Tuesday, 03 August 2021

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Sure sign that winter’s not far away

Sure sign that winter’s not far away

Sir, — While visiting Shiplake Lock I took this photograph of the sunlight streaming through the trees as assistant lock-keeper Andy Arkell was burning off fallen autumn leaves — a sure sign that winter is not far away. I thought your readers might like to see it. — Yours faithfully,

John Downing

Reading Road,


Sir, — In your story about the proposed “forbidding” fence at Makins recreation ground (

, September 25), I was quoted as saying on behalf of the Chiltern Society that the alternative fence I suggested is “made of bits of wood”.

It is not that primitive but very low key and traditional and made of split laths — usually chestnut —fastened together by wire and fixed at intervals to timber posts.

It is the sort of lightweight fence that is rather difficult to climb over, is long-lasting and can be removed, rolled up and re-used somewhere else once the layered hawthorn hedge growing up behind is sufficiently mature to become a traditional stock-proof layered hedge.

I found this example in situ near Harpsden. This shows quite a low fence but I have seen taller ones in Windsor Great Park and the New Forest. This demonstrates there are other traditional and considerably cheaper alternatives to the £20,000-plus metal mesh fence favoured by the town council.

The other photograph is of the wire mesh fence for which planning permission has been granted by South Oxfordshire District Council.

Its reason for giving consent is that the playground is not in a conservation area and that it can’t be seen from the road.

The recreational character of the land and negative impact of the forbidding structure on anybody using the space for enjoying the outdoors and vistas across the valley is apparently not a material planning consideration .— Yours faithfully,

Ruth Gibson

Planning field officer,

Chiltern Society,

Vicarage Road,


Disgraceful decision

Sir, — My mother recently died in Townlands Hospital.I cannot thank Moises, Peter and all the nursing staff enough for their exemplary and compassionate care, their constant attention to ensure that my mother was as comfortable as possible in her last hours.

This standard of nursing and the availability of a bed in our local hospital is priceless.Who are these faceless bureaucrats who have made the decision to scrap inpatient beds in our new hospital? On what information and research do they base these decisions? Budget and money no doubt, it is not about the welfare and needs of our community.

Obviously the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group has totally disregarded the value we place on our local hospital.

What do they care about their disastrous decisions? It is only a job to them.Where are those who are very sick supposed to goâ?¦ to a large hospital miles away, an impersonal ward, overworked nursing staff caring for many patients, with no parking for visitors and little hope of privacy for those last hours.

From our own experience, nursing or respite beds in care homes are very hard to find and in constant demand so how can these proposed “on demand” beds be available if they are already filled? What a waste of a new hospital building. Abingdon and Wallingford have community hospitals with functioning wards so why is Henley sabotaged by budget-driven experts who do not care about our residents’ needs? Where will these so-called experts be when our new hospital is totally under-utilised and becomes an expensive white elephant? Demolishing another hospital project no doubt! It is an absolute disgrace to have such a facility and not make full use of it as a centre for nursing the sick. — Yours faithfully,

Yvonne Gillespie

Coldharbour Close,


Incredible, frustrating

Sir, — Had I been as deeply involved in and committed to the success of the Townlands Hospital campus as have members of the steering group and so many others, I suspect my current feelings would be a confusion of exhilaration, frustration and utter disbelief.

Exhilaration that Henley and district will soon have a wonderful new hospital, with up-to-date facilities, in close proximity to the centre of population.So easily it could have been a repeat of the expiry, years ago on cost-and-benefit grounds, of the delightful Memorial Hospital in Vicarage Road, effectively a cottage hospital, wherein my mother’s life was saved.Frustration that, after all these years of heartfelt endeavour and huge community support, what we were promised, what has been so effective in the past, what seems to be glaringly obvious now — the need for hospital beds as an integral element of any hospital — is being rejected, virtually out-of-hand, by a remote, politically driven “commissioning group”. A group of specialists hell-bent on extending a modern concept, apparently successfully employed elsewhere, a “rapid access care unit”, irrespective of whether or not it would be the best for this locality, this community, to “see if it works here”.

