READERS’ LETTERS: As seen in The Wokingham Paper of April 4, 2019

Would you take a tip that wasn’t yours?

I had just had a meal with my family, at a local Finchampstead Pub, when my husband, as usual left a tip on the table (£10).

We left together and I just happened to look back through the window to where we sitting, when the woman on the table next to us, got up and rushed to get something off our table, which she then held up to show the others on her table, then preceded to put it in her handbag.

OUR TIP; I would of gone back, but my husband was in a rush to get home, just to tell the staff that the lady had acquired it.

Do we the public leave a tip any more, and if so how, with someone like her around where to leave it or do we give it to the Staff direct.

How often does this happen to others, do other people see persons doing just this.

Vanessa Barrow, Wokingham

What makes success?

In response to the letter entitled ‘Successful Town Centre’, I have been a professional Retail Strategist for over 20 years and I can tell Cllr Shepherd-Dubey that offering free parking is the equivalent of putting a Peppa Pig plaster on a broken leg when it comes to driving footfall to any Town Centre.

I have worked with some of the world’s largest retailers and they will all tell you that footfall isn’t a right, it is earned. Customers are earned by offering five things.

1) great service.

2) great quality at reasonable prices.

3) offering convenient, attractive surroundings.

4) offering the right mix of low value, high rate of sale products and higher value lower rate of sale products, and

5) Marketing all of the above effectively.

Attracting customers into our town centre works on exactly the same five principles.

We need to offer convenient, attractive surroundings. The Conservative-led council have delivered this through regeneration.

We need to offer the correct mix of high volume, branded retailers and lower volume boutique or specialist retailers.

The retailers she flippantly refers to as “Clones” serve an important purpose as they offer a range of highly desirable and frequently refreshed products with the ease and convenience of not having to travel to Reading or Bracknell.

These products and retailers attract customers who then also browse and purchase from the boutique and specialist shops, therefore sustaining the business of all the town’s retailers. Looking at the list of retailers and businesses moving into Peach Place and Elms Field I can see that this strategy of finding a healthy mix of chain stores and boutique stores is exactly what the Conservative led council have delivered.

Cllr Shepherd-Dubey asks what the Conservative-led council have done to make the town a success, in my professional opinion they have done exactly what we the residents, and what my customers the retailers would have wanted. All that needs done now is some effective marketing.

And if she wants to know why two hours free parking wouldn’t help?

Neither Reading, nor Bracknell nor Westfield in London, nor Henley or Marlow offer free parking and they don’t struggle to attract customers.

Free parking is a nice to have, but will quickly be forgotten.

Offering great service, quality products, pleasing surroundings and a mixture of chain (clone) and boutique retailers will continue to attract customers therefore growing every retailers sales and profits. The Conservative led council have done this and in doing so have secure the vibrancy of our town long into the future.

Cllr Shepherd-Dubey should pick another issue to campaign on from this letters page.

Gregor Murray, Wokingham

This is a new low

I think the ruling Conservatives on Wokingham Borough Council have reached a new low.

They have been pursuing the development of 15,000 properties at Grazeley since 2016. We only found out about these development proposal  at that time when six pages of a document was sent to one of my colleagues.

When we dared let the public know that they were pursuing this action, we were put through a Code of Conduct complaint exercise.

I should add that my colleague Cllr Clive Jones and myself, wear this badge with pride.

It was unacceptable for the Conservatives to keep such a proposal secret. They had no concern about the local residents that could be impacted by the development of 15,000 houses. None at all.

Since then they have submitted updated plans to the government on at least two occasions.

In fact they indicated they were delighted in being shortlisted by the Government for financial support. Which by the way, is still £100m short of what it needs to be.

I now hear that the new Leader of the Council was unaware of the Government activities. Where has he been?

It has been common knowledge that the Council had applied and reapplied to the Government to support the Grazeley development, since we made the information public.

Throughout various meetings that have taken place at Shute End this proposal has been discussed in detail. I have always felt that some development might have to happen, but believe that 15,000 properties (in Wokingham Borough and West Berkshire) at Grazeley is far too many.

Development on this scale would cause considerable gridlock in the surrounding area for many years to come and destroy a large area of beautiful countryside.

