Saturday, 31 July 2021

Your letters...

Crazy Water awaits Elton

Crazy Water awaits Elton

Sir, — Has anyone read A P Herbert? This Henley Festival booms in the river business (Standard, March 4) is a misleading case.

Consider the facts of this play within the play:

1. The Environment Agency faces an increasing call on its resources in order to police the gatecrashers who hang like limpets on to the booms in the river. The agency can do it but it’s a costly challenge.

It is entitled by precedent to charge the Henley Festival for this extraneous policing activity

Music festivals pay six-figure sums to police forces and agencies for policing.

For example, Reading Festival and Glastonbury pay fortunes to the police to manage their events. They are obliged to. The agency will know this.

There’s good money to be made from traffic management at such events.

2. The Henley Festival does not want these gatecrashers sitting in the river. They are enjoying the show and the fireworks free of charge.

As a parallel, the Kenton Theatre is hardly going to open up the balcony for free admission every night.

Add to this that there is ample precedent for the Environment Agency to charge the festival, as outlined above, and the festival’s treasurer will want the booms quickly removed.

3. The festival’s own lawyers will advise their client to pass any charge on to the owners of the booms, Henley Royal Regatta, but it is the regatta that is facilitating the activity that is at the core of the potential liability.

Thus the festival will inevitably look to their landlord to pay any policing and legal costs.

4. The regatta has no interest in maintaining an obstacle that can be easily removed, particularly as it represents a financial and legal liability to them. Its lawyers will advise removing the booms from the water before Elton John does his soundcheck.

As for the punters in their floating gin palaces, well, it’s like parking your luxury caravan at the side of the stage at Glastonbury for no charge. Yet nothing is for nothing. Police and lawyers cost a fortune. It’s their entitlement.

The regatta has no choice but to get the booms out once the final race is done on the Sunday.

Saturday Night might be Alright For Fighting but not with the police, or worse, with someone else’s City-type lawyers. No one can afford that liability and that eventuality.

Excuse another pun but this potential police charge could drive the festival under and the festival runs a fairly precarious and leaky boat that already seriously rocks when it comes to losing money.

It’s all about money because in the end it’s money that counts, whether you are a policeman or a showman.

If I was the regatta I’d get the booms out before the Crocodile Rocks, or he will be singing Someone Sank My Boat Tonight, or worse, someone scuppered their chances of survival.

It’s sink or swim, guys. At the end of the night, that’s Your (swan) Song. — Yours faithfully,

Peter Burness-Smith

St Mark’s Road,


Please leave us the booms

Sir, — I find it difficult to believe that one incident of dangerous navigation has led to consideration of removal of the royal regatta booms for the Henley Festival (and the Thames Traditional Boat Festival the following week).

While I have sympathy for the views of those concerned about the presence of non-paying spectators in launches moored on the booms during the festival, these boats are not providing a good view of the performances, nor are they receiving the quality of music enjoyed by the paying audience on the bank.

They are, however, providing a picturesque backdrop which is very much a part of the festival atmosphere.

The booms provide order and a far safer environment than would be the case with a free-for-all with boats manoeuvring or anchoring in the channel.The potential for damage and injury in such a situation can scarcely be imagined. I assume, incidentally, there is no intention of closing the river to navigation.

Subsequently the Thames Traditional Boat Festival finds the booms invaluable in providing not only a means of directing non-festival traffic and marshalling sail pasts, but also a much valued photographic background.So please, Environment Agency, pursue the selfish speeding boaters with all your resources but leave us the booms for just a couple of weeks — Yours faithfully,

John Skuse Chairman,

River Thames Society,

Pinkneys Green

Bring back old festival

Sir, — My mother and I started going to the Henley Festival in the late Nineties because we loved the musical programme it then offered as well as the atmosphere.The Henley Festival used to be a truly “cultural” festival, showcasing what was good as well as edgy in classical music, jazz and “world” music.I remember with what excitement the very varied audiences responded to the fire of Nigel Kennedy, the mellifluous Nicola Benedetti, the wonderful Marion Montgomery (in the appropriately jazzy Marquee), the passion of the Gypsy Kings and the joyful rhythm of the African percussionists, to mention just a few.However, over the past few years, musically the festival seems to have degenerated into an upmarket Glastonbury with a proliferation of middle-of-the-road pop acts (with the exception this year of Elvis Costello).

