Monday, 02 August 2021

Your letters

I don’t trust this doctor

I don’t trust this doctor

Sir, — Dr Andrew Burnett, whom I have known as a much respected colleague for many years, has my absolute trust as a doctor. I would be very happy to put my life in his hands.However, as a medical manager tied to the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, I have no trust whatsoever. I will not dwell on the historical justice of our case for the Townlands Hospital redevelopment as this is well known to most, if not all your readers.During our campaign for the redevelopment of Townlands, Andrew, as the leading GP of the local commissioning group, was an invited member of the Townlands Steering Group and when he attended was supportive of the plans, which led to the agreement to provide a new hospital with casualty and outpatients, as at present, and an 18-bedded ward.Indeed, GP support was needed (and was willingly given) for the business case which was eventually successful, so he was fully aware of the background to our case.

As no new services could be afforded, the GPs were working with the Royal Berkshire Hospital to see what additional clinics they were prepared to put in to increase patient services so that the new hospital could be even better.When the new NHS reforms were brought in just as the final contract was to be signed, the Oxfordshire Primary Care Trust, with whom we had built a trusting relationship, was disbanded and replaced by NHS Property Services (to oversee the development) and the commissioning group (to commission the services in the hospital).

These two organisations failed to communicate with the steering group and it took considerable effort to re-engage with them. We received repeated assurances from NHS Property Services that the contracts were signed despite the fact that they weren’t — hence Sue Ryder’s sudden withdrawal from what we assumed was an agreed deal.The commissioning group finally agreed to meet with us at the end of last year, when vague references to a “new look at the bed situation” were made.Further investigation showed that they had already made a decision to close the beds in the Peppard ward and not to replace them in the new hospital.

The group’s chief executive, David Smith, had the temerity to suggest in a meeting in the town hall that this change in the agreed plans did not require consultation — a view that our MP, John Howell, firmly rejected and insisted that the commissioning group carried out a full consultation. Dr Burnett has stated publicly that the GPs were supportive of the proposals but clearly they were not and were concerned about the loss of beds. They supported the rapid access care unit but not without beds.

This consultation took place and there was widespread condemnation of the quality of the questionnaire which was slanted, in our view, to give the commissioning group the answer they wanted.

In the report sent by the commissioning group to the Oxfordshire joint health overview and scrutiny committee on the consultation, the enthusiasm for the rapid access care unit was emphasised and the significant and widespread opposition to the loss of beds was not  mentioned.Nor was the important two-page letter from the chief executive of the NHS Royal Berkshire Hospital Trust which strongly argued for the retention of beds in Townlands. This was only uncovered later by the steering group’s request for its release under the Freedom of Information Act.Finally, at the board meeting of the commissioning group when the Smith/Burnett plan was endorsed with scarcely any query, Dr Burnett’s report stated that there was widespread support for the rapid access care unit but failed to mention the significant weight of the opposition to the closure of the beds, nor the GPs’ unhappiness at their loss.Yes, Dr Burnett should have handled the issue “differently”. He knew the history and the weight of feeling locally and he knew that he would not have had a hospital but for the hard work of the steering group over many years.To have been engaged cynically in the process of changing the agreed plans radically without any attempt to engage with us from the outset was deceitful at best.

We have tried to enter into negotiations to have a transition period involving the retention of some or all of the beds while the rapid access care unit system was settling in, so that we could see whether it was a success or not, but the commissioning group has largely ignored us.

True, the number of days that the rapid access care unit will operate has been increased from three to seven but they have withdrawn the promise of consultant care which they assured John Howell they would provide.This means that the rapid access care unit will offer little more than a competent GP whose job it is to assess patients early in their illness and investigate and treat them.Now for the beds. The commissioning group has repeatedly said that there will be beds which will be purchased from the care home. As of today there is no contract signed for these beds so there is no guarantee that this will happen. The care home will not be completed for another six to nine months and in the meantime the promised beds will be in Wallingford Hospital or, if it is full, Abingdon.Would you trust Dr Burnett? I am immensely proud of the success the steering group has had in getting the hospital built. I am very saddened by what the commissioning group has done with it. We deserve better. — Yours faithfully,

Peter Ashby

Retired GP and member of Townlands Steering Group and Friends of Townlands Hospital

I feel like I failed people

Sir, — As I have now distanced myself from the Townlands Steering Group, I am able to give some less diplomatic and politically correct views on our new hospital and the brave new world of ambulatory care that faces us all in future years.Our hospital, for which Dr Peter Ashby, Councillor Ian Reissmann, I and others fought long and hard for 12 years, is in danger of becoming a white elephant.In your interview with Dr Andrew Burnett, clinical director of the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (Standard, October 23), he is already raising the spectre of risk of closure in the future when the hospital still awaits opening! Further, he argues that the issue could have been handled “differently”. Well, at least I can agree that point. We have had the illusion of an extensive consultation with residents and the commissioning group for several months which has been further extended with meetings of the steering group and the commissioning group.