Utter disbelief that, at a time when there is a desperate shortage of affordable accommodation, when increasingly three generations of a family are obliged to share everything under one roof, it’s assumed that one or more of such a family, critically ill or in remission, will be better served at home than in a hospital bed.Disbelief that a community service function, called out on a working radius of 10 to 15 miles, can be as efficient, timely and cost effective as an existing hospital ward of beds, cared for by in-house nurses, doctors and specialists.

How sad and strange that we look like being obliged to discard existing, proven methods and under-utilise excellent, exciting new facilities in order to prove that a “commissioning group”, a body the community pays for, is right and the vast majority of that same community it is supposed to serve is wrong! Or is it simply a matter of costs? Why do our politicians continually refer to us being one of the world’s richest economies, the ultimate example of true democracy, when John Howell can’t even support and respond positively to an overwhelming majority of this community, his community, many of whom voted him back into office? David Smith, why can’t your commissioning group accept that fitting out and servicing the empty ward at the new Townlands now and for the short-term and continuing to provide an excellent service is in the best interests of this community? Why can’t you progressively introduce your rapid access care unit in parallel and, if and when it proves your claims for it, put your proposals into full effect then rather than experimenting on us now? Had your proposal been in effect 70 years ago, my mother would have died instead of leading a very active 95 years. — Yours faithfully,

David Gobbett

Elizabeth Close


People come befere profit

Sir, — Townlands Hospital sold, promises broken, skilled NHS staff gone and very sick or injured people, too ill to cope, will be sent home.

We’re now having a “rapid access care unit”, a false economy, not designed for the sick and injured.

In the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s consultation paper, it gave this example for the RACU.

Basically, an 85-year-old man has had a fall, injuring his ankle. The paramedics arrive and telephone the RACU who make Mr Smith an appointment for the next day.

The paramedics then leave him. They don’t mention he’s still in shock, obviously in pain, so how will he get to the toilet, answer the door, make a hot drink, get upstairs, or will he sleep in a chair all night? The next day his ankle is swollen enough to warrant an X-ray and he needs to be seen by an occupational therapist and falls prevention service.

Then he’s sent home, an 85-year-old, with a painful and swollen ankle, trying to use crutches for the first time. Perhaps the commissioning group thinks his relatives will be with him, night and day.In reality, relatives, however devoted, work all day. They have a mortgage and children to feed. They don’t live nearby because they can’t afford these house prices, let alone 24-hour private healthcare.

So if this 85-year-old man falls again, resulting in further injury, or has a reaction to his pain medication, giving him diarrhoea and vomiting, unable to get to a phone, possibly unconscious, how long does the commissioning group think it will be before he is found? Can they be held accountable for their neglect of a patient? The NHS was created for people, not profit. If this Government doesn’t intervene, then in four-and-a-half years, I won’t have forgotten. — Yours faithfully,

J S Henley

It’s just like Yes, Minister

Sir, — In one episode of Yes, Minister Jim Hacker was faced with two problems — firstly, a newly opened hospital with 500 administrators and no patients and, secondly, Cuban political refugees who had been refused entry to the United Kingdom because the Government could not afford them.Jim Hacker’s solution to these two problems suggests a way forward with the empty floor at Townlands Hospital — it should be used to house refugees from Syria. — Yours faithfully,

Simon Fairthorne Bolney Trevor Drive, Lower Shiplake Give us our money back Sir, — I would like to make several points and observations about this farcical debacle that has become Henley’s Townlands “Hospital”.

