Sunday, 01 August 2021

Your letters

Is ‘Stretch’ your cat?

Is ‘Stretch’ your cat?

Sir, — My family and I are constantly visited by a delightful cat which we have named Stretch.

I was hoping that you might print his/her photo (haven’t inspected the undercarriage yet) so the rightful owner can identify it.

Should the owner wish to find out where their pet spends most evenings, they can perhaps contact me via your newspaper.

We are also curious to know to whom the cat rightfully belongs. — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Winpenny
Orchard Avenue, Sonning  Common

Good summer for scarlet tiger moth

Sir, — Here’s a view of a scarlet tiger moth from above and below taken in my garden. — Yours faithfully,

Pat Sparrowhawk

Sir, — Further to the letter from Keith Jefferies reminding us to look out for Jersey tigers on the wing soon, there is another “tiger” already “stalking” the streets of Henley.

This is the scarlet tiger, a “cousin” of the Jersey which also flies by day and is equally colourful.

The first one was noted in the town on June 16 and both species are now breeding in the area.

This photograph by Rachel Bergman is of a moth found on a wall in Chinnor on Sunday, June 21 by my daughter, Kay Harman, formerly of Little Nellie’s Sweetshop in Friday Street, Henley. Reports of further sightings would be welcome on 07713 755522. — Yours faithfully,

Tony Harman Turville Heath

Incomplete, flawed plan

Sir, — Last week Henley Town Council voted to submit the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan without a transport strategy.The council has commissioned a transport study for the neighbourhood plan which is costing £50,000.

The neighbourhood governance group and the full council have voted on six occasions to include this study as part of the neighbourhood plan. Residents of Henley and Harpsden know traffic and transport issues are very high on the plan agenda.Traffic was the top issue reported on the initial neighbourhood plan public opinion day. We must include their highest concern if this is to truly be a “people’s plan”.

Submitting the plan without a transport strategy is flawed and runs the risk of the plan not being passed at the referendum stage. The plan process has been going for three years and we on the town council have had a bipartisan approach to it. Henley Residents’ Group and the Conservatives have always agreed on the way forward — until now.

Last week, the Conservatives moved a procedural motion to submit the plan after only one hour of discussion of amendments but no discussion on the main motion. Needless to say, HRG voted against this curtailment of discussion.

The plan has cost £100,000 and the transport study £50,000 and the documentation is 800-plus pages yet after one hour of discussion it was deemed fit to sign off. HRG is absolutely in favour of the neighbourhood plan (we started the whole process) but we want a document that is fit for purpose.

At the council meeting we proposed a series of sensible amendments to be included in the plan and I believe that the readers would wish to know what they are:

• Delay the plan for six weeks to include the strategies from the £50,000 transport study as originally agreed and voted on. The Conservatives voted against.
• Include a statement that ring-fences 20 per cent (36) of the affordable houses to local people in line with South Oxfordshire District Council policy. The Conservatives voted against.
• Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 money in the plan can only be used to refurbish existing community facilities. We proposed to include new buildings as well. The Conservatives voted against.
• The 450 new houses in Henley should be built to Code 6 standard for home insulation, thereby reducing running costs for house owners and reducing Henley’s carbon footprint. The Conservatives voted against this.

We had further amendments that would have enhanced green spaces and sporting facilities, given greater clarity and protection to the conservation area and, most importantly, would have included more pedestrian crossings. Discussion on these was stopped by the procedural vote.

We all know that local people find it difficult to get homes in Henley. I am staggered that the Conservatives voted against the proposal to ring fence just 36 homes out of a total of 450 for local people. In conclusion, the submission of the plan has been bulldozed through without proper scrutiny — £150,000 and 800-plus pages bulldozed through in one hour.

We want a good plan, which is not flawed, to recommend positively to residents of Henley and Harpsden.

