Saturday, 31 July 2021

Your letters

MP should be engaged

MP should be engaged

Sir, — Your correspondent Angie Paterson misses the point (Standard, July 25).

No one expects John Howell MP to be in two places at once (though one suspects that Boris would have made a fist of it).

The issue is his apparent lack of engagement, nay leadership, with the Townlands dilemma.

One suspects he is in favour of the ambulatory care model or his masters at Conservative Party headquarters have told him to be in favour of it. That‘s okay, everyone is entitled to an opinion.

However, Townlands has a catchment of 90,000 people. Many of these are John Howell‘s constituents. They don‘t want to have to go to Abingdon, Wallingford or Witney.

It seems he has two options:

Use his authority as MP to persuade his constituents that everything will be all right.

Persuade the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group that the community has a point.

Sitting down a rabbit hole and hoping it‘ll all have blown over by the time of the next election might work, but let‘s hope it won‘t. — Yours  faithfully,

Dick Fletcher

Mill End,


Show some leadership

Sir, — May we urge John Howell MP to show some leadership in support of the Townlands campaign?

Surely he owes it to his constituents to lead the charge by putting across the case at Prime Minister‘s Questions, lobbying Jeremy Hunt and delivering the petition to Downing Street.

The questionnaire from the commissioning group was a travesty and omitted the key question.

Yes, everyone wants to return home after a stay in hospital but there was no reference to the need for a stepping stone along the way as has always been provided by Townlands. Bed-blocking at the hospitals can only increase under the proposed “solution“.

Sadly, there is a growing belief that Mr Howell is afraid to stand up publicly and support the Save Our Beds campaign.

It seems that he does not wish to “rock the boat“ with the political hierarchy at Westminster or in the NHS policy-making groups.

We have long supported the campaign for Townlands, starting in the days when Terry Buckett, our dear postman, led the earlier campaign.

We took part in the recent march and noticed that Mr Howell‘s body language during the speeches afterwards caused many comments among the crowd. No wonder that there were cries of “what are you going to do, John?“

Others were saying if only we had someone with guts like Boris to support usâ?¦ — Yours faithfully,

James McConville



What else is he doing?

Sir, — Ms Paterson gives a good account of the activities of our MP in Parliament (Standard, July 24). This information can readily be found at www.theyworkfor

All that is needed is to type in the appropriate postcode.

Unfortunately, it gives no information about the MP‘s other activities! — Yours faithfully,

A I Tiffin

Northfield End,


My lobbying has worked

Sir, — The issue of Townlands Hospital is actually very straightforward. It is this: what is in the best healthcare interests of the people of the area and how can it be provided? It is not a party political issue. The Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group has a view of what that provision should be. Others have a different view based on what was originally proposed.

The commissioning group has so far failed to get across its view in a way which many find convincing.However, talking to the commissioning group gains more than not talking to it and I will continue to do so, as I have been most recently since the arrival of the new chief executive David Smith and since Sue Ryder withdrew from the development.

For example, I wrote to the commissioning group setting out some key concerns. Its response is not fully satisfactory but it has teased out additional information.So I will continue to have regular meetings with the commissioning group and question issues just as I will continue my meetings with local GPs.What is the role of an MP in this situation? The decision lies with the commissioning group and I am not part of that organisation. Nor was I involved in the development of the Townlands model.

However, without my involvement there would have been no consultation on this project — consultation which rightly took place between the commissioning group and residents whose voices stand in their own right. They did not need me present to make their views known.Given the amount of time I spend with local people in Henley, I am of course aware of public opinion, particularly one that matches my own  concerns.

The issue of Townlands Hospital remains at the forefront. It is important for the people of this constituency and our near neighbours.So I will continue to meet with the commissioning group and to ask searching questions. I will continue to meet with local GPs and others and to ask searching questions.

But I will leave the commissioning group to consult with the people of the town and not stand between them.Doing all this is what has led to the exposé of the current issues and the response from the commissioning group which so far no one else has been able to get. I will continue to press for the integration of the NHS and social care which is an important part of our healthcare provision.

