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Local News July 5-12 2018

Including newsletters for Hungerford and the Lambourn Valley, Wantage Road Station, Newbury’s slogan, Lower Way plans in Thatcham, Swindon’s NHS inspiration, Burghfield’s allotments, Marlborough’s Wolfhall, Theale’s initial response, police and roadwork updates, major rail closures imminent, SEND consultation, an abusive relationship, localism, a talking crow, good news for bees, England’s robbers, TV chucking, a non-slip bridge, all the mayors, £430 per inch, a lorry-eating road and the song of a baker.

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 (including for all bar three days between Monday 9 July and Sunday 5 August).

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)

• I’m glad Columbia didn’t really turn up for the round-of-16 match yesterday because, if they had, they could have murdered us. Diego Maradona said that England ‘committed robbery‘ in the match, which is a bit rich coming from him, the memories of the hand of god in ’86 still being fresh in the mind. I do have to agree with him that the ref was pathetic, though perhaps not in the way he suggests. The time for the 10-minute sin bin has surely arrived. And a big hats off to Gareth Southgate who showed real class after the match, as he has done since his appointment: he knows what it’s like to miss a big-time penalty. Think he’s now expiated this, in a way that he didn’t quite manage to do with those ill-judged pizza adverts.

• There was recently some concern expressed by residents of Hungerford (and doubtless other communities) about the reduced incidence of grass mowing, hedge trimming, sign cleaning and other such tasks that might for all I know be grouped together as ‘street furniture and vegetation maintenance’. The situation appears to be that West Berkshire (other councils in the area may have similar policies) is happy to devolve such services to parish or town councils, subject to their complying with various conditions and taking out insurance. WBC can provide capital grants of up to £12,000 (for instance for mowers) but will not contribute to any operational costs. I imagine that this doesn’t apply to their statutory duties to trim verges on A roads: at least, I hope it doesn’t. Does this amount to a wonderful opportunity for localism or a desperate attempt at cost-cutting?

• One letter in this week’s Newbury Weekly News, from Neil Salmon (‘Council must stand up to central government’) touches on this point in terms of suggesting how the councillors should react to what he terms their ‘abusive relationship‘ with Westminster. As both the letter and the above situation imply, one of the problems with the current situation – indeed of localism generally – is that it risks replacing universally-applied standards of services, funding or care with ones that depend on the extent to which the various local communities, parish councils or others, are able to or can afford to provide these themselves. It was just this  kind of disparate, disconnected and ultimately inefficient patchwork of municipal and charitable activities that the NHS and the Welfare State were created to address. The government clearly still believes in centralisation and national application when this suits its needs: how else can Universal Credit be described? For other things, however, the trend is in the opposite direction. How often a grass bank is cut or a road-sign cleaned or who is responsible for it or whether one community does this better or more frequently than another doesn’t perhaps matter that much. However, under the cloak of exigency and the intellectual justification of localism, the time may come when more important things are provided – or not – on what amounts to little more than the basis of formalised volunteering.

• Despite opposition from some groups, including the National Farmers Union, the EU decided earlier in the summer of ban all outdoor use of neonicitinoid pesticides as due to the ‘high risk’ that these cause damage to bees. The ban is expected to come into force by the end of 2018. As with so many other things, it’s unclear if the UK government will retain this post-Brexit.

• West Berkshire Council is running a consultation on its Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) strategy 2018-23 which closes on Friday 20 July. Click here to take part.

• West Berkshire Council has voiced its support for the third runway at Heathrow and the rail link to the airport from Reading. You can read the statement in full here.

Crows can’t talk, right? Wrong, apparently

• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week includes a forthright summary of the problems inherent in the current Sandleford proposals; mystification about the delay to the green-bin charges; a further salvo in the badger-culling debate; and the above-mentioned letter on the subject of cuts to council budgets. (A similar point to that concerning Sandleford is also made in The Wantage Herald letters page by the President of the Didcot Chamber of Commerce).

• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Newbury and District MS Society (thanks to Vodafone); The Hope and Aid Convoy (thanks to West Berkshire Muslim Centre); Help for Heroes (thanks to Enfield Endeavour); Berkshire MS Therapy Centre (thanks to shoppers in Newbury); BIBS (thanks to the Harey 8).

