Sir, — Anyone who read your report on my travails with TalkTalk and Openreach (Standard, January 8) may have assumed, as I did, that the story had ended with the reconnection of our service. No such luck.It seems that TalkTalk and BT Openreach have between them managed to concoct processes and procedures worthy of Franz Kafka.
On Wednesday morning last week I received a voicemail from TalkTalk telling me that I would have to be in my office between 8am and 1pm on January 21 so that an engineer from Openreach could get in to “re-route our line from the address that we were moving from’.
I phoned TalkTalk and explained yet again that the line had never been at any other address, that it had been working again for some days, that I had no intention of coming in just for their convenience and that all that was needed was for them to update their records with the correct address as shown on our online account. I was told that such a simple action was not possible because, according to their records, our line (which has been in use here for some 20 years) had to be moved from the other (wrong) address to ours despite it already being here and in use.
This was said while the young lady concerned could see in front of her that I was calling from our number. That fact seemed to be of no interest or relevance to her.
What we have learnt so far is that there is no mechanism whereby if an engineer has inadvertently cut someone off a call can be made quickly to tell him to go back and fix it; that it takes 10 days to register a simple change of address; that an error in putting in an address cannot just be corrected but has to be verified by sending out an engineer. All that when a problem has actually been fixed! What happens when there is a real problem? I can say that had I not found the email addresses of the two chief executives (using http://ceoemail.com) and written directly to them describing the problem I firmly believe that we would still be disconnected.
I am still pondering how best to respond to the automated “How did we do?’ email that arrived, also on Wednesday, from TalkTalk. — Yours faithfully,
Sonning Common Parish Council
People come before cars
Sir, — Your story about the abandoned car in Harpsden Road, Henley, (Standard, January 8) is just another illustration of how inadequate and evasive our public authorities are when it comes to motors and traffic. I have had direct experience of:
• Thames Valley Police refusing to deal with, among other things, a motor abandoned for six years on a verge, untaxed and unroadworthy.
• South Oxfordshire District Council refusing to treat this motor as being abandoned.
• The DVLA failing to respond to a report of it as being abandoned.
• Oxfordshire County Council denying its responsibility to keep pavements and verges free of obstructions (usually motors).
• The county council insisting that Greys Road has double yellows all along it (it has none from Church Street to Peppard Common, except for one or two corners).
• Three council officers using the same form of words to refute their responsibility for dealing with obstructions and using the same mistruth.
However, there is a way to get these authorities to take their responsibilities Â seriously. Clause 130 of the Highways Act 1980 says in effect that a parish (and Henley is a parish) can remind an highways authority of its responsibility to deal with any obstruction of the public carriageways, pavements and verges and “it is the duty of the local highway authorityâ€¦ to take proper proceedings’.
The solicitor handling highway matters for the county council recently confirmed this and said: “I would strongly advise against the matter being referred to Henley Town Council because, if they give notice to the county council that a highway has been unlawfully obstructed, the county council must take action (proceedings).’
Dear Mayor, please get all motors, dumped or otherwise, off roads, pavements and verges in Henley. People matter more than motors. Perhaps have a word with the cabinet member for highways in Oxfordshire. — Yours faithfully,
Bureaucrats are thriving
Sir, — As I read the report about the abandoned car in Harpsden Road, Henley, (Standard, January 8), I began to feel that I was reading the draft of a new TV comedy along the lines of Twenty Twelve or SW1A.
The bureaucratic buck- passing and failure to resolve what should be a straightforward problem was the stuff of parody.The impression that our local paper was becoming a rival to Private Eye was reinforced when later in the same edition I noticed a letter from a correspondent styling herself “senior communications and engagement manager’.
Of one thing we can be certain: bureaucracy will continue to provide such contributions to amusement and frustration during the year ahead and I trust the Standard will give them the airing they so richly deserve. — Yours faithfully,
Price of a life perhaps
Sir, — Regarding your article headlined “Pedestrians have to dodge traffic when crossing road’ (Standard, January 8), I was saddened to hear that Judi-Ann Roscoe, a resident of New Street, Henley, had been hit by a van in 2014. Apparently she has previously called for a proper pedestrian crossing. I am not surprised. Many local residents to whom I have spoken are in sympathy.
