Tuesday, 03 August 2021

Your letters...

Stick to plan, developers

Stick to plan, developers

Sir, — There are two pressing concerns that the residents of Henley should be aware of.

Firstly, our neighbourhood plan has been passed and already developers are trying to subvert it.

In the plan the former Jet garage site was allocated 55 dwellings (40 per cent affordable) and the old Henley Youth Centre site 23 dwellings (40 per cent affordable).

These sites are now being proposed for use as assisted living, extra care homes, meaning there would be no affordable units on these sites and a loss of 31 affordable homes.

Also I have had a site visit to 118 Greys Road, behind the top shops.

In the plan the site was allocated only 13 dwellings. The developer is pushing for between 17 and 20.

If all developers submit plans for more than the allocation it will mean there will be more than 500 homes with all the additional pressures on Henley’s roads they bring.

If these planning applications go through then it will drive a set of coaches and horses through the neighbourhood plan, which was voted for by the people of Henley.

If a site allocation says “around 13” then it must be around 13, not 17.

If a site has been allocated for flats with 40 per cent of them affordable then that is what should be built.

The neighbourhood plan must be stuck to.

Secondly, if developers are upping the numbers then it is also important for the Henley area to have a transport strategy immediately.

It should be a clear plan that improves air quality and reduces pollution and the number of heavy goods vehicles passing through the town. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak

Henley Town Council and South Oxfordshire District Council,

Elizabeth Road, Henley

Think about wider picture

Sir, — I agree with Gill Dodds when she states there are few homes for young people identified in the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

I attended the first meetings of the plan working groups to consider the future of Henley and Harpsden and to make Henley a thriving market town with residents owning their own homes, plenty of sports facilities and leisure activities and a healthy, happy environment.

The main aim identified by the consultants was homes for the younger generation and we were asked to think about the town in the future and what would be required to meet this objective.

Unfortunately, the neighbourhood plan was, in my opinion, rushed towards a referendum and we seem to have ended up with excess accommodation for the care of the elderly when they are very frail when perhaps a better idea would have been accommodation for older people to downsize to from the family home.

The No Limits Gym site that Mrs Dodds proposes for affordable homes for younger people does not have a very pleasant outlook, being opposite Tesco’s delivery area with the pollution caused by the lorries.

I am surprised that, with the expertise of the planning consultants, an overall view of the Harpsden and Henley area and surrounding villages was not taken during the meetings of the working groups — topics such as traffic in the entire area, a debate about a possible bypass, pollution and how to deal with it, health provision, social service provision, police and fire service, the possibility of another bridge over the Thames and and electricity and water requirements for an increased population as the Goverment plans more housing for South Oxfordshire.

Unfortunately, as in all “localism” plans, people were somewhat biased and did not discuss plans for the future of Henley and Harpsden and did not take into account the whole area.

As a result, most of the new developments will be to the west of Henley, making entry to the town more congested and an imbalanced situation.

I understand that the owner of Thames Farm would provide some social housing in her development if it received planning permission. This is needed.

Many correspondents have written about this site with different views but it does have the sustainable infrastructure required by the Government, transport in all directions and retail amenities, including a post office, which should prevent more congestion in Henley.

By comparison Harpsden village has no transport systems and the village roads are too narrow for buses. — Yours faithfully,

Odette Moss


We mustn’t subvert plan

Sir, — In January I wrote asking whether, and by whom, the community’s interests in the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan would be protected.

Councillor David Nimmo Smith replied, asserting that the plan “will be a community, not a council plan”.

Three months later, the acid test for whether it really is a “community plan” continues to be the Jet garage site.

Our councillors are fighting tooth and nail to ensure the conditions of the plan are applied but it will still be South Oxfordshire District Council that will decide, on April 29, whether McCarthy & Stone can build assisted living accommodation rather than the mixed housing (including 40 per cent affordable) mandated by the plan.

Has the application been through the three-stage process stipulated on page 31 of the plan? Has the developer held the prescribed public consultation?

Equally perturbing is Gill Dodds’s attempt to get the published plan for the adjacent 353-357 Reading Road site changed, arguing that it should be rented out for 100 per cent social housing.

