Your letters… – Henley Standard

Stop HGVs rat-running Sir, — I would like to concur with Amanda Chumas’s description of how heavy goods vehicles, with no business in or near the town, are using Henley as a short cut (Standard, June 12) In the two weeks since then, I would say the situation has further deteriorated.

I have been living in Bell Street for many years and due to the coronavirus outbreak, I have been working from home since mid-March so have been able to observe the increase in HGVs. While traffic volumes overall have fallen due to the lockdown, the number of HGVs has increased massively week on week. I go for an early daily walk and as I go down New Street I’m passed by many vehicles travelling at speed, banging and crashing down the road.

These vehicles then turn left over the Grade I listed bridge to head up White Hill. They have clearly approached the town from either Fair Mile or the Marlow road and are equally clearly not delivering to Henley. I’ve seen many, many vehicles taking this route, including Tesco, Lidl and Asda, to name a few but it’s not only food lorries.

This is a residential area and the noise and vibration is truly shocking. It is damaging for both the wellbeing of the occupants and the buildings. My whole house shakes every time an HGV passes and I worry about the damage being done.

This is an historic town and most of the buildings are listed. As owners, we are expected to be custodians and preserve them for the next generation, something we are happy to do for the opportunity to live in such a pretty town. But our buildings and lives are being damaged from outside and the councils seem to be doing nothing to help.

I’ve heard talk about HGV bans and weight limits for years but nothing changes. It’s not just the volume of HGVs that needs addressing either. Our beautiful, small town is a mixture of commercial and residential property which was the historic way but is also the way of the future.

We need to protect the town, its buildings and residents from the assault of unnecessary and preventable traffic. In my opinion, these are the solutions: o Resurface some of the roads.

I have personal experience of Bell Street and New Street and from within my house, with the windows closed, I can hear commercial vehicles banging and crashing as they travel from near Rupert House School on to Thames Side. Often it sounds as if a bomb has gone off when an empty truck encounters the numerous potholes and trenches across the road. I’ve regularly been woken around 4am despite the bedroom being at the back of the house.

Yes, we need to reduce the volume, weight and speed of the traffic, but they wouldn’t cause as much noise and vibrations if the road surface was smooth. How many millions of pounds worth of houses are on this stretch of road and how much would it cost to resurface? And no new laws or restrictions need to be put in place to achieve it — just the realisation that it needs to be done… now!

o Stop unnecessary commercial vehicles using the town as a short cut. This might be achieved with an HGV ban, through traffic restrictions and/or a weight limit on our poor, beautiful bridge. Come on, experts on the councils, find a way, not excuses. o Enforce the new speed limit.

We waited a long time for the 20mph limit to be implemented but no one is taking any notice. I think that over the past three months I can count on the fingers of one hand how many vehicles (usually cars) I’ve seen travelling at 20mph. Drivers seem to go as fast as the car in front of them.

This was to be expected so why bother with the expense of simple 20mph signage if it’s not enforced? It was predictable that it would be ignored. The money would have been better added to the road resurfacing budget.

In addition, what consideration goes into noise when commercial vehicles bodies are designed? It would seem not much. I’m truly amazed how much noise they make. (Okay, it’s aggravated by the road surface — see above).

For example, delivery lorries often have tail lifts but they are not tightly secured when the vehicle is in motion and the resultant noise is horrendous. For a live demonstration, just wait a few minutes for, for example, a Chef Direct lorry to pass by. And why, oh why, are motorbikes so noisy?

If a law doesn’t exist to limit the noise then there should be one. If it does already exist, then why isn’t it enforced? The number driving through the town has increased massively recently and some weekends especially it is impossible to sit in the garden without being deafened as stream after stream comes through the town.

I think it’s high time to reclaim Henley for the residents, and true visitors, from the noise and damage caused by vehicles using it as a cut-through. I’m not political but every election time the flyers come through the door proclaiming “Vote for me and I’ll fix the traffic, noise and pollution”. So come on, elected persons, what can we do?

Surely it can’t be impossible. Where there’s a will there’s usually a way. On a separate but possibly connected matter, are our narrow pavements going to cope with the queues which will form outside most shops as the covid-19 restrictions are lifted?

Over the past few months the queue for Waitrose has often extended a long way back along Bell Street. Now the other shops in Bell Street have re-opened, with their own queues outside, social distancing cannot be maintained. Can we kill two birds with one stone here perhaps?

Are there any emergency powers which would allow the closure (except for deliveries) of Duke Street and the one-way part of Bell Street? This would create safer pedestrian areas for shopping and queuing, while also acting as a deterrent to vehicles wanting to use Henley as a quick cut-through. I believe other towns and cities are already closing streets to traffic and planning extensive and long-term/permanent cycle routes in their place. — Yours faithfully,

Nigel Bonsor Bell Street, Henley

How to stop speedsters Sir, — I write in response and support of your correspondents Christine Wright, Ginny Batchelor-Smith, Adrian Vanheems and Annie Cooper (Standard, June 5 and 12).