An MP is there to represent the interests of his constituents, not their views. I shall, therefore, continue to work for the best healthcare interests of the people of this constituency.That is why I am arranging to visit one of the hospitals that has already adopted a model similar to that proposed by the commissioning group to see how it works and what problems local people had.

I am interested in how the model works as a whole, not in relation to only one aspect of it.To that end, I was pleased that the group‘s board papers reveal how, as a result of the representations I have made, the rapid access care unit will now be open and available a full seven days a week rather than the three days proposed.

I was pleased to have elicited further discussion and engagement on the ambulatory care model about which we all have concerns. I was pleased to see that I had managed to obtain more time to discuss a much firmer transition plan being in place.

In short, I was pleased that the recommendation made to the board followed my suggestion “that further work is required to give the governing body full assurance on a number of areas raised as part of the consultation“.Leadership in this matter is represented by getting the best result possible for the healthcare interests of the people of Henley and the surrounding area, not by slavishly following a particular mantra.More is going to be achieved by patient, diplomatic effort to reach the best possible solution in the best interests of local people, as I have already shown, and I shall continue to follow this line. — Yours faithfully,

John Howell MP

House of Commons,


Invitation to dump clothes

Sir, — I was very disappointed to read in the latest edition of South Oxfordshire District Council‘s magazine Outlook that a decision has been made to start a kerbside collection of textiles.

Although the article contains a caveat requesting that good quality clothes be taken to a charity shop or placed in a charity bag I am fairly certain that in the majority of cases the latter will not happen. The opportunity to dump textiles at the kerb will be an invitation to do so.On the whole donations to charity shops or charity bins have not been sorted by the owner, who expects the recipient to do that.

Witness the heaps of black bags left outside charity shops despite repeated exhortations not to do so and the bags left in the elements for days if the charity bin is full. I believe this is an ill- thought out plan and will have a detrimental effect on our Christian Community Action charity shop and the three national charities that Sonning Common residents support through our charity bin system. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Chrissie Phillips-Tilbury

Sonning Common Parish Council

A South Oxfordshire District Council spokeswoman responds:

ldquo;We have no intention of collecting usable textiles as part of our new service as it‘s entirely aimed at clothes or materials that can‘t be re-used.

“ We‘ll make that abundantly clear in all our publicity about the service when it launches later this summer.

“We‘ll flag up any opportunities for people to donate to local charities and make sure that‘s marketed as the main resource for clothes and textiles in decent condition.“

The service isn‘t compulsory and simply offers an additional service to residents if they want to use it.“

Expensive answer

Sir, — So, Henley Town Council has spent £50,000 on a survey which reveals that an increase in the number of new homes will mean an increase in traffic (Standard, July 24).

Next time the council wants a report from the Department of Stating the Obvious, I will be able to do it for £25,000 and be able to write the report in about 30 minutes. — Yours faithfully,

James deJode

St Andrew‘s Road,


My Meldrew moment

Sir, — I was, and remain, a keen supporter of the skateboard park in Sonning Common and am delighted that the youth of the village feel that they have somewhere else to socialise aside from the salubrious delights of the One Stop shop.

The majority are extremely pleasant and help my own young children to feel welcome and to gain confidence with their own scooters. Of course, there will always be some who would prefer to graffiti the site, leave litter and set fire to it.