This is not what the plan stipulates. The site was included in the plan for mixed housing.

As such, it also offers a spectacular win-win for the community, providing a windfall of several million pounds for Henley Town Council to spend on infrastructure and enhanced sports facilities, including new hockey and football clubhouses on Jubilee Park.

If, as suggested, the site was rented out to a housing association, the existing clubhouses would still have to be reprovided (as required by the plan), so where would the required £500,000 come from to finance them?

We must resist all post- referendum attempts to subvert the neighbourhood plan. The 81 per cent who voted for it endorsed more than just its general drift.

We were also told the plan, once approved, would be legally binding. Why then is it not being enforced to the letter? Why is McCarthy & Stone’s planning application even being considered?

Some of us have seen parts of the plan go through against the community’s expressed wishes and watched the examiner unilaterally alter the numbers and wording.

We must not stand idly by and allow the remainder to get hijacked. To ensure this doesn’t happen, we appear to have little choice, short of legal intervention, but to rely on our council representatives at local and district level.

The outcome of the April 29 meeting will confirm whether or not our faith is misplaced and who has the final say. — Yours faithfully,

Trevor Howell

Blandy Road, Henley

Perfect for new homes...

Sir. — You kindly published an article reporting on the submission of the revised plans for Thames Farm (Standard, April 8).

Please may I give your readers 10 good reasons why they and South Oxfordshire District Council should support the plans?

1. The revised proposals include an increase in green space and landscaping with a reduction in the number of homes (down to 95 from 110 previously). This ensures that the development would be well screened from the road.

2. A revised road crossing with improved visibility would ensure that the safety and convenience of both existing and future highway users would not be compromised.

3. There is a clearly established need for new housing in the area.

4. The revised plans include 40 per cent affordable homes, in line with the district council’s planning policy. These homes are likely to be a mixture of starter and shared ownership homes, aimed at first-time buyers and local young people who need help to get a foot on the first rung of the ladder as well as offering much-needed affordable rental homes. These new homes would be available to local people, their children and grandchildren who have grown up in the area.

5. Sixty-one per cent of the residents who responded to the recent public consultation support the revised plans.

6. Thames Farm has well-defined boundaries, surrounded by large residential properties and associated gardens and paddocks and there is no danger of “sprawl”.

7. Thames Farm is on a main road with the existing bus stop outside and is within walking distance of Shiplake station (which will benefit from Crossrail).

8. Henley is a medieval town with known traffic pinch points. Thames Farm lies outside the most congested areas of Henley within five minutes’ drive of an existing superstore and pharmacy which can be reached without driving through Henley town centre.

9. The site is not in a flood zone, the Green Belt or an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

10. There will also be a significant Community Infrastructure Levy financial contribution towards local education, libraries and other community facilities.

Let’s hope that common sense prevails so we can build the new homes our community needs. — Yours faithfully,

Claire Engbers

Owner, Thames Farm, Harpsden

...or creating urban sprawl

Sir, — I agree with the objections to the proposed development at Thames Farm set out in Tudor Taylor’s letter (Standard, April 15).

The scale of the development cannot be supported by the facilities in Shiplake.

If permitted, it would be a significant step towards turning Henley and Shiplake into an urban sprawl towards Reading.

Similar applications have been rejected by the community, South Oxfordshire District Council and a planning inspector.

As the population grows, communities grow but special planning vigilance is necessary when the growth exceeds a critical mass or merges otherwise individually different communities. — Yours  faithfully,

Ken Hydon

Crowsley Road, Shiplake

Making best use of buses

Sir, — Oxfordshire County Council spends our money chartering taxis and coaches to take children to and from school, where in some cases there are scheduled buses going in the same direction that have spare seats.

Bus Users Oxford has long said the council should merge these two services where possible and especially where it subsidises buses. This would save money on both chartering coaches and subsidising buses.

The council now has what it calls its Transport Hub, which is a single unit of staff to run various types of transport. The Hub replaced separate teams which had handled buses, bus passes, schools transport, social services transport and dial-a-ride.

When the council started its public review of all subsidised buses in June it said it would consider merging scheduled buses and schools transport where possible.