My wife and I live in Bix, which is situated at the top of the dual carriageway (A4130). This stretch of road from Henley through to Nettlebed has all the attractions of a MotoGP — fast, long curves, miles of smooth, even straights, culminating in an ultra-fast downhill dual carriageway section or uphill dual carriageway and back again towards Nettlebed. It’s ideal for the boy racers who have no regard for the law or the fact that about 50 per cent of Bix residents live either side of their “race track”.

The police on a regular basis (maybe four or five times a year) park their camera van at the top of the dual carriageway and in full view from either end, ensuring that the traffic passing this high visibility van have plenty of time to slow down to the speed limit of 40mph. Common sense would argue it should be an enforced 30mph (not 40mph as now) as just a narrow pavement separates these residents from the race track and the riders who try hard (I am told) to exceed 150mph somewhere along this “circuit”. For a section of road to be considered for a limit of 30mph there has to be street lighting with lamps closer than 200 yards apart.

So the logic seems to be that the better the lighting (by being closer together) a lower speed limit can be considered. You couldn’t make it up. Now what can be done to stop these lawbreakers ruining the quiet enjoyment and safety of said residents by exceeding the speed limit and producing an ear-splitting racket from sometimes as many as 10 or more bikers at a time, all with exhausts that have been stripped of their silencer baffles to gain a few more mph and are now illegal as the maximum engine noise level allowed by law is 86 decibels?

There is no point in trying to catch the speedsters with camera guns as a racing motorbike without a number plate on the front (why not — cars have to have them?) or one covered during the “speed test” would give you a photo of a bike without the means to identify it. It would be too dangerous for the safety of the traffic police to be issued with motorcycles capable of keeping up with them, let alone getting them to pull over. The answer is:

1. Introduce regular police spot checks where the traffic is chicaned into a layby as currently applied to lorry checks (there is a large layby half way up the A4130 that could be used). If the biker is found to have been above the legal limit, then give them 10 days to enable a legal replacement bike.

If caught again, confiscate the illegal bike. Q.E.D.

2. Make the dangerous turning across the dual carriageway in and out of the centre of the other part of Bix into a mini-roundabout with chicanes and other speed-calming measures, at least to the current Bix sign by the old Fox Inn (now residental).

Halfway along from here to Nettlebed there is another suitable layby for the spot checks. — Yours faithfully, Richard Taylor Bix

Pointless speed limit

Sir, — To precis Albert Einstein, nothing is more destructive of respect for the law than passing laws which cannot be enforced. Regarding the proposed extension of the 20mph limits, can I suggest some of our elected officials visit Henley outside working hours to see how ineffectual their recently created 20mph limit has been? David Nimmo Smith may think that people don’t have the opportunity to exceed 20mph but his view from Oxford may be rather limited.

In the early mornings, evening and weekends, traffic (and especially motorbikes) roar through the town because, as Ken Arlett admits, there is no one to enforce the limit. I’m not sure what Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak is expecting when the town centre limit has “bedded in” but please don’t waste any more of our funds on this charade until someone has worked out who will enforce it. — Yours faithfully, Iain Reid

Station Road, Henley Switch off engines Sir, — May I take this opportunity to remind people not to sit in their cards with the engines idling.

It is an unnecessary burden on the environment which is easily avoidable. — Yours faithfully, David Richardson St Katharine’s Road, Henley

Something has to change

The Caversham and District Residents Association was very interested to read the article headlined “Parishes to launch joint fight against orbital road scheme” (Standard, June 26). We understand the misgivings of the South Oxfordshire villages about the orbital road as outlined in the Reading draft transport strategy. We draw some encouragement from the comment by Councillor David Bartholomew: “…we should identify what we regard as the causes of congestion in the Caversham area and come up with some suggestions as to how that congestion might be alleviated.”

A substantial proportion of the traffic flowing through Caversham and over the two bridges emanates from South Oxfordshire, including many heavy goods vehicles. With increasing numbers of new homes in South Oxfordshire, that will only increase. Caversham suffers from very poor air quality and the congestion makes it difficult to run a reliable bus service which might allow more people to leave their cars at home.

Whatever the “new normal” turns out to be, something has to change. As South Oxfordshire councils submit their comments on the Reading plan, we hope they will press hard for congestion through Caversham to be addressed in the Oxfordshire plan. Currently this makes no mention of Caversham, Reading or Berkshire. — Yours faithfully,

Helen Lambert Chair, Caversham and District Residents Association

Sustainable ‘normal’ Sir, — The covid-19 crisis has made all of us aware of the underlying fragility of our species but the thrust of current political debate seems to be all about “getting back to normal”.

