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Local News August 9-16 2018

Including Newbury’s football club, Hungerford’s newsletter, Thatcham’s bridge, Theale’s social media, Wantage’s letter-writing campaign, Kintbury’s Billy Liar, Wickham’s leaky pipe, Easton’s wasps’ nest, Swindon’s canal, police updates, the will of the people, pubs in peril, smartphones, the viscount and the hooter, Mr Benyon on the radio, generals and majors, a camouflaged cat, get your coat, 24 football experts, Number Six and the letter N.

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).

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)

• There’s a letter from a Mr Allan Mercado in this week’s NWN suggesting that MPs should be excluded from standing as candidates if they don’t vote through ‘the clear wishes of the electorate’. Leaving aside the obvious practical difficulties, it’s interesting to reflect on what the wishes of the electorate actually are and how they’re expressed. The B***** referendum is an exception and in any case provided only a general on/off answer, and that not very overwhelmingly, with no mandate at all as to the details. Otherwise, the only way the wishes of the electorate is expressed is at elections and the only wish we express is a preference for a particular candidate to represent us. There our constitutional influence ends, however much pressure might be put on the MPs by us or others in different ways thereafter. Phrases like ‘the wishes of the electorate’ or ‘the will of the people’ are fairly sinister when applied to some definite course of action such as this. I think the MPs are safe from this suggestion.

• Another point worth remembering is that we elect MPs, and by extension of this, the government in order to make the decisions, just as shareholders elect directors. If they find a particular decision difficult, that’s tough. To hold a referendum, as Mr Cameron did, is ultimately an act of political cowardice (the more so as he left the scene afterwards). Referendums should be illegal, or else paid for by the political party calling them. The 2016 one cost about £130m. The same goes for mid-term general elections, as in 2017. That’s another £130m. There will always be an argument to say that some matters need to be decided in such a way but in my view all of them are specious.

• For anyone who has been suffering withdrawal symptoms due to the lack of football since our trans-manche neighbours won the World Cup a few weeks ago, the Premier League kicks off this weekend. Out of 24 BBC football experts, all bar three suggested that Man City would win the title again. My tip (though I’m always wrong) is Spurs. Our most local team, Southampton (and I appreciate that’s stretching the definition of ‘local’) don’t seem to be tipped by anyone. Mind you, what Leicester City can do…

• And on sporting matters, the cricketer Ben Stokes has recently admitted at his trial for the nightclub rumpus that ‘he had drunk up to three pints and six vodka and lemonades but was not drunk.’ I don’t quite know what to make of this statement.

• West Berkshire Council has been working with Safer Roads Berkshire to create ‘Get your Coat‘, a free phone app which provides ‘intelligent travel planning’ to help you get home safely after a night out. Click here for more information.

• I really dislike smartphones and hope to go through the rest of my life without owning one. However, life is now being made more and more difficult for people who for whatever reason don’t want to have one of these things. parking is the latest challenge. A few months ago I had and unpleasant experience trying to park in London: how this is being replicated in an increasing number of car parks in Newbury. I appreciate that this may just be me being a Luddite but I resent the fact that we have to use these things more and more and for tasks unconnected with the business of making a phone call.

• Click here for details of West Berkshire Council’s Summer Reading Challenge for primary-school pupils.

• A report in this week’s Wantage & Grove Herald (pp8-9) makes sobering reading for Britain’s pubs. 135 have closed in Oxfordshire alone in the last decade, many of them being subjected to a change of use and converted to dwellings. The article suggests that there are many ‘half-hearted’ attempts to market a struggling pub, the owner’s real interests being to develop the site. There are plenty of examples of this in West Berkshire and Wiltshire as well, some ongoing.

• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week includes: a statement from West Berkshire Council about its road-maintenance programme; a warning about the danger elastic bands pose to wildlife; comments from Aldermaston Parish Council about the local mobile coverage; criticisms of the current parking arrangements; and a photograph which shows just how effectively cats can camouflage themselves against a pile of logs.

• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Action Medical Research (thanks to Dan Sinclair); brighter Futures (thanks to Stephen Smith); various local charities (thanks to the Newbury Rotary club); The Cystic Fibrosis Trust (thanks to the cycling fundraising event at Bradfield); SSAFA (thanks to the Highclere Battle proms); Eight Bells for mental Health (thanks to shoppers in Newbury); Dingley’s promise (thanks to Lewis Hall); The ACU Benevolent Fund and the Royal British Legion (thanks to the recent event at The Crown in Kingsclere); the Rosemary Appeal (thanks to the murder mystery evening organised by MAXX Design); the Oxford Children’s Hospital (thanks to Carl Davis)

Hungerford & district

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

• There is and has been a lot going on in and around Hungerford at present. All of this has been sliced, diced and par-boiled for your consideration and can be found by seeing the lastest (this week) edition of Penny Post Hungerfordclick here to read the newsletter. This includes the usual range of matters from council initiatives to travel advice, frombook reviews to Extravaganza news and from duck feeding to a report on the recent French twinning weekend.

• In Keith Waterhouse’s wonderully funny novel Billy Lair, one of the recurring problems for the narrator is how his going to dispose of about 300 large calendars. These his boss asked him to post to their firm’s clients the previous December: Billy didn’t do this, however, preferring to pocket the postage money, which left him with the bulky and incriminating evidence. I can’t help feeling if something of this kind is going on with The Case of the Missing Kintbury Defibrillator, which we mentioned a few weeks ago and which has yet to to be solved. It may have been stolen to order or for an immediate profit: on the other hand, it could have been the result of some drunken bet or act of self-assertion, the evidence of which is even now burning a hole in the thief’s conscience and taking up valuable storage space under the bed. If you know anything about this odd crime – or if you are in fact Billy Liar and want to make a clean breast of things – call Jon Hemphill on 07774 110286.

• If you were thinking of attending the event organised by the Hungerford Bookshop at Herongate on Thursday 9 August – at which General Sir Mike Jackson will talk to Sir Anthony Beevor about Arnhem – then, unless you have tickets, you’ve left it too late as it’s sold out. There are three upcoming events with renowned historians Sir Max Hastings, Ben MacIntyre and James Holland this Autumn (a combined ticket saving you a bit of money is also available). Visit the bookshop’s website or drop into the shop itself for more information

Lambourn Valley

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

• We’ve recently published the August issue of our Valley of the Racehorse e-newsletter which includes a round-up of some of the main issues and events in Valley. Click here to read it. Matters covered include the Lambourn Carnival, East Garston’s Speedwatch initiative, news of a local first-aid course, children’s activities and a food-photography competition.

• Lambourn Parish Council is continuing to judge the level of interest in proceeding with a neighbourhood development plan. Three public meetings around the parish have taken place and two have yet to happen: at the church over the bank-holiday weekend; and at Woodlands, the date and venue of which is to be announced. Click here for more information.

• I drive down the B4000 quite a lot but didn’t know that there was a water leak at Wickham which has now been gushing water for 12 months. See p19 of the newbury Weekly News (or go to Wickham) for more.

• A reminder that Newbury MP Richard Benyon was a guest on the Forrester & Allen show on the Lambourn Valley’s 4Legs Radio station on Friday 3 August. To listen to the interview, click here.

• It’s the season for wasps, as we’ve mentioned before. Last week a family in Newbury discovered a vast nest in their garage: this week, a woman in Easton accidently unleashed a swarm of wasps into a room where her grandchildren were playing. See the front page of the Hungerford edition of this week’s Newbury Weekly News for more. This article, which includes some advice from a local pest controller, may also be of interest.

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

• This week’s NWN (p7) has two articles relating to the rather uncertain future of Newbury’s Faraday Road football ground: one concerning planning permission which is being sought for an upgraded clubhouse; the other reporting West Berkshire Council’s decision not to allow a community group to manage the site as a recreation area until the bulldozers move in. The Newbury Community Football Group is involved with both of these.

• And on the opposite page, p6, of the same paper can be found a report and photos of the Newbury Covers Festival in the Market Place last weekend.

• Newbury Town Council has launched a writing competition for children (it’s open to people living outside Newbury as well) on the theme of ‘an inspirational woman in your life’ to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Click here for details.

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

Thatcham to Theale

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

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

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

• The vexed question of the proposed railway bridge to replace the level crossing at Thatcham is back in the news again. After it was announced last week that Netowrk Rail could see problems with funding the scheme, a West Berkshire spokesperson was quoted in the NWN as saying that the council is ‘committed to evaluating this option as part of a wider transport plan.’ This arose from a question about the increased pollution caused by motorists leaving engines running while waiting (often for quite a long time) for the gates to open.

• You can click here to read the August e-newsletter from Alan Macro who represents Theale on West Berkshire Council. This includes some clarifications about the status of the Theale School project, information about the imminent green-bin charge, news on the issue of travellers in the parish and links to some current planning applications.

