Local News

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Local News June 28 to July 5 2018

Including Hungerford’s station, Wantage’s past, Newbury’s future, Marlborough’s police, Swindon’s firefighters, Thatcham’s poets, Lambourn’s water, Theale’s school, Burghfield’s bees, Chilton Foliat’s gardens, Ramsbury’s fair, police and roadwork updates, council contacts, affordable homes, recycling changes, drainage, slugs, hedgehogs, moths, tyres, freudenschade, smart motorways and a summer breeze.

Click on any highlighted and underlined text for more information on the subject. Some will link to other pages on this site, others to pages elsewhere.

Police, transport and council contacts

Roadworks updates. Click on the links for news regarding West Berkshire, the Wantage area, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Swindon. Please click here to visit Traffic England’s site for information on motorways and major strategic roads (which include at A34 and the A419). The ‘Map Layers’ toggle can be used to display different levels of information.

• You can also visit Roadworks.org for similar information: this also provides the ability to toggle layers and select dates (it defaults to today’s date but you can adjust this) and other preferences. (It seems that West Berkshire at least – see link above – gets its feed from this source).

• There will be a number of closures on the main railway line between Pewsey and Theale in 2018 as a result of the electrification project.

Neighbourhood policing updates. For the Thames Valley Police’s ‘Your Local Area’ page generally, click here. For specific areas, click here for Hungerford and Lambourn; click here for Newbury Town Centre; click here for Newbury Outer; click here for Bucklebury and Downlands; click here for Thatcham, Aldermaston and Brimpton; click here for Wantage and Grove; click here for Wiltshire East (including Marlborough); click here for Swindon and other parts of Wiltshire; click here for Hampshire.

• Please click here for more about the tri-service station in Hungerford and policing in the area generally.

• For information on flood warnings and alerts, click here.

• A number of community minibus and car schemes provide transport services for – but not exclusively for – older and disabled people. You can click here to find more about the range of services (and volunteering opportunities) in West Berkshire. Click here for services in Wiltshire and Swindon.

District, town or parish council contacts. To view the contacts page for Hungerford TC, click here; for Newbury, click here; for Thatcham, click here. If you live in the Vale of White Horse area, click here (and here for Wantage); if you live in Wiltshire, click here (and here for Marlborough). For Swindon, click here.

Across the area (and further afield)

• A recent report from the Town and Countryside Planning Association claims that only 2% of councils in England feel that developments in their area have satisfied the need for affordable homes. This is likely further to increase calls for local councils to lift the cap on the amount of money they can borrow so they can build more homes themselves. A spokesperson for the TCPS suggested that the current model of providing affordable housing ‘isn’t ever going to work.’ Click here for more.

• So, Germany aren’t going to win the World Cup. Is the delight I feel in writing this sentence entirely honorable? It’s true they played awfully this tournament and they normally win so it’s time someone else had a go. I might have other reasons. To some extent I’m let off the hook as our language has no easy way to describe the sense of pleasure that comes from the misfortunes of others: in order to express it succinctly, we needed to borrow a word from elsewhere. Where could that have been from?

• Speaking of which, Penny once reversed this word and said ‘freudenschade‘ (it was towards the end of a party so we’ll let her off). I think she’s stumbled on another very useful word which – also to our credit – we have no native term for. I have no idea what it might mean, if anything, in German: but in English, it surely refers to the opposite of schadenfreude, in other words the sense of irritation we feel when someone experiences success. If, so, I’ve been experiencing freudenschade on on a more or less regular basis with regard to the German football team since about 1970.

• As regards England, it seems to me that losing against Belgium on Thursday would present an easier series of potential matches thereafter. I still don’t understand why FIFA doesn’t have a draw for the knock-out rounds. It seems to work out OK for most other competitions. Then again, who understands anything about FIFA?

• As mentioned last week, West Berkshire Council has received £3m of funding for road improvements which has been allocated to 12 separate projects. Work on many of these  – including on the A340 Pangbourne Road in Theale, on which 19% of this funding is being spent – has already started. The A340 works are expected to be completed by early July.

• On the subject of roads, the car went for a service this week. There’s always some piece of bad news: this time it was that I needed four new tyres, a verdict that Helen at Kennet Tyre Services in Hungerford confirmed when I took the car there. She added that it was becoming increasingly rare for them to see a car with tyres that had naturally worn out: instead, more and more people were coming in with punctures or other immediate damage. She wasn’t sure why this was but it seemed to be a nationwide problem. Potholes may have something to do with it but debris on roads was perhaps more significant. Are we as a nation now throwing more sharp objects onto roads? If so, why? Did roads used to get swept or cleaned and now they’re not? Are tyres now made to less robust standards? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions.

