Monday, 20 September 2021

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Should have gone public

Should have gone public

Sir, — I was extremely grateful to the Henley Standard and Henley Residents’ Group councillors for making the townspeople aware that our Prime Minister David Cameron was here last week.

If you had not highlighted the fact, I would not have been aware that the Conservatives were so underhand, sneaky and rude to the general public and public service members.

So the Conservatives hold a meeting to campaign for staying in the EU, canvassed to only Conservative supporters, in a private members’ club with no members of the general public present.

Who are they trying to convince to stay in exactly? Who is being informed? Who is able to ask questions about the biggest decision that we are being asked to make in UK history?

Not the people that count, it would seem, and not the people who selflessly give up their time and energy week after week to serve the public of Henley and surrounding areas and obviously not the general public who were asked to come out in force and vote in yesterday’s referendum.

Is there anybody within the Conservative Party that has a modicum of common sense or decency? How rude and disrespectful to not invite all town councillors — each one works as hard as the next to serve the town and its residents.

How thoughtless not to invite at least a proportion of mixed residents from the town to inform them of the possible ramifications of the choice they were being asked to make for the country’s future!

To hide behind claims of “security risks” is completely ridiculous and, quite frankly. laughable. Security risks in Henley-on-Thames?! Hardly the inner city or the Bronx now is it?

There is no excuse for this covered-up, poor show of public information.

And how dare John Howell say that it was “fictitious” to claim that some residents were frustrated at not being allowed to intend?

I am a taxpayer, I work within the town’s community and I am extremely frustrated that his party felt it beneath it to invite members of the public to a meeting on a matter which is of huge public concern. How rude.

I can only begin to imagine how the majority of town councillors who are not Conservative must feel about being snubbed in such a way. These people are members of the public who sacrifice their own personal time to serve the public and work extremely hard for the people of Henley. What a public slap in the face for them.

I should also say thank you as you made my mind up about where my future vote lies — it will be with a party that is for the people, transparent and cares about local councillors who do such a fantastic job caring for the town and its residents.

I won’t vote for a party that lies, tiptoes around holding secret meetings and has a blatant disrespect for voters and town councillors.

I would dearly love to hear Mr Howell’s response — unless, of course, my opinion on the matter is deemed “fictitious”.

It was nice to see that Councillor Will Hamilton enjoyed the performance. Shame he did not feel the need to stick up for other councillors and insist they should also be present — not to question whether his loyalty lies with the public’s best interests, heaven forbid! — Yours faithfully,

Paula Isaac

Gainsborough Road, Henley

John Howell MP responds: “The meeting last week with the Prime Minister was neither secret nor just for Conservative town councillors. There were members of the public present and members of other political parties and of none.

“Some Henley residents may wish to make something of the situation but I think that the dreadful murder of Jo Cox MP shows only too clearly why the meeting with the Prime Minister had to be invitation only. It was on the advice of security services.

“History has shown that even in this county deranged people or those intent on doing evil do not recognise particular geography or places.

“Senior politicians have long had security around them identifying risk and seeking to minimise it. Circumstances are such that the security of all MPs has been under review in recent months. Sadly, this was too little too late for Jo Cox.

“It may be no surprise that the security of all MPs, their staff and their offices is now under heightened review.

“I deeply regret that it has taken the murder of a colleague to show that the need for security is neither idiotic nor an excuse. It is very real and we live with the need for it day by day.”

Learn from MP’s murder

Sir, — The inequalities of life underpin the growing anger in an increasingly well informed world.

This fundamental fact may have contributed to the death of Jo Cox.

Sadly, there are too few people like Jo Cox. We need more young people to recognise their obligations to the societies in which they were born and those that enabled them to succeed.

Many public sector and business executives with democratic principles and a desire to help other people also work in local and national government and in worldwide institutions focused on redistributing wealth to the benefit of the world’s most needy and deserving citizens.

Equally, many business executives devote time and their money to helping those less fortunate than themselves but not enough entrepreneurs do this.

The EU referendum was ultimately decided by the opinions of the IT literate, many of whom are younger and often better educated people who have the IT skills and awareness to assess the long-term impacts of Brexit compared with staying in.

The Henley College recently carried out an electronic poll and the vote of the majority of their students, too young to vote in the referendum, was to remain in the European Union.

Jo Cox supported the Remain campaign for a wide variety of reasons. The man who murdered her did so because he wanted the UK to leave the European Union; he did not believe in democracy.

It would be a sad but fitting tribute to Jo Cox if the outcome of the referendum was influenced by her death, especially if those in power subsequently made more effective efforts to assist those citizens whom she was trying to help. — Yours faithfully,

Peter Woolsey

Binfield Heath

System needs to change

Sir, — The result of the EU referendum will lead to changes, no matter which way it goes.