I am sure that readers will find our amendments to be sensible and ask questions of the Conservatives as to why they did not accept them. — Yours faithfully,

Councillors Stefan Gawrysiak and Ian Reissmann
Henley Residents’ Group,
Henley Town Council

Don’t forget infrastructure

Sir, — The joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan still has little in the way of defined new infrastructure but has very well defined housing plans.Even so I had hoped that we could ensure some of the affordable housing was earmarked for Henley residents.This provision is quite common in neighbourhood plans but Henley Town Council did not accept that the amendment was workable. In the area of infrastructure, there are no firm proposals in the plan to mitigate the new developments despite the consultations requesting them.Often these consultations, and offers to help, have been ignored. In fact, in June 2012 the primary area of concern raised was traffic and yet this has now been sidelined to a separate transport study.It is unlikely that solutions will be found before the referendum so be prepared for being asked to vote on a legally binding house-building project for 450 homes without any committed plans for  mitigation.You may also be interested to note that the delivery sections of other neighbourhood plans, such as in Thame, are far more extensive and have proved very acceptable to those communities and to the examiners. — Yours faithfully,

David Dickie
St Katherine’s Road,

Far too many care homes

Sir, — LA Fitness has just announced it is closing and the site will be redeveloped as a care home.The site of the former Henley Youth Centre has been sold to a care home company.If you search the internet for “care homes in Henley” it will return a list of 50. If you type in “fitness centres in Henley” it will return just four, one of which is LA Fitness.Is Henley turning into a vast old-age condominium? What is the town doing to provide a healthy environment for the youth of today? We are continually urged to keep fit and look after ourselves and not become a burden on society.The town needs a greater emphasis on health, not more care homes. — Yours  faithfully,

Mike Huntington
Swiss Farm,

What about our children?

Sir, — With reference to the decision to throw out, on appeal, plans for 10 homes in Woodcote (Standard, June 26), I have two children who will soon be needing to find homes of their own.Along with (I’m sure) many other parents, I worry about how they’ll afford to live/buy property. I had hoped that the Conservatices were in favour of building more much-needed homes.However, if John Howell MP is personally writing to oppose even small developments, I see it’s not so. Is he allowed to do this? Does David Cameron know he is stopping progress? — Yours faithfully,

Mrs Drew Chiltern Bank,
Peppard Common

UKIP are not racists

Sir, — On June 23 I attended Henley Town Council’s meeting, mainly to listen to what was going happen to the final submission version of the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan. There were a number of amendments put forward by both the Conservatives and Henley Residents’ Group. One of the most important was put forward by Stefan Gawrysiak (HRG) and this was that 50 per cent of social housing should go to people with a local connection.This is similar to what happened at Lawson Road and Noble Road some 15 years ago and which turned out to be very successful.

When the amendment was put to the vote all the HRG councillors supported it and all the Conservatives voted against. At this point Councillor Dylan Thomas referred to this as a “typical UKIP racist policy”.

The Mayor did not hear the comment so I stood up and brought it to her attention.

She asked Cllr Thomas if he had said these words and he repeated them for all councillors and the packed public gallery to hear.

Any decent person would be fully aware that UKIP does not have a “racist policy” but, if it did, is Cllr Thomas suggesting that HRG councillors are racist because they want to use a system that was positively used in the past and accepted by South Oxfordshire District Council? As a former member of HRG, I can inform the public that it only wants the best for our town.

Not content to make such derogatory comments about UKIP, in another debate on site allocations, Cllr Thomas tried to bully other councillors into supporting him in taking one of the areas of land out of the list of proposed sites, saying that if they did not do so, they could face legal action.

Perhaps if he had been involved in the neighbourhood plan process for the past 21 months he may have had a different opinion.

As a former town councillor of some 15 years, my advice to Cllr Thomas in future is quite simple, “he may find it better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak out and remove all doubt”.

At the time of writing, both myself and UKIP are still waiting for an apology from Cllr Thomas for his comments. — Yours faithfully,

Ken Arlett Chairman
UKIP Henley,
Elizabeth Road,

Councillor Thomas replies: “When Mr Arlett stood up and shouted at our Mayor from the public gallery, rudely interrupting a council debate on amendments to the neighbourhood plan, I had no idea who he was. “I have never met him, nor have I ever been introduced to him nor have we ever spoken in passing. Until his disruptive behaviour I could not have pointed him out in a police line-up. “However, apparently he felt I accused him personally of being a racist and objected to me making an off the cuff little political joke about a proposed Henley Residents’ Group amendment to the plan which sounded to me a bit like UKIP's anti-immigration policies and possibly even racist. “It was my democratic right to express my political opinion and, unlike Mr Arlett, as an elected town councillor, I am permitted to speak during a councillors’ debate in the council chamber. “Mr Arlett should not be so over-sensitive and develop a bit more respect for the formal processes of our local democracy and abstain from unnecessarily interrupting council proceedings in the future.”