Hungerford & district

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

• As I say at the start of every month, for the best round-up of Hungerford-ish matters, click here to see July’s Penny Post Hungerford e-newsletter. This includes the regular update of the Town Council’s activities (including the latest on the Station Road development), HADCAF tickets, news from the High-Street retailers and Barrs Yard, a reminder about the Hungerford 2036 survey that’s currently live, the end-of-year report from John O’Gaunt School, guided walks with the Town & Manor, good news for the Youth Centre, the book of the month from Hungerford Bookshop, local history and hot-weather gardening tips. Is that enough? No? OK, there’s also the arrival of our new trains, a look back at Armed Forces Day, a slice of local history, reflections about the passing of time and some gap-year advice.

• I was walking over the canal footbridge the other day and chatted to a man of was installing some anti-slip strips (there’s a technical name for these, I’m sure) to the decking, this in response to the surface turning nasty in cold or wet weather.

• And sticking with slippery surfaces in Hungerford, Anthony Buckwell wrote in response to the mention in last week’s Local News of a lorry being stuck on the level crossing. He points out that Station Road (which seems rarely to be gritted) can easily become icebound in cold weather. “One lorry, he recalls, “was seen to slide down the hill with brakes locked, only to avoid crashing though the level crossing gates (closed) thanks to the tyres bumping against the raised pavement a few yards short of the barrier.” Best not think about what might have happened next. I’d have thought that a steep-ish hill leading down to a level crossing would be top of the list for regular gritting, or perhaps a more grippy road surface.

Lambourn Valley

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

• As with Hungerford (see above), the best source of news, views and information about the upper part of the Lambourn Valley is to be found in this month’s recently-published Valley of the Racehorse e-newsletter. What have we got for you? Looking after our unique chalk stream, Pat Murphy’s racing update, Garstonbury count-down, three months of 4LEGS Radio, Harry Dunlop’s charity bike ride, a reading challenge from the Library, a book award for a local author and a competition from Lambourn’s Spice Valley restaurant. We’ve also got stuff about bees, wasps, dogs, squirrels and cryptic crosswords.

4 Legs Community Radio Station will on Friday have its thirteenth 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.

• ‘Who will rid our town of this wretched building?’ is the headline on p9 of this week’s NWN referring, of course, to the BT Exchange near the Sainsbury’s roundabout which looks like something out of 1960s East Germany. It’s apparently absolutely stuffed with telecoms gear which is too difficult and costly to move merely to address aesthetic objections. So, we seem to be stuck with it. I’m not sure about the greening idea shown in the artist’s impression. I think a better route would be to exaggerate its sinister nature by painting a huge Sauron-like eye on it.

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

• As part of this, the town will be re-branded as ‘The Crossroads of Southern England‘ on local signage. Click here for more.

• The lido at the Nortcroft Centre has opened for the summer.

•  If you want to know about all of Newbury’s Mayors – from the first one, Bartholomew Yate, in the 1590s to Margaret Payne, the incumbent – click here for a history complied by Councillor Anthony Pick. What is the collective noun for mayors? There must be one, lurking somewhere in a haunted wing of the OED. A chain? A quorum? A worship?

• You can keep up to date with the progress of work at Market Street and The Wharf by clicking here.

• For photos and a report of last weekend’s Race for Life, see this week’s NWN (pp5-7).

• On Thursday, this bin lorry had a slightly surreal mishap in Old Bath Road. It looks as if the tarmac was taking the message on the side of the lorry a bit too literally.

• 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.

Thatcham & district

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

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

• Free first-aid and defibrillator training is available through a course organised by the Community Council for Berkshire on Thursday 19 July at Woolhampton Village Hall (7pm til 9.30pm). Places must be pre-reserved. Click here for details.

• If you want to find out more about smart motorways, 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. It’s recently been announced that work on smarting-up the M4 between J12 and J 3 will start in the autumn, run until 2022 and cost £862.4m (which seems to be about £430 per inch).

• See p25 of this week’s NWN for more on Persimmon Homes’ plans for 97 homes in Lower Way. Click here to see the application details (then enter the code 18/00964/FULEXT).

• Click here to read an interim response from Theale Parish Council regarding the proposed school and the dealine which has been set by West Berkshire Council for the parish to relinquish its lease on land that will be needed for the development. (See also .)

• This weekend (Friday 6 to Sunday 8 July) will see concerts taking place at Englefield House so be prepared for some local traffic disruption. Click here for some information on this.