Where is the new generation of classical and jazz artistes? There is, of course, nothing wrong with pop but the Henley Festival is not the right place for it to feature so predominantly and the festival cries out for a return to its more cultured and sophisticated roots, i.e. the classical and jazz repertoire. It is maybe also worth noting that the Henley Festival used to be held on just three evenings (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday), with the Saturday given over to a more family-oriented programme. It has since expanded to a full five days, no doubt with the linked increase in running costs which has resulted in considerably increased ticket prices. It would seem that pop is expensive. I would like to see a return to the Henley Festival as it used to be — a festival of music as well as all the wonderful and exotic periphera, which, thank goodness, are still a delight and a joy to the eye. — Yours faithfully,

Nicki Robinson

Sonning Common

Best place to live... for now

Sir, — A survey produced by Halifax states that South Oxfordshire has topped a list of the best places to live in the UK countryside and suggests that living standards are highest in rural areas close to the capital.

Quite an accolade considering that many of us living in the numerous small settlements, where nothing much has changed since the Sixties, are without main drainage or mains gas and suffer poor quality phone lines and an even worse broadband service. It may be surprising to note that the planning authorities deem many of our small settlements and hamlets as not appropriate locations for “sustainable development” effectively rendering them as “unsustainable”, as residents cannot realistically walk or cycle to work or to meet their daily shopping needs.

Perhaps they will wake up to the reality that we provide essential support to the vitality of our nearby towns and villages that are mostly within a very short car journey.

In my part of South Oxfordshire, walking in our countryside is for leisure, as is cycling. You only have to witness the discarded drinks cans in our verges to know that cycling is popular in the Chilterns.

Meanwhile, the rest of us rely on our cars as bus services are under threat.So how can such a popular region have hamlets defined as unsustainable? It’s a total nonsense and denies new families the opportunity to live in parts of the region with the eventual demise of those places and even fewer facilities for the remaining residents.As a town, Watlington is dependent on the support of the surrounding settlements and vice-versa, surely a perfect demonstration of economic and social sustainability as the planners might expect in a rural area such as South Oxfordshire. — Yours faithfully,

Peter Richardson

Howe Hill, near Watlington

Not what I wished for

Sir, — I received my postal ballot paper for the referendum on the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan, which I completed and returned.

I was very surprised to read the referendum question which I had expected to be “Do you support the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan?” That was not the question asked. Instead there was a different question, which was clear but had a different focus: “Do you want South Oxfordshire District Council to use the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan to help decide planning applications in the neighbourhood plan area?” Superficially, this is a valid question. A lot of time and money has been spent on this plan and although it is highly flawed in relation inter alia to roads and traffic increases, infrastructure and drainage, amenities and disruption to a community already blighted by these issues, why not consider aspects of the plan? A “yes” vote does not mandate the plan in total or require any single element of it to be implemented — we might assume — but there may be some useful bits.

However, I can guarantee that a “yes” majority will be trumpeted as approval and mandate for the plan.

Indeed the flyer through in my letterbox from the Henley say “yes” campaign (funded by whom?) said exactly that and I quote: “...a majority vote yes, the plan will become legally enforceable, putting Henley and Harpsden residents in control.” Not true in respect of either element of that assertion.

Living in Greys Road with its current heavy traffic load, I am horrified at the prospect of some 260 new dwellings with some 500-plus extra vehicles and many years of construction traffic. Only the developers and landowners with benefit.