The way the Conservatives badly treated petitioners from Barkham and Shinfield at two recent Full Council Meetings, should give a warning to residents of Wokingham Borough and gives me no confidence that they will prevent large numbers of properties from being built in our area.

The real reason for the current response from the Leader of the Council is very clear.

The Government announcement was not expected to be made prior to the Local Election on May 2nd and it has caused them some considerable embarrassment.

I believe the residents of Wokingham Borough will see through their “enough is enough” stance. It was THEY, the Conservatives, who have pressed for this development and THEY the Conservatives have continued to do so.

If they really believed, “enough was enough”, they could very simply  have pulled the plug on the councils application for infrastructure money, which as I have said is already showing a shortfall of £100m.

It is you, and me, the residents of the Wokingham Borough who will have to cover this shortfall. Another example of financial incompetence from this Conservative run Council.

TRUST is a very important issue.  I simply now do not TRUST the Leader of the Council and his colleagues. Neither I believe will the Public.

Cllr Lindsay Ferris, Leader of the Liberal Democrats & leader of the Opposition on Wokingham Borough Council

Enough is enough

Cllr Julian McGhee-Sumner the Conservative Leader of Wokingham Borough Council was out and about recently in support of a campaign to stop houses being built off the Finchampstead Road which I would add has my full support also at which he said “enough was enough”

But when challenged on the government funding of £750,000 to fund an evaluation of 15,000 houses at Grazeley he had the audacity to say he was not aware of the Government’s plans before he made his speech about housing, and was “surprised” the money had been made available –  yet it’s his party who secretly asked the Government for the money as long as 30 months ago.

Had he and all the Conservatives conveniently forgotten that?

He went on to say people should not be overly worried at this stage by adding “They’ve given us a sum of money to work out whether it is feasible or not” – it wasn’t feasible before.

What he also fails to say is that the 35-page Grazeley Garden Settlement Document which the Conservatives support and they submitted to Government was very detailed and included a  comprehensive infrastructure plan along with a schedule of building up to 450 houses each year from 2021 for the best part of 30 years.

A 30-year building site.

The Grazeley plan was much more detailed than anything they have done for their own draft housing local plan. Their plan was  to have it adopted this November. I would call that real commitment all all very secretive which would appear to be their DNA.

What an insult to residents  intelligence when Keith Malthouse MP, the Government Minster of state for housing having awarded them £750,00, gleefully said that the new Grazeley Garden Town could not only provide homes for local families but would be a vibrant place where everyone, including the wider Wokingham area, can benefit from new infrastructure – leaving a legacy for future generations to be proud of.

Ashamed might be a better word.

Cllr McGhee-Sumner went even further by adding “One of the things I have made clear to the government is having a separate settlement is probably the thing to do.”

What we can’t keep doing is putting up houses around the rest of the borough. Why not, when the Conservatives alone secretly opened Pandoras Box.

Another insult to our intelligence if he thinks all the developers who have submitted sites for consideration in the new housing local plan will just melt away never to be seen or heard again. T

hey won’t and his Conservative mates in Westminster will welcome every house Wokingham can put on its green fields and green belt. The more the merrier and they don’t give one iota about our Greenfield’s.

Areas where development will not take place will also suffer with traffic congestion, noise, pollution , longer doctors waiting lists, difficulties with appointments at the Royal Berks and a lack of choice in schools. The list is endless.

The day of reckoning is May 2nd, when residents will have the  opportunity  through the ballot box to make their feelings known.

Now that is what I would call real democracy.

Cllr Gary Cowan Independent Borough Councillor for Arborfield at Wokingham Borough (Gary Cowan is not a candidate in this year’s Local Elections)

Our leaderless country

We are told that the PM may try to stay in power longer, to keep out Boris.

That truly manifests the pure selfishness of a politician – keeping out someone vastly superior than her, is apparently more important than our Country.

Our international reputation has doubtless suffered greatly from the disasters and appalling leadership of the past three years.