• West Berkshire Council is currently consulting on a draft Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) for sustainable drainage systems (SuDS). Click here for details.

• The war against slugs continues although the recent very warm weather seems to have calmed them down: either that or the veg and flowers we planted are now better able to take care of themselves. Chris who runs the plants stall at Hungerford market on Wednesday says that the arrival of family of thrushes has solved the problem in his garden. However, it’s not easy to see how, with three cats, we can safely attract these to hang round our place. Here’s some advice from Saga Magazine on sluggy matters.

• One of the animals which will keep slugs down – and which the cats probably won’t mess with – are hedgehogs. As they’re nocturnal and secretive it’s often hard to know how many you have on your property. Here’s some local expert advice as to how to attract the sickly-pricklies. Don’t over-feed them, though, otherwise this will happen

• The phrase ‘Oak processionary moth‘ may not mean much to you (as it didn’t to me) but it seems that their caterpillars are poisonous. Several have recently been discovered in Bracknell.

• It’s hot. Had you noticed that? Here are some tips for staying safe in the heat from the Berkshire Fire Service.

• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week includes some comments about grass cutting; another mobile not-spot identified; another angle on the ‘green bin tax’; and (inevitably) several letters about Brexit.

• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Marlborough Youth Club (thanks to the Rotary Club); Wantage’s Betjaman Park (thanks to the recent cycle ride); The British Heart Foundation (thanks to Yvonne Oakes); Jessie May Hospice (thanks to the Hilmarton Scarecrow festival); The Thames Valley Air Ambulance (thanks to the Burghfield Box Kart Bash); The Rosemary Appeal (thanks to the Thatcham Rotary Club); Kyankowe School (thanks to the fête at Kingsclere Primary).

Hungerford & district

• Please click here for the latest news from Hungerford Town Council.

• As mentioned a couple of weeks back, West Berkshire Council has had a change of mind over the plans for 30 homes near the railway station, approval for which was granted unanimously at the Western Area Planning Committee this week although the decision needs to be ratified by the District Council’s Planning Committee. One previous reason for the refusal was the fact that the site had been allocated for commercial use, but West Berkshire has now accepted the point, which the town council has been making for some time, that no interest had been expressed in using the land for that purpose.

• The question still remains as to where any extra car-parking spaces in the town might be found as the development will be on the site of a temporary car park that the landowners had made available for this purpose for as long as the site was unused. Putting an extra level on the West berkshire car park between the station and the High Street is one suggestion.

• I read in this week’s Newbury Weekly News that there was a near miss this week when a lorry got stuck on the level crossing as the barriers were coming down. As there are several businesses to the north of the level crossing for which this is their only way in or out I guess this is going to keep on happening.

• And staying with the railway station, it’s recently been announced that Hungerford Town Council’s application to GWR for funds for a new shelter on the London-bound platform has been partly successful: £13,552 (a few thousand less than that which was asked for) has been awarded. The town council would need to contribute £1,355 towards the cost of the project.

• A reminder that representatives of Hungerford Town Council recently had a meeting with Barclays Bank to establish what help would be available to customers and what other banking arrangements could be made after the closure of the Hungerford branch – click here for details.

• A reminder also that the Hungerford 2036 team, which has been set up to create the town’s Neighbourhood Development Plan, has reached the stage of its work where it needs to conduct a public consultation. All residents of the parish of Hungerfgord are invited to complete a questionnaire (on-line ideally but printed copies are being distributed). More information on this and the work of the 2036 team so far can be found by clicking here.

• Discover the hidden gems that lie beyond Chilton Foliat’s garden gates at the village’s Garden Trail on Saturday 30 June – click here for details.

• The Hungerford Town Band is on tour this weekend – only as far as Newbury, I admit – to perform a concert at St George’s Church in Wash Common to raise funds for the West Berkshire Citizens Advice. Details can be found here.

Lambourn Valley

• Please click here to visit the village websites or Facebook pages for Lambourn, East Garston, Great Shefford and Boxford.

• Click here for information on a photography exhibition which will be held in Lambourn in August. This page also includes details of whom to contact if you have any old protographs of the village you would like to have included.

And click here for information on the Lambourn Festival and Carnival which will take place at various venues and dates in August.