However, it is imperative that this return will be to a greener, more sustainable “normal” If coronavirus can cause such havoc and uncertainty it can be readily imagined how even more catastrophic crises would accompany widespread crop failure, bringing famine in its wake. Climate change is now accepted as a fact by the great majority of scientists, such as myself, with politicians trailing reluctantly along behind. Global carbon dioxide levels are not yet under control.

International good intentions are not matched by adequate actions. At the same time human numbers increase relentlessly, putting ever more strain on the natural environment and driving species to extinction. Most of our primate relatives are now on the vulnerable list but there are unimaginable numbers of smaller and less charismatic organisms in danger of disappearing forever.

As a palaeontologist, I am acutely aware that there have been mass extinctions in the geological past — indeed, almost everyone knows about the demise of the dinosaurs as a result of a huge meteorite impact. The important point is that the current extinction is the first in a billion years of life on earth to be caused by the actions of just one species. No natural disaster this — it is manmade.

Although there have been phases of earth history with elevated carbon dioxide levels, none of these has been produced by burning the hydrocarbons that natural processes have sequestered away in the rocks over hundreds of millions of years. We are on uncharted ground, not enough people are taking it seriously, and every year makes action more urgent. Let us hope that relief at emerging from the covid-19 crisis does not bring about collective amnesia about the still greater challenges which will be brought on by global warming.

Extinction Rebellion is a movement dedicated peacefully to averting a complacent “business as usual” attitude. The demonstration in Falaise Square on Thursday last week was a chance to bring together those in Henley who care about the local and global environments. There is much that can be done to improve the habitats in our own neighbourhood but we neglect the urgent need for action on global scale at our peril. — Yours faithfully,

Dr Richard Fortey St Andrew’s Road, Henley

Importance of aviation Editor, — Aviation will be critical to the UK’s economic recovery post-covid-19.

Without Heathrow, Britain’s only hub airport, there will be no recovery. As representatives of businesses, we feel compelled to tell the Government that it needs to do more to support our aviation or our local economy faces tens of thousands of job losses and the failure of countless businesses. The Government needs to appreciate the importance of Heathrow to businesses and local jobs.

It is the UK’s biggest port, the largest ratepayer and by far the biggest local employer. More than 100,000 jobs are in its local supply chain. The Government’s imposition of a 14-day quarantine on people arriving in Britain is only making things worse.

We call on the Government to scrap this unenforceable policy immediately and introduce “air bridges” to support safe travel and trade to low-risk countries. It is in the Government’s power to protect West London’s economy from ruin. We need it to act, fast. — Yours faithfully,

Peter Lynam, SkyOps Consulting, Stephen Bowles, Roy Bowles Transport, John O’Sullivan, Thames Communications,
Hounslow Chamber of Commerce, Geoff Smith, Liberty Express, and Mark Green, M G  Associates This isn’t real science Kate Oldridge’s letter was full of references to science but she clearly has no concept of the “scientific method” (Standard, June 26).

One would gain the impression that the scientific evidence supporting the hypothesis that man-made CO2 will cause catastrophic global warming is somehow settled science, when there is no such thing. To be scientific, a hypothesis or theory must be tested with real data. In any other field, except it seems “climate”, if predictions are falsified (wrong) the theory is thrown out.

Predictions from computer models are not science. Models are useful tools but not scientific experimental evidence, whatever propaganda comes from the BBC, mainstream media and activist climate scientists. Equally, appeals to authority are not science; what on earth does the former archbishop of Canterbury or even zoologist David Attenborough know about the physics of CO2 or indeed Lord Deben, chairman of the committee on climate change, or economist Mark Carney?

Climate alarmists purporting to be concerned about our post-virus economic recovery are guilty of cognitive dissonance but, heck, why let a good catastrophe go to waste? That XR claims to be concerned with economic recovery is rich, considering that its members, together with scientifically illiterate celebrities, spent last year spoiling the economic wellbeing of the country by disrupting the working population with their childish, show-off theatrical antics and scaring and brainwashing children. That activity clearly cost a lot of money to put on; it would be worth tracing the funding of this organisation right back to source.

The public must now be fully aware of how useless computer models are as tools of government policy, particularly those from the universities, which invariably do not even have the computer engineering disciplines found in industry. The appallingly inaccurate computer model predictions made at the start of the pandemic in the UK, and swallowed whole by politicians, should educate people about climate models. None of the catastrophic predictions made by climate computer models has ever been fulfilled.

Indeed, the temperature predictions are always grossly exaggerated. There is no evidence of an increase in natural disasters, for example, acceleration in sea level rise, increase in landfall, hurricanes etc. This is even admitted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Even the fires in Australia were mainly the result of the green lobby’s refusal to allow the cutting and clearing of appropriate fire brakes. If you want to know what is destroying the planet, then look no further than so called green energy; the last thing that will help our recovery. As well as being anything but green and sustainable, it really is destroying the planet.