Immigration emergency

Sir, — Eighteen months ago the United Kingdom was beset by terrible floods. There was some controversy over what had caused them.On Saturday the Daily Mail revealed that over the last year continuing floods of foreign migrants have hit our shores: 200 per cent of the previous year’s total or 260,000 migrants.

Moreover, with some 500,000 migrants waiting to cross into Europe from Libya and many thousands pressing to enter Britain illegally from Calais, it is clear that neither Europe nor Britain are able or willing to receive them. Particularly, no doubt, in the likelihood that they will include a number of returning ISIS fighters bent on more Tunisian-type terrorism. I trust our holidaying MPs will rest well during their lengthy vacations, although some of us might imagine a more profitable way of dealing with a huge national emergency than lounging on a beach in the South of France. — Yours faithfully,

David Silvester
Luker Avenue,

We feel for hospital staff

Sir, — Over the last four years my wife Jane and I have had too many occasions to be either at the Royal Berkshire Hospital or Townlands Hospital and at both places the standard of treatment and care from all the staff has been beyond perfect.So we read with great sadness the goings-on with the development of Townlands Hospital.Our first thought is how can you have a hospital without beds and the second is was whole thing dreamt up in order to gain planning permission and initial funding without a final plan? Only last week we were at the physiotherapy unit at Townlands and observed work going on partitioning the new hospital with all the associated plumbing and electrical work when we read that minds are still working on the final layout. Something clearly does not ring true.With the idea of the proposed five beds (rather than the 18 originally planned) in the care home does this mean that money is really not available as it probably was when the plans were first  discussed? One may be drawn to the conclusion that, due to no other reason being put forward, Sue Ryder was being asked for too much money to move in and place its valuable services under one roof.With our ageing population and great history of the Peppard ward we need the beds if only to assist in relieving bed blocking at the Royal Berks and, perhaps to a lesser degree, the John Radcliffe Hospital.We are not convinced that a substantial clinical case has been made to drastically change the current model of running the Townlands  Hospital.Our thanks again to all the staff who are caught up in this dilemma. — Yours faithfully,

Clive and Jane Mills
Shiplake Bottom,

Consultation indeed

Sir, — So the farcical process of a pretend consultation over Townlands Hospital continues.Probably only some sort of political intervention will stop the madness of building a hospital and then, before it has even opened, deciding it is not needed.The lack of professed embarrassment by the NHS at such monumental incompetence is staggering. I find it hard to think of a bigger blunder it could make.Don’t expect the people of Henley just to lie down and accept they have to go to hospital in Reading, Oxford or Wallingford. — Yours faithfully,

Richard W Moyle

Invigorating piece of art

Sir, — The largely negative response to the wire figure on the roundabout in Reading Road, Henley, is disappointing. I have driven by it many times and each time I realise that I like it more and more.I think it is the most imaginative and refreshing piece of creative work to come out of Henley in a long time.The suggestion that it should be melted down for scrap I find shocking, reminiscent of the public burning of so-called “degenerate art” of not so long ago.There is one point which seems to have been overlooked. Namely, in the (I hope) unlikelihood of the wilful destruction, dismantling or removal of the figure, it would need only one mobile phone to capture the event for the image to be around the world in seconds — and I doubt that would do much for Henley’s reputation.New ideas in the arts have always been controversial and sometimes perceived as threatening.Stravinsky, Picasso, Samuel Beckett, Warhol, Tracey Emin all suffered and are now part of the mainstream. The rowing boat did sterling service but perhaps it was time for a change and now what we have is a graceful, challenging and invigorating artwork which perfectly represents the aquatic spirit of the town.I congratulate Rachel Ducker, Paul Terroni, Henley in Bloom, the Henley Standard and Henley Town Council for having the courage and foresight to create and select an original and beautiful design. — Yours faithfully,

Martyn Read
Mount View Close,

More iconic installation...