Always the commissioning group has had the control and the ready answers but the ability to convince the residents and users of the services always eluded them. How could the steering group, 3,000 residents and their principal supplier of patients, the Royal Berkshire Hospital, have views so at odds with these masters of the universe? Even local doctors gave only qualified support to the commissioning group’s plans and regretted the lack of in-hospital beds.But, of course, once again might was right and we are now confronted by a Townlands fait accompli.Perhaps the project started badly when the site was agreed for development in 2007. I wrote to the secretary of state to try to get a hearing on the location but the steering group was not unified on this issue.

The hospital is built entirely in the wrong place as it should have been located on the edge of town. This would declog the town centre and reduce the traffic nightmare that will become increasingly evident in the vicinity of King’s Road. The lack of sufficient hospital car parking will mean spill-over into the King’s Road car park with problems for local residents and shoppers.The hospital’s monolithic shape is imposing and dominating for residents in that part of town. The design shape owes much to the original design specification from 2009 when it was expected that at least one floor would be a bedded ward.We all feel cheated by the way in which the bedded ward has been removed; now we have an excess of space chasing a solution.I am certainly sure in my mind that I never fought for a hospital to have a third floor devoted to doctors’ surgeries, nor did many local residents who compromised their planning objections to allow the building to take place.What a waste of space in the new hospital and what a waste of the present functionally good doctors’ surgeries.As to the second floor my impression is again of a luxury of space for some of the functions planned. I learned very quickly in my professional life that “space is money” but this appears to have little consequence for NHS managers who need to cover up an embarrassment.As to the ambulatory model of care, we appear to have a stream of promises as to how good it will be. Dr Burnett is not promising it will be “perfect”. It will need “time to settle” and will require “tweaking”, he states soothingly. Inevitably, any new system will take time to “bed in” and on this occasion it will require hand-in-glove working between the NHS and social services, which are not easy bedfellows and with little historic positive track record of co-operative working. I just hope neither you nor I are one of the guinea pigs in the early days of “pre-perfection and tweaking”.

The consequences of failed working practices will be human misery — patients in hospitals at long distance from their communities and patients at home without appropriate and adequate care — with loving families and friends trying to paper over the cracks.As to my own role in this, I feel I failed the people of our community.My own analysis of NHS data for the last three years shows that the Peppard ward at Townlands was a thriving establishment with 97.5 per cent bed utilisation i.e. full capacity. The average stay for all patients (150 per annum) was 35 days but 46 per cent of these patients had an average stay of 56 days.The age profile of patients was as follows: 68 per cent of patients were greater than 81 years old while a further 23 per cent were aged 71 to 81.To my mind, these were not at all the type of patients who could be sent home and able to make themselves a cup of tea — even if Dr Burnett called.I repeatedly asked what will happen to these patients — old and long-time patients in hospital. For these people it is either Wallingford or another hospital even further away, home or a nursing/care home. Simples! I am convinced that some will not come through such upheaval easily and that ambulatory care will not provide adequate support for these at risk patients.

Meanwhile, our MP, John Howell, has much to answer for.At the May general election there was little mention of the intended changes but, once elected with a 25,000 majority, he tried to hunt with the hounds and run with the fox.His support of the commissioning group’s line has been undiluted government NHS policy and at no time has he given open support for the Townlands bedded case and hence the people he was elected to represent.Consistently walking the proverbial tightrope, he has eased the commissioning group’s path to their prize. Perhaps it will all be worthwhile for John if and when he takes his ermine — arise, Lord John Howell of Townlands. Despite all these misgivings, it is now imperative that we make the hospital and new model of care a success. It is absolutely imperative that the commissioning group is held accountable for the implementation of the new hospital and ambulatory care model.If Dr Burnett is true to his words of “should have been handled differently”, the need now is to make executive managers communicate with the community through surgery patient forums and local councils regarding the implementation of their plans during the next three years. This would be helped by a regular bulletin to the Henley Standard for publication on the wellbeing of the hospital and systems.Further, we, the general public, have a role to play in informing town and district councillors, this newspaper and surgery patient forums of any evidence — either anecdotal or observation — of problems and mishaps.Do not be shy in stepping forward with information as we are the best guardians of our precious NHS. Only by entering into a partnership with the commissioning group and the executive management of local health services can we protect Townlands from future risk of closure. We must not fail future generations. — Yours faithfully,

Barry Wood

Stoke Row Road,


Time to move forward

Sir, — With reference to the letter from John Howell MP (Standard, October 30), I have been a member of the Townlands Streering Group since the beginning of the year as part of the general invitation from the group to the outlying parishes to send representatives to join it. I have found it an extremely interesting time to have started our involvement. I attended a meeting the night that the Standard released the news that the beds were to be significantly reduced to five. I was there at the next meeting when representatives of the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group attended.David Smith, chief executive of the commissioning group, said he did not want a consultation over the reduction in beds.