• There was an letter in this month’s Village Views which caught my eye (you can see it in full on p3) and told me a number of things about our water supply that I didn’t know. Firstly, I didn’t know that it all comes from a borehole near Ashdown House. Secondly, I didn’t realise what a good deal Thames Water got from the Environment Agency for having access to this. Thirdly, I didn’t know that it required no filtration or purification at all (though if I’d known the first point I might have worked that out). Think I’ll go and pour myself another glass. Don’t know why I ever drink anything else…

4 Legs Community Radio Station will on Friday have its twelfth day of broadcasting – click here for more.

Newbury & district

• Please click here for the latest news from Newbury Town Council: and here to see NTC’s archive of monthly newsletters.

• A recent report suggests that Newbury’s retailers are benefitting from having a strong on-line presence – click here for more.

• And click here for details about the next phase of improvements to the cycle and pedestrian route between Thatcham and Newbury.

• If anyone has any information about the recent spate of vandalism in Victoria Park (see this week’s NWN p3), contact the police.

• Newbury Council has formally adopted its Town Plan 2019-2036 – click here to see the document.

• For photos and a report of last weekend’s re-enactment of the First Battle of Newbury, see this week’s NWN (pp6-7)

• A reminder that a proposal has been made to secure the future of the library in Wash Common. If you have any views on the matter, email consultations@newbury.gov.uk, write to Newbury Town Council, Town Hall, Market Place, Newbury, RG14 5AA or take part in the online consultation.

• Last call for applications for the 2018 Newbury in Bloom campaign – you have until Saturday 30 June .

Thatcham & district

• Please click here for the latest news from Thatcham Town Council.

• The annual Thatcham Festival Poetry Competition is now open for entries again – click here for details.

• Click here for details of the Community Alcohol Partnership which was launched in Thatcham last week.

• See this week’s NWN (p24) for photos and a report on the Thatcham Family Fun Day last Sunday.

• The matter of the proposed new school at Theale is still unresolved. First mooted nearly a decade ago, this has become a very complex affair with a number of interconnected issues at stake. In an attempt to resolve the situation, a public poll was conducted in March. This had a turnout of just under 40% and produced a narrow level of support for West Berkshire’s proposal that a new school be built and that, in order to do so, Theale Parish Council would need to relinquish its lease on the North Street playing fields. The results of the poll (which did not permit postal or proxy votes and was open for only five hours rather than the 15 hours in general elections) are not legally binding on anyone.  Following this, West Berkshire set a deadline of 31 July for Theale to relinquish its lease: to this was later added another date, of 22 June, by which Theale was to have signified its willingness to do so. Theale informed West Berkshire that it would not be able to respond by this time. A further statement will be made by Theale in due course.

The proposed transfer of the land is one issue, and is something that any responsible parish council would need to consider carefully – the alienation of such an asset is irrevocable and would also involve considering its statutory obligations. In addition, some feel that the case for the new school has not been adequately made and that questions remain about the estimates of pupil numbers, the ring-fencedness or otherwise of the funding and the implications for future development in the area. Several different points of view have been expressed. Two worth pointing out are, first, from the Save our Village campaign (this was published in advance of the March poll); and the second from West Berkshire Council which was last updated on the day of the vote.

• Having been rammed from the back and had my car written off on the A34 a few years ago (see What Goes Round for my version of this), an accident which was largrly due to there being no hard shoulder, I was a bit dubious about the advent of the smart motorway, by which the hard shoulder will be turned into a permanent lane with lay-bys every so often. The key point is how much ‘every so often’ is. The AA has claimed that the proposed M4 smart motorway between junctions 3 and 12 doesn’t have enough of these: Highways England’s guidance is one every one and a half miles but the report claims there should be twice as many. Other suggested problems includes the fact that they might not be big enough and that they may be used for non-emergency stops. For my part, I’m not convinced by those overhead dot-matrix signs which often seem to give inaccurate or irrelevant information. It’s also true that the current hard shoulders aren’t that safe: official advice if you have to use one is to get out of your car, which tells you all you need to know. If you want to find out more about the whole smart motorway thing, Highways England is holding a drop-in event for local residents and businesses at Theale Parish Hall from 3-m to 8pm on Friday 13 July. Plans will be available to view and members of the design and construction teams will be available to discuss the scheme and answer your questions.

• Good news for residents of the eastern part of West Berkshire: it’s recently been announced that from Monday 2 July the Padworth Recycling Centre will accept general non-recyclable waste (including rigid plastics) from West Berkshire residents as well as the recycling services it previously offered. Previously, residents of the east of the county (who can no longer use the centre in Reading) would have to drive to Newbury. Please click here for information on West Berkshire’s recycling and rubbish arrangements.