Beware of what you wish for or vote for. — Yours faithfully,

Kim Eyeddul

Greys Road,


Sort pollution issue first

Sir, — Having carefully considered the neighbourhood plan, I can only conclude that, irrespective of a “yes” or “no” result in referendum, the building of 500 extra houses is seriously flawed.Over the past decade, a series of EU directives has imposed ever more stringent limits on harmful air pollution, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, the latter of which is not being monitored in Henley.Air pollution is responsible for many medical conditions, including cancer, heart disease, strokes and asthma, and, according to the Royal College of Physicians, is responsible for some 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK. Let us not pretend to ourselves that these illnesses and deaths will not be occurring in Henley as a result of the high air pollution in the town.So what are the authorities doing about it? It would appear that the only plan we have at the moment is not one to reduce pollution but, unbelievably, to increase it.

This plan is called the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan, the very same plan on which we were asked to vote.Scientists are arguing that the current EU air pollution regulations (which Henley does not currently meet) are likely to be reduced still further. How on earth one might ask are the authorities going to protect the health of the people of Henley?Surely, before we agree to the building of more houses, we need either to stand up to the Government to reverse its decision, or find a solution to Henley’s pollution problems. Every human being has the inherent right to a safe life. This right is not being bestowed upon the citizens of our town. — Yours faithfully,

Roderick Whitlock

Reading Road,


Privatising the NHS

Sir, — Like many Henley residents, I am deeply grateful to Ken Arlett and his colleagues for the dogged campaign they have mounted in relation to the Townlands Hospital redevelopment.From his letter (Standard, February 26) and my own experience of relevant meetings, it is clear that these matters have been deliberately dragged out beyond an April 2016 trigger date in the Health and Social Care Act of 2012.

This effectively reduces the NHS, already struggling with huge financial deficits due to the Private Finance Initiative, to nothing more than a logo and a (highly uncertain) funding stream.For the 2012 Act removes any duty on the Secretary of State to secure and provide comprehensive healthcare for the public.

The intention is clearly wholesale privatisation of NHS services — indeed, Jeremy Hunt has actually said that “we need clinical commissioning groups to become accountable care organisations” i.e. US-style private providers. Note also that the Government has recently announced that all GP services will go out to tender for private providers.

All this raises a series of fundamental questions.First, will there be an element of preference in the tendering for our excellent Henley GPs? I cannot imagine any imported health firm doing any better or even matching the services we now enjoy.

Handing the NHS to “the market” is, of course, a costly, inefficient and often grossly unfair way of delivering healthcare as American experience graphically shows.

US health costs run at twice those of other industrial countries for a generally inferior service — witness the astonishing recent decline in life expectancy for a large proportion of the US population. The American system regularly involves denial of care to millions of people and a situation in which two-thirds of US personal bankruptcies are caused by inability to cover medical costs.

To bring about these changes, the Government has imported a medical company manager from America as head of NHS England.

My second question is thus whether it is intended to allow foreign profit-maximising companies to bid for Townlands? Under various international trade agreements, it would probably prove impossible to unscramble this if it were to happen.

My third question relates to the abolition by the Government of any duty for it to ensure adequate and comprehensive healthcare.

Commercial companies will, of course, inevitably focus on their bottom line. If not politicians or public officials, to whom can the people of Henley make representations when they begin to experience at first hand the ill effects of the new regime? Will recourse to the streets be our only option? To my knowledge, these truly immense changes to the social fabric have never been mentioned in any election manifesto. If ever there was a case for a referendum, this is it. If the NHS users of Henley had been told what was intended, how many of them would support this policy? Not many, I would bet. — Yours faithfully,

P W Reed

Ancastle Green,


Please sack me as MEP

Sir, — I am inviting your readers to sack me from my well-remunerated job as their local MEP. Why? Because remaining in the EU is too great a risk for Britain.