First of all, why? Why, when the beds had already been agreed and the funding was there, did the Oxfordshire Clinical Comissionning Group suddenly do a U-turn? Has anyone actually given a satisfactory answer? Who stands to gain? Where has that money now gone? Is it being siphoned off to a pet project somewhere? It has gone somewhere, so perhaps someone should be answering that question.It seems to me that this blind refusal to even listen to the people of Henley, not what some oligarch somewhere in the mists of the dreaming spires of Oxford thinks we need, smacks of a hidden agenda.It is not up to the public to prove there isn’t one, it is up to the commissioning group to prove that there is not.We “don’t need it” is simply not good enough — in fact it is absolute rubbish. How dare you? I am not going to bleat on about “tradition”, “it has always been this way” and “Townlands has been here for many years”. No, what I am going to bleat on about is the growing need that is going to face the people of Henley with the percentage population aging rapidly every year.I would also make the point that the people of Henley have contributed vast sums of money to the charity and it is their right to have that money put towards the completion of a proper facility.Another ridiculous statement from the commissioning group is that “it is in the wrong place”.I suggest that it is ideally placed to serve the John Radcliffe and the Royal Berks — patients needing just a few more days’ care could be transferred to Henley, thus freeing vital beds in critical wards in these two major medical centres of excellence.Now we hear that there are to be no beds. It is nothing short of criminal to leave an entire floor empty.

My original point at one of the doctors’ meetings about this farce was that if there are to be no beds, you may as well call it an office block. If there are no beds, it is not a  hospital.The new sale of goods act came into force on October 1, stating that if goods break down and are not “fit for  purpose” then they can be returned within the first 30 days and all the money  refunded.

It only has to be proven that the fault was there at the time of sale. Well, that will be easy. There will be no beds, so the “hospital” will not be fit for purpose and it will certainly have broken down.The people of Henley have put their hearts and souls into Townlands for many, many years and now that all those years are about to bear fruit, they have been sold a pup, so I suggest that we return the building and ask for all our money back, please, and give it to the Townlands Steering Committee.They are people who live here and know what we need and will do a damn sight better job of it.

I have passed the front page of last week’s Henley Standard on to the Prime Minister. He thinks we should all have 24/7 hospital care — let’s see what he makes of it. — Yours faithfully,

Julie Huntington

Fair Mile,


What price democracy?

Sir, — Your readers will recall that Amber Solutions is busy constructing, inter alia, a 14-bedded ward on the Townlands site, as commissioned and signed up for by those who ruled over us in 2012.Three short years later, and without any involvement from us, those who rule over us have been booted out.Lo, behold, a new order! The Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, led by its far-sighted director David Smith, has decreed that only old people need beds at Townlands and they’d be better off at home or in Witney. Only 3,000 people signed the Henley Standard petition to keep the beds. That’s just three per cent of the people who live in the catchment area. Everyone else clearly thinks Henley doesn’t need a hospital.

Thank heavens we have been rescued from a building full of empty beds. Now it’ll just be empty, ready to generate lots of lovely income from anyone who wants to rent it. Perhaps it should be called the David Smith Annexe.

If there is to be a basement, it could be called the John Howell Undercroft in recognition of the unseen and mysterious ways in which Henley’s MP has conducted himself on this issue over the past few months. What price democracy? — Yours faithfully, Dick Fletcher Mill End, Hamblden There will be beds actually Sir, — Your front page headline “New hospital with no beds” (Standard, November 2) was grossly misleading.

The hospital is not being provided with no beds.In total, up to 14 beds will be associated with the hospital — eight on permanent rent to the hospital flexed up to 14 to meet demand. They will be located in the care home to be built as part of the medical complex on site, which has been rightly praised as a medical campus or a medical village.

This will allow for appropriate nursing cover to be provided on a sustainable basis and for the hospital to provide services from its rapid care access unit for seven days a week, 12 hours a day.

This is a hospital for a large part of southern Oxfordshire, not just Henley itself. We have been talking directly to parish councils in the area around Henley. They have all welcomed what we have achieved through negotiation. — Yours faithfully,

John Howell,

MP for Henley

Councillor David Nimmo Smith,

Oxfordshire County Council (Henley)

Thank you to strangers

Sir, — I write to thank two strangers who helped a boy with a suspected dislocated shoulder in Mill Meadows in Henley on Saturday afternoon.The boy in question was the friend of my son. He and my son and two other boys had been playing football in the park when he fell awkwardly.