We need to be fully aware of how we are virtually despised in Europe and by the President of the USA. I do wonder whether the strengthening will to ‘remain’ is influenced by our situation. After all, our original need to join the EU was the disastrous situation we were in, in the 70’s – thus ‘gather thee all unto the Promised Land. A new Jerusalem’

Now of course, one needs to read George Orwell’s 1984, to understand where the EU is going – and us if we stay in. It describes how we shall be existing/surviving in an environment where even thinking anti state feelings is a crime punishable by death. Plus full time surveillance etc.

I would not last five minutes!

In defence of those who in decreasing numbers still do not accept the Withdrawal Agreement, it has to be appreciated that any right- thinking person knows it is not good for the UK.

I only wish that the Irish border problem was as simple as ‘there is and will be a border naturally, as we are separate countries.

However, it should apply to trade only, and provides for all Irish and Northern Ireland individuals to have lifetime visa freedom of travel each way across that border’.

Why not? Then we could get out NOW.

Reg Clifton, Wokingham

NHS support

I read Paul Farmer’s letter – NHS Mental Health – [21st March]. It  rought to my mind a crisis house success story of many years ago.

This concerned a man who had made a suicide attempt – because his marriage had broken down, and his Wokingham carpentry business had been failing – the usual situation of more than one, seriously adverse, life event – causing mental breakdown.

The man was admitted to the old Fairmile Mental Hospital, under a Section of the Mental Health Act. He had never been in a mental hospital before, and he told me that he was, thus, terrified that he would end up like the broken-down, terribly ill, chronic mental patients – whom he saw around him.

So he begged the social worker to find him  somewhere else to go. Under the Mental Health Act, it is legal requirement, that the Sectioned patient be placed, in the least restrictive environment – compatible with effective treatment, and alternatives to a mental hospital, must be considered, so the social worker brought him to us.

He stayed in  the crisis house for exactly one year – during which time, he re-established his carpentry business, successfully.

Fortunately, he was able to park his  van outside the crisis house – this being in the days before the new road was built, and so lost us our parking space. Since his business operated in  Wokingham, itself, no location could have been more convenient.

Stuck out in hospital, in rural Oxfordshire, or even stuck in Prospect Park, in  Reading, such a restoration of successful business, would not have been possible.

He found a sympathetic girlfriend – out in the normal world – not  among other mentally ill people, and, after a year, they moved into a flat together – recovered, happy, and successful, once again!

What did I have to do – to help effect his recovery – apart from making the crisis house available? Sit down to drink a few coffees, and have a few encouraging chats, with him! Did I need numerous degrees in psychology?

No! Did I need millions of pounds in funding? No! The excellent Wokingham United  Charities have just made us, a most generous donation, of five thousand pounds, and this is, precisely, the kind of grant that we need to keep the  Bank Balance up, and keep our services going. Prospect Park Hospital would cease to be in a frantic state – working, under-funded, under- staffed,  and under siege, if there were numerous small, volunteer-run crisis houses – accepting, as guests, people like the man I have described.

We didn’t  rehabilitate him; he rehabilitated himself – given the right environment in which to do so. Of course, he COULD have succeeded in a second, suicide  attempt.

That is the risk you take. But he didn’t! They don’t – because we show them the light at the end of the tunnel, and the way to crawl through  the tunnel – to reach it!

Pam Jenkinson – The Wokingham Crisis House.


The MPs are swinging while Great Britain is sinking (with apologies to Nero!)

Francine Twitchett, Wokingham

Regeneration, rather like Brexit, rumbles onwards, staggering from one problem to another.

Following the shambles of Market Place, the Peach Place farce in spite of the disingenuous efforts of those responsible to talk it up, will, when eventually completed, be months behind schedule and almost certainly well over budget.

And walk with me along traffic congested air polluted Peach Street.

Here the new pavement fronting the largely unoccupied new retail units is, barely before the concrete has had time to set, showing signs of unevenness and kerb collapse. Surely not another case of botched regeneration?

A week or two ago, the spring edition of Wokingham Borough Council’s journal Wokingham Borough News dropped through the letterbox.

Containing selective, always favourable, self-congratulatory claims, spinning over or simply ignoring reality, it even had a box to tick to let Shute End Towers know that you hadn’t received your copy.

At a guestimated annual cost approaching £50,000 per year, this begs the question how such public relations frippery can be afforded while other essential services continue to be financially squeezed?

J W Blaney, Wokingham



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