If we vote to stay in on the wretched terms we have been offered, we’ll be dragged into more bailouts, more crises and more expenses.Here are five reasons why I am supporting the Vote Leave campaign and hope that you’ll do the same.

1. Our money, our priorities. Our annual tribute to Brussels now stands at £18 billion a year gross. If we kept that money at home, we could give the entire country a two- thirds cut in council tax or we could build and equip 200 state-of-the-art hospitals.

To put it another way, during the last parliament, we saved £36billion through the entire domestic cuts programme yet, over the same period, we gave Brussels £85 billion. The EU, in other words, wiped out our austerity savings twice over.

2. The EU is out of date. In the digital age, we are no longer defined by our geography. We have links to other English-speaking and common law nations around the world — nations that, unlike the EU, are growing economically. In 1980, the 28 EU states accounted for 30 per cent of the world’s economy; today, it’s 17 per cent and falling.

3. Keeping Britain secure. Outside the EU, we can control our immigration policy. More passports are checked at Britain’s borders than at those of the other 27 EU states put together.The former secretary general of Interpol, Ronald K Noble, describes the Schengen Zone as “an international passport-free zone for terrorists to execute attacks on the Continent and make their escape”.

4. Recovering our democracy. If the EU were just about international co-operation and trade, no one would have a problem with it. The trouble is that it regulates things that have no conceivable cross-border dimension: the power of our electrical appliances, the frequency of our bin collections, the way we open a bank account, the tax on sanitary products. Our laws should have precedence on our own territory, and we should be able to hire and fire the people who pass them.

5. The safer choice. After the failure to grant Britain different terms, it is now clear that the EU can’t be reformed from within. Voting to stay in is like remaining on a conveyor-belt whose far end we can’t see.The Schengen and euro crises are getting worse — one reason that the Government was in a rush to hold the referendum at the earliest possible date.

Staying in means more risk and more cost. It’s safer to take back control. — Yours faithfully,

Daniel Hannan

MEP for South-East England

We mustn’t leave the EU

Sir, — I write to clarify some issues which seem to be confusing contributors regarding the debate on remaining in or leaving the EU.

1. Sovereignty — this is the word that “leavers” would have you understand as the main reason for their choice. Supposedly we have surrendered our parliamentary sovereignty to others and are thus weakened.Parliament remains completely sovereign in the creation of laws within the UK. Nothing has been removed from it in that sense. It can make any laws it deems fit without restriction.

It has, however, in the 1972 European Communities Act chosen to allow EU law to apply unless it is expressly chosen by Parliament not to apply. If at any stage Parliament chooses to do so, it can amend or revoke the 1972 Act.

No one would be able to stop that but of course it would lead to disagreement with our current partners in Europe and probably restrictions on our access to the single market. Many will point at the US as their example for what Britain could be outside the EU.

They fail to realise that Congress has much less sovereignty than our Parliament. Congress is bound by the constitution, which it cannot change. All its laws have to pass a legal test before they are permanent, something Parliament is not constrained by.

The leavers cherry pick their points to validate their argument when they can be shown to be contradictory.

2. The single market — the commercially beneficial part of EU membership. The biggest gripe is our contribution to the EU for access to the single market. Hence withdrawal would mean we have oodles of cash to spend that wouldn’t be wasted in Europe.

Our current contribution is of the order of £11billion but we get back £7billion in payments to farmers, grants for research and development and help for deprived areas, so our net contribution is in the order of £4billion to £5billion.

When you set this against an NHS budget of £120billion the oodles of cash to spend argument disappears.