Sir, — While respecting the artistry of the statue at the Tesco roundabout on the Reading Road, I feel we need a more iconic installation to symbolise Henley-on-Thames, particularly during regatta week.I suggest a giant overflowing litter bin. — Yours faithfully,

Clive Limpkin
Upper Bolney Road,

Unofficial scrapyard

Sir, — Henley has a scrapyard where items can be dumped for free with impunity: the verge outside the bungalows below the scout hut in Greys Road.

Vehicles have been abandoned on the highway, i.e. the verge and footways (pavements), for years in one case.The authorities, including our town council, turn a blind eye to the squalor this causes.I have spent many hours over the past two years trying to get Oxfordshire’s public non-services to do something about this situation to no avail. I finally referred this to the local government ombudsman without result.Yet there is a very simple solution to this problem which lies in the hands of our council: all they have to do is to ask Oxfordshire County Council to deal with it. However, one of our mayors recently dismissed this proposal.The position of councillors in both Henley and elsewhere may be surmised. Thames Valley Police can also prosecute the dumping of vehicles on the verge. They did so on Mayfair in Reading about a year ago but they will not do so in Henley.South Oxfordshire District Council too refuses to deal with a wrecked van dumped here as being abandoned for at least three years (nearer at least to seven).The DVLA to which one can report abandoned vehicles was equally unresponsive.The law is very simple: “(1) It is the duty of the highway authority [Oxfordshire] to assert and protect the rights of the public to the use and enjoyment of any highway for which they are the highway authority, including any roadside waste [verge] which forms part of it.” (Highways Act 1980, section 130) “(2) Any council [e.g. Henley] may assert and protect the rights of the public to the use and enjoyment of any highway in their area for which they are not the highway authority, including any roadside waste [verge] which forms part of it.”Any parking or dumping on a verge or footway (pavement) is an obstruction under this law and under the Town Police Clauses Act. Neither the county nor the police will enforce it.The residents of Fair Mile are to be congratulated on whatever they do to get their verges and paths kept so pristine. Perhaps they could advise us.How, for example, do they prevent travellers pulling on to their verges during the regatta? The two rights of way — the restricted byway and the footpath — do nothing to prevent this but the law could and perhaps does do so. — Yours faithfully,

David Parry
Greys Road,

Destructive red kites

Sir, — Your correspondent, A Raptor (alias V Gilson) asks where is the evidence that red kites are destroying our birds? Well, here it is.I live in a small block of flats astride the backwater of the Thames behind Marsh Lock and as such am privileged to be able to observe nature at close quarters.The kites are a regular feature round here, hovering menacingly over the nesting birds at the approach of spring. The lock-keeper has seen one take a young cygnet and I a baby coot.On a couple of occasions this week one was chased away by a couple of angry crows when it approached their treetop nest.And one day, as my husband and I were sitting outside, one suddenly swooped down to the steps of a mooring, where a couple of fledgling wagtails were being fed by their parents. Only our presence stopped it taking off with one.Experts always say that kites eat only carrion but since they were introduced in this area, the population of blue tits, sparrows and even ducks, coots and geese (though not a bad thing!) has rapidly decreased. — Yours faithfully,

Enid Light
Wargrave Road,

Why shouldn’t I feed birds?

Sir, — I have lived in the Henley area for more than 20 years.I have a very private, secluded garden. I have been feeding the birds in my garden over this time and always late in the afternoon. I have a bird table and buy proper bird seed. I have a bird bath so they have water.Recently red kites arrived and were swooping in and landing to get the food.We have many birds in our garden, robins, blackbirds, jackdaws, doves, magpies etc.When the kites landed, these birds were also around and the kites were never aggressive toward any of them. They were only here for a few minutes and left quickly.Recently a woman (who I do not know) came to my front door and asked me to please, please, stop feeding the birds.I should not feed birds bread, kites should not be fed and ducks should not be fed bread. I should go on the internet and educate myself! She said this was because her garden backed on to mine and her garden furniture was getting ruined by the bird droppings and food, so she could not sit out in her garden. I was not feeding them anywhere near her garden.I am at a loss for words. I cannot believe what some people complain about. I get cats coming in and leaving a mess but have never complained. There are a few farms very close to this area. There are all kinds of birds flying over and wildlife.I have had the RSPCA here because there was an injured fox in my garden and I tried to help it. I have had an injured hedgehog which I took to the vet. I try to look after the  wildlife.I cannot understand some people. — Yours faithfully,

Barbara Van
Crescent Place,

At last, some swifts appear

Sir, — With reference to my letter about the non-sighting of swifts (Standard, June 12), on Wednesday last week, while enjoying a cup of tea in the conservatory with my son David, three — yes, just three, were flying overhead.While this is a very small number for swifts, they were probably this year’s young from a little further afield. It was none the less a pleasing sight.There may be more about near Peppard. I hope so. — Yours faithfully,

Fred Harris
Chiltern Bank,
Peppard Common

Send in your favourites...

