Saturday, 31 July 2021

Your letters

Think of the community

Think of the community

Sir, — The dispute between Rotherfield United Football Club at Bishopswood and Sonning Common Parish Council with regard to the skate park aptly illustrates the major divide between the two (Standard, September 25).

The Sonning Common village community, headed by a proactive, efficient, democratic, hard-working and caring parish council is — in every sense of the word — community-minded.The same cannot be said for the football club in the light of its petty response to the parish council’s well founded and supported request regarding the replacement of just one padlock with a fourth combination lock on the gate at the access in Gallowstree Road to allow speed and ease of access to the sites in case of an emergency. The Sonning Common skate park committee has done an incredible job over a period of 30 months to get the skate park funded, designed and built.

At every stage of the enterprise there have been consultation opportunities for both the public and the youth for whom the facility has been put in place.Indeed, the young people helped with the design and are now enjoying the fruits of this intensive undertaking. It was with great alarm and disbelief that I read of the difficulties now being perpetrated by the club in response to what appears to be a perfectly well reasoned and sensible request by the council with regard to facilitating access to the site in the case of emergencies.The objection, as I understand it, seems to rest on very shaky ground. (Excuse the pun.) In the light of the comments made by David Hamer, community liaison officer at the South Central Ambulance Service, who supports the request for the exchange of a padlock for another combination lock, such a minor change “would be in both parties’ interests due to ease of opening and for resecuring the site”.

Surely there are issues here of possible negligence towards all users of the area, both those attending the football club and those using the skate park, if emergency vehicles cannot access the grounds at speed? Many of the public who take an interest in sport must be aware that there have been footballers experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, let alone injuries needing swift medical attention, so there are recognised risks associated with the sport.



There is an obvious duty of care that those involved with any possible risk to the public must do their best to fulfil, isn’t there? This is what the council is trying to ensure in respect of the skate park. There is no excuse for this request to be refused any longer.I sincerely hope and trust that the club does not wait for a major catastrophy to occur before it realises that its intransigent attitude has threatened someone’s wellbeing or, possibly, even a life. The incredibly petty business of wanting to charge the council an exorbitant rent of £2,000 for the (inadvertent) extra 50sq m of ground incorporated into the skate park area is pure greed.The club couldn’t use this insignificant area for anything useful anyway.

Again their argument seems to be pure bloody mindedness and very uncommunity-minded, the complete opposite of all that the council and skate park stand for. Come on, Rotherfield United FC, you are a sports club, where’s your fair play? You should be showing your members how to settle disputes amicably and leading the way — isn’t that what sport is meant to be about? Is there a referee out there anywhere? — Yours faithfully,

Margaret Moola

Sedgefield Close,

Sonning Common



Don’t be seen as bad guy

Sir, — I write with reference to the article about the dispute between Sonning Common Parish Council and Rotherfield United Football Club over emergency access to the new skate park.What on earth is the club thinking about, denying a combination lock on the gate to let there be emergency access to the skate park? There appear to be other issues that are upsetting them but the dispute over the size of the skate park or whether it is visually attractive is not my concern nor is the possible damage to the turf.

But denying emergency access is totally irresponsible. Why do they want to be seen as the bad guy? Surely the club and the council are both singing from the same song sheet, to try to get the youth of Sonning Common to put down their hi-tech gadgets for a while to get active and fit? Football is not for everyone and the skate park provides a wonderful alternative.As with all sports, accidents can happen and unfortunately some can be serious so prompt emergency access is essential. Without it the skate park may be unable to  continue.To the best of my knowledge there is no legislation, encumbrance or sign to say that local people are not allowed to walk/jog around the edge of this lovely area and many, including me, do. We really do appreciate being able to do this.However, I now realise that we are all at risk of not being able to receive help should we need it.