Wallingford has a secondary school and Henley has a sixth-form college. Henley College charters coaches to bring students from a wide area. Two of these, coaches H1 from Didcot and Harwell and H9 from Abingdon, overlap the route of bus 139.

The council subsidises bus 139 by £84,000 a year. By how much could that be reduced if Henley College students from Wallingford, Benson and Nettlebed were to use bus 139 instead of college coaches?

Could not Abingdon, Didcot and Harwell students be served by extending other Henley College coach routes that do not compete with bus 139? Now instead the council has decided to end all bus subsidies from July 20. This will deprive many villages of all public transport and end links between towns such as Wallingford and Henley.

The people disadvantaged will include some Henley College students who, after they graduate, will have less choice of where they can travel to start a career or continue studying.

Bus Users Oxford urges the council to return to what it suggested a year ago: integrate buses and school transport, instead of abolishing one and over-spending on the other. — Yours faithfully,

Hugh Jaeger

Chairman, Bus Users Oxford

I don’t want pop-up shops

Sir, — As a Henley independent retailer, I was encouraged to read that our town council is investing in the promotion of our beautiful town (Standard, April 15) and I wait with bated breath to see exactly what “significant economic benefits and support” I will get from their plan.

However, one thing that I cannot endorse is their proposal to encourage “pop-up shops”.

I know that we don’t like seeing empty retail units but short-term “pop-up” shops are not the answer.

These businesses come into towns at peak times and take business away from regular retailers who have long-term leases, work hard to build their businesses and pay rent and rates.

They may work in large towns and cities but not in a small market town such as Henley.

If the council has more than £5,000 to play with then how about giving it back to those independents that stick it out in this town through very difficult trading times?

Landlords need to be encouraged to reduce rents and business rates need to be reduced to encourage long-term businesses to take these empty units and invest in our town.

Pop-up shops will have a totally opposite effect and may lead to further businesses closing. — Yours faithfully,

Laurence Morris

Laurence Menswear, Duke Street, Henley

UK must run its own affairs

Sir, — J Cassidy’s letter regarding the EU referendum (Standard, April 8) contains a number of factual inaccuracies and assumptions that need to be challenged:

1) His letter states that “53.6 per cent of UK exports by value” go into the EU. This is plain wrong. Since 2008 exports of UK goods and services have steadily fallen from 50 per cent to 43 per cent in 2015. This fall has continued throughout 2016 and if it continues the value of our exports will be at approximately 41 per cent in 2020 (Source: Oxford Economics/Haver Analytics).

In other words, while the EU remains an important export market, it is becoming less so by the year. It certainly will not vanish if we leave. The UK will simply be one of the majority of the world’s nations, such as America or China, that sell into the single market without having to accept its rules of free movement.

2) The UK is the EU’s second largest contributor, not third as stated in his letter. By any standards our annual net contribution of £12billion and rising by the year is still a vast sum of money.

Using the old salesman’s trick of saying this “equates to one penny in every pound the UK spends” will not make that figure any less. This annual contribution is of particular concern in view of the fact that the auditors have failed to sign off the European Commission’s accounts for 19 years in a row. Would any company be happy doing business with a customer whose accounts were in such a chaotic state, I wonder?

3) J Cassidy’s statement that “European (sic) law is actually set by the European Parliament” is also incorrect.

EU laws and directives are actually drawn up by anonymous committees and passed through the commission. The European Parliament only has the power to vote on and suggest amendments to the commission. It does not create any of the EU laws and directives.

4) His letter repeatedly uses the example of Norway and Switzerland as countries outside the EU that still have to abide by the rules of free movement to gain access to the single market.

Well, the UK is neither of those countries but the fifth largest economy in the world. In addition, we have a very large annual trading deficit with the EU. In October 2015 alone it was over £8 billion (Source: Office of National Statistics).

If, on that basis, the UK cannot negotiate what J Cassidy refers to as a “sweetheart deal” we do not deserve our freedom.

5) The question of whether or not an SNP-ruled Scotland will attempt to break away from the UK is very likely to be an issue we will have to face in the next couple of years whichever way the referendum goes. Brexit is simply the latest excuse for the SNP to hold another referendum on Scottish independence.

