Sir, — John Howell’s case for ways of helping Syrian refugees is a sound one and I support it (Standard, September 11).
However, it appears that highly emotive photographs have triggered less than sensible approaches to the problem.
People offering to take total strangers into their homes do not seem to have considered the obvious risks of receiving people whose values and behaviour might be difficult to cope with, down to heavy smokers in a non-smoking household.
A small minority of refugees might be less than law-abiding. Would there be a vetting procedure? How long would they stay? Would there be an established process for moving on refugee guests at the date decided by the hosts?
In addition, there could well be implications for the host’s mortgage arrangements, council tax and home insurance.
Public reactions based purely on emotion can be hazardous.
Tom Clark’s efforts for the refugees at Calais stem from a kind heart but his rationale lacks dispassionate thought.
All the legitimate refugees there could have claimed asylum in any civilized country through which they travelled in order to reach Calais. They could now avoid the camp squalor by claiming asylum in France.
The fact is that they wish to choose their final asylum destination, not out of "desperation" but because they believe they would receive the best support in the UK.
The economic migrants at Calais have also chosen to be there in order to try to get over, knowing that asylum status is impossible.
A significant number of people in the camp are prepared to resort to criminal behaviour (from damaging fences and lorries to threatening drivers) in order to try to achieve entry to the UK.
One wonders how these might behave if they managed to get here and decided that they were not receiving what they expected.
The basic needs of the Calais refugees must be met but not in the context that they are "desperate" and have no choice but to remain there until they reach the UK. Yours faithfully,
Unhelpful and insulting
Sir, — I am assuming (kindly) that the purpose behind the letter from David Page (Standard, September 11) in which he quotes a poem he wrote in 2002 was to draw attention to the fact that, even after 13 years, words such as "now they stream in countless hordes onto our shore" and "trojan horse" are still being used today to denigrate and arouse fear and hatred for our fellow human beings.
How sad and no help in the present situation. — Yours faithfully,
My response to ignorance
Sir, — I must admit I was quite shocked at the harsh nature of your correspondent David Page’s poem Ode to the Sleeping Lion.
I have written a poem in response that I hope you will publish with equal enthusiasm. — Yours faithfully,
Ode to the Countless Hordes
And so again we have fallen into the arms of ignorance.
Celebrating the tribulations of our fellow brothers.
Instead, dare I beg, that we open our minds, our hearts, our doors
And in English camaraderie welcome the hordes
Who so desperately seek, as man, not leech,
Asylum in our bubble of content comfort.
More on kind Tom please
Sir, — I applaud your coverage of Tom Clark’s amazing campaign to provide aid for those in crisis.
However, could you kindly explain the recent "swarm" of Mike Read in the paper?
I’d imagine with the current situation regarding refugees, the last thing you’d be featuring would be a man who only recently wrote, performed and released a song supporting UKIP and its abhorrent policies, especially towards immigration.
So more of Tom and the great work by him and the good people of Henley please. — Yours faithfully,
Beware greedy developers
Sir, — I would like to suggest a country excursion to John Woolcock, a government planning inspector, when his duties permit.
I’d like to him to revisit Peppard Common and what was once the garden of Mulberry House.
Two years ago, in the teeth of local protests and the opposition of South Oxfordshire District Council, Mr Woolcock approved a development of two five-bedroom houses and one four-bedroom house on the site.
I’d like him to take a look at the fruits of his wisdom, looming over the olive green fence at the front with its absurd looping top. I wonder if he would feel pleased with himself.
A year after completion, the two bigger houses are still for sale. They are now with their third, possibly fourth, agent. No one wants them.
And why not? Because they are grotesquely oversized for the plots on which they stand and are squeezed against each other.
Why would anyone in their right mind wish to spend a million quid plus so he can watch his neighbour cleaning his teeth in his bathroom while he cleans his in his own?
Such developments have nothing to with meeting genuine need for homes and everything to do with the desire of landowners and developers to maximise profits.
People need to understand that this is what developers do if given the chance.
While paying lip service to housing needs, they will always endeavour to load a site with as many big houses as they can get away with because that is how they make the most money.
Villages like my own, Sonning Common, need two- and three-bedroom houses for young people to get on the housing ladder and for older people to downsize.
Developers often argue that they can’t make a viable profit with smaller houses but I do not believe them.
Sonning Common’s neighbourhood development plan puts the emphasis firmly on smaller houses.
After three-and-a-half years of work, the plan is at last nearing completion.
It will be put to a referendum next year and if the village gives it a resounding vote of support, the parish council will then have the power to rein in the developers so that they meet the real needs of our residents.
The simple fact is they are greedy and we need to watch out for them and for government planning inspectors like Mr Woolcock. — Yours faithfully,
Councillor Tom Fort
Sonning Common Parish Council,
Development isn’t so good
Sir, — So Rev Christopher Evans is looking forward to a "positive outcome" for his Watlington church hall plans (Standard, September 4).
But positive for whom exactly?