Unfortunately, “grumpy old man syndrome“ seized hold of me soon after the incident of arson that took place last week in the field which provides access to the park.This came close to destroying my garden and possibly my house. I found myself muttering grumpily to myself that this would not have happened if it was not for that wretched skateboard park and the surge in the numbers of teenagers who walk across the field. Mercifully, I have recovered from this unforgivable and rash display of dark cynicism and have returned to my usual jovial self. — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Winpenn

yOrchard Avenue,

Sonning Common

Impartial on speed limit

Sir, — I write in connection with the article regarding the proposed 20mph speed limit in Shiplake (Standard, July 17).I am concerned that the article wrongly gave the impression that the speed limit is being imposed on Shiplake by Oxfordshire County Council

.Throughout the process, I have made it clear that my role as county councillor in this matter has been that of facilitator and my view on the speed limit is neutral. This view is shared by the cabinet member who made the final decision.The proposal arose out of the Shiplake Village Plan that was produced by residents and backed by Shiplake Parish Council. It is the intention of the county council to give local people the power to make the decision and it is most certainly not being imposed on the village by the county council.Residents will have a further opportunity to make their views known to Shiplake Parish Council when it meets on September 14 to vote on whether or not to fund the scheme. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor David  Bartholomew

Oxfordshire County Council

Sonning Common division, including Shiplake

Path should remain open

Sir, — The Thames Traditional Boat Festival took money from many people by charging them to proceed along a highway.

A right of way is a highway in the Highways Act of 1980 and no one may be obstructed or charged for going along it. The rally organisers erected a tent across the footpath at the kissing gate beside Phyllis Court Club‘s fence and were charging the public £12 a head “for entry“, when people had every right to proceed free of “let or hindrance“, i.e. free of charge. No doubt, over the two days, they collected several thousand pounds in this way.

Henley Royal Regatta owns Fawley Meadow. The footpath Henley 14 goes from Marlow Road to the footbridge at Fawley Court, across two meadows and in two counties. — Yours  faithfully,

David Parry

Greys Road,


Lady McAlpine, festival president, responds:

“During the recent very successful 36th Thames Traditional Boat Festival there was only one jarring note other than the sad engine fire on Bluebird but I think it is worthy of mention in your paper as such matters can escalate.

We had, as every other year, a tent which sheltered our admission staff and therefore anyone walking along the footpath from Henley. Naturally, the tent did not in any way impede anyone‘s progress through the gate on to Fawley Meadow: it was just there in case of rain.

However, a man who did not give his name insisted on standing in the tent, telling all who came that there was no need for them to pay to enter the festival as they were on a public right of way. He was abusive to the young girls selling tickets and he was, of course, wrong. If people wished to enjoy the festival, it was only proper that they should pay the same entry fee as those entering at the other gate from the car park. The man made the mistake of assuming that all who were entering on foot from Henley were there simply to walk on the designated footpath. Those who assured us that this was their intention were escorted over the private land the footpath crossed and our security personnel kept an eye out to see that they were indeed just making their way along the footpath. If I or my fellow committee members spotted people around the festival site who were not wearing wristbands, we politely asked “why?“ Some were embarrassed and said that they had only intended walking along the footpath but that there was so much to see and do that they had deviated. They then offered to buy tickets. Only one person was actually rude and lied!

Organising events on land crossed by footpaths is always a problem and is usually solved by temporary closure or re-routing but for 35 years this committee has managed it with grace and common sense and had no complaints. It would be sad if, because of this one misguided man, we were forced to go to the trouble of trying to re-route the footpath for the three days of a festival which, as your paper has demonstrated, gives an enormous amount of pleasure to a huge number of people. It costs a lot to put on but if we manage to make a profit next year, naturally that profit will be given to local charities. All we need is good weather!”

Let‘s focus on the future

Sir, — On the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain I was intrigued by the idea that we need a “Beatle of Henley“ Memorial Garden and left wondering are the “Mop Tops“ more important than “Brylcreem Boys“?There are similarities. George Harrison was outnumbered and outgunned in 1960 against the superior forces of Lennon and McCartney, n the same way the RAF was against the Luftwaffe in 1940 and, like the RAF, he triumphed in the end, with the first and last post-Beatles No 1 albums.George lived in various different places during his life and after he died in Los Angeles, his ashes were scattered on the Ganges, not the Thames. So George can hardly be celebrated as a Henley man.

The Concert for George was performed in London, the George Harrison Memorial Garden‘opened in Hertfordshire and the George Harrison Tree was planted at Los Angeles‘s famous Griffith Observatory, although, ironically, this was later killed by beetles.