I think that the skate park is an amazing, much-needed facility for the young people of the village. I love seeing them exercising while having such fun and congratulate all those concerned in making it  possible.Please, Rotherfield United Football Club, come to your senses and let it continue. — Yours faithfully, Val Lunn Churchill Crescent, Sonning Common Unacceptable attitude Sir, — You will no doubt be aware of the success of Sonning Common Parish Council in fulfilling an eight-year ambition to create a successful skate park in our village.This has probably been our biggest project in 60 years and is, as is very much parish council policy, a youth and village-orientated project. Our youth are our future and we believe in them. The land on which the skate park was built is part of Rotherfield United Football Club, a private organisation charging membership fees, which acquired the site with an emergency grant of many thousands of pounds of public funding from the parish council on the understanding that a small corner of the site would be available for a free-to-use public facility for the residents of Sonning Common. Subsequently, with the agreement of the then management of the club, a plot was agreed and correctly marked out for the council to build the skate park on and which included access rights for maintenance and the emergency services should there ever be an incident requiring medical assistance. It now appears that a new management team at the club not only disputes the position of the skate park but is also denying access by emergency services by refusing to agree to sensible and practical arrangements for an emergency ambulance to access the site without a key holder being available (Standard, September 25).In the light of the “golden hour” for medical assistance this is totally unacceptable.

For an organisation which purports to support safe physical youth sports this attitude is of concern to many parents and raises the question as to whether the club is a suitable organisation to mentor young persons. If any skate park user suffers from delayed or denied medical assistance due to the intransigence of the club then the fault lies entirely at the club management’s door. Sonning Common’s young people and their parents, and indeed many residents of all ages, have supported the skate park project to the highest degree so it now falls upon the club to de-isolate themselves from the community into which they have inserted themselves after leaving their previous location. Demanding further public funding from the council before further negotiations can occur will in all probability be denied. I hope so anyway. I speak with no permitted authority of the council, but I believe it is now time the truth is spoken in public. We owe it to our young people. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Dirk Jones

Sonning Common Parish Council,

Kennylands Road,

Sonning Common



Rotherfield United Football Club committee responds: “Bishopswood sporst ground is owned by the club and is private land. However, we allow it to be used by the local community for recreation of all types and dog walking.“The cost of upkeep at the site is significant in terms of marking pitches, grass cutting, cleaning up after use by local people and maintaining fencing and this is entirely born by our members with no contribution from the local community in spite of the value that it gains from having access to these facilities.“

Our facilities are essential for the children at the club to play and improve their football skills and so the security of the site is essential. We have had a number of incidents, such as scrambling bikes damaging pitches, break-ins to our changing facilities and abusive behaviour by adults and children alike from the local community.“

For these reasons security at the site is paramount, especially after there have been incursions on other local sports grounds by travellers. To this end we installed a high security padlock system at the site a number of years ago and Sonning Common Parish Council was fully aware of this.“Earlier this year, the club transferred a parcel of land at the corner of its site to the council which was to be used for the construction of a community skate park.“

This was done in good faith but, to our surprise, during the construction process we discovered that the skate park was in fact being built in the wrong place and was significantly encroaching on our land.“This boundary issue was caused by poor oversight by the council and despite a notice to stop work until a formal agreement had been agreed the council carried on regardless. To date there has not been a single formal written offer of compensation from the council, although there have been plenty of verbal ones, none of which has been honoured.“The council has drawn up revised plans but the club has yet to accept them based on the fact that there has been no formal offer and that the plans do not actually represent what exists at the park.“

During the land transfer process it was arranged that the council would get round the clock access to their site, which we have done by giving them the keys to our expensive high security padlock system and all the combination codes.“This is covered in the transfer deeds as emergency access rights. This term means access of the landowner to their site at whatever time they wish, which we have fulfilled.“

The dispute over locks on the main gates arose after the skate park was constructed with the council apparently happy with our padlock system up until then. “According to conversations we have had with the emergency services, they are not insisting that the club changes the locks and indeed don’t see that as their role.“Ambulance staff arriving at a scene obtain access, if needed, with bolt cutters or use the air ambulance and presumably the same would happen here. Indeed it’s unlikely that a 5.5 tonne ambulance would even make it down to the skate park since there is no road access and the ground becomes very boggy in the autumn, winter and spring.“

The council would have realised this had it done a full risk assessment of the skatepark before it was constructed.“In our view the council rushed the construction of the skate park with no thought to access to the site by emergency vehicles until after it was open to the public.“There are hundreds of gated access points to fields, allotments and open ground across our region and none of the locks for these has keys or combination codes deposited with the ambulance control room, so why should our land be any different? “We hope that, rather than vilify the football club at public meetings perhaps to divert the attention from its own shortcomings, the council will work with us to ensure that the club continues to flourish and develop for the benefit of all the community.”