• It was a busy weekend in Burghfield Common: there was the Box Kart Bash (see p15 of this week’s NWN); a fire destroyed a flat above the Co-op in Clayhill Road; and a swarm of bees escaped when its hive was being moved which resulted in a three-year-old boy being stung 18 times.

Marlborough & district

• Please click here for the latest news from Marlborough Town Council.

• A recent meeting of Marlborough Town Council touched on the question of the police presence in the town – or, as many councillors pointed out, the lack of it. You can read more in Marlborough News’ report here. The sentiments echo precisely those raised by Hungerford councillors at their meetings; and, I’m sure, other communities up and down the country. Budgets are being cut, we all know that. In addition, perhaps the police might argue that crime is become more specialist, digital, international and sophisticated and that more resources need to be devoted to that.

• Click right here for details of the Marlborough Rising festival from 7 to 9 September.

• And, yet again from the ever-excellent Marlborough News, click here for a review of the Marlborough and District Embroiderers’ Guild Summer Exhibition, held in Kennet Valley Hall this weekend.

• Nursery children have been brightening up the mornings of residents during weekly visits to a local care home – congratulations to pupils from Avenue Nursery. Read more here.

• Are you a baker? If so, Wilton Windmill might need your help on Saturday 21 July for its Wind in the Willows fundraising day.

• The Ramsbury Street Fair takes place on Saturday 30 June – click here for more.

• Click here for information on what’s on in and around Ramsbury.

Wantage & district

• Please click here for the latest news from Wantage Town Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Grove Parish Council.

• As has been mentioned here and elsewhere before, the Wantage Community Hospital is threatened with closure. You can read here an open letter by Julie Mabberley about the campaign. The date for the march on the poster at the foot of this has now passed but it seems from this Facebook post that this will be taking place at 2pm on Saturday 22 July (meet at The Green near Foliat Drive).

• The Vale and Downland Museum celebrates its 60th anniversary this year and, until 21 July, will be holding an exhibition using exhibits not normally on display. Click here for more.

• The Wantage Summer Arts Festival is now under way (until 7 July) – click here for details.

• A chance to have your say on a government proposal to give Oxfordshire councils greater protection from speculative housing development.

Swindon & district

• Click here for the latest news and information from Swindon Borough Council.

• Much has recently been written and said about the proposed ‘green bin tax‘ in West Berkshire. This report from the Swindon Advertiser says that Swindon Council raised £800,000 from this service last year, its charges being £50, the same as West Berkshire is proposing. West Berkshire is, I understand, hoping for a take-up rate of 45%. Swindon’s figures suggest that 16,000 homes there opted for this service. According to these figures, there are 88,360 households in Swindon, which means that last year’s take-up rate was only about 18%. To put it another way, an extra £18 on the precept would have produced double this revenue (and probably enough to continue to offer a universal service) and with far less fuss. Moreover, neither Swindon nor any other council will know what the take-up rate will be in the future which makes budget preparation rather hit and miss. From the figures I’ve found, West Berkshire would seem to have about 64,000 households. A similar take-up rate to Swindon’s would thus generate about £575,000 (less the cost of all the administration).

• The hot weather has led to a spate of burglaries with windows and doors being left open more frequently than usual. Here’s some advice from the Wiltshire police on the subject.

•  A series of free events will be taking place in Swindon to provide support and advice for local businessesclick here for more.

• Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service is looking for young people from the Swindon area to join its Fire Cadet programme.

• And for a taste of what being a firefighter is all about, drop into the Stratton Fire Station open day on Saturday 30 June.

• Swindon’s residents are being asked to give their views on proposed changes to the way that people can contact Swindon Borough Council. A seven-week consultation on the Council’s draft Customer Access Strategy will run until Monday 30 July.

• Click here for the latest news and local views on the proposed ‘Sonasis‘ entertainment and leisure centre at North Star Avenue.

• Click here for details of the many volunteering opportunities at Great Western Hospital.

The song and the quiz

• The Song of the Week is here again. Given the weather and all, let’s have the wonderful Summer Breeze by the Isley Brothers.

• Which brings us to the  Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s will stick with the World Cup: Which was the last country to score a goal at this year’s tournament? Last week’s was Which was the first country to have been eliminated from this year’s World Cup? The answer is Egypt, after their 3-1 defeat to the hosts.

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Brian Quinn

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