling £5,109.83. This is fantastic news and our grateful thanks to everyone who gave their time, expertise, talent, enthusiasm and hard work towards helping those who face such hardship as they rebuild their lives in Nepal.Namaste & dhanyahad â?? Yours faithfully,

Lucie and Megan Henwood

Western Avenue,


True pillar of community

Sir, â?? I have just heard that one of Whitchurch’s most respected residents, Stephen Trinder, has passed away and I would like to record a personal appreciation.Sarah and I have lived in Whitchurch for just a little under 40 years and, for as long as I can remember, Stephen has been a pillar of our community.His organising ability was exceptional and his leadership of the very successful 2009 Whitchurch village plan project is a fine example. He was a very active part of the group, which worked to obtain our village green.He chaired the village hall management group but always declined any suggestion that he should become a councillor. Nevertheless, a parish council meeting without helpful and constructive input from Stephen was very unusual.When he provided the funds for the defibrillator that is now installed in the old red phone box in Manor Road he mentioned that he regarded it as his legacy to the Whitchurch community. Our village is much the poorer without him. â?? Yours faithfully,

Harry Butterworth

High Street,


Moths are multiplying

Sir, â?? I was interested to read Carol Pratt’s letter with a picture of the two lime hawk moths she saw in Greys Hill, Henley (Standard, June 12).I have bred moths for many years and run a moth trap in my garden a few times a year.At the weekend I was surprised to catch nine hawk moths (two privet, four elephant, two small elephant and one lime hawk).I also obtained a puss moth, pale tussock and a peppered moth (very apt!).Most catches are males but the lime hawk is a female which I hope will lay eggs before I release her.Readers should look out for the Jersey tiger moths in Henley, which should be making an appearance soon. â?? Yours faithfully,

Keith Jefferies

Peppard Common

Happy swifts swooping

Sir, â?? Your correspondent Fred Harris bemoans a lack of sightings of swifts (Standard, June 12) and asks where they have gone.I’m sure he will be pleased to know that they have not disappeared but simply moved to Watlington.They have been happily swooping and screaming here this season. I trust he is comforted by the knowledge. â?? Yours faithfully,

Angie Paterson

Hill Road,


Thank you from a very proud winner

Sir, â?? This is a very proud moment for me â?? a podium presentation outside the town hall after winning the sprint distance Henley Highwayman, a three-day event comprising a 1km river swim, 62km bike ride and 9km hill run.

I was presented with a limited edition signed copy of a fabulous painting by Carolyn Tyrer, which was commissioned specially by the event organiser Jeremy Laming, who also runs the Henley Swim series of open water events.

I would also like to thank the equally amazing and wonderful Ali Bird, who gave me invaluable free coaching when I first moved to Henley a year or so ago, introduced me to lots of inspirational athletes and gave me the confidence to push on to better things when I did not believe in myself.

She was also instrumental in encouraging Savills to sponsor the event. Estate agents don’t often get good press, so thank you and well done. I hope it does you some good. â?? Yours faithfully,

Steve Brown

Albert Road, Henley

‘Neglected’ cemetery is a disgrace

Sir, â?? It must be very upsetting for anyone visiting the grave of a loved one to find the Fairmile Cemetery in Henley looking extremely neglected.

I visited the cemetery one Saturday morning recently and felt sad that it was looking so unkempt.

I understand that sometime ago the upkeep of the cemetery was carried out by young offenders at Huntercombe who did an excellent job as the cemetery always looked so well kept when they were responsible.

It is a shame that such a good scheme that worked so well should have been stopped.

For a town such as Henley to have the local cemetery looking so neglected is an absolute disgrace and also shows a lack of respect.

The council wastes so much money on unnecessary things, such as a £7,000 statue that not many people like, £1,790 on a municipal bicycle pump that is not necessary and £50,000 on a traffic survey (was it necessary to pay such a large amount for this?) when everyone knows we already have too much traffic in Henley.

The money could have been put to much better use, such as on the upkeep of the Fairmile Cemetery, which is so much more important. â?? Yours faithfully,

Margaret Thompson

Reading Road, Henley

Henley town clerk Mike Kennedy responds: “The picture from your correspondent appears to be of some rather nice wildflowers, which the town council allows to grow and seed before they are cut back (see our picture) but I take the point that the grass was not cut to a lawn standard.

“To say that the council had previously used young offenders from Huntercombe is incorrect as we used the Thames Valley Probation Service, to which the council makes a payment. It is not free.

“Mrs Thompson goes on to call the situation an ‘absolute disgrace’ and that it shows a ‘lack of respect’, which are very emotive words.

“We recognise there are certain people who support that view but equally there are others who would find wildflowers in a rural setting quite nice.

“But that is by the by. We are now addressing that and grass cutting is taking place.

“Regarding the points about wasting taxpayers’ money, the statue was paid for entirely through sponsorship and the bicycle pump, if it is approved by the full council, will be paid for by town action plan funding, which would be jointly paid for by South Oxfordshire District Council.

“Carrying out a traffic study was a decision that the council took and the outcomes of which will be part of the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

“If you put it to the vote, most people would argue the traffic study is very important. The 450 homes are coming and we have got to find ways to mitigate that and the traffic study will do that.”

Two planets visible in the evening sky

Sir, â?? I thought this picture might be of interest but I need to take a photography course (or read the manual!)

It’s evening, looking west over Russells Water common.

Two planets are visible â?? Venus and Jupiter. Venus will set first. â?? Yours faithfully,

David Wood


P.S. Contrail news: In the US, the average temperature rose by an average of 2C following the grounding of civil aviation after 9/11. Do the math, as they say over there!

Dramatic storm clouds in summer

Sir, â?? I hope you do not think I am trying to monopolise the readers’ photographs published in the


I know that you will only feature ones that may be of interest, so I hope this one is acceptable. It was taken near Swyncombe Church and shows cow parsley, which seems prolific this year, blossom on a horse chestnut tree and, in the background, some rather dramatic storm clouds. â?? Yours faithfully,

Terry Allsop


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