6) Interestingly, J Cassidy acknowledges that the euro single currency and the Schengen border free agreement were “two of the biggest blunders” by the EU. Since these are two of the main building blocks of “the European Project”, their failure must surely call the wisdom of our continued membership of the EU into serious question.

J Cassidy omits to mention three very important words relating to this referendum. They are independence, sovereignty and democracy. In other words, the ability of the citizens of the UK to run their own affairs. This is not and never will be an option as long as we remain a member of the EU. — Yours faithfully,

Nick Brazil

Hardwick Road, Whitchurch

Pro-Europe but anti-EU

Sir, — I welcome Jim Munro’s call to “raise the level of EU debate” (Standard, April 15).

This is one of the most important decisions we’ve had to take since the war.

I can’t argue with much of what he says. Of course we must continue our contacts and friendships with those across the Channel.

Over the past 60 years I’ve visited every country in Europe except three, most of them many times, and I speak a couple of the languages. I’m a passionate European.

But I’m also passionately anti the European Union.

How come? Well, we must differentiate between “Europe” and the EU. It’s perfectly possible to love one and loathe the other.

The EU project was launched in the Fifties, supposedly as a free trade area, but with a secret agenda that one day it should become a superstate. This is no longer a secret.

We have the example of the USA, so why not a United States of Europe?

In the interests of brevity, I’ll mention only one: the EU is profoundly UN-democratic. The American president is elected by the people whereas the executive arm of the EU comprises 28 commissioners, who are not elected. We don’t choose them and can’t get rid of them; all too often they are failed politicians.

Britain is allocated just one of these commissioners, so has the same say as the tiniest of our fellow members.

Before voting in June take a look at the situation in Europe. Greece in turmoil; the Euro creating divisions rather than the opposite; uncontrolled immigration from the third world.

The EU project is clearly floundering, whether it actually sinks only time will tell. There’s more to fear by staying in Europe than voting to leave. — Yours faithfully,

Rolf Richardson

Wootton Road, Henley

EU shouldn’t spend my tax

Sir, — I was driving down Southampton Street in Reading recently when I found the road obstructed by a stationary transporter, its hazard lights flashing.

I veered round it to find myself in a bus lane. Somewhere behind a camera flashed.

In town I mentioned it to a traffic warden who told me to report it at a police station as traffic wardens don’t monitor bus lanes.

On getting home I called in at Henley police station only to find it has changed into a yellow plastic shoebox containing a telephone attached to a wall. This has happened as the money has run out.

I gingerly opened the box and the telephone fell out as the last person to use it hadn’t replaced it properly.

I believe for the money to start flowing again and reinstate British values we will have to vote to leave the European Community in June.

I stood in the cold rain staring at the dangling phone while a metric metre or so behind me rushed the traffic.

Behind the wall it was only a few imperial yards to the warm, dry but empty counter.

The new system is an abomination. I pay my taxes in Henley and therefore expect my money to be spent in Henley and not in Milton Keynes, which was where I was put through to in order to receive a reference number in case the bus lane people contact me.

As I pay my taxes in England and not in Europe, I want someone here to decide how the money should be spent and not there. — Yours faithfully,

Sam Brown

Western Road, Henley

Terrible state of our roads

Sir, — The picture letter from Councillor Derek Nimmo Smith (Standard, April 15) illustrated another example of the poor quality of road repairs locally but by no means was the most important in my view.

The stretch of road between Greys Court and Greys Green typifies the shoddy workmanship where repairs to two areas of “failed road” have recently been attempted.

Road surfaces in the Henley area are generally in very poor condition with numerous potholes. One is reminded of some countries in the Third World.

Yet this state of affairs seems to generate little concern, even from Councillor Nimmo Smith apparently.

According to the Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, it is not responsible for the damage to one’s vehicle caused by a pothole if it was unaware of the hole’s existence. A useful cop-out.

This matter would seem like an ideal constituency project for our MP.