Even film-maker Michael Moore has broken ranks and condemned it. Everyone should watch his film, Planet of the Humans, now back on YouTube after a sustained campaign to have it banned. However, he takes a more dystopian view than I would as he still sees CO2 as a major problem.

As well as being a finite resource, the minerals being mined for battery storage for electric cars and “green” back-up storage, windmills and solar panels are causing untold contamination and misery in parts of China, Africa and elsewhere. Forests are being cut down in the Far East to plant palm oil for bio-fuel and there is unsustainable destruction of forests in America to provide incredibly inefficient fuel for our power stations. Large swathes of the globe are covered with highly land-inefficient windmills and solar farms, many now abandoned, like discarded rubbish on Bournemouth beach, when they either no longer work or the subsidies run out.

This is an unholy alliance between multi-billion dollar global companies and climate zealots. The last thing we need for economic recovery is a push for more so called green energy. We are already paying higher taxes and energy bills to subsidise inefficient, unsustainable green energy schemes.

The less well-off are hit the hardest, while fortunes are made for the wealthy. China and India are busy building coal-fired power stations at a massive rate, as is that doyen of green energy, Germany. It’s a recipe for the destruction of UK industries, which will no longer be able to compete.

The only thing we will have left is to become a theme park for Chinese tourists. Note that if CO2 reduction is important to you, then the only country to have reduced its CO2 output is America, a direct result of fracking for natural gas. To really help our industries, we need to drop the so-called sustainable energy scam and start fracking, installing modern efficient oil, gas and nuclear generators.

These natural resources will help us, in time, to develop safe fusion nuclear reactors, which we can then use indefinitely. — Yours faithfully, M Reid Shiplake

Charity must begin at home

Sir, — I would like to comment on two letters in last week’s Henley Standard. Firstly, David Watson’s letter headlined “Importance of foreign aid”. This should depend on if we have the resources after we have taken care of needs at home.

After all, charity begins at home. The covid-19 pandemic will have changed the parameters of how our Prime Minister manages the finances. Confirmed cases of the virus are 308,000 from which 43,200 have lost their lives.

Additional finances required for the NHS, public services and charities is GBP16billion with billions more for many other benefits and help for businesses and employees. The PM was correct to say “for too long the UK overseas aid budget has been treated, frankly, as some giant cashpoint in the sky”. Zimbabwe, where I was visiting family in February. had 401 confirmed cases of covid-19 with four deaths and yet they are requesting from the International Monetary Fund £2.2billion for April 2020 to April 2021, £956million for food insecurity, £8million for social protection; £220million to fight covid-19 and £34million for water, sanitation and hygiene. (IMF figures).

Should we really hand out charity when all the rulers do is pocket the money? I remember Robert Mugabe was given GBP92million by the UK one year with no evidence of where it went. At the moment Zimbabwe is bankrupt.

Inflation is running at 755.5 per cent. There are power cuts, water cuts and no money. Secondly, Douglas Kedge’s letter headlined “Qualifying balance” points out that in sub-Saharan Africa, the state of the indigenous peoples prior to colonisation was primitive compared with the developments existing at that time in Asian, Middle Eastern and Western Countries.

Colonialism might have had some inequalities but we forget the good that it did. Cecil John Rhodes, whose statue they want to remove in Oxford, introduced education to Africans (as well as many other benefits of what we call civilization) and his foundations are still funding educational projects in Oxford and in Zimbabwe. In conclusion, Boris Johnson has an almighty job to fund so many projects here which will take us more than a generation to pay off.

Children in this country are going hungry, people are living on the streets — this is where charity starts. If you want to dish out money in Africa, go and build a power station or sink some boreholes and get farmers on the land to grow some crops again to feed the people. — Yours faithfully, Jeanne Nichols

Grove Road, Henley

Let’s learn from history Sir, — Having spent my formative years in the Gold Coast, later to become Ghana, I must concur with Douglas Kedge on accepting the balance of history as it is, warts and all (Standard, June 26). To understand Africa as it is now you have to understand the long histories of the people whose continent it was with different ways of life based on loyalty to their own tribes, which was very different to the European interlopers who came later.

It is 800 years since our Magna Carta arrived and we still haven’t got it right but we have not rewritten its history to concur with present opinion so why do we try to do that with Africa whose first independence from British colonial rule was only 63 years ago? The fact that the Gold Coast was colonised in 1821 with the goal of replacing the slave trade with “legitimate” trade in British goods seems to have been written in very small print in modern history. The Romans colonised Britain but with hindsight we feel it did us some good.