You quote David Tole from Oxfordshire County Council as saying “rather than responding to a former director of transport [i.e. myself] how are you going to encourage people to walk and cycle and push pushchairs around town?’ As a matter of fact, it was having to intervene to help a young mum stranded with a pushchair to get across New Street which prompted me to raise the issue, so it seems we are on the same page. I might add that Henley has quite a high proportion of elderly residents and there are people with disabilities to consider too.
Mr Tole says the county has no money to pay for road safety improvements.
Oxfordshire’s published financial plan tells us that spending has indeed been cut by 4.8 per cent this year — to £831million.In the same document I read that the county council’s “Priority 1’ for capital spending is “projects which enable compliance with our legal/statutory duties, including projects which address any infrastructure deficits related to statutory compliance’. I don’t suggest that the county has a legal duty to provide a pedestrian crossing on New Street. However, it does have statutory responsibility for local roads and road safety. New Street is an important feeder route connecting Oxfordshire and Berkshire via Henley Bridge, carrying significant heavy goods vehicles as well as cars, hence the problem.A total of £20,000 for a zebra crossing is not a trifling sum but in the context of avoiding potentially life-changing injuries (or worse) it hardly seems exorbitant. Mr Tole referred to “a neighbourhood plan that potentially will bring in some funding for these sorts of things’. Is that a realistic prospect or should we look for another solution? — Yours faithfully,
Phyllis Court Drive,
Sir, — Councillor Rodney Rose, deputy leader of Oxfordshire County Council, offers some excellent advice to motorists on how to drive through flooded roads (Standard, January 8). Part of the very problem has been caused by a lack of any maintenance over many years by his authority so the drains and gullies are now bunged up and completely useless. Here in Sonning Common parts of Wood Lane and the lower end of Kennylands Road are particularly bad. Perhaps Cllr Rose would like to inform us why this essential maintenance work has been abandoned? — Yours faithfully,
MP doesn’t convince me
Sir, — While I do not hold politicians in contempt as they do a difficult job that I am not prepared to, John Howell’s letter (Standard, January 8) does make me question my view.
While I know little about fracking, his defence of it makes me distrust the benefits. The claim his party won the election by two million votes is banal as that was the difference between the votes for the Conservatives and the Labour Party.
The truth is that while just under 11.4 million voted for the Conservaties, more than 19 million voted for others and of those who could vote, less than one in four cast their ballot for the Tories. If Mr Howell puts such a spin on this, his judgment on more complex issues worries me.
Secondly, hiding behind the manifesto strikes me as being equally nonsensical.
Party political manifestos are like terms and conditions on a website. Most of us tick that we have read them but we actually have a short life and do not want to waste it on something that is beyond our control. If electors voted because they believe in 100 per cent of a manifesto the turnout would be in the low thousands and half of them wouldn’t have understood what they were agreeing to.
If Mr Howell believes it is a valid defence, then at the next election he should give an exact percentage of how many manifesto commitments the Government has achieved.Furthermore, does his opinion mean that any legislation that is not in the manifesto is invalid? Finally, to his closing paragraph. Can he find nothing better than the hackneyed cliché of “hard-working families’ as an attempt to conjure support? More importantly, he omitted a crucial word, especially in view of the recent Paris accord, when he talked about an “affordable, secure supply of energy’. That word is sustainable. — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — John Howell implies that the country has given the Government a clear mandate for fracking.
This may be so from a politician’s viewpoint but not from the perspective of a rational person.Thrity-seven per cent of the votes cast in the last general election were for the Conservative Party. Only 24 per cent of the eligible electorate voted for the party. Yes, the Government won a clear majority but it was hardly a clear endorsement from the majority of the electorate.
Secondly, because the Conservative manifesto included a commitment to fracking, this does not imply that the 37 per cent who voted for the party were in favour of fracking (or that the remainder were all against fracking).
There were many commitments in the manifesto. Fracking was hardly the issue that would have persuaded the majority of the electorate to vote for or against the Conservatives.
Yes, the Government won a mandate to govern and can be expected to pursue its manifesto but for Mr Howell to imply that there is a clear mandate from the country for fracking is disingenuous (though no different from the norm for politicians of all parties in government). There may or may not be a majority in the country for fracking but to imply there is a majority on the basis of the election result is wrong. — Yours faithfully,
Housing plan is up to you
Sir, — I refer to the letters from Trevor Howell and Mike Turnill concerning the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan (Standard, December 18 and January 8).While the letters sought a reply from South Oxfordshire District Council, it is important to recall that it will be a community, not a council, plan. The allocation of sites for housing were selected by various working groups made up of members of the Henley and Harpsden communities.