If John Howell could take his eye off the ermine for a moment and exert a little pressure on the council to fix the potholes, I am sure all his constituents would be grateful. — Yours faithfully,

Michael Emmett

Peppard Common

We’ve been here before

Sir, — I write with reference to James Lambert’s letter about Brakspear and the deterioration of a pub in its ownership, in this case the Crown in Nuffield (Standard, April 8).

In the mid-Nineties, Brakspear wanted planning permission to turn Henley’s 15th century coaching inn, the Olde White Hart in Hart Street, now Zizzi, into offices (office development was all the rage then).

To this end, it left this listed building empty and neglected, allowing it to deteriorate to a shocking extent: windows broken, including old stained glass, filth and debris everywhere — dogs had been shut in the building and the stench was indescribable.

Henley Town Council, South Oxfordshire District Council and even CAMRA were involved in the fight to keep this historic building as a pub.

The case went to appeal and the inspector ruled that the coaching inn should remain a hostelry. Bad luck that time, Brakspear.

Nowadays, it’s the conversion of pubs to residential use that is more lucrative. It may be that the Dog and Duck at Highmoor is another candidate. — Yours faithfully,

Dianne Browne

Bell Street, Henley

Outstanding pub service

Sir, — I read James Lambert’s letter with interest.

He, rightly I believe, raised the question of the interest, or lack of it, shown by Brakspear.

The only issue I would take up with him is the omission of the Three Horseshoes pub in Henley.

This is run by licensees who keep an excellent cellar and are helpful, friendly and attentive. They also provide a menu of good pub food at reasonable prices, all freshly cooked. — Yours faithfully,

Terry Allsop


Misinformed on gym issue

Sir, — I feel I must correct the erroneous impression created by J M Stockton’s letter concerning the proposed health club at Phyllis Court Club in Henley (Standard, April 15).

The only vote by members was taken in May 2012 when the club’s council was, by a clear majority, given the authority to apply for planning permission for the project.

Members have every right to express an opinion but please base it on facts and not on misinformation. — Yours faithfully,

Barry Hardman,  

immediate past chairman, Phyllis Court Club,

Reading Road, Henley

Don’t miss opportunity

Sir, — Although Phyllis Court Club is a private members’ club it seems the upgrading proposals are being discussed through your newspaper.

As with all plans involving an element of change, there are those who prefer the status quo. Sometimes, however, it is necessary to embrace the challenges and indeed possible small risks which change may involve.

The proposals for a sports and health centre as part of the club have, in my opinion, been thoroughly researched and extensive soundings of the wishes of the members have been taken on a number of occasions. In the past there have been many proposals to adapt the club to changing circumstances but all of these have failed to come to pass. The current opportunity should not be missed. — Yours faithfully,

William Fitzhugh

Makins Road, Henley

Fitness centre can save club

Sir, — I was one of the potential members who participated in focus groups at Phyllis Court Club concerning the proposed health and fitness facility, so I was disappointed by the petty squabbling over this in recent letters.

Health and fitness is now an essential part of our lives. That’s why I and many others simply won’t join the club without these facilities.

The club has a fabulous location and an income enhanced by the annual regatta. Why would such a club not have standard 20th century facilities?

Members have a moral responsibility to safeguard the 100-year-old club for future generations rather than act purely out of self-interest.

However, the current membership appears to be very old and if their tastes and attitudes block the inward flow of new blood, Phyllis Court Club will surely die alongside them. — Yours faithfully,

Bob Cross

Hamilton Avenue, Henley

Gallery will be missed

Sir, — As the two windows of the Barry Keene Gallery on Thames Side, Henley, no longer display the remarkable treasures of paintings and sculptures, Henley will lose one of its most important artistic centres — not only the gallery, the meticulous framer, but the man himself.

Barry Keene’s knowledge of European art and his astute eye has given Henley a fine art feast for more than 30 years.

Works by Royal Academicians, painters of the Royal Society of British Artists, the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour, the New English Art Club and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters as well as numerous artists who for one reason or another have been under the radar have lined the walls of the gallery.

Barry’s expertise has never failed to impress me and I have spent 50 years studying, teaching and practising as an artist.