Sir, — So, Sunday mornings... You slowly start waking? one eye, then another? why didn’t the alarm go off? I am going to be late, I’ve missed the train? panic sets in? then you realise, it’s Sunday.

Perhaps the kids are already playing on their electronic toys and gadgets, oblivious to the calls for a late breakfast?the dogs are staring up at you, mournfully and sad-faced, as if they hadn’t eaten for weeks.

The realisation that you are not bound by any deadlines, expectations of spreadsheet deliveries, meetings and emails somehow brings a hidden smile. It’s Sunday.The radio hums to Steve Wright’s Love Songs and the ladies seem to gaze far into the distance, somewhat wistfully. Enough of that, let’s see what is happening in the real world. Radio 4... you have missed the weather forecast and Sunday Worship but suddenly a vocal reminder for Desert Island Discs, featuring a well-known actor, politician, reformed despot or former newsreader, interrupts and you feel cheated — “why can’t I let the nation hear MY favourite eight tunes?”.

Well, now you can, via Temple Island Discs, or TIDs. Yes, it is possibly violating a copyright somewhere but we think it is worth it — let’s free those tracks and earworms across the town.

Choose your eight pieces of music, a book and a luxury item? it will change your life — and possibly not in a good way as I found when trying to select eight tracks from thousands. Good luck to you all.

Here are my choices:Edward Elgar (1857-1934) — Benedictus; Biffy Clyro — Biblical; Genesis — Carpet Crawlers 1999; Green Day — Wake Me Up When September Ends; Keane — Bedshaped; Icicle Works — Out Of Season; Kraftwerk — Radioactivity; Yes — Sunrise. (One disc to save from the waves: Yes — Sunrise). Book — The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Luxury item — A gin still. — Yours faithfully,

Nick Jones

Henley Editor’s comment: “Please send in your Temple Island Discs — eight pieces of music, a book and a luxury item. I’ll be happy to publish them each week as they come in.”

My brilliant birthday trip Sir, — I had such a brilliant time aboard the New Orleans on a lovely June evening in Henley recently, celebrating my birthday with family and friends.

The event was organised by Jonathan Hobbs to raise money for the Nepalese disaster fund.To this end I would like to thank Jonathan, his staff, Otto Stromfelt the chef, who presented us with a well-received traditional Nepalese meal, and the Tom Michell Trio plus accompanying musicians for making it a night to remember for me personally and, I am sure, for others aboard that evening.

Hopefully a good amount of money was raised for such a good cause. — Yours faithfully,

James Watkins
Sonning Common

Annoying aeroplanes

Sir, — While grateful to the many local pilots who, on a daily basis, give up their valuable time to demonstrate how successful they are to be able to afford an aeroplane and how clever they are to be able to fly it aerobatically, it would be selfish of me not to suggest that they share their wonderful skills with a wider audience and not display only over my house. — Yours faithfully,

Martin Hoare
Address supplied

Laid back swan resting his long neck

Sir, — You might like this photograph with a difference. It combines the beauty of a daisy-filled riverside meadow with that of a wary male swan resting in such a manner as to add a touch of humour to this view.

If only I could think of a more suitable caption than “laid back male swan”, which is what I came up with at the time. “Well, it’s hard work holding up this neck all the time,” the swan might be saying.

I’m sure other readers might do better. — Yours faithfully, Roy Cooke
Northfield End, Henley

Memories of the old water company

Sir, — Your recent Hidden Henley item about the Henley-on-Thames Water Company Ltd reminded me of some of photographs that I have, including this one.

If anyone has more information about any of the employees in the picture, I would be delighted to hear from them via the Henley Standard. — Yours faithfully,

Lewis Every
Swiss Farm,

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