The injured boy was in absolute agony when I arrived from Queen Street, where we live.It seemed likely to me that he had dislocated his left shoulder since it was out of shape and he literally could not move. I dialled 999 for an ambulance and waited with the child.

As we sat there waiting, with the boy in considerable pain, a man — Polish I think — offered to fetch some Paracetamol, which he did.

Having read in the Henley Standard about another boy who had waited 45 minutes for an ambulance in Mill Meadows, which then never arrived, I called 999 again after 45 minutes for an estimated time of arrival.Much to my horror, I was told that actually no ambulance had been dispatched due to higher priorities. I was further told that because the boy was not, and I quote, “gasping for breath”, he was not of sufficient priority. Genuinely concerned that the boy was about to pass out with pain, I decided to forget the ambulance idea and drive him to accident and emergency myself.

It was then that another kind stranger came and sat with the poor child while I manoeuvred our car as close as possible.Without these two kind strangers, I could well still be sitting with a half unconscious boy waiting for him to pass the “gasping for breath” test.If I was to add that when we got to A&E they gave him Ibuprofen and left him in a continued state of agony for another hour and a half, I would not expect you to believe me.

It took my constant nagging for something stronger to finally get A&E to offer him proper pain relief, which was now three hours after the incident.I am pretty shaken by the whole ordeal. This was a 13-year-old child for goodness’ sake, in pure agony, and no one other than two complete strangers seemed willing to take it seriously. — Yours faithfully,

Michael Warner

Queen Street,


Hard to stop pollution

Sir, — The correspondence about the harmful effects (NOx and particulates) from diesel vehicles (Standard, October 2) was hardly revelatory. For many of the reasons mentioned, London introduced a low emissions zone on February 2, 2008, which has become progressively tougher since.In some cases, heavy goods and commercial vehicles can be fitted with low emission filters or fleet operators encouraged to convert to gas.Indeed, Reading Buses, which has one of the most modern and advanced bus fleets in the UK, has several gas-powered or hybrid vehicles. Motor manufacturers have hitherto assumed that continuing development of diesel engines would enable them to meet “greenhouse” gas emission standards in Europe which are some of the most challenging in the world.Modern diesel vehicles often compare well on these carbon emissions measures to petrol engines.

The Volkswagen issue has revealed the significant technical difficulty of equipping mass-produced diesel engine cars with control components to meet very demanding particulate and NOx standards in America at a price which the consumer is willing to pay.The trade-off is either an unattractive initial purchase price or degradation of the performance of the car when driven.EU standards on NOx and particulates are currently much less exacting than the US and the European testing regimes are out of date and insufficiently rigorous. With sufficient capital investment the motor industry could probably resolve these issues but the investment required is very substantial.

A possible outcome is pressure on motor manufacturers to concentrate future development on low emission petrol engines and hybrid vehicles.The importance of the motor industry to governments is obvious: UK car plants produced 1.5 million vehicles in 2014 and this is cited by government as one of the driving forces behind economic recovery. The car industry accounts, directly or indirectly, for one in seven workers in Germany.The NOx/particulates problem is Europe-wide, not confined to Henley and is not going to be easily or cheaply fixed. — Yours faithfully,

Allen Harris

Blounts Court Road,

Sonning Common

Disrupted by regattas

Sir, — We wish to object, in the strongest possible terms, to the planned further expansion of the Henley Women’s Regatta (Standard, September 25).

A few years ago, we met with the chairman of the regatta to explain the problems associated with the expansion of activities on the Remenham side of the river.

We were given categorical assurances by her that the regatta would never be more than three days as it was an amateur event run by people with full-time jobs and no one would be able to manage an extended event. Clearly we were misled! Miriam Luke appears to have been planning this expansion for some time and has already started a fund-raising process.