He and his wife Jill will be missed but Barry’s own paintings will, I am sure, enter a new chapter and the other jewel in Henley’s artistic crown, the renowned Bohun Gallery, will continue to give the town the pedigree that Henley deserves.

There is no question though that what is an epoch of 20th century paintings which have hung in Barry’s tiny gallery will not be seen again in this locality. Nor is it likely that we will find such a connoisseur. — Yours faithfully,

Clive Duncan, former head of fine art, Sir John Cass Faculty,

Metropolitan University, London


Mum loves bus trips too

Sir, — I would like to add my thanks to the good people of the FISH volunteer service in Sonning Common.

Before he died, my father was a volunteer driver and now my mother is a most enthusiastic user of this wonderful service.

She is a regular on the weekly trip to Tesco in Henley and also to the monthly afternoon tea parties in Sonning Common village hall.

My mother doesn’t really need to go to the supermarket every week but the camaraderie on the minibus makes it a mobile social club and probably the highlight of her week.

She would go every day if she could. — Yours faithfully,

Lesley Tate

Skipton, North Yorkshire

You can tour our eco-home

Sir, — James Burton, a lovely Henley Standard reporter, came to meet us and, once he had taken pictures of our dogs to show his girlfriend, proceeded to interview us most efficiently.

Even though his pages of shorthand notes looked like the scribblings of a four-year-old practising writing, he captured almost everything we said with commendable accuracy in his article headlined “Our £200,000 superhome” (Standard, April 15).

We would just like to clarify three points:

Firstly, we are one of the top 250 most energy efficient refurbished properties in the UK — probably not ranking quite so highly against all properties, though there are very few new builds constructed to this absolute standard.

Secondly, at the end of the article, James quoted me as saying that I would like to see all new properties built to EnerPHit standards. What I meant was Passivhaus or equivalent. The EnerPHit standard we aimed for is specifically for refurbishments.

Finally, our comment about VAT. Because this was a refurbishment we could not reclaim the VAT we paid.

Not having a lawyer in Panama or a shell company in the British Virgin Islands meant that about £30,000 of the £200,000 we spent went to the Government.

If we had knocked it all down and built the house anew we would have been able to reclaim the VAT paid.

We did come close — at one point just the main walls and the first floor were still standing.

If you would like a tour of the house, a chat about eco-building and a chance to meet the ducks please contact us at ian@the-petries.co.uk — Yours faithfully,

Ian Petrie and Fiona Blair

Vicarage Road, Henley

Look after your cats

Sir, — I am writing to inform cat lovers.

Over the last five months, notices about missing cats have appeared on trees, posts and signboards in Sonning Common. It is very upsetting.

Sonning Common has become a busy village. It is not unknown to hear a vehicle pass my house at 60mph late at night. Please do not let your beloved feline out at night. Foxes behead, cars kill and cats are stolen and not necessarily pedigrees.

My cats are now 21 and 19 years old. Female and neutered cats tend not to stray.

These animals live to a great age but they need constant care and protection. — Yours faithfully,

Heather Allwright

Wood Lane, Sonning Common

Volunteer who deserves recognition

Sir, — When passing Henley library on Saturday there was a lady called Helen Gaynor sweeping up the general rubbish that has been lying around the seats for months.

I told her she was doing a very good and long overdue job and asked if she worked for the council.

She replied that it was a voluntary clean-up day and her work was unpaid.

I was so impressed that I took a picture of her working and wonder if you would publish it as she deserves some recognition. Shame on the council. — Yours faithfully,

John Steed

Ravenscroft Road, Henley

Sir, — Our grateful thanks to the town councillors, scouts and members of Gainsborough Residents’ Association who picked up litter in Henley on Saturday.

Despite heavy rain, this team of caring people demonstrated a real pride in their town. I just hope that they will inspire those who drop litter to do likewise. — Yours faithfully,

Miss L Hawkins

Greys Road, Henley

Wonderful view from kitchen window

Sir, — Spring has truly sprung here in Crazies Hill. This flower bed is immediately in front of our kitchen window and looks too nice not to share with your readers. How lucky am I to have such a magical view! — Yours faithfully,

Selina Avent

Crazies Hill

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