I not only grew up in Africa but grew up with the children of Africa and we shared a common life with a foot in each camp. We shared our languages, in my case learning Twi, and understood each other with no perceptions of differences. On independence day, March 6, 1957, we all celebrated and Kwame Nkrumah announced on that joyful night that everyone there was Ghanaian and would be forever.

It wasn’t until I came to the UK that someone pointed out I was a shade of pink and not a shade of brown, something I had never noticed. On a recent visit to Ghana I met some old friends who commented that our hair was now the same silver colour but when we cut ourselves our blood still came out red. Nothing else had changed.

On reminiscing, I was reminded by one that independence day also gave the keys to the sweets cupboard, not to the people, but to the strongest tribe and this was the ongoing cause of the problems in Africa. But, he added, one day our blood line successors will invent their own Magna Carta so we should learn from history and not try to change it. — Yours faithfully, Dirk Jones

Kennylands Road, Sonning Common

Unbalanced argument Douglas Kedge complains that campaigners for balance in the teaching of history only wish to give “total emphasis to the iniquities of colonialism”. As part of his “evidence”, he describes pre-colonialist sub-Saharan Africa as “primitive”, “violently tribal” and “animalistic”.

With this unbalanced, ignorant and, I’m sorry to say, racist argument, he demonstrates perfectly the need for a balanced education. There are many examples of advanced civilisations from that part of the world. I shall leave Mohandas Gandhi with the last word when he was asked: “What do you think of Western civilization?”

“I think it would be a very good idea,” he replied. — Yours faithfully, Ian Reissmann Gainsborough Road, Henley

Principle or reality?

Sir, — I doubt if there are many people who disagree with the principle of our giving appropriate overseas aid. However, many will share my concern that seven per cent of our GDP (about GBP15billion) has to be spent by law, much of it unaccountably, on aid each year, come what may. Perhaps David Watson can tell your readers how much is usefully spent, how much is wasted and how much goes into the pockets of corrupt governments?

On a more general point, how far is the enthusiasm for the current uncontrolled largesse based on a latent yearning for the paternalistic, colonial days when the creation of dependency was seen as a good thing? — Yours faithfully, Yvonne Kedge Lea Road, Sonning Common

Some sanity at last Sir, — At a time when the country seems to be going out of its corporate mind about historical inclusion and exclusion, what a relief it was to read Richard Jones’ sanely ironic letter headlined “Getting with modern action”. (Standard, June 26). — Yours faithfully, Douglas Kedge

Lea Road, Sonning Common We’ve lost our bottle Sir — I agree with your correspondents Philip Collings and Margaret Moola regarding the current hysteria over the coronavirus (Standard, June 26).

The whole country seems to be losing its bottle. The risk to children and healthy adults is very low but the rituals in place for the last three months continue. The economy is in ruins yet our imprisonment goes on.

I am 71, a few years younger than Philip Collings, but to be realistic, how much longer have we got? Four or five years maybe, if we’re lucky. Like many of my age, I’m prepared to take the risk of living life normally — because of our ages we wouldn’t be treated anyway unless we paid for it privately. — Yours faithfully,

Adrian Vanheems Baskerville Road, Sonning Common

It’s not time to party Sir, — Mother Nature is laughing: Destroy the world, pull down the rainforests, be cruel to animals, mess up the equilibrium and disease will be rife.

Prosperity, corruption versus poverty. Greed, the deadly sin. July 4 — yipee, lockdown over.

Rubbish. Boris Johnson and his team say okay, reduced death rates but covid-19 has not evaporated overnight. So abuse basic rules, crowd beaches and resorts, disrespect social distancing, have a massive party — it will return.

Enclosed spaces, public transport, airports, underground, cities will all bounce back. Why? We say, I am not going to get this disease, only BAME people.

Genetics, yes, but do not be so sure. None of us can guarantee we shall escape this disease. Those who have been tested negative may well become positive.

Take caution, be sensible and be considerate to others. It’s not party time. — Yours faithfully, Heather Allwright

Wood Lane, Sonning Common

Minimise the danger Sir, — The reason it is so necessary for our “inept” government to keep on plugging away via the media (what other way is there?) about the terrible dangers to all of us of covid-19 is that many of us simply are not listening. A contribution on the letters pages last week was one example of this, as were the crowds of people who flocked to our beaches last weekend, all rubbing shoulders not only with sun-tan oil but also with each other before, no doubt, dispersing homeward with at least one comfort stop at a busy service station along the way.

In time this virus will be controlled and will cease to threaten us, but until then the very least we can do, even if we ourselves are quite happy to take the risk, is to minimise the danger to others. — Yours faitfully, Jennifer Fellner Cookley Green

Cummimgs in control

Sir, — It would seem that this country is now run by an unelected top aide who finds his voice in that of the elected top tenant of No 10. — Yours faithfully, Enid Light Wargrave Road, Henley

Thoughtless visitors

Sir, — In the recent hot weather spell, Hurley had a huge influx of visitors. A large number of them were local, mainly the young off school, but the numbers were swelled by national papers promoting Hurley as the best wild water swimming on the Thames. As locals know.