Those wishing to leave cannot provide any guarantee that we will have equivalent access to the single market, preferring to argue that it is in Europe’s interest to accommodate us as we are the fifth biggest economy in the world.For this access they are happily going to comply with directives required for market access, as Norway and Switzerland do, and have to contribute some funding for that as well.However, leavers are going to have to surrender the ability to influence decisions related to the single market and if that is not a loss of sovereignty, then I don’t know what is. As the first country departing the EU project, I doubt the other member states would be willing to offer favours. As with the debacle with Greece last year, the EU was willing to push the Greeks to the very brink to make them comply with the terms set out in the rescue.Thus the need to dissuade others that life outside was better would automatically mean delays on agreements — long, painful delays to show that being the fifth biggest economy or not, being in the club has its benefits.Those advocating leave can promise nothing on this count, it is beyond their sovereignty to do so. If I worked in agriculture I would be very concerned about leaving the EU. The political power of farmers in the UK is virtually nil and they are beneficiaries of the payments afforded to farmers across the EU in reflection of the political power agriculture has in other countries.I would not expect any British government to fill the hole left by single farm payments, or any other agricultural or environmental subsidies. Leaving the EU would be a tragedy for farming without doubt.

3. Immigration — foreigners coming here stealing our jobs or consuming our benefits or both at the same time.It is my belief that we are conflating two issues here, one of inadequate house- building and the other of immigration.Our economy is currently growing in part because of immigration from the EU, not in spite of it. The City of London requires talented individuals to grow and many of those come from the EU.Our technology-based industries — something the Thames Valley is noted for — depend on highly skilled and highly educated workers, many of whom come from the EU to Britain. Will these industries continue to grow when their foreign employees are uncertain of their employment status? No one promoting the leave campaign can promise that.

Many of these highly educated staff believe in the ideals of the EU, so how will they feel about a country turnings its back on them? At the very least uncertain. We are successful because we are open in our view of the world. We have a long history of accepting immigrants and growing as a nation because of their skills and expertise.

Are we really going to turn our back on that which has made us a successful nation? Just to put our debate into a world economic context. An oil price shock. Falling demand for commodities. Negative interest rates from central banks — unheard of before now. Record levels of government and private debt. These are choppy waters indeed and the outlook is uncertain.

I ask you plain and simply: is this the right time to turn our back on where 51 per cent of our exports go? Leaving the EU now is rash idealism — we may not like all the things it does, but we are party to discussion to improve it. It is time to engage as we did in the Seventies and Eighties, when the UK led the policy of expansion of the European project eastward in Europe, and we should take the lead again in the agenda of reform rather than shy away from a tough debate. Vote to remain in the EU. Not wishful ideals but simple pragmatism. — Yours faithfully,

David Thomas

Greys Hill,


Please keep it short, folks

Sir, — I totally agree with Ann Law, from Binfield Heath, in her response to the length of letters that appear regularly here.I look forward to reading responses/replies but I am beginning to lose the will to live over the columns of print that apply to some single letters.

Such a shame — keep them short and interesting please! — Yours faithfully,

James Watkins

Sonning Common

Housing our competitors

Sir, — Henley Women’s Regatta and Henley Royal Regatta both provide an “accommodation matching” service for visiting competitors, a service which is provided free of charge to both crews and the local residents who open up their homes.

Both organisations take enormous pride in these services. We know these arrangements work very well and are highly valued by all concerned.Many local households have forged close friendships with competing crews, greatly enhancing the experience of the two world-class regattas for both Henley residents and the competitors who have often travelled enormous distances. It has been brought to our attention that some individuals are claiming an official connection to our organisations in order to provide crews with accommodation and are charging a fee for this service.

Indeed, an item appeared in the spring 2016 edition of the Henley Town Council quarterly newsletter offering a crew hosting service. Both Henley Women’s Regatta and Henley Royal Regatta wish to make it completely clear that we do not work with any intermediary or local agent.

Crews and potential hosts are strongly advised to deal direct with Anne Buckingham for Henley Women’s Regatta ( and Lindsay McLoughlin for Henley Royal Regatta ( in relation to matters relating to crews’ accommodation.