At no time has Ms Luke taken the trouble to consult with local residents, a fact which seems to confirm that the regatta organisers neither understand nor care about the problems that these events cause for the local community.

Recently, Sir Steve Redgrave, chairman of Henley Royal Regatta, met with the residents of Remenham to discuss that event (Standard, September 18) and he stressed the benefits that Henley derives from this event.

That may be so but, in contrast, there is significant downside for Remenham insofar as the vast majority of the activities associated with the regatta are actually Remenham-based. The regatta is more of a Remenham event than a Henley event.What many probably don’t realise is the huge amount of disruptive activity involved in the “set-up” and “take down” of facilities associated with the regatta, often involving huge articulated lorries unsuited to the very narrow lanes, blocking free access to and from our homes, often for several hours.

Five days of the royal regatta effectively involves 28 days of disruption for Remenham. The royal regatta on its own is entirely accepted and fully supported by us.But the cumulative effect of similar disruption associated with the women’s regatta, masters regatta, Rewind etc means that virtually the entire summer season — not just 28 days — is significantly adversely affected for those of us living here. Hence our opposition to any further expansion or “creep” related to these other events.The increasing popularity of the sport of rowing is self- evident and will lead to continual pressure to expand.

This tiny corner of Remenham simply can’t take this kind of mass activity.Should not the women’s regatta consider a move to a site such as Dorney Lake, which was purpose-built for this kind of event? — Yours faithfullly,

Remenham Farm Residents’ Association

Club is being small-minded

Sir, — Last week, I resisted the temptation to comment on the dispute over access to the Sonning Common skate park as I assumed that there would be a balanced and well-argued response from Rotherfield United Football Club which would make everything clear. Alas, it was not to be! Instead, I could smell the distinctive whiff of revenge, ego, pettiness and intransigence.

I can understand their frustration over how some people have little respect for the land and I am sure that club members appreciate the time and energy which goes into preparing the pitches

.Also, it appears that there might have been a breakdown in communications during the planning and construction of the skate park which has heightened tensions.Refusing to make the access as straightforward as possible to emergency services is, in my view, astonishing.Why on earth should the ambulance services have to use bolt cutters to break into the site? Such services are stretched enough as it is and every minute that they waste during their journey increases the gravity of the situation.Paramedics’ vehicles are no longer exclusively “5.5 tonnes”. They have a more diverse fleet these days for different situations.

In any case, even if they were, the fact that they might get stuck in the mud is hardly a sensible argument — you never know, they might not! As for the idea that the air ambulance could attend an emergency, my understanding is that this organisation is a charity and is reliant entirely upon donations.I’m sure that they would be delighted to hear that they were being called upon to attend an emergency simply because the club refused to fit all their locks with a combination facility.

Maybe the ambulance service does not insist on it but that doesn’t make it a bad idea, it’s actually called common sense.

The club claims that there are hundreds of gated access points which do not leave codes or keys with the emergency services.If this is true, perhaps they could be the first ones to set a community spirited example rather than simply saying that no one else can be bothered to do it so neither shall we.

It’s only a matter of time before something serious happens and the club’s already flimsy arguments will simply evaporate

.The club is well respected in the area and I will always be grateful for the exceptional coaching that my son received from dedicated and sympathetic staff.It’s such a shame that the committee is being small-minded and awkward and thereby tarnishing the reputation of a valuable local asset. — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Winpenny

Orchard Avenue,

Sonning Common

Opposing attitudes

Sir, — I would like to take this opportunity to thank the lady from Sonning Common who tried so hard to stop an abandoned shopping trolley from hitting my car in King’s Road car park in Henley at the weekend. Unfortunately, the trolley did make contact, causing damage to my right wing. This lady took time out of her day not only to try to avert the incident but also kindly left a note advising me of what had happened. I am comforted to know that there are folk around who genuinely care for other people and their property. It restores my faith in human nature.