John Howell forced him to reconsider this standpoint by reference to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, at which point the residents of Henley and the outlying parishes were consulted about the change. We started the year with five beds and we now have up to 14. To me that shows that Mr Howell has been working hard on our behalf. He has also taken much trouble in visiting Swyncombe Parish Council and other parish councils to discuss many local issues, Townlands being one. The NHS is having to move into a different gear and we have to be part of that change. My other thought, after reading many of the letters in the Standard regarding this issue, is that turning this into a political argument would be a mistake and we will lose important focus for the greater good of Henley and the outlying communities. Let us concentrate now on moving forward. — Yours faithfully,

Liz Longley

Chairman, Swyncombe Parish Council

Unanswered questions

Sir, — We were relieved to read the letter from John Howell stating he has been working hard to resolve the crisis we face over losing our beds at Townlands Hospital.

However, we are still left with the following concerns and I’d be very grateful if he could enlighten us further.Living in Henley and talking to local people, it has become apparent to me that the present fully trained nursing staff at Townlands Hospital are leaving and being relocated to other NHS hospitals in South Oxfordshire.Mr Howell says that the new Townlands will have “excellent medical cover”, so it makes no sense to us why these fully trained and experienced nursing staff, whom I guess live locally, are being moved. When patients are still too ill and fragile to be discharged from the care of the NHS, they were cared for and rehabilitated in Townlands Hospital until they were strong and well enough to go home.Who will be looking after these patients now in the new Townlands? Even with six beds, surely you need trained and experienced nursing staff. What is this “excellent medical cover”, precisely? Thank you for all your hard work, Mr Howell, and we look forward to hearing your answers. — Yours faithfully,



Undermining community

Sir, — It’s no good John Howell banging on about his clandestine Townlands negotiations. In working in secret behind the scenes, he must have known he was undermining the community’s Townlands Steering Group. That was unforgivable.

What he and the other two members of the RACU gang — David Smith and Dr Alistair Burnett — need to understand is that everyone knows that they have failed to be open and transparent with the people of Henley.Far from producing evidence in support of their scheme, they have wheedled and distorted statistics. The result is that they have lost the trust of the community.You very generously gave almost a whole page for Dr Burnett to explain why Henley does not need beds. He blew it. The best he could come up with was, “Trust me, I’m a doctor” and it was doctors he was supposed to represent! David Smith doesn’t need the trust of the community. He will move on to another six-figure salaried sinecure somewhere else.

Dr Burnett will perhaps revert to what was presumably heretofore his full-time job as a GP. (Where do the people of Nettlebed go when they need a doctor? Witney?) But Henley’s MP is going nowhere. No amount of toadying to George Osborne, championing the cause of defenceless Israelis or picking on airline pilots is going to win the respect of the people of Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Dick Fletcher

Mill End,


Careless attitude

Sir, — It seems a pity that when our MP had the chance to speak in the Commons about aircraft noise, the opportunity was wasted. If he had bothered to research the subject, he would have found an answer to “not knowing if aircraft are deliberately noisy”.

Of course not, just the opposite. If air traffic permits, continuous descent approaches are carried out to deliberately minimize noise under the flight path. A careless attitude, leading to uninformed drivel by Mr Howell about handbrake turns is sadly reminiscent of our previous representative in Parliament. — Yours faithfully,

P Stradling

St Andrews Road,


We all make mistakes

Sir, — It is perhaps a reflection on the general lack of turmoil and drama in Henley that the front page last week was taken over by an account of the Mayor briefly parking in a restricted area. Many areas of the country would be delighted to have such a quiet life. No doubt if she had received a ticket she would have paid up gracefully.

The campaign of vilification which we understand has taken place on social media is surely unacceptable, even in the general rough and tumble of politics.

My experience of the current Mayor and her predecessors has been that they have been hard-working people, devoted to the enhancement of life in Henley. They are not infallible and, like all of us, they make the occasional mistake but do not deserve to be pilloried for a minor error. — Yours faithfully,

John Skuse

Chairman, Thames Traditional Boat Festival,

Pinkneys Green

Critics with small minds

Sir, — How appalling that people don’t have anything better to do than abuse the Mayor for doing what we all do when popping into a shop for a couple of minutes. She is not exactly the mayor of London, is she? Get a grip! Linda Sargeant, Caroline Ely and Mike Richards and the others should be ashamed of themselves. Little minds in little Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Soren Nielsen

Belle Vue Road,


Mayor is only human

Sir, — What has our Mayor being a Conservative go to do with parking her car? She was unlucky that a large vehicle appeared and couldn’t get through. She’s a human being and, like the rest of us, not perfect.