Social media certainly has its advantages but also its drawbacks. Many of these have received the widest publicity in recent months. One of the problems is the hydra-like nature of information sharing. One post or tweet can rapidly lead to thousands of shares. That’s great if the information is relevant, important and accurate; less so if it isn’t. The problem then is how to combat it. Some parish councils have a policy of reading but not responding to comments on their own accounts (usually unless there’s a clear factual error); others have no accounts at all. In any event, councils can do nothing about comments made on third-party accounts. They’re damned either way: if they don’t respond they’re open to the charge of indifference; if they do they risk being dragged into a never-ending debate that leaves little time for anything else. If you have a particular point to make to a council there will often be better ways of getting a response than using social media. Even if a council has a social-media platform (and many don’t) the original tweet or post can be hard to spot amongst the numerous reactions. It’s worth remembering that parish councils are often understaffed and don’t operate a 24/7 service.

This isn’t an isolated, hypothetical rant. There have been several cases recently of councils finding themselves in the centre of a social-media storm and needing to make their point without making matters worse. The most recent I’ve seen comes from Theale Parish Council – whose particular storm concerns the proposed school – which recently needed to issue the following notice on its website: “The parish council is aware that there are inaccurate and misleading reports appearing on social media regarding what the parish council Chairman actually said in response to questions during the public open forum of the meeting held on 23rd July 2018. In order that residents can have access to an accurate report of that meeting, the draft minutes can be viewed here.”

• Click here to keep up to date with the excellent work being done by Edible Thatcham in the land it has adopted near the council offices in Brownsfield Road.

• The Woolhampton Annual Show takes place on Saturday 11 August – for details click here.

• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin.

Marlborough & district

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

• A reminder that the arrangements have with regard to recycling in Wiltshire. More on this from Marlborough News here.

• A team of post GCSE students, who are participating in National Citizen Service (NCS) have spent the week at Coombe End Court care home, transforming the garden with flower beds, a mural and a brightly painted shed. Click here for more.

• The Marlborough Rising line-up and schedule has now been confirmed with tickets on sale for all performances in each of the four venues across the three days of Friday 7 to Sunday 9 September.

• A reminder  that work will take place in Bedwyn next month to prepare for the arrival of the new bi-mode trains from 2019. The main job is to extend the siding. At present, the works are planned to be carried out between Tuesday 26 and Thursday 30 August. For more, click here from Marlborough News.

• Marlborough is quite cosmopolitan at present. Not only is there a party of Japanese students in town for a week, but the Rugby Club also had a distinctly Tongan feel to it last week.

• Wiltshire Council is holding a three-month pre-consultation on the future of the county’s special-needs schools. For more on this, please click here.

• 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.

• After the march to save the Wantage Hospital the Town Council convened a meeting of the Health Committee. At the meeting it was noted that the OCCG (Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group) was proceeding with a consultation on Developing an Older People’s Strategy for Oxfordshire 2019-23 which closes on 3 September 2018. The Council will ask someone from OCCG to come to a future meeting. Also on the agenda were the following items of interest. (a) Although Wantage hospital is owned by the Oxford NHS Foundation Trust, the maternity services are provided by the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The University Trust’s occupation at the Wantage Community Hospital is subject to a lease which is due to expire on 1 April 2019. The Clerk will to write to the University Trust asking about its intentions concerning the continuance of the maternity services and of renewing the lease with the Health Trust. (b) The Town Council will send a letter to the Secretary of State for Health seeking his intervention in getting the beds at the Wantage Community Hospital reopened.

A campaign of letter or email writing has also been urged.The Hospital is currently owned by Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust (part of NHS Oxfordshire) which reports to HOSC (Health, Overview & Scrutiny Committee) and OCCG. If you feel strongly about this matter, the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group has urged that you write to these two organisations and/or attend forthcoming meetings at which this will be discussed. The HOSC meeting is on 20 Sept 2018 at 10am at County Hall. You can write to  Councillor Fatemian, County Hall, New Road, Oxford OX1 1ND or email arash.fatemian@oxfordshire.gov.uk. The OCCG Annual Public Meeting is on 27th Sept at 6pm in Jubilee House. You can write to Dr Collison, Chairman, OCCG, Jubilee House, Oxford, OX4 2LH or email kiren.collison@oxfordshireccg.nhs.uk.