Certainly not for a nearby resident like me who faces for God knows (I use the term advisedly) how long noise disruption should the scheme go ahead as planned.
In contrast, hardly any of the parochial church council members in favour of the scheme would be in any way adversely affected by it.
Certainly not Rev Evans himself, whose rectory home is about as far from the church as it is possible to be in Watlington and, in any case, due to his forthcoming retirement to his native Wales, may well be a hundreds or so miles away when any work actually begins. The church stands to gain all the benefit and none of the associated disruption whereas I would receive no benefit whatsoever and would have to put up with all the noise. Not very fair when you think about it. — Yours faithfully,
One good neighbour...
Sir, — I write to express my extreme displeasure with the "exclusive" front page article written by your reporter who was in attendance at the recent meeting arranged by Remenham Parish Council where Charlotte Geeves, chief executive of Henley Festival, spoke and answered questions (Standard, September 11).
He mentioned my question about the amount of money the festival passes on to its music charity but he failed to mention my earlier question asking what financial contribution the festival made to the village itself in recognition of the immense disturbance directly attributable to the festival.
Sadly, Ms Geeves gave a very unsatisfactory answer and it would appear the festival gives nothing back whatsoever.
By comparison, Sir Steve Redgrave, chairman of Henley Royal Regatta, spoke at length and gave a very comprehensive talk emphasising the fact that during the event the major proportion of associated commercial activities take place on land neither controlled nor owned by the regatta and as a consequence it receives little or no benefit from these external operations, the significance of which wasn’t previously fully appreciated by the neighbourhood.
He was on his feet for well over an hour and answered the many questions in a most straightforward manner.
Suffice it to say that it became clear that the regatta has, in the past, given financial aid to Remenham parish hall and to Henley Cricket Club and continues to look favourably on being a "good neighbour". — Yours faithfully,
Don’t cut my bus service
Sir, — I write with reference to the recent news of possible bus service cuts in the Henley area.
I lived in Henley in rented accommodation but was forced to move because I ended up as a single person in a three-bedroom house.
I was offered a one-Â bedroom property in Rotherfield Greys, which I was not enthusiastic about as I cannot drive. Finding out that there was a bus service softened the blow.
After two years I have now settled and enjoyed living here. The last thing I need is for the buses to be removed.
I completely rely on this service to do my shopping, banking, attend medical appointments and visit friends and family.
These services are also for some people the only way they get to go out and about and meet people.
Strange as it may seem, there are those who don’t or can’t drive.
I would ask whoever makes the final decision to think very hard about the impact any cuts would have. — Yours faithfully,
Cuts hurting young victims
Sir, — Just as the Thames Valley’s non-NHS organisations are poised to provide specialist and holistic help for the ever-growing number of under 16-year-old victims of sexual abuse and/or rape, the Government intends to severely cut its funding of these services.
That is why I am organising a petition calling for more NHS funding/services for such victims.
I will be in town centres collecting signatures so if you see me please stop and sign the petition. Our troubled teens and pre-teens deserve no less from us. —Yours faithfully,
Park benches need replacing
Sir, — The contractors continue to do a grand job maintaining Station Park in Henley but the benches by the town map board are in a very poor state indeed and need replacing. — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — Among the many good things at Henley Show on Saturday, one event was outstanding.
The parade of tractors from their earliest inventions to the giants that provide our food today was a veritable farmyard ballet, choreographed with considerable skill and performed to perfection by all the drivers.
Congratulations are due to all of them and to the commentator for his informative explanations.
Well done, Henley Show, for mounting such an interesting event. — Yours faithfully,
Collection for greyhounds
Sir, — I held a street collection on behalf of Greyhound Rescue West of England in Henley market place on Sunday, August 2 and raised the sum of £231.35.
Every penny will go to the charity, which aims to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome greyhounds and lurchers. GRWE’s volunteers are active in the area. For homing offers or to volunteer, call 07000 785092 or visit www.grwe.com — Yours faithfully,
Watch world cup with us
Sir, — The excitement surrounding the rugby world cup is building and what better place to watch and enjoy the proceedings than at Dry Leas, home of your local club, Henley Rugby Football Club, and the mighty Hawks?
There is the big screen, reserved seating, drinks offers, great food and table service.
The opening ceremony is tonight (Friday) at 6.45pm followed by the first England game against Fiji, which kicks off at 8pm. We hope to see you there. — Yours faithfully,
Chairman, Henley Rugby Football Club,
Sir, — I had to buy a new toilet seat the other day (don’t ask). The slogan featured on the packaging of one seat caught my eye.
In a roundel on the left it said: "Now with no slip bottom fixings." — Yours faithfully,
Do you know this butterfly?
Sir, — I had to consult my
I-Spy butterfly book to identify this one, taken under the porch. Many readers will know it, I’m sure. — Yours faithfully,
Editor’s comment: "In case, like me, you didn’t know the answer, it is a speckled wood (pararge aegeria)."