On the other hand, to the lady in the White BMW X5, you were next to a trolley station and were still too lazy to deposit your trolley in a safe location.

I feel sorry for you. You must lead a very self-centred life. — Yours faithfully,

Raffy Spring

Grateful for this kindness

Sir, — We were very happy to see your story about the Ernst & Young volunteer day at the Chiltern Centre (Standard, September 25). However, there was no mention of the generosity of the Henley branch of Gibbs & Dandy who kindly donated all the materials for the day. The branch manager Michael Fuller was absolutely wonderful with us, extremely helpful and kind, and we would like to express our appreciation. — Yours  faithfully,

Jacqui Shuttleworth


Chiltern Centre for disabled children,

Greys Road,


Sorry about road closures

Sir, — On behalf of the Rotary Club of Henley Bridge, the organisers of the 33rd Henley half marathon and 10km, which will take place on Sunday, I would like to remind readers of the road closures that will be in operation on the day. Oxfordshire County Council allows us to close Marlow Road from the Toad Hall/Icehouse Lane junction, Bell Street, New Street and Thames Side as well as the eastbound lane of Henley Bridge.The closures will be in place between about 9.20am and 9.45am and will be lifted once the last runners have safely negotiated the town centre. We acknowledge that some delays will occur, so apologise for any inconvenience in advance, but we would ask everybody to respect the arrangements in order to allow the thousands of runners who take part, many of whom travel some distance and raise considerable sums for charity by way of individual sponsorship, to safely enjoy their day in Henley. For ourselves, we commit all the surplus funds. which exceeded £20,000 in 2014, to a wide range of local and national charities and we hope that the considerable local support will ensure that the event continues into the future. — Yours faithfully,

Peter Wilkinson

Rotary Club of Henley Bridge,

Lauds Close,


Fabulous festival

Sir, — Another extraordinary week in Henley. I write to you in a dual capacity, firstly as the chairman of the Kenton Theatre, which has been privileged to host so many wonderful and varied authors, from whispering Bob Harris to Lord Sacks, Sue Perkins and so many more.And, secondly, as a resident of Henley, enjoying the social whirlwind that Henley becomes during the week of the literary festival.

The feeling of bonhomie that permeates throughout the town, which I last witnessed in London during the Olympic Games of 2012, the continuing sight of one Ryan or another racing through the town from venue to venue or, in Jon’s case slightly hobbling, but with always the time for a quick word or enquiry, such as “did you enjoy the cardinal?” I wonder why this particular event is so special and, while holding that thought, I was greeted by a performer as she was checking out of Hotel du Vin.

She told me she hated to leave but was booked to appear in Cheltenham. “It won’t be nearly as much fun,” she said. That says it all.Congratulations Tom, Harriet, Sue and Jon Ryan, I can’t wait for the 10th anniversary festival. — Yours faithfully,

Ed Simons


Lovely music and chat

Sir, — Congratulations to the organisers of the Henley Literary Festival for taking a chance and putting on the event with Charlie Dore and Jenny Boyd (sister of Pattie).An entirely unrehearsed conversation about “songwriting creativity”, interspersed with songs by Charlie, it was a gem. Incidentally, Charlie introduced herself as “the turn” when we bumped into each other at the door! — Yours faithfully,

Jim Munro

Blandy Road,


Don’t confuse historians

Sir, — On more than one occasion and most recently in your edition of October 2, your reports have referred to Borough Court [sic] Hospital.Its name was Borocourt Hospital. Use of the wrong name may confuse future historians. — Yours faithfully,

K B Atkinson

Red House Drive,

Sonning Common

Sir, — I had the good luck to be out on the course at Springs Golf Club, near the North Stoke, early on Sunday and was able to catch the sunrise.

The photograph of the sunlit acer in our garden sums up the meaning of “autumn tints” rather well.

The second one of grapes on a pergola is suitable for the phrase “mellow fruitfulness”. — Yours faithfully,

Terry Allsop


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