Hurley is a cul de sac village, so the parking was chaotic, in some places narrowing the road so that access for emergency vehicles would have been impossible. The bridge jumping was extremely dangerous. Indeed. there was a fatality at this site a few years ago.

Social distancing was forgotten. Despite many signs and available bins, many people declined to take their rubbish home. An army of local volunteers did sterling service each evening and morning clearing up.

Sadly, the rubbish contained many small canisters. The problem is likely to continue for the rest of the summer and so severe parking restrictions are in place. We would not like to see the Dorney shutdown repeated here but, sadly, the local council or the Environment Agency have this option unless visitors are more thoughtful. — Yours faithfully,

Stuart Cripps Chair, Hurley Village Association

Don’t destroy historic pub Editor, — Shiplake is under siege from developers (Standard, June 26).

There is currently extant planning permission for 218 more homes, and a new application for another 20 just submitted, in and around our small village. That is three times an original objective set by South Oxfordfshire District Council for new homes, This has got to stop otherwise Shiplake will be a village no longer.

The worst of the current applications is that relating to the Plowden Arms pub, its gardens and car park. The pub would be reduced to an area of 80sq m, about the size of some of the kitchen-diner rooms in new-builds that have replaced lovely old cottages already demolished by developers. It would mean that it simply would not be viable as a pub and would then close again to be, no doubt, swiftly followed by an application for change of use to residential.

The only reason there is any mention of retaining the pub is that in March 2017, following a successful campaign led by the Campaign for Real Ale, the Government closed a planning loophole in England which had allowed pubs to be demolished or converted without reference to any planning application. When the pub was last sold in 2017 by Brakspear, chief executive Tom Davies assured the parish council that if it withdrew its plan to register the pub as a community asset that would deter potential buyers, it would only be sold to another pub operator. The council did not register it.

After the sale, Mr Davies told your newspaper: “As far as we are aware, the purchasers want to run the pub as a freehouse in a similar vein to the way it currently operates.” The new owners, however, had not previously been pub operators. Indeed one of them had a full-time job.

Unfortunately, the pub only remained open for another 18 months under their stewardship. The pub is an historical treasure in the heart of the village. It is located in the oldest part of the village on a road that probably marked the boundary between Lachebrook and Bolney in Domesday records.

There is evidence that some of the timbers in the entrance porch of the building date back to the 1600s and that it was an ale house as far back as 1749. It is likely that Isambard Kingdom Brunel had dinner there after parish council planning meetings when the Henley branch line was being discussed. The new owners had already altered the look of the building by demolishing the former function room and removing an award-winning sign bearing the Plowden family coat of arms, replacing it with modern ones.

The latest plans show no drawings as to what this historic building would look like if this application goes ahead but from reading the vague details given, it would be the oldest part of the existing building that would be most affected. There is little detail because the application has been submitted under relatively new procedures called permission in principle, where developers are required to give only outline plans and no technical details or drawings. But once approved “in principle” by the planning authority, it would be very difficult for it to later refuse on detailed technical grounds.

The planning authority might be liable to pay compensation to the developer if this happened. So although this is essentially a “fishing expedition” at the moment, it is important that it is nipped in the bud. I notice in your article that estate agents Sidney Phillips say that the site is currently “under offer”.

I presume the company that has put in the PIP application is waiting to see if this plan is approved before it completes. We are back to 2017 all over again. The parish council were duped then and I ask that the district council is not similarly conned.

This is a step too far and must be rejected. — Yours faithfully, Janet Matthews Shiplake and Binfield Heath Local History Group, Badgers Walk, Shiplake

Fitness club should stay

The proposed redevelopment of the centre of Caversham will deprive the local community of its only independent sports and fitness venue and one of the most successful and well-regarded clubs in Reading. Caversham Health and Fitness Club operates from 51 Church Street above Waitrose. For 35 years, as well as providing gym and fitness classes to the people of Caversham, it has been home to a squash club used by a large membership.

Over this period the club has become one of the region’s premier centres for a sport that provides superb exercise and health benefits and in which Britain excels (perhaps because it’s so well suited to our climate). Caversham’s men’s team has won the Berkshire county championship 14 times and its leading player, Rick Weatherall, has taken the individual title on 12 occasions. The heritage of the club is matched by the affection that its members, of all abilities and all ages, have for it.

To make matters worse for them, they are losing their club just as alternatives also vanish — the plans for redeveloping Rivermead leisure centre include demolishing its squash courts, too. In place of an independent club that provides exercise, health and a social network for many in the heart of Caversham there will be a three-screen cinema. Given the number of screens available within a few miles of Caversham already and the absence of local demand for a cinema before one appeared in the developer’s plans, this is an unnecessary (but doubtless money-spinning) imposition.