The tone of the debate has been ugly and there are reasons for this but what is most important is how we improve ourselves after arriving at our choice for the future.

What is clear is that a significant electoral voice has no representation in Parliament.

The denial of UKIP having any legislative presence after securing 12.6 per cent of votes is a travesty.

Even though I share no agreement with them on their policies, we would be hard pressed to call our democracy representative.

It is also a difficult backdrop for us if we attempt to reform the EU as an institution. How can our criticism have merit when our system excludes millions from the process, as it does currently?

So there is work to be done, within the UK, regardless of outcome.

We have had many people join in the political debate over the last few weeks. I hope you all stay active (note the avoided term) and strive to take our country forward, no matter which way the vote goes. — Yours faithfully,

David Thomas

Greys Hill, Henley

Stop blaming immigration

Sir, — Some very suspect arguments are put forward to stop immigration — pressure on health services, traffic congestion, school class sizes etc.

Net immigration is about 350,000 per annum but let’s round that up to 600,000.

The UK population is over 60 million so in 10 years’ time we’ll have an extra six million people due to immigration, up 10 per cent.

So that means if there are 10 people in front of me in the doctor’s queue now, there will be 11 in 10 years’ time.

If I’m in a traffic queue of 20 cars now there will then be 22 cars. If ther are 30 kids in a class now, there will be 33 then.

If that’s the case, am I really going to be bothered?

Queues at the surgery are to do with the number of doctors and the number of people going to them (often with “lifestyle choice” problems), traffic queues are to do with transport policy and school class sizes are primarily determined by the number of teachers and school budgets.

So while these are pressing issues of concern to all, their relationship to immigration is surely non-existent.

Could I also gently point out to recent letter writers that the UK does not have a rocket industry and that “rocket science” is a national school biology project?

The use of the phrase “you don’t have to be a rocket scientist…” is therefore unfortunate! — Yours faithfully,

Terry Mawby

Wardle Avenue, Reading

Improving our environment

Sir, — Recently the Henley Standard has covered issues of congestion and pollution in the town.

There is a way of dealing with these and an opportunity to greatly increase amenity in the town.

Over a year ago a report was produced by the Henley in Transition group which appears to have been sat upon. This was covered in the Standard at the time.

It suggested a core, 20mph, three-lane (two vehicle and one cycle lane), one-way system clockwise around the town using Thames Side (North and South), Station Road, Reading Road, Albert Road extended north, around the town hall, along King’s Road and back down New Street. This would enable:

• The closure of Hart Street to through traffic, eliminating the town’s major traffic, danger and congestion and providing more central parking and a major event space.

• The removal of crossing lights and the use of only zebra crossings, meaning no queues and no poisonous, obnoxious standing traffic and no delay for pedestrians, in traffic fumes, at junctions.

• The introduction of a cycle lane throughout this area — safe, healthy, zero-emission travel.

• The pedestrianisation of Duke Street, Bell Street, Hart Street (partial) and all of Market Place, thereby more than trebling the traffic-free space.

In addition Greys Road car park should include Albert Road North and a bus station. At all junctions, all leaving traffic slips outward and joining traffic filters inward without crossing.

We should also consider restricting heavy goods vehicles during some of the week or on certain days, especially in the rush hours (difficult to enforce).

This is a golden opportunity for the town: safe, attractive avenues and spaces for human-sized leisure, pleasure and good health, comparable to Oxford.

The town needs to press the obvious case for environmental improvement for the benefit of all. — Yours faithfully,

David Parry

Greys Road, Henley

New clean air campaign

Sir, — In 2013, a Henley in Transition/Henley College survey of more than 500 Henley residents found that more than 75 per cent were unaware that the town had a pollution problem.

I imagine that is no longer the case thanks, in part at least, to the coverage given to the issue in the Henley Standard recently.

However, it is probably also true that people have many questions, such as:

What is the pollution and what are the major sources?

What are the health effects and who is most at risk?

What actions could be taken by the authorities to tackle the problem?

Are there actions that I can take as an individual to lessen my exposure and that of my family?

Henley in Transition will be manning a stall in Market Place tomorrow (Saturday) from 10am to 2pm to provide information to residents about the pollution in the town.

We will also be launching a Clean Air for Henley campaign. Do come and talk to us or send an email to — Yours faithfully,

Dave McEwen

Chairman, Henley in Transition, Church Street, Henley

MPs disagree over bridge

Sir, — I had to smile when I read the article about a third Thames bridge (Standard, June 17).

The headline and first sentence referred to Henley MP John Howell saying there was “no commitment” to a bridge while the last sentence quoted Reading East MP Rob Wilson saying he is committed to delivering the bridge.

I attended the summit meeting the article was referring to and can confirm these contradictory positions are indeed where we are at the moment.