• There has recently been some on-line discussion about the perceived threat to one of the allotment sites in Burghfield involving ‘NDP’: this is in fact the parish’s neighbourhood development plan and not the acronym for a firm of developers. As a necessary part of its work, the NDP group is looking at all aspects of possible land use in the parish. If it is decided (and West Berkshire agrees) that the current sites are the best ones, or that these should be expanded, then the NDP will afford greater protection to them in the future. Burghfield Parish Council issued a statement (at 2.13pm on 3 July) about this on its Facebook page, in which it reassured residents that ‘it recognises that ‘the Reading Road allotments provide valuable green spaces, are a community asset that give local residents the opportunity to grow their own produce as part of the long term promotion of environmental sustainability, health and well-being. Importantly, Burghfield Parish Council also recognises that the allotments foster community cohesion and social inclusion. You can read the full statement here.

Marlborough & district

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

• Archaeological finds and documentary evidence are revealing just how much of Wolfhall, the house where King Henry VIII wooed Jane Seymour, still exists as part of the present Wolfhall Manor near Burbage.  I’ll let Marlborough News take it from here

• If you went to MantonFest then you’d probably have had a great time: if you didn’t go, then you can read about it here. One of the acts was led Zep tribute band Whole Lotta Led, who are the subject of Penny Post’s quiz this month, with two tickets to one of their upcoming Hungerford gigs as the prize. Click here for details.

•  I do so love this story (and hope it’s true) so I’ll tell it again. When the original Led Zep were touring the US in the 70s they established a new high (or low, depending on your point of view) for on-the-road excesses. One of the less dangerous of these was throwing TVs out of hotel windows. Peter Grant, their formidable manager, who was fully aware of the publicity value of these stunts, would carry a wad of cash to settle up for the damage the next day. On one occasion he was asked by the over-awed young man behind the desk, “What’s it like to throw a TV out of a fourth-storey window?” Grant paused. “What,” he asked in mock surprise, “you mean you’ve never done it?” “No, sir,” the man replied. “I gotta say,” Grant confided, “it’s great. Tell you what, son,” he went on, peeling a few more notes off his roll and tucking them into the man’s top pocket, “have one on us.”

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

• Calling all bakers – Wilton Windmill might need your help on Saturday 21 July for its Wind in the Willows fundraising day.

• 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. There will be a march in support of the hospital  at 2pm on Saturday 22 July (meet at The Green near Foliat Drive). You can also read an article by Julie Mabberley on this subject on p2 of this week’s Wantage and Grove Herald.

• The long-running question of the proposal to re-open the Wantage Road Station is once again back in the news with local MP Ed Vaizey suggesting to The Wantage and Grove Herald that this is now a ‘considerably more promising prospect.’ He, the District Council, Wantage Town Council and Grove Parish Council support the scheme. So too, at least last year, did the Secretary of State for Transport. So I imagine do local commutors, particularly those who currently need to get to Didcot or Swindon to catch a train. The land has been safeguarded. New services as a result of the gradual re-opening of the so-called Varsity Line are likely to make the case more viable. More importantly, Grove itself is growing fast. It’s population is currently about 7,000 but, with the new developments, this is likely to double, making it about the same size as Wantage. Presumably many of these people will want to travel to London or elsewhere. The case seems powerful: yet still there is no commitment. Despite the stars being seemingly very favourably aligned it might be unwise to expect anything to happen soon. A Grove councillor I spoke to yesterday told me that, shortly after she moved to the village, she was told that ‘the station hasn’t been closed that long and that it would be re-opining soon.’ I should add that she moved to Grove over 40 years ago, in 1974.

• A reminder that 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.

• Last few days of the Wantage Summer Arts Festival which ends on 7 July – click here for details.

• Another deadline looms: you have until 18 July to apply for this year’s Oxfordshire LEADER’s remaining £500,000 to help support rural businesses.

Swindon & district

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

• Inconsiderate drivers who double park and block dropped kerbs and driveways to be fined under new powers that will be taken up by Swindon Council later this year. For more, click here.

• One of the models for the NHS (which is 70 this year) was the GWR Medical Fund Society, set up in Swindon just over a century before the NHS was established. Read more here.

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

• Plans have recently been announced to build around 400 homes on disused railway sidings between Wootton Bassett Road and Dean STreet.

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

The song and the quiz

• The Song of the Week is here again. Can’t go wrong with The Small Faces, at least that’s my opinion. Try Song of a Baker – well worth it.

• Which brings us to the Quiz Question of the Week. We’re going to stay with the World Cup once again (it only happens every four years after all) and it is as follows. There are currently eight countries left in the competition. What percentage of the previous World Cups have these countries won between them? Last week’s was: Which was the last country to score a goal at this year’s tournament? The answer in Costa Rica, in their 2-2 draw with Switzerland on 27 June.

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Brian Quinn

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