• Three new planning applications are currently online: Four regarding King Alfred’s (click here and enter ‘King Alfred’ in the ‘Which include…’ search box); Crab Hill (click here and enter the code P18/V1668/N4B in the search box); and Park Farm in East Challow ((click here and enter the code P18/V1838/DIS in the search box).

• The second part of the hearings for the examination of the Wantage Local Plan (part 2) took place at the end of July and concentrated on reviewing additional sites at Fyfield, Marcham, East Hanney and Dalton Barracks if all were built this would bring an additional 2,200 homes to the Vale by 2031. The next part is at the end of August.

• The debate continues about the plans to create a vast reservoir near Abingdon. The Wantage and Grove Campaign Group has written to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for the Environment, to request a second concultation. Visit the WAGCG website here for more information.

• The question of which body should be responsible for parking enforcement has been much in the news in this area recently, with the local MP, newspaper editorial writers and campaign groups all having something to say. The Vale of White Horse has recently said that it ‘is exploring whether to take over on-street parking enforcement in the district.’ You can read more here.

Two slightly different tales of fly tipping can be found here and here: the first seems to be a deliberate and premeditated act, the second (if the defendant will forgive this) seemed to have been down to stupidity. The fines didn’t seem to proportionate to each other but there you go.

• Victims and witnesses of hate crime who are not comfortable talking to the police now have a place to go to report incidents in South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse.

Swindon & district

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

• Swindon Borough Council has been given an award for efforts to streamline services for residents.

• Once again this week I was delving into Secret Swindon by Angela Atkinson, a fascinating survey of some of the lesser-known aspects of the town. This story concerns the hooter which for over a century dominated the life of the town, blasting out at the start and the end of shifts and lunch breaks for the benefit of the GWR workers. The Fifth Viscount Bolingbroke of Lydiard House, however, felt that this noise was injurious to his pheasants, to his sheep and to his general enjoyment of his property and in 1873 attempted to have it silenced. The hooter proved to be more popular to the workers of Swindon than he’d expected, however (or perhaps they just didn’t want to be pushed around by a Viscount – who does?) and the hooter stayed. For more on the hooter, see the ‘Song of the Week’ below. Click here to order your copy of Secret Swindon and to discover these and other surprising facts for yourself.

The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust (WBCT) is a charitable organisation working to preserve, conserve and improve the route of the Wilts & Berks canal which fell into disrepair after it was abandoned in 1914. WBCT is committed to restoring the full length of this historic canal from Wiltshire through Swindon and into Oxfordshire. The aim is to ‘create a sustainable and bio-diverse blue and green corridor that, as it winds through our region, provides a host of attractive life style and economic benefits to our communities and to visitors, as well as providing a safe and welcoming habitat for wildlife.’ Members and volunteers are being sought for what is the largest and most complex waterway restoration project in the UK. For more information, visit the WBCT website.

• Swindon Library’s Summer Reading Challenge returns for another year, and this time it has a comical theme to coincide with The Beano’s 80th birthday.

• Congratulations to all those who took part in the community clean-up in Eastcott recently.

• There are plans to give the Moredon Recreation grounds a £3 facelift – click here for more.

• A survey by the Office for National Statistics suggests that Wiltshire Police is the best force in the country for dealing with priorities as highlighted by the community.

• The idea of corporate branding may seem like a new one. In fact this (and so much else) was pioneered by the 19th-centrury railway companies, the Googles, Facebooks and Amazons of their day (and probably even more important in changing our lives). A current exhibition at STEAMGWR with Everything – explores how everything from bars of soap to bricks was branded with the company’s initials.

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

The song and the quiz

• The Song of the Week is with us again. I mentioned above about the GWR hooter above (Swindon & district). The noise of the hooter was sued at the start of the song The Meeting Place by XTC, beyond any doubt the best band to have emerged from Swindon. However, I’m not going to recommend that song because I don’t greatly care for it. There are so many better ones. Out of this wealth of choice, I’ll go for Generals and Majors, spiky and melodic pop at its best.

• And so we end with the Quiz Question of the Week. I don’t know what made me think of that strange TV series The Prisoner. If you do the same you might be able to answer this question, which is: What was the question posed by Number 6 to the computer than made it blow up? Last week’s question was: What is the next letter in this series – O T T F F S S E…? The answer is N. Why is it N? Because O, T, T etc are the first letters of the numbers starting from 1 when they’re written out.

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Brian Quinn

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