Drivers speeding in built-up area and using mobile phones at the wheel are more of a menace. — Yours faithfully,

Margaret Grant

Peppard Lane,


You’re better than that

Sir, — I have been a Henley Standard reader for many years and I was appalled by last week’s main story.The Henley Standard has sunk into the gutter with the red top tabloids by giving a front page headline to a non-issue and a voice to petty politics.

Mayor parks in wrong place. Really? Was there no more important news this week? If you reported on everyone who parks in the wrong place in Henley there would be no room for other stories and no local businesses either

.Come on, Henley Standard, you are better than this. — Yours faithfully,

Tony Norman

Peppard Common

Hardly worth newsprint

Sir, — On the front page a non-news story about the Mayor parking in a loading bay. If it had to be printed at all a paragraph would have sufficed.On page 13 of the same issue a report on the launch of this year’s Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal held in the town square and attended by the Mayor.It was excellent and unique entertainment, provided by not only Sam Brown and her Fabulous Ukulele Club but also by the impromptu dancing of John Green, chairman of the Henley and Peppard branch of the Legion, and town councillor Martin Akehurst. This was enjoyed and watched by loads of people despite the rain — a jolly, good fun event that was representative of the happy and quirky community spirit that contributes to making Henley the lovely town that it is and highlighting an important subject deserving of as much coverage and exposure as possible.It would have been more fitting for this story to be on the front page. — Yours  faithfully,

Sarah Mackenzie-Black

Woodlands Road,

Sonning Common

We must have another gym

Sir, — I am writing to request another gym in Henley as soon as possible after the closure of LA Fitness in August.We had what was a community facility on the site, including both sports facilities and a great café where people could access wifi and sometimes held local business meetings.

When this facility closed it left a huge hole in sports provision in the town.To my mind the site isn’t suitable for a care home, it’s on an industrial estate.

A far better location is the old Wyevale garden centre site at Shiplake where the views from windows would be infinitely better. That should really be considered.I’m also not convinced we need yet more care homes in Henley. I have heard younger people, who are often priced out of the town anyway, saying Henley is turning into an older people’s enclave. I know there is a demographic shift happening but older people want and need to stay fit as long as possible, not to mention us middle-aged people too. It is also helpful for older people to mix with those younger than themselves to maintain a younger outlook on life.

The older people in the town were certainly great users of LA Fitness and I would say less so of Gillotts leisure centre, which does not encourage the community. It seems to cater primarily for sixth-formers in the gym or occasional NHS groups. There are a few floor mats (three) that always seem to have a queue of people waiting to use them. LA Fitness had about 30. Parents can’t get swimming lessons for their children and the studio is tiny and windowless. Not pleasant. My plea to South Oxfordshire District Council is to block change of use of the old LA Fitness building and enable it to be sold to a local business person who would run it as a gym again for the community.

Secondly, please encourage development of the old Wyevale site. It is unsightly but the views there would be lovely for a care home.

Most people are still incredulous that Henley is in this position with only one mediocre sports centre. My work colleagues in Reading cannot believe there is such a lack of sports facilities. People are choosing to travel miles to privately run sports clubs and I keep reviewing my own situation. — Yours faithfully,

Sally Greenfield


Stop fighting development

Sir, — Can South Oxfordshire District Council really afford to walk away from  £1 million? I have heard that is what the contributions would be to the community and council if Thames Farm was developed (education alone would receive £450,000). While some wealthy Shiplake residents might not be too concerned about this enormous cash injection, it might be worth making the wider community aware of these facts. Oxfordshire County Council can hardly find the funds to paint yellow lines, so matters such as cycle paths, improved transportation and numerous other desired improvements that the whole community would benefit from are pipe dreams unless development is allowed.

The amount of contribution is, of course, relative to the size of the development or number of units. I understand that two houses or less do not have to pay any contributions, so the odd infill will not benefit the community.

I am aware that developer contributions are rarely discussed with parishioners. Residents should be aware of the whole facts and this would enable them to make an informed decision and, if they are in favour of development, they can compile their wish list of the new facilities they would like to obtain.

All too often councils only partially inform and involve residents in decisions that might be enormously beneficially locally.I fail to believe that for the sake of saving a fairly insignificant field, which is on a main road but near bus and rail and now in the clear to be developed (I understand in planning terms there are no longer any sound objections to this site), the district council can choose to overlook and ignore a site that is being handed to them on a plate.

The council desperately needs to build homes and will soon be set higher housing targets as development is being proposed on a school playing field and in conservation areas and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Perhaps this is more about politics and less about sound planning strategy. Or perhaps the council feels that Shiplake should be ring-fenced just as it ring-fenced Didcot, but this time to protect a millionaires’ enclave? It makes little planning sense.

I believe the council will continue to throw money fighting development on this site to keep a handful of locals happy but what a waste of community funds. This site will be developed, it is just a question of time. Why not save the fighting fund and have fun working out how to spend the large sums the developer will be obliged to pay? — Yours faithfully,

Alison North

Middle Lane,


Respect the plan process

Sir, — I was a member of the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan housing group and, together with other Henley residents, spent many hours over 18 months listening to developer presentations, poring over maps, debating the merits or otherwise of different options, understanding planning law and visiting sites.