If there are any concerns or comments, or if further clarification is required, please speak direct to either Henley Women’s Regatta on 07805 456901 or Henley Royal Regatta on (01491) 572153. — Yours faithfully,

Miriam Luke,

Chairman, Henley Women’s Regatta,

Sir Steve Redgrave,

Chairman, Henley Royal Regatta

Bad advice from police

Sir, — I recently visited my mother-in-law in Henley and while there I read her the Henley Standard of February 26.There was a letter from a T Hirst who had problems with the police over registering the loss of house and car keys.

I could not believe the published response from Thames Valley Police at the end of the letter, saying that your correspondent should put up posters in the local area and leave details with local shops.

As a long retired police officer who served in Henley many years ago, when there was a proper police station, I was amazed at this advice.

Any person finding the lost items and who has an unlawful disposition would think Christmas had come. I hope that T Hirst has had the locks changed. — Yours faithfully,

Richard Pengilley

Kind, funny magician

Sir, — I work as an art psychotherapist with children who are at risk. I was asked to work with a 13-year-old old boy in an exclusion school who, “by the way”, loved magic.

The boy was always in trouble but he was a lovely, kind young person as well.

He knew everything about Paul Daniels and I knew nothing about magic tricks.

Although we began our relationship using art materials, the sessions eventually consisted of me being shown amazing card tricks from this self-taught young man.

I was looking for a way to build on his self-esteem as I could see that he was talented and sincere. I knew that Paul Daniels lived in our area and wrote to him to ask if he might come to the school with me to speak to the boy, not expecting a reply.

He wrote back right away and organised a day to go with me to an area this side of London. I had to warn the boy to make sure he would be there but did not say what was going to happen as he was quite unpredictable about turning up at school. What I remember most is that when Paul walked in and shook hands with him the boy was utterly speechless and could only stare. He could not believe that this man came especially to spend time with him.

We went into the room I used for therapy and Paul and he were in their own world of magic and mutual respect.

For Paul to give his time without reward or the knowledge of the media showed how caring and special he is. He encouraged, spoke knowingly and understandingly of how difficult life could be and was funny and kind. The boy was transferred out of the area and I lost contact with him but I am sure if he hears of Paul’s circumstances he would want him to know how much his visit meant and I am sure will never be forgotten. — Yours faithfully,

Name and address supplied

Rearrange these words...

Sir, — My wife Helen remarks that last week’s Henley Standard main headline on the front page used your four favourite words: “FESTIVAL RIVER MAYHEM FEARS”. Did you actually mean: “River fears festival mayhem?” or “Festival fears river mayhem?” or “Mayhem festival fears river?” or “River festival fears mayhem?” There are 24 ways of arranging your four favourite words, so with a little care they should last you almost half a year. Good luck! — Yours faithfully,

David Watson

Cold Harbour,

Goring Heath

Selfish dog owners

Sir, — On Sunday morning I was walking with my border terrier along the towpath between Remenham and Henley.

Somewhere around half way on the walk a DayGlo Lycra-clad jogger ran past with his border collie. My dog took rather a shine to his dog and decided to follow in hot pursuit — any terrier owners out there will know they can at times have selective hearing when they are called.

I called after the jogger to ask him to stop jogging so I could catch them up and hook my dog up to his lead. Not an unreasonable request in the circumstances.

To my amazement, the jogger turned round and, seeing I was struggling to catch them up, said: “No, I can’t stop — I’m on a five-mile run.” The selfish attitude of some people in life never ceases to amaze me. All he had to do was run on the spot for less than 30 seconds but no, nothing was going to interrupt his run.

I presume this jogger is such an elite athlete we should all be keeping an eye out for him in Rio this summer! While writing, I should say that I see very few dog walkers (including Mr Jogger) carrying poo bags. Many walkers are still not clearing up after their dogs along this section of the towpath. — Yours faithfully,



The place to go...

Sir, — I can exclusively reveal, for the benefit of all your wonderful readers, just what is being put on the second floor of the new Townlands facility. — Yours faithfully,

Dick Fletcher

Mill End, Hambleden

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