At a time when sports facilities for all have never been more important and when we should be doing everything we can to preserve the local character of our town centres, the plan submitted by developer Hermes represents the wrong choice. We have therefore objected to the planning application currently before Reading Borough Council, asking that the location of Caversham Health and Fitness continues to be used as an independent, thriving squash and fitness club for the benefit of the community. — Yours faithfully, Peter Mann


Baffled by cricket ban Sir, — In common with everyone at Henley Cricket Club and the cricketing nation generally, I was disappointed and, quite frankly, baffled by the Prime Minister’s decision to effectively ban recreational cricket for the time being. Cricket must be one of the most socially distanced sports of all with the majority of the fielders standing at least 20 yards apart with no physical contact — unlike football, which of course has been allowed to go ahead.

The Prime Minister says that the ball is the “vector of the disease” and yet doubles tennis and basketball are allowed where the ball is constantly changing hands. Scientists have told the Daily Telegraph that “Cricket is as safe from covid-19 with the risk so minimal as to not be a significant concern”. Test cricket will be taking place in a few days’ time.

Same game but different ruling so where is the logic in banning the recreational version of the game? This decision is hugely damaging to the sport and people’s health and wellbeing. We at this club are fearful, as are other prominent former high profile cricketers, that the game will now be lost to many youngsters who will have found alternative pursuits at the weekend.

The nation’s health and mental state has taken a battering over the last few weeks. Could I please respectfully ask John Howell to lobby his colleagues, and particularly the Prime Minister, to reverse this universally damaging decision and let us get our youngsters back on to these beautiful and sadly empty cricket grounds as a matter of urgency? — Yours faithfully, John Nelson

President, Henley Cricket Club

Question of belief Sir, — I would like to ask John Howell, as my MP, for his opinion on Robert Jenrick and the Westferry affair. Can he please tell me if he believes that Mr Jenrick’s actions in his dealings with the Westferry development were all perfectly fine and above board? — Yours faithfully,

Ian Reynolds Goring Heath Kenton is for keeps

Sir, — While factually correct, your headline proclaiming that the Kenton Theatre “plunges GBP21,300 into red” was misleading (Standard, June 19). The Kenton Theatre is a charity and. like many not-for-profit organisations, makes a surplus in some years and a deficit in others. There were two main elements of the deficit, as the article explained.

The first was a high depreciation charge representing an increase of GBP17,123 on the previous year, in part due to a one-off prior year non-cash adjustment, reflecting essential building work and renovation undertaken at the end of the financial year. The second was investment in a more varied programme. This is part of a long-term strategy to broaden the Kenton’s appeal and encourage new audiences, which takes time to build.

It was continuing into the current year until lockdown forced the closure of the theatre. Being forced to “go dark” has been catastrophic for the entertainment sector, especially now that West End theatres have announced that they will not be re-opening until 2021. In the case of the Kenton, tight financial control is helping considerably to reduce running costs during this dark period.

Nevertheless, in common with all theatres, we must look at new ways of fund-raising so that the Kenton can begin a new season with confidence — eager, well-equipped and safe to welcome audiences once again. To this end, we will shortly be embarking on a campaign to safeguard the Kenton for the community and for future generations to enjoy. We have been fortunate to have our campaign kicked off with a GBP35,000 grant from the Arts Council of England, supported by the National Lottery but lots more is needed.

The Kenton is a grand old lady at 215 years old this year. Her fabric is in constant need of TLC and upgrading, so keep an eye on our Facebook page and website,, to look out for ways that you can help. We are currently running a themed monthly competition for children to brighten up her sad facade with bright drawings with a GBP10 book token prize each month.

Pause a while as you pass and take a look at the wonderful contributions from our young supporters. We are really looking forward to welcoming our audiences through our doors again with an exciting programme planned for 2021. With the continuing support of our patrons, we can make sure that the Kenton really is for keeps. — Yours faithully,

The trustees Kenton Theatre, New Street, Henley

Take litter home please Sir, — Forgive my using your newspaper in this way, but I would like to address the person (or people) who use Harpsden Woods as a drinking venue.

I have cleared three large bags of rubbish from the woods in the last week, among them a huge number of cans and bottles. My message is simple: please take your rubbish home rather than leaving it in the road or throwing it into the woods. — Yours faithfully, Your friendly local Womble

Scourge of out town

Sir, — Here is a poem for inclusion on your letters page. — Yours faithfully, Jane Nicholson Watermans Road, Henley

Litter litter,
The scourge of our town.
Whenever I see it,
It makes me frown. Be it discarded wrapper,
It does not matter,
Bottle or can,
I am not a fan. Those who leave rubbish,
Surely must feel foolish?
When I see litter left by the river,
It makes me shiver.