Claire Engbers came to present to the group and was able to put forward her proposals for Thames Farm and received a full and fair hearing.

After much debate, the site was not chosen for inclusion in the neighbourhood plan as other sites were considered more suitable.

The plan has gone out for public consultation twice and has been tested with a focus group of residents, who were chosen randomly and were not involved in the housing group. Having passed all of these stages, it is now with the inspector before it can go to final referendum.

The neighbourhood planning process gives local residents some say in the development of their town and protects against speculative development.

It is a very positive part of localism and rightly very popular with citizens across the UK. I would urge Mrs Engbers to respect the process. — Yours faithfully,

Rebecca Chandler-Wilde


Overwhelming opposition

Sir, — We just thought we’d respond to the two correspondents welcoming the High Court’s decision to accept the challenge of the applicant of Thames Farm against the inspectorate (Standard, October 30). The plan is to build a housing estate in Harpsden parish on a greenfield site between Lower Shiplake and Henley.

The two letters in favour of development are very lone voices indeed!

The Localism Act sets out a series of measures to achieve a substantial and lasting shift in power away from central government and towards local people.

Here we have a scheme rejected by both Harpsden and Shiplake parish councils, rejected by the local planning officers, unanimously rejected by South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee, rejected as a suitable site for meeting future housing needs in the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan, rejected by the local county councillor and deemed unsustainable by a planning inspector.

We think this provides more than ample evidence to show that this is not a suitable site for development.

We hope that the intent in the Localism Act is followed through in practice and that the wishes of the local communities to have a proper say in where housing should be built are listened to. If they are, then there should be no residential development at this rural, green site. — Yours faithfully,

Tudor Taylor, chairman,

Shiplake Parish Council,

Kester George, chairman,

Harpsden Parish Council

Ill-informed rubbish

Sir, — As I caught sight of the letter headlined “Hawks need to show guts” (Standard, October 23), I could hardly bring myself to read what followed and, having done so, couldn’t believe anyone could go into print with such a load of ill-informed, unutterable rubbish. Then I recognised the author.

Wasn’t it he who used these columns to draw a supposed relationship between David Cameron’s support for gay marriage and climate change? Unfortunately, although his letter hardly merited a response, the author appeared to be making a deliberate attempt to bring into question the moral, commitment and entertainment value of one of the most successful and hard-working of our local community sports clubs. That, folks, is totally unacceptable.

He then went on to compare the relative merits of Henley Rugby Club with Henley Town FC, which was clearly intended to be divisive and the last thing these two excellent clubs and their squads need.

Both these clubs, and Henley Hockey Club to name just three, bring enormous prestige to our town.

Watch out you “amber and blues” who, like the Hawks that week, lost heavily to their league leaders. He probably knows as little about hockey as he does rugby.

If the author had made any effort to research a few facts about Henley Rugby Club and the wonderful, challenging game they have brought to our town, he may have thought twice before irresponsibly ridiculing both and going into print but I doubt it. He would have known that any team gaining promotion into National League 1 will meet many clubs far larger, wealthier and from vastly bigger conurbations than the Hawks, who have already displayed a profusion of skill and determination to get where they are.

In the match he refers to, Henley were hosting league leaders Hartpury College, full-time sports students with outstanding training facilities and the backing of Premiership club Gloucester’s and championship club Bristol’s academies. That’s the level of rugby you’ll see at Dry Leas.

For Henley to hold them to a single score for the first 40 minutes showed remarkable resilience and much skill. It was an excellent exhibition of defensive rugby by both sides.

However, although the result was never in doubt after the third quarter, the boys showed huge determination, commendable spirit and guts throughout the game, as they always do. Yes, Mr Silvester, guts.

It is excellent for you to support our round-ball friends from across the town — go you, Red Kites — but you should know all about clearing rubbish and avoid any future temptation to add to it. Watch the Hawks a few more times and read up on the game and then you just may qualify to report on our wonderful game and club. — Yours faithfully,

David Gobbett

Elizabeth Close,


There’s only one town team

Sir, — I learned from your paper that we now have in our midst an organisation, of which I had not previously heard, calling itself the “Henley Town Team” (Standard, October 23).

Now, I do not doubt that this body does valuable work, nor that its members perform their tasks other than assiduously, but surely there can be only one Henley Town team — the one that plays at the Triangle. — Yours faithfully,

J F Bailey

St Andrew’s Road,


Authoritarian restrictions

Sir, — I was pleased to read the letters from John Loader and Ann Shankland deploring the anti-community actions recently taken by The Henley College (Standard, October 30). I have been much dismayed by similar actions taken in recent years in relation to the land around Highlands Lane and farm and Gillotts School.

In both cases, hostile notices have appeared, plus locked gates and fencing — all, as far as I can see, without any evidence-based justification. Such behaviour is not in the Henley spirit.

Inevitably, some of these authoritarian moves have resulted in minor vandalism as the public, who have long enjoyed access to these under-utilized open spaces, feel that where there are no losers and that if they behave responsibly, which mostly they do, it is okay for them to continue to do as they have done for many years.

My family has lived near Gillotts School since 1980. Two of our children attended the school. We have played with our children and grandchildren on the sports fields on many occasions, with bikes and ball games and blackberrying, without ever being “told off”.

The headteacher of Gillotts and the college principal and other potentates should loosen their grip, trust the public and thereby win back the respect and support of the community. They might find that they need it. — Yours faithfully,

John Thornley

Makins Road,


College should compromise

Sir, — It was depressing indeed to read the letter from Jayne Davis, principal of The Henley College, regarding the use of the college playing fields.

While agreeing that allowing dogs to foul the fields is unforgivable, I cannot see that using the extra space for children to have a kickabout on a summer evening, a game of badminton or a walk on a Saturday morning is doing anyone any harm.

Indeed, the fields have been used and enjoyed this way for many years by residents who are understandably upset that signs around the site now imply that they are virtually criminals for pursuing such simple pleasures which harm no one.

The college is a publicly funded body and ultimately paid for by the taxpayer, which includes most adult residents of Henley.

It is a corporate “citizen” of our town and I think it reasonable that as such it should look to work with the local population and share its assets where possible.

As a previous resident of Ancastle Green, I can attest that I regularly picked up large amounts of rubbish left by the students — on one memorable occasion a full fish and chip lunch for four — left strewn across the road and green and I often found it hard to park my car.

Of course most of the young people attending the college do not do this and indeed are pleasant and respectful, the point being that there has to be some give and take with residents when such a large and successful college is situated in a residential part of the town.

I suspect that the new college attitude is driven by the Government’s “safeguarding” agenda but a sensible compromise must be possible to find. — Yours faithfully,

Rachel Brown

St Andrew’s Road,


Keep in with neighbours

Sir, — I agree fully with John Loader on the use of the Henley College playing fields. The college should be encouraging good relations with its neighbours, not antagonising us.

We pick up the students’ rubbish, put up with their inconsiderate parking and sometimes dangerous driving, hear their bad language and bear their bad manners and walk past student groups smoking on the pavements because the college is a “no-smoking campus” (it does not stop them smoking but just passes the problem on to the local residents). We fear an abusive reaction if we confront them on their antisocial behaviour.

We plan our travel to avoid the road blockages in the afternoon, caused by the college not providing proper parking facilities for the large number of coaches that pick up the students.

For the 40 years that we have lived in the area, we and our children have been able to use the playing fields for recreation — a benefit that we appreciated and which allowed community access to an under-used facility.

The college and residents are all part of the local community and some continuing reciprocity would be welcome. — Yours faithfully,

Hilary Bennett

Deanfield Road,


Hall wasn’t available

Sir, — Further to the comments by David Winchester and Susan Cooper regarding the low turnout for the by-election in Sonning Common (Standard, October 30), unfortunately, by the time that South Oxfordshire District Council requested the use of our village hall, it had already been booked for both a morning and an afternoon session.

After discussion with our booking agent and the parish clerk, we decided that it was not reasonable to cancel the two hirers of our hall on that day.Had the district council either given more notice or offered a number of different dates, we would have done our best to accommodate them.

As a committee, we work hard to provide a reliable and welcoming service to all in our community hall. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Chrissie Phillips-Tilbury Chairwoman,

Sonning Common village hall

Unacceptable expansion

Sir, — We feel it is very important to correct the misleading comments that have been made about our concerns over Henley Women’s Regatta.

First of all, despite Nicholas Edwards’s comments (Standard, October 23), we did not choose to “air” this matter in the columns of the Henley Standard — as he also has done — the medium was chosen for us by others by stating in this newspaper that the regatta would move to four days without any warning or consultation with us.

We were also not a party to its escalation through an article in the Daily Telegraph with quotes from the regatta organisers.

Secondly, it is probably important to make sure we are having the right conversation here: it is not simply about the women’s regatta but the continuing expansion of events in Remenham, of which this is only one.

The fact is that Remenham has become the entertainments park for Henley-branded events for which the town no doubt benefits but we pay the price.

Some context here is probably illuminating. A few years ago there was an outcry from Henley residents and the surrounding area when roads were closed briefly for one day to allow a major cycling event to take place. The event was subsequently banned.

We have more than 50 days in the year when access to our homes is severely curtailed, from which the town benefits but we pay the price — not one, but 50-plus.

Mr Edwards might want to contemplate whether he would feel differently about what he said if he could not gain access to his home in Queen Street, or found himself frozen in traffic there for an hour, unable to move because articulated lorries and boat trailers were blocking his way with no way to move.

The women’s regatta might be acceptable as an expanded event if more land was available. The fact is this now very large and growing event is crammed into a tiny corner of Remenham that is totally unsuitable. If anyone today, starting from scratch, was to suggest bringing thousands of people and hundreds of boat trailers to this small area they would be thought mad.

And they do not all arrive at 9am on the first day and leave at 6pm on the last; each day added involves several more in terms of set-up and take- down.

At what point will the regatta organisers step back and reconsider the practicalities and impact of this growing event? And please do not let them say it will never be a five-day event, we have heard that before.

It is only in the past few years that the Friday and Saturday nights of Henley Royal Regatta changed from being a drunken, often violent and seriously intimidating period that involved drunks walking through our houses, graffiti scrawled on the walls of houses, bottles thrown through bedroom windows and some things that would be unprintable here.

An increased police presence has helped here — let’s hope that these days of austerity do not curtail this — but just a little more context for those reports that did not capture this consequence of paying for the Henley town upside.

We are simply trying to get across what is involved here and that ongoing expansion is not acceptable. It is all very well to say how jolly and worthy this all is and quote spurious statistics that are never tested about the benefits that accrue (most shops we talk to in Henley say the regatta season is their worst for trade; Peter Brown, when he had his furniture shop in Duke Street, closed for the entire week because no one turned up. Does anyone net out the lost trade against the so-called upside. We have been welcoming and very patient neighbours in working with these events but that goodwill is now being constantly abused.

As a final point of context, in the same issue of the Henley Standard, Dr Andrew Burnett, in discussing the plans for Townlands Hospital, said that the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group had not consulted the residents of Remenham and Wargrave because “our job is to commission the healthcare for Oxfordshire, not Berkshire”.

Given we have all been patients of the Bell and Hart surgeries for, on average, more than 20 years, it seems we have been second-class citizens all that time.

We are good enough to bolster the economic engine of South Oxfordshire and Henley but when it comes to healthcare we are irrelevant. Quite shocking really, but you might see where we are coming from. — Yours faithfully,

Ron Emerson on behalf of Remenham Farm Residents’ Association

Festive cheer for old folk

Sir, — The Gainsborough Residents’ Association in Henley is a non-profit organisation that works within the local community.

One of our upcoming events is a free Christmas lunch for elderly residents from our area at the Catherine Wheel in Hart Street on December 4.We have managed to fund this event by applying for community grants. We are inviting 40 elderly residents to have a three-course lunch and give them an opportunity to meet other elderly residents and find out about facilities and help available to them within the community.

As well as giving the elderly residents a lovely dinner and company, we would really like to have a few prize hampers that they can take home to use over the winter period. This will also be free — we will hand out raffle tickets while they are having dinner and pick out some winners before they leave.

We are hoping that local companies might consider helping us out with this. We would like, if possible, to ask for a donation of a small hamper of goodies, or some non-perishable goods to make up a hamper. This could be anything from soup to a bottle of wine, anything that might be a little luxurious to use at Christmas.Many elderly people really find this time of year difficult as getting out and about is hard in harsh weather. Many also find it difficult to get out and socialise and will not ask for help as they are too proud.We want to give them a lovely time and hopefully send them home with a really nice hamper of goodies to help them celebrate.

If you would like to donate a hamper or some goods, please contact either Paula Isaac on 07983 518412 (email: or David Eggleton on 07836 3202508. — Yours faithfully,

Paula Isaac Chairwoman,

Gainsborough Residents’ Association,

Gainsborough Road,


Compelling performance

Sir, — I have had the pleasure of providing music for many weddings in and around Henley and almost without fail the young couples would choose the famous Arrival of the Queen of Sheba as the entrance of the bride or as the couple’s recessional music.

This sinfonia, taken from Handel’s wonderful oratorio Solomon, is now a firm favourite for weddings and almost all guests around the country will be familiar with this uplifting piece of music.

I would therefore urge everyone to take a rare opportunity to hear it in its original form when the Queen of Sheba visits Solomon at St Mary’s Church in Henley on November 14.

The story is compelling and the concert will be a splendid opportunity to hear the world-renowned soprano Patricia Rozario as The Queen of Sheba here on our doorstep.

She is singing with the Aliquando Chamber Choir and Orchestral Ensemble to support Wyfold Riding for the Disabled, which will be the beneficiary of the concert. Tickets are available by calling (01491) 578238 or from Higgs Printing and Office Supplies, 1 Station Road, Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Anne Evans


Dog walks curtailed

Sir, — I, too, recognised the picture of Kate Ward or “Camberley Kate” as she was affectionately known by local residents (Standard, October 30).

She used to walk her dogs in Camberley, where I lived as a teenager in the early Fifties.

I remember that there was a problem concerning rabies and I believe that her walks were curtailed as a result. — Yours faithfully,

Angela Stafford

Waterman Place,


Signs of autumn as seen from the air

Sir, — I flew with Mark Shemilt from Virgin Balloons over Henley and thought you might be interested in this stunning view of the trees below about to shed their leaves.

Best wishes to the heroic team who publish the

Henley Standard
! — Yours faithfully,

Tim Came

Commercial director,

Fairfields Farm Produce,


Why it’s important to remember

Sir, — Following the hugely enjoyable launch of our own Poppy Appeal, for which we thank Sam Brown and all the ukulele players, the Oxfordshire Poppy Appeal was launched at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford.

The military wives choirs of RAF Brize Norton and RAF Benson provided a delightful centrepiece. Henley was well represented with John Green, chairman of the Henley and Peppard branch of the Royal British Legion, delivering the exhortation.

The photograph shows our standard bearer, Brian Hughes, in Tom Quad with the military wives and 250 ceramic poppies from local artist Fiamma Montagu’s

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red
project, representing the First World War casualties from Christ Church, Oxford.

The reason for the letter is to ask if you would be kind enough to print the excellent address given by John Harwood, Vice Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, which he has permitted me to send to you. — Yours faithfully,

Shirley Lees

Poppy Appeal organiser, Henley

“At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.

How often have we all heard those lines over the years. So much so that they have transcended poetry and become part of our national liturgy. But what do we mean when we say “We will remember them...”?

The lines by Laurence Binyon were actually written just weeks after the war had begun and were first published in September 1914.

The poem came at the end of the first major battle of the war and it pledged to remember those who had died in what was thought — at the time — to be the key turning point in another short sharp European war to be over by Christmas. The British soldiers who were to be remembered numbered just a little over 1,700.

The way the poem was viewed was to change during the long years of war and the huge sacrifices that it brought. And so with that change, the meaning of ‘remembering’ changed too.

It changed from being the honouring by the many of the sacrifice of a few to the cataclysm which left virtually no family and no community untouched. After the war, only 32 villages in the whole country were able to see all those who went to war return alive. This collective grief changed our country.

This is why remembering changed from being just personal and individual to collective and communal. Communities needed to come together both at a time and place to remember and they also needed to find some way for individuals to declare their remembrance in their daily lives.

A symbol was needed — and again poetry proved to be the source of inspiration. And this year we mark the exact centenary of that inspiration, a poem written in 1915 by a Canadian army officer, John McCrea, the opening lines of which are almost as well known:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow/among the crosses, row on rowâ?¦

And which ends:

If ye break faith with us who die/We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.

And so remembering became more than just recollection, it became something altogether more complex — remembrance. And I will offer you three reasons why it is different from simple recollectionâ?¦

First of all, it is important for us to continue to honour all those who sacrificed their lives in the First and Second World Wars. Their immediate families may now almost all have passed away but we have a duty to continue to recognise them and the part they played in the great struggles of the 20th century, struggles which have and will continue to shape our world.

Moreover, in virtually every year since 1945 British service personnel have lost their lives in conflict — most recently, of course, in Afghanistan. And it is incumbent on us to honour their sacrifice too.

Second, while remembering those who have died, we must not forget the many more who lived, but whose lives have been shattered by injuries suffered. The number of those returning from the First World War with physical and mental injuries was far greater than those who actually died. And the same applies today.

We can all do something tangible to help those who have lost some part of the life they had but who still live with and among us. And we can also offer help and support to the families of those who have been killed or injured, whose lives have also been changed forever by the fate of their loved ones.

And, finally, I would suggest, remembrance is also about reflecting not just on the sacrifices of the past but also on the lessons we should learn for the future. The years immediately after the armistice were marked by a level of revenge which, while understandable, mainly contributed to fostering the next phase of conflict.

Where then was the wisdom which would have avoided the coming catastrophe? The need to escape from destructive cycles of revenge and retribution is no less now than it was then.

All this, and more, is what we mean by remembrance.

So I shall wear my poppy with humility to recognise the sacrifice of those who have died in war and to honour each person’s place in our history.

I shall wear it with gratitude for the fortitude, courage and endurance of those who served.

I shall wear it with compassion and generosity as a way of helping those who continue to suffer from the effects of war and conflict, from the injuries they have sustained, or through the death of a family member.

And I shall wear it in the hope that we will all, and particularly our leaders, have the courage and wisdom to choose reconciliation over revenge and to temper victory with magnanimity.

In all these ways I will remember them â?? and so can we all with the launch today of Oxfordshire’s Poppy Appeal.

Through the wearing of a simple poppy, we can all keep faith with those who still lie in Flanders fields and in very many other places across the world since then.”

Sir, — I took this picture on my walk on Saturday in beautiful autumn sunshine overlooking Stonor. — Yours faithfully,

Victoria Trainer


What a difference a week makes

Sir, — What a glorious autumn we have had but what a difference a week makes! — Yours faithfully,

Pat Knights

Fair Mile, Henley

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