Dire warning on pollution

Sir, — An excellent talk was given at the last Café Scientifique meeting in Henley by Andrew Grieve, a senior air quality analyst from King’s College, London, who provided lots of interesting background to the UK’s air pollution problem.

There are several points that I would like to bring to the attention of readers who might not be aware of the serious pollution problem that exists in Henley town centre.Apologies for the length of the letter and the jargon but this is the only way to do justice to this issue.

Air quality has been monitored in Henley since 1998 and results have shown that annual mean levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) regularly exceed national and EU target levels, currently 40 micrograms per cubic metre.Because of this Henley was declared an air quality management area by South Oxfordshire District Council in 2002 and regular action plans have been produced.In fact, there has been very little action apart from the Scoot traffic lights system, which was introduced in 2006 to try to smooth the flow of traffic through the town.This didn’t help the pollution problem — it was found that levels of NOx continued to rise.

Unfortunately, NOx is not the only pollutant. Particulate matter now affects more people than any other pollutant and it is produced primarily by diesel vehicles.

Things have improved in that the black “smoke” from diesel engines is no longer seen. However, the most health-damaging particles are those not visible to the naked eye, having a diameter of 10 microns or less which can penetrate and lodge deep inside the lungs.

Government reports have estimated that there are likely to be more than 50,000 premature deaths from air pollution in the UK, more than 29,000 due to particulates and more than 23,000 from NOx.One in 20 deaths in Oxfordshire has been linked to air pollution, according to government figures.Andrew added more detail to these shocking statistics:

• The very young and the elderly are the most vulnerable.l Counter to expectations, in busy streets the most vulnerable are not pedestrians nor cyclists but car users because there can be a build-up of polluted air inside the car.

• There is a danger in setting a target figure which can be seen as a safe level. It would be better to set a target for progressively reducing levels by, say, 20 per cent in successive five-year periods.

• Particulate matter is different from NOx in that it persists in the environment. NOx will be washed out by rain (acid rain), particulate matter isn’t. Larger matter will settle on the ground but be blown into the air by the next wind. Very small particles will be spread around a region, raising the general background level.

At the elections in May, both Henley Residents’ Group and the Conservatives pledged to tackle the problem of pollution in our town centre.“

We will work with all layers of government to really resolve the air pollution problem — we won’t just talk about it, we will do it,” (Henley Conservatives’ Facebook page, May 4).There are many things that can be done as outlined in the district council’s action plans of 2007 and 2014 or Henley in Transition’s “Towards a Henley Transport Strategy”.

There is no shortage of ideas, just the political will to make them happen. All local politicians now need to work together to address this problem as a matter of urgency. — Yours faithfully,

Dave McEwen

Church Street,

Henley



Diesel is the real enemy

Sir, — Last week, Café Scientifique Henley hosted the perfect subject: air pollution.

On the very day that the Volkswagen chief executive resigned and our presenter Andrew Grieve, of King’s  College, London, was featured on Channel 4 News, an audience of 70 listened in some disbelief and discussed the story of VW and government deception.King’s College are the  scientific advisors to the government policy unit and have known for some time about the difference between  testing and actual measurements.

Diesel, about half of the UK market, emits invisible particulates that seriously damage lungs of children and lead to premature death in older age. This is similar to the passive smoking scenario but this time you cannot see it.Particulates do not readily disappear either as when they settle on roads the next car or HGV along can easily recycle them.Studies show children are vulnerable if they are in pushchairs, or inside cars in traffic and outside schools. Even if you don’t drive a diesel but follow one, you are susceptible. An extremely black filter from a roadside monitor was passed around for all to see.In Henley, we have been an air quality management area since 2002 but local, district and county councillors have achieved nothing.The requested ban on diesel heavy goods vehicles travelling through Henley is being pushed to one side in both the neighbourhood plan and the transport study.

What is really needed is a ban on diesel vehicles in the town and its car parks otherwise the viability of building an extra 450 homes in Henley should be questioned.European law gives us the right to breathe clean air. — Yours faithfully,

David Dickie

St Katherine’s Road,

Henley



Short-sighted cost cutting

Sir, — In 2012 Henley Town Council decided to spend £50,000 on a neighbourhood plan so that Henley residents could have a voice in what happens in our town.

This was an excellent decision but we didn’t expect it to cost £113,000.In addition the transport study alone has cost an extra £50,000, resulting in a total bill of £163,000.