Litter litter,
The scourge of our town.
A blight on our view,
Ruined by a few.

Two sides of the hedge Sir, — I cannot believe you would publish Vincent Ruane’s reply to my letter (Standard, June 26). My views are from a quiet 79-year-old and spoken from the heart.

To be villified by an obvious car, train and old person hater defies belief. To say the fields are not beautiful because they have been sprayed is unbelieveable. Any roadside hedge I cannot see over in mid-winter is tall.

Off-road paths are not always dry but almost always uneven. Hedges planted directly on top of wildflowers not only supress them, they kill them. They even weed kill before planting (herbicide).

Why mention a car? I did not. How come there were vastly more birds, insects (forever on car windscreens or in your eyes when cycling) and many other varieties of wildlife when there were far fewer hedges?

How ironic that the journey he praises has the fewest hedges. — Yours faithfully, P Butler Shiplake

P.S. I, too, can be insulting but I will preserve my dignity.

My dog was attacked too Sir — I was amazed to read the story regarding the dog attack at Bix (Standard, June 26).

One of my German shepherds was attacked on the same day and at the same location. Having read the details in the report I can only assume that there were two separate incidents on the same day and at the same location. I find this quite incredible. — Yours faithfully.

Harry Arlett Gainsborough Hill, Henley

Interested in new name Sir, — Your correspondent Richard wrote, rather disparagingly, “Duke Street, following on, is patently a celebration of the aristocracy grinding the faces of the poor into the rural mud” (Standard, June 26).

I have always believed that the street was originally named Duck Street. As a result, around 1980, as the first tenant of the new offices at 24-26 Duke Street, built on the site of a previous ecclesiastical building (hence the shape of the roof), I was asked to name it. I chose the name Brook House in memory of the ducks.

The building was later renamed Towergate House after the name of the insurance company that occupied it. Now it is changing hands again, I look with interest to see what the new tenants will name it. — Yours faithfully, Brian Triptree

Paradise Road, Henley P.S. Maybe the Henley Standard, the town hall or the Henley Archaeological and Historical Group could confirm or deny my belief as regards the name?

Can I still get a cake?

How lovely it was to have the Henley farmers’ market back in operation again. I was greatly looking forward to buying cakes at the Scrumptious Cakes stall but it was not there. I was unable to enter the town hall or phone them to find out what the situation was.

Could someone please enlighten me or must I forsake such a gastronomic pleasure in these difficult times? — Yours faithfully, Mavis Daniels Nuffield

Secret of blue blancmange

Sir, — I cannot be the only reader thoroughly bewildered by Dick Fletcher’s letter concerning his mother’s blue blancmange (Standard, May 15). I read the letter in question several times, both in my head and aloud to my family and our confusion remains; there was simply no clarification of how the blancmange came to be blue. Was perhaps a sentence omitted by the editor and/or Mr Fletcher? — Yours in confusion,

Sid Sinclair The editor responds: “Mr Fletcher did indeed deliberately omit the secret of the blue blancmange so as to keep his promise to his mother not to tell tales. “However, in the light of yours and other readers’ requests, he has relented.

“He says: ‘She mixed Reckitt’s Blue (at the time made out of colouring and baking soda) with vanilla flavoured blancmange. Note that in 1945 we didn’t know what bananas were, so there was no banana flavoured blancmange. Don’t try this at home!'”

Thank you for thought

I was very surprised this morning when needing “a word from the Lord God”. I Googled “we know not what to do but our eyes are upon You” and sought a home-based answer. I was directed to your website and in particular a Thought for the Week column by Rev John Cook, vicar of Wargrave with Knowl Hill, from March when the coronavirus pandemic was beginning.

I want to express my gratitude and joy at reading such enouraging words and so kindly written. Well done. A blessing indeed.

Oh that people would “Taste and see that God is good”. — Yours faithfully, Lin Bristol

Thank you for message

Sir, — We received a lovely card today, forwarded by your newspaper, that was quite charming. Both Rosemary and I were so pleased to read the message inside. To whoever sent it from Twyford, many thanks.

It was not signed but has cheered me up no end as I’m trying to come to terms with two friends having been murdered in Reading. Just super, so kind. — Yours faithfully, Vincent Ruane and Rosemary Henderson

Henley Road, Caversham

Don’t send me the bill Sir, — Thank you for publishing Rolf Richardson’s photograph of my late husband, Bruce, driving our car through the floods in Thames Side, Henley, in 2014 (Standard, June 26). I am in the passenger seat, so you cannot blame me.

I believe Bruce saw the photo opportunity and deliberately accelerated for best effect. I do hope Mr Richardson avoided getting soaked and will not be sending me the dry cleaner’s bill. — Yours faithfully, Rosemary Henderson

Henley Road, Caversham

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