A cheesy copycat memorial garden is unlikely to compete with the 30 acre memorial in the centre of Henley called Friar Park. Although gated and locked, it draws fans from all over the world and offers a genuine experience that gets them close to their idol.I love George, “the quiet Beatle“, or “Silent Spice“ as he might have been labelled today. He was strong and gentle but he wasn‘t the messiah â?? and sometimes he was a very naughty boy! Even his premature death at 58, through smoking-related disease, is hardly a lifestyle model any of us want for our children. So perhaps the best way to remember George is to quietly listen to his music, watch the great films he financed and imitate his pioneering philanthropy.Most of us that live in Henley are not local traders looking to earn a living out of it. Henley is our home and many of us prefer it without hordes of tourists and traffic jams. We want clean air and facilities to help our families keep fit and enjoy our surroundings, not theme park attractions for the benefit of coffee shops and restaurant chains.George‘s first big album title All Things Must Pass suggests it‘s time to forget the past and focus on the future. We baby-boomers will all soon be gone and subsequent generations will barely remember Kylie, let alone the Fab Four. Who will remember or care that our island and its people were once seriously threatened by Nazi maniacs and saved by a few brave pilots?A tsunami of celebrity culture is sweeping away our traditional values and sense of individuality. Fame and money are the drugs, so little wonder we‘re discussing squeezing out the remains of poor George‘s memory instead of celebrating true unsung heroes. Perhaps George‘s final album title offers us a clueâ?¦ Brainwashed. — Yours faithfully,

Bob CrossHamilton Avenue,


Ready made memorial

Sir, — Surely the best memorial garden to George Harrison is the one he himself, and his team of gardeners, have already made at Friar Park.Sadly, but understandably, it is not open to the public but from what one has read and (occasionally glimpsed!) it is one of the best gardens in Britain. — Yours faithfully,Paul Willson

Pound Lane,


Musical memories

Sir, — Further to correspondence in recent editions of the Henley Standard, I offer you some of the songs from my youth which have remained with me ever since.

Chuck Berry — Johnny B Goode; Bob Dylan — Mr Tambourine Man; The Animals — House of the Rising Sun; The Sensational Alex Harvey Band — Faith Healer; Pink Floyd — Shine On You Crazy Diamond; Keith Jarrett — Koln Concert; Jefferson Airplane — White Rabbit; Derek and the Dominos — Layla (full length).

I would save Keith Jarrett from a fire.Book — The Collected Works of Robert Burns. Luxury — Sir William McAlpine‘s steam train, provided the desert island is big enough. — Yours  faithfully,

David Nimmo Smith

St Andrew‘s Road,


Sir, — I work for Hobbs of Henley and while crewing on the passenger boat

The New Orleans
the other night, I took this photograph with my phone. I thought it was a lovely sunset and made me realise what a lovely part of the world we live in. — Yours faithfully,

Ben Wiltshire


Revamped boat festival was triumph

Sir, — The newly launched Thames Traditional Boat Festival was a triumph beyond the wildest dreams of the committee.

We had at least 10,000 visitors, possibly more as a lot came by ferry and didn‘t pay entrance money! (Our fault as we were short-handed but will address this next year.)

We were so lucky with the weather, which probably helped to bring out the families but there were already a lot more boats than we expected and the Golden Ball pop-up restaurant was doing a roaring trade on Friday night despite the public not being allowed in until Saturday.

All the traders and exhibitors agreed that it was wonderfully busy and the atmosphere was truly festive. The committee has been inundated with congratulatory messages.

Of course. there is room for improvement — there always is — and this was a committee that, with the exception of its president (me), had no event organising experience.

So I think it was brilliant and bodes well for next year when “TradBoatFest“ will be even more fun for residents and visitors.

We will keep

Henley Standard
readers informed and cannot thank the newspaper enough for all your encouragement and publicity. — Yours faithfully,

Lady McAlpine

Fawley Hill

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