John is waiting for the evidence from the traffic modelling study before making his mind up and Rob wants to take 55,000 cars a day out of the centre of Reading.

For my part, I am providing a sceptical balance to the rampant enthusiasm of some of the other summit attendees, such as Tony Page, who has been deputy leader of Reading Borough Council since 2008.

Reading and District Labour Party’s submission to the Reading Transport Commission stated: “Building a third Thames bridge — of four lanes — linking to the A329M... could take around 55,000 cars out of the town centre every day.”

This is in sharp contrast to John Howell’s hope that if there was a bridge it would be only two lanes. I represent the nine parishes that surround Henley and I know that many residents are very worried indeed about where these 55,000 cars might go, the A4155 through Shiplake into Henley and the B481 through Sonning Common, Rotherfield Peppard and Highmoor to Nettlebed being the only options currently available.

Residents do not want a bridge that simply shifts Reading’s traffic problems into South Oxfordshire. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor David  Bartholomew

Sonning Common division, Oxfordshire County Council

Bus service is my lifeline

Sir, — I am a concerned elderly resident of Rotherfield Greys who has never written to a newspaper before but cut after cut of public services forces me to do so.

I have no means of getting into Henley to the doctors or even to do a weekly shop if the bus service is stopped.

While I appreciate the bus company wants to make money, they should also look at the overall profit line, not pick off the most profitable routes.

If the service needs to be cut they should consider a once-a-day service from Woodcote to Henley or, at the very least, twice weekly.

This bus route is a lifeline to those who want to remain independent while they can and go about their daily lives without being a burden to others.

I urge the bus company to re-evaluate its thought process in the demise of this service and think of the turmoil this will cause those who can ill afford a car, or those who cannot drive and are fully dependent on public transport. — Yours faithfully,

Rose Kirby

Rotherfield Greys

Who’d steal from me?

Sir, — What sort of a place is Henley becoming?

I support the market every Thursday when I can and try to get my fruit and veg there whenever possible. I did so on Thursday morning last week.

I have very limited mobility and need to use a mobility scooter to get around.

After parking it, getting my shopping and moving to go home I decided to drop in at the Oxfam shop to have a look for a summer jacket.

Unable to carry my shopping around, I was forced to leave it on my scooter, half in a rear pannier and half in a front basket. It was folded over and as secure as I was able to make it.

While in the shop some lowlife scumbag decided it was okay to open my bag and steal my bananas.

Stealing is, of course, bad but stealing from a disabled person’s mobility scooter is a step below pond life. — Yours faithfully,

Chris Cowley


More respect for deceased

Sir, — I am writing to express my disgust at the condition of my parents’ grave at Fairmile Cemetery in Henley and others have been left in.

I had heard there was a problem with the maintenance but wasn’t prepared for the disgusting state I was faced with. It was really upsetting.

My father served for 22 years in the army and went to war for his country. He then went on to work for 20 years in Henley for the Post Office.

My mother also did her bit during the war, serving in the Land Army.

Let’s face it, neither of these people is in a position to move because the area has gone downhill.

So please, whoever is responsible for our only cemetery, bring it back to a standard we can be proud of and that our deceased deserve. — Yours faithfully,

Evelyn Beales

Gainsborough Crescent, Henley

Cutting hedges would show we care

Sir, — I am prompted by Neil Kane’s letter (Standard, June 10) concerning the danger arising from overgrown pavements. The problem he describes is present along many roads in the town.

Consider Western Avenue, for example. The hedge pictured has been allowed to grow unhindered. The lamp-post distinctly marks the historic property boundary and the width of the pavement.

Because of the abundant growth of the hedge, the bus shelter had to be erected last year about a metre into the path, allowing just enough room for a wheelchair to pass by without going into the road.

The shelter sits squarely in the middle of the pavement. The same hedge continues around the corner into Harpsden Road and here it has also been allowed to grow unchecked.

The pavement is narrower but the hedge is just as overgrown and on this side of the road there is scarcely room for anyone to walk and certainly no width for a child’s pushchair.

This is of no consequence to car drivers but if we are to encourage a cleaner air policy, we should at least maintain unimpeded footpaths around the town.

I am sure I am not alone in also noticing the state of green verges around the town. Is this because cuts are made more easily to budgets than to the grass? Parts of Henley are looking neglected. Perhaps, if we really care for the appearance of the town we live in, we should all consider not only keeping our own hedges in order but, when we can, giving a little time to maintain grass verges and the like close to our homes. — Yours faithfully,

David Feary

Walton Avenue, Henley

Can you identify house?

Sir, — This is a photo of a John Piper painting.

I’d like to identify the building and wonder if any of your readers could help please? — Yours faithfully,

David M Page

Bridle Path, Woodcote

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