Although an extra consultation and redraft cycle was needed when extra possible sites came forward, the finance committee noted a report this month which showed the extra cycle had cost an extra £21,500. That makes a total of £81,500, so where has the balance of £31,500 gone? It has certainly not been helped by the excessive costs in certain areas. The cost of the initial public opinion day in 2012 was an unbelievable £10,000.

As chairman of finance at the time, I questioned this with the chairman of the neighbourhood plan governance committee but the response was to give the committee delegated powers to authorise expenditure without further scrutiny! One thing everyone in Henley agrees on is that transport (especially congestion and parking) is a massive problem.

Yet Councillor Will Hamilton boasts (Standard, September 25) about the cost savings of not including the transport study results in the submitted plan.

It is the height of foolish, short-sighted cost cutting to commission a much-needed study and then to cripple the plan by excluding its conclusions. Henley and our neighbourhood plan needs the transport study. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Ian Reissmann

Henley Town Council,

Gainsborough Road,

Henley



We didn’t agree this

Sir, — I note the Oxford Clinical Commissioning Group’s governing body has approved plans for an expanded range of services and a new model of care at the new Townlands “health campus”.

It decided for the citizens of Henley that:

• They do not need a “hospital” but a “clinic”.

• When in need of an overnight hospital bed, it will be provided in a private care home. So the commissioning group started negotiations with the citizens of Henley by saying “no beds” and “no weekend facilities” and dresses up its unilateral decision as a “concession” or “compromise” that in fact “grants” them a private hospital and a 24-hour, 24/7 clinic with maybe two doctors’ surgeries on top.

I think the citizens of Henley consider that a proper and diligent reading of the evidence suggests that Henley needs a public hospital run by the NHS and that the commissioning group could not reasonably have reached the decision it did.

The community supported planning permission for a new hospital but it seems we were deceived as the commissioning group is proposing to use it in a way for which it was not designed, in breach of that permission.I await notice of a retrospective application for planning permission for clinic use. Maybe the commissioning group is judge and jury in that decision as well but I doubt it. — Yours faithfully,

Richard W Moyle

Harpsden



Keep waste centre open

Sir, — Will you please urge your readers to prevail upon Oxfordshire County Council to, for once, use just a modicum of common sense and keep Oakley Wood household recycling centre open? They say closing three or four centres across the county will save about £350,000, which is a minute part of their budget and will be swallowed up by the need to employ workers to clear up the waste created by fly-tipping which, I regret to say, will surely happen. People should register their opposition before October 5 by visiting the council’s website, www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/waste

This assumes that the council will have switched on its computer which was “unavailable” all last weekend. Maybe it was another hair-brained cost-cutting decision! — Yours faithfully,

Terry Allsop

Ewelme



Going above and beyond

Sir, — I’m glad that the role of Henley town centre manager could be made full-time (Standard, September 18).After moving to Henley three years ago to take up my role as Brakspear marketing manager, Peter McConnell was one of the most important and influential people I met.

I was very disappointed to hear he was leaving for pastures new. He worked tirelessly to improve all Henley had to offer.With that in mind, I wanted to point out that although your article stated he worked 18½ hours per week and was paid £16,000 a year, he worked far more and frequently and had meetings with me and others to discuss things we were working on, on days that weren’t his official working days.

The article should have read that he was contracted to work 18½ hours rather than he worked those hours.

The town got a lot more of Peter’s time than just his contracted hours. A small but important fact I wanted to point out. — Yours faithfully,

Emma Sweet

Marketing Manager,

Brakspear,

Bell Street,

Henley



Money was not wasted

Sir, — In response to your correspondent K C Bushnell’s letter headlined “Money wasted on bus stops” (Standard, September 25), the 239 Courtney Buses service, which travels between Maidenhead and Henley via Remenham Hill, is an important service to local residents.The funding used to provide the bus stops was provided by developer contributions and the works were undertaken at the same time as a local safety scheme to make the most effective use of resources. — Yours  faithfully,

Councillor

John Halsall

Executive member for planning and highways,

Wokingham Borough Council



In defence of our town

Sir, — I felt I must respond to Lucy Cavendish’s rather ill-informed column in The  Telegraph. Blue-rinsed brigade? Lack of Labour voters? Oh dear, you do not know your politics. It will no doubt surprise her to learn that I am the first elected Conservative Mayor of Henley in 12 years.The political party formerly in control of the town council was the Henley Residents’ Group. I think, Ms Cavendish, you have been out of touch too long. The skate park was not shut down for safety reasons it was partly dismantled. We look forward to the imminent building of the new skate park in Henley. Not such an elderly population after all! Quinoa? It’s available in my coffee shop with black rice and ginger. A spot of spiritual healing? Take a lunchtime slot at the Be Well Centre. Most of your comments were about events which took place several years ago. I have lived here happily for 25 years, having moved down from Sheffield.

I am sure Russell Brand knows exactly what he is doing in moving to a vibrant, beautiful town with a diverse population. — Yours  faithfully,

Councillor Lorraine Hillier

Mayor of Henley



Heavenly comparison

Sir, — In commenting on Lucy Cavendish’s article, all I will say is if Henley is compared to Heaven, bring it on.

The only drawback would be that all the young people that we see milling around in town should not yet be there. — Yours faithfully, Lene de Wesselow Rupert Close, Henley Thanks for generosity Sir, — The Henley Volunteer Drivers (Bureau) held a street collection in Henley on September 17 and raised £337.

We are very grateful to the people of Henley for their generosity.This collection enabled us to promote the driving service that we offer and, most importantly, help to recruit much-needed new drivers (call 01491 572923 if interested). — Yours faithfully,

Michael Hollas

Fund-raiser,

Henley Volunteer Drivers,

Queen Close,

Henley



Part of old Fawley family

Sir, — Following your Diary article about Fawley Cricket Club (Standard, September 25), I think I can claim to be the last Rixon to be born in the village.

My father John, known as Jack, was married to Grace, who was the Fawley postmistress on the green for 40 years.

I lived there until my marriage in 1948 and I went to the village school.

I now live in Turville but Fawley will always be my home. My family are all buried there, including my baby son.I was sorry to miss the cricket match but I did go the Sunday before last and it brought back many memories. — Yours faithfully,

Pam Harper (née Rixon),

Turville



Sir, — As a bit of a geek when it comes to celestial events, I was quite excited to watch the lunar eclipse, knowing it was a super moon, especially after the disappointment of the cloudy solar eclipse this summer.

My wife and I, plus a very blurry-eyed son (Charlie), got up to watch the eclipse just before 4am.

Charlie was happy to see the red moon for a minute and then get back to bed but I watched for a further 25 minutes as the moon moved from the earth’s shadow, revealing a bright crescent.

Even though we have had three previous lunar eclipses over the past 18 months this was the first I’ve observed and it didn’t disappoint. The shades of rusty brown and orange were quite awe-inspiring.

It certainly made me consider the bigger picture. As with the 1999 solar eclipse, I will never forget it. — Yours faithfully,

Nick Hughes

Henley



Sir, — Just in case some people missed the “blood moon” in the early hours of Monday, here’s my photograph of it.

Strange, but no one else appeared to be about even to witness this phenomenon. — Yours faithfully,

David Wood

Maidensgrove



Sir, — I’m glad I’m not the only one who messes up photos occasionally.

Your photographs of the Sue Ryder hospice charity ride were similarly incompetent (

Standard
, September 25).

The large one of Rebecca Angus and David Morris was chopped off halfway and the shot of Stewart Marks just showed two hands holding drinks.

Perhaps your photographer was unfamiliar with his new camera! — Yours faithfully,

Adrian Vanheems

Baskerville Road, Sonning Common



The editor responds: “In fact the problem was not the photographer’s fault as the original pictures were fine. What caused it was a combination of Photoshop and our new production system not working together properly.

“We had experienced this issue a few times before and resolved it but it returned on this occasion, which we hope will be the last.

“We are sorry to readers and those featured in those two photographs, which we have reprinted here.”



Park at your peril in Remenham Lane

Sir, — This parked car was wrecked in Remenham Lane between 11.15am and 11.30am on Wednesday, September 23 and the errant driver who caused such significant damage did not stop.

The VW’s owner would no doubt be very grateful if anyone has useful information that they can pass to the police in Henley.

Over many years of travelling this lane by car, bike and Shanks’s pony I know this is not the first car to be damaged, nor the first where the offender drove off without leaving their details, and it probably won’t be the last until parking in this narrowing lane is banned.

In the meantime, be warned: you park there at your peril. — Yours faithfully,

Robert Warner

Ramsbury,

Wiltshire



More News:

POLL: Have your say