The emerging plan has to comply with the district council’s core strategy and government guidelines. An independent examiner judged that it does with complimentary words as to the process. He also made some recommendations on wording within the plan and those have been incorporated. This is now out for the final consultation before it goes to referendum.
It will be then for the electorate of Henley and Harpsden to decide if they approve this plan. It is important to note that the referendum is not about whether or not we want the houses — that is a decision already made by the district council. It is about whether the residents of Henley and Harpsden should decide where the houses go, or if the decision should be made by the district council.
It is vital to recognise that the plan, if adopted, will give certainty to where the community agrees that development should take place. This does not prevent developers submitting planning applications for sites not in the plan but will it affect their ability to get what they want. If the plan is not adopted, that will leave Henley and Harpsden vulnerable to speculative development applications, which the district council may find difficult to refuse. This is what people in Henley and Harpsden are telling me they do not want. That is what the electorate, which includes your correspondents, will soon be voting on. — Yours faithfully,
Councillor David Nimmo Smith
Henley Town Council,
South Oxfordshire District Council and Oxfordshire County Council,
St Andrew’s Road,
Is this a case Â of Nimby?
Sir, — I read with interest your article about the opposition to the proposed new care home on the former LA Fitness site in Newtown Road, Henley, (Standard, January 8), in particular the comments attributed to Sir David Higgins, executive chairman of the HS2 rail project.
Could it be a case of “NIMBY’ bearing in mind the devastation that HS2 will cause? Would Sir David, I wonder, have a different view about the suggested benefits of HS2 if he lived even relatively close to the proposed route? — Yours faithfully,
Ewelme Additional evening train
Sir, — Please could I clarify your article on the revised evening rail timetable for Paddington-Henley services (Standard, January 8).
There are not five new trains but an additional late evening train slotted in on the branch, resulting in better connections from London, reduced journey times and shorter gaps between services. Anyone previously stuck on the platform at Twyford at 11pm until nearly midnight in the winter will appreciate the benefit! With regard to the through-train axe warning, this is not new and was first shared last March.
Your article mentioned our push for better evening weekday services from London, including half hourly fast trains to Twyford connecting to a reliable branch shuttle.
In the other direction, all local groups are pushing for connections off the branch to be at least semi-fast trains to London rather than stopping Crossrail services and we thank Patrick Fleming and the Henley Branch User Group for maintaining the high profile of this issue. Regarding day-to-day travel, we encourage travellers to both monitor @Henleytrains and report problems there or to Henleytrains@gmail.com so we have good information to drive improvements.
Thank you for sharing this update. — Yours faithfully,
On behalf of Henley rail commuters,
The place to raise issues
Sir, — As we approach the day of the patron saint of journalists and editors, St Francis de Sales, on January 24, there can be no better time to thank the Henley Standard’s team for all their hard work. A special thank you for the letters page as it gives us “ordinary’ folk the chance to praise and to raise local concerns, in my case the chronic lack of adequate NHS child and adolescent mental health community provision at weekends and on bank holidays. Making public such concerns may not cause any change but can raise awareness and make others think. The Henley Standard’s letters page is invaluable, as is the paper itself. Long may they continue to educate and entertain. Best wishes to all your readers. — Yours Â faithfully,
Club grateful for funding
Sir, — With reference to your story about Henley Town Council’s grants to sports clubs (Standard, January 8), I would like to thank the council for its financial support for Henley Rugby Club’s comprehensive and detailed development plans, which have been put together over a number of years.
In addition to rugby activities, these plans cover the large amount of community work that the club undertakes. I would also like to pay tribute to our members who have contributed more than £200,000 to the project.
The ruling Conservative group on the council was absolutely true to its manifesto pledge to invest in the improvement of sports facilities through the town by match-funding plans which individual clubs put forward and were approved.I would be more than happy to assist other clubs in constructing their own development plans, should they so wish. — Yours faithfully,
Chairman, Henley Rugby Club
Hidden fee for parking
Sir, — Why do I have to pay an additional 80 per cent for parking in the King’s Road car park in Henley if I use the Ringo phone app instead of paying cash? I was about to book an hour’s parking at 50p when I noticed that the Ringo charge was 90p. It appears that this 40p charge is added to all phone bookings. It’s not a lot of money but this “admin’ fee should be made clear on the car park signs.
Does South Oxfordshire District Council, which is responsible for the car park, get any of this fee? I would have thought car park operators would want to encourage us to move away from cash. — Yours faithfully,
Dog walk disrupted
Sir, — While I am not one for complaining when it comes to events in the village, I feel I need to express my views on the Woodcote 10km event, which took place on Sunday.
While trying to take my dog for his normal daily walk, I found myself verbally abused for getting in the way of runners.
I was told that I should have got up earlier to walk my dog so as to not be using the pavements that they needed to train on before the run.
I think it is disgusting that I should be told to move out of the way, especially when the event meant our small village was swamped with a multitude of cars parked along the road, making it almost impossible to walk anywhere on a Sunday morning.
After living in the village for eight years and walking my dog at the same time every Sunday, I feel that being told to get up earlier so as to not get in the runners’ way is a disgrace.
I am not saying that a 10km is not a good thing as I think getting fit is as important as everything else in life.
However, I think the race organisers need to think about how many people are taking part before swamping our small village. — Yours faithfully,
We’ll bring back toilets
Sir, — In reply to Tom Wyse’s letter expressing disappointment at the closure of the public toilets in the centre of Pangbourne (Standard, December 25), we would like to reassure him and all your readers that residents are fighting to have the toilets re-opened as quickly as possible under the stewardship of Pangbourne Parish Council. It may interest you to know that a large majority of residents who replied to a parish-wide consultation in June voted to pay extra council tax to fund a toilet facility in Station Road. Sadly, our battle since then has been to convince the parish council to take on responsibility for the toilets.
Residents are mystified as to why our council should be so reluctant to commit to providing such a facility when the toilets have the support of hundreds of residents of Pangbourne and the surrounding villages and parishioners are prepared to pay extra to keep them open. We would like to assure Mr Wyse and all who visit Pangbourne that we residents are proud of our lovely village and will continue our campaign to ensure that a decent and adequate public toilet facility is available to everyone. To find out more, your readers can find us on Twitter @pangbourneloos, on Facebook (Save Pangbourne’s Public Toilets) or email actionÂ forpangbournetoilets@gmail.Â com — Yours faithfully,
Antoinette Solera, Mike Fellows, Angela Cullinan, Dave Probert, Alyson Ebbrell, Lyn Higgs and Ron Bergin
The Action for Pangbourne Toilets residents’ campaign team
Be thankful to live here
Sir, — I know there are complaints every week about some problem in Henley, such as holes in roads, litter and the like but it could be so much worse.
I went to see my sister on Boxing Day. She lives near Hemel Hempstead, where we were born and grew up. It was a prosperous “new town’ built from about 1958 and was a beautiful place.
My wife and I went to shop in Hemel for old time’s sake and were horrified.
The bus pull-in was closed, marked off with bollards and odd bits of rubble. Several buildings, including what was once a popular local pub, were boarded up, the public toilets closed, wire barriers up all over the place, litter everywhere. It looked like somewhere in an East European war zone.
Seeing all this, I realised how lucky we are in Henley and really have very little to grumble about. — Yours faithfully,
Vital work of Guide Dogs
Sir, — Did you know the charity Guide Dogs has been providing its services since 1931 and that there are currently just over 4,800 guide dog partnerships in the UK? The working life of a guide dog is about seven years and it costs £10 a day to support a guide dog partnership.The charity, which pays for the guide dogs’ food and veterinary care, is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from the public.
So, on behalf of the Henley branch of Guide Dogs, may I extend a huge thank-you to all who donated and volunteered at our collection on December 18, helping to raise an impressive £811.15.
Should any of your readers like to learn more, or to join our team of volunteers, please call Rob Macleay on 0118 983 8171.
Finally, may I wish all our loyal and local supporters a very happy and healthy New Year. — Yours faithfully,
Jill Stewart and Otter, a guide dog puppy
Sir, — The Shiplake and Dunsden branch of the Royal British Legion is very pleased to confirm that the Poppy Appeal collection for 2015 came to the grand total of £7,153.47.
We are very grateful to everyone who gave their time doing street collections or collected at the static points, some of which did particularly well this year.
Thank you very much to everyone in the area for all your generous donations. — Yous faithfully,
Poppy Appeal organiser,
Shiplake and Dunsden
Please find attached a photo I thought you might enjoy of a full rainbow ( and second arc) taken recently whilst walking up